Anniversaries And Football

Simon Barnett is a changed man.

The World Cup has begun and he has missed an unprecedented 15 out of the 17 games played so far! What has become of this once football-obsessed idiot? He’s travelling. Man. He’s got a wristband and a beard to prove it.

We spent Thursday on a scooter, whizzing from one end of Roatan to the other, stopping in the main town to buy some fresh snapper straight from the processing plant. Annika managed to burn her leg on the exhaust on the way so, when we took a break in a posh resort, the sea water produced an interesting grimace as she waded in for a swim. Ointment applied, lunch consumed and other supplies (including some more rum) purchased, we scooted home and fed ourselves a gorgeous feast.

We’re seven hours behind UK time here so the World Cup games kick off quite early – we missed the opening match as it started at 8am but I managed to pitch up to the Sundowners bar by 12.30pm, just in time to see the useless French struggle and fail to put anything past the Uruguayans. The game was pretty unremarkable, save for a few amusing shouts of “Out of bounds” and the like but was made memorable for me by a guy from the US asking me who won the South Africa/Mexico game earlier. “It was one all”, I replied. “Yeah, but who won?”, came the baffling response, summing up my feelings regarding people who don’t really like football pretending that they love it just because the World Cup is on.

Once the final whistle blew, I headed off for the dive shop and did my third dive of the week, really getting into my stride now. In the evening, for the first time in ages, Annika and I drank a little too much and both of us woke up hungover and abandoned our plans to go and watch the Argies at 8am. It was never gonna happen really, was it?!

The England game had to be seen though, especially as we were playing the USA and the bar clientèle was mainly from that part of the world. I was slightly disappointed at the level of whooping and yee-hah’ing in the event and the atmosphere was rather subdued overall. Still, I won some money on the result, correctly predicting that we would struggle to win, despite looking quite good for the first 20 minutes. So that was nice.

As soon as the game was over and the money was in the bag, we scampered off down the road, did our last dive of the week and sat down to enjoy the last sunset of our week of holiday in Roatan.

On 12th June 2004, two friends from university found themselves in a drunken embrace which, to everyone’s surprise – particularly their own – turned into an actual proper relationship. So this was our 6th anniversary. We found a nice restaurant down by the sea and raised a toast to the wonder of us – with water melon juice as we were both still hung over.

Our last day on Roatan began at 6am as we had a very long way to travel and had no idea how to get there. Livingston, in Guatemala, was the stated goal and so we took a taxi to the early ferry to begin our quest. Thirteen hours later, we checked into a motel-style dump of a place in a miserable town called Puerto Barrios, admittedly having made it to Guatemala but having fallen an agonisingly brief boat ride short of our target. The day featured two taxis, three buses -of decreasing comfort levels – a ferry and a collectivo (a minivan stuffed with locals). The last bus in particular was a killer – one of the old American school buses with rock hard seats and thumping music which wasn’t quite loud enough to prevent my exhausted mind from going to sleep, despite the low comfort levels and the torrent of sweat that was cascading down my back.

Our room was incredibly hot and stuffy, however, and I was glad of my forty winks on the bus as it was around 35 more winks than I managed overnight. So off we set at 7am for the boat trip across the bay to Livingston on our way to Rio Dulce. After having rushed around town trying to get money in the sweltering early morning sunshine, the lancha (a small boat with a motor) sped it’s way across the water, producing a cool breeze which felt like manna from heaven. But all too soon, it was all over and we docked on the other side.

Livingston was a nice little town, half populated by Garifuna people, descended from African slaves that had revolted in St. Vincent and been dumped here by the British. After breakfast, we decided it was nice enough to stay and booked a room, before heading out for what was billed as a nice walk to some waterfalls, along the beach.

When we reached the beach on the other side of the peninsula, a local character began to speak to us about the rubbish on the beach. “I never see ma home town looking like dis”, he lamented, casting a hand towards the mountain of broken branches and plastic bottles and other junk which lined the narrow strip of sand which lay ahead. It did look pretty dreadful and when he informed us that it had been blown in by the storm that came through a fortnight before and was as bad as this, if not worse, all the way down to the waterfalls, we accepted his kind offer of a lift in his boat to avoid having to clamber over it all. Of course, it was something of a money-making scheme for him and he did overcharge us but it was interesting talking to him. He knew of Brixton and had some friends there apparently, which didn’t seem that unlikely to me – I could easily imagine him wandering down Electric Avenue on a Wednesday afternoon.

The waterfalls were more like a series of small pools but afforded us the chance to cool down for a while which was much needed and, after lunch, we began the long and rubbish-strewn walk home. The beaches are covered with plastic bottles, shoes, old pill bottles, polystyrene, toys and the like, the smallest items gathering at the points where small streams run out into the main river, covering the surface completely and creating an odd, solid-looking surface on the crap-filled water. It was into one of these well disguised pits of horribleness that I unwittingly stepped, realising just too late to regain my balance and plunging in up to my waist (on one side at least) in the stuff. It was not, I’m sure you can imagine, pleasant.

A nice cold shower washed it all off when I got back and a good couple of hours sleep crept up on me unexpectedly when I finally laid down. It had been an exhausting few days and I had to stop. Dinner was a lovely local fish curry but went by in a daze as I was so tired.

Onward we trudged and next morning we took another boat up river to an isolated place buried deep in the jungle called Finca Tatin. Run by an absentee dad who’d left his energetic son careering around the place, looked after by an American couple who’d been travelling for 11 years (!) the place was really quiet (bar the Israeli contingent and the hyper child) and so relaxing. There were plenty of activities available for us to do but we managed only to sit in the hammocks outside our hut and read all day. Heaven.

This morning, we took the same boat further up stream to Rio Dulce, at the opening of a large lake, where we are staying for yet another single night (again, in a wooden hut) before we go to Lanquin to see a place called Semuc Champney inland tomorrow. We’ve decided to cram as much of Guatemala in as we can as we are now only two weeks away from the end of the trip and we have factored five days on the beach in Belize at the end to recover. It really is all go.