Monday, September 5, 2016

Cayos Cochinos

Cayos Cochinos, or the Hog Cays in English, are a group of about 15 islands on the coast of Honduras. Two of the islands are bigger, and the other 13 are extremely small. Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting a few of these islands and staying overnight on one of the smaller islands.

When the opportunity of traveling to Cayos for a weekend getaway was presented to me, I immediately said yes and imagined the perfect mini vacation. What I imagined (a touristy vacation) ended up being completely the opposite: this weekend getaway include just about as much culture as actually living in El Porvenir.

My weekend started at about 5:45am when I woke up yesterday to be ready to leave for Cayos by 6:30 am....however we didn't end up getting picked up until about 8:00am. Honduran time is definitely a thing. From my village, 6 of us are piled up in the back of a truck and trek through gravel roads, fast lane roads, and pure stone roads for about an hour and a half. During this truck ride, I got to see so much more diversity and culture that Honduras has to offer. I wish I would have taken pictures for this part of the journey.

After the extremely bumpy truck ride, we get to this brown river where we are going to take a boat to the islands. Honduran time comes into play again, and we end up standing around in this super small village consisting of 2-3 shacks and a bunch of men for about a half an hour. Eventually, we board the boat: an old speed boat of some sort.

The boat ride starts out slowly in the river and then quickly picks up speed as we change from the river to the ocean. The boat is jumping and flying over waves and we get soaking wet during this ride. Once we arrive on the island we will be staying on, the Honduran culture is everywhere. We are greeted by so many smiling faces, little kids running up to us, and the sound of ocean waves all around. The island is gorgeous: white sand, turquoise water, and blue skies for days. About 15 little huts line the island in the center and the ocean is on both sides of the huts - super small island!

We put our stuff in the room where we will be staying: an upstairs attic-like place in a local family's shack. There are about 10 "beds" -wooden frames with sheets- in the room and a bamboo roof. Right after settling in, we are back in the boat and on our way to another island to snorkel.

I've been snorkeling a few times prior to this experience, but I have never been snorkeling in such clear water filled with life. It was simply beautiful. I took a few videos on my waterproof camera, but then it froze before I could take any pictures. Jellyfish, coral, and an abundance of fish swam under and next to me as we snorkeled. Even though it was extremely fun, I cut my snorkeling adventure shorter than the others, because the jellyfish freaked me out.

Once snorkeling ended, we went to a different island to see the famous pink boa-constrictor. We docked our boat and were immediately greeted by a little boy, maybe 5 years old, carrying a small pink boa around his neck. He offered it to us to hold, and a couple of the volunteers choose to hold it. Some of you know that I have had pet snakes in my past and held others while on vacation. But this one was a little too real for me, with its fangs visible. To hold it, I would have had to hold and squeeze the head, so I opted out.

It's midday now and we are all starving and ready for lunch so we head back to our island to eat. During this time, we get to relax on the dock laying in hammocks looking out at the ocean while the locals cooked us lunch: fish and rice. I have never liked seafood: the way it looks, tastes, or smells. But I promised my parents that I would try some "real" fish while in Honduras, and now I was presented with the chance. Except the fish came out with the head still visible, the bones still in it, and the tail right on my plate. Needless to say, it was an experience within itself. I picked around at the fish, tried some of the meat, and then passed it off to another volunteer to eat for me. I didn't like it, but at least I tried it.

The next several hours into the evening are filled with nothing but relaxing on the dock, playing with the local kids, swimming in the pristine water, and drinking the local Honduran beer.  It was by far the most relaxed I have been in the 2 weeks that I have been in Honduras.

We eat the best dinner I have had here -frijoles, eggs, coconut milk bread, and homemade milk butter- and then head to the beach the sunset. This was easily my favorite part of the entire trip. We sat in the sand, playing with the native children, and watching the sunset over the Caribbean. Everyone was so happy, always smiling and laughing: it really put things into perspective for me. These locals live on this tiny island with barely any electricity, sand as their floors, and bamboo as their shelter foundation. They don't have much, the kids don't have toys to play with, but yet they are all so happy. While sitting on the beach watching the sun go down and with a little boy on my shoulders, I couldn't help but feel content myself. Not having a wifi or connections to anyone besides the locals on this island made me feel nothing but pure bliss.

Our night ended with a bonfire on the beach and star gazing. For those of you in the United States, you have never seen the stars like how they are here. I'm talking absolutely no lights for miles and miles: the stars are brighter than ever and are plentiful. The milky way is extremely visible. Stargazing was definitely a highlight of this trip. I wish I had a picture, but it wouldn't do it justice. After, we crawled up the stairs to our "beds" to sleep for the night. The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of ocean waves and the local children laughing: no better alarm clock in the world. We were served a breakfast of pancakes and delicious coffee before boarding the tiny speed boat with a bunch of locals and heading back to the mainland to head home.

Needless to say, it was a vacation nothing like I have ever experienced before: no showers, no real bathroom besides the sea, and no A/C. But just good times, with great volunteers, and extremely friendly locals. Beautiful white sand, the prettiest water, and the hottest sun. It was the perfect Honduran weekend getaway.

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