Sunday, July 24, 2016

Work hard, play hard!

Family fun day in Punta Sal with this amazing lot!
Thanks Rich for taking the pic!
While Tela Marine is very concentrated on conserving the unique reef systems submerged in the bay, it’s not all work and no fun for us. Every week, on Tuesday (ie. the Opwall Sunday Funday) we do a trip to the town of Tela, for those who want to go. It always begins with taking the bus, which for me is definitely the best part of the trip! Seeing the yellow, run down, American-style school bus crawling down the gravel street dotted with potholes and bumps, we all get up from the shadows and assemble next to the gate, waiting for it to come to a stop and let us on. Sitting on the worn leather seats and looking out the window, while Bob Marley plays a little too loud and the heads of other passengers bob in the same rhythm, it’s easy to feel like the real world is a million miles away. The drive takes us through small villages, until after approximately 30 minutes we would get off and head to town centre. We follow the straighter than straight streets to the “main street”, with multiple banks, few clothes shops and “markets”, and a souvenir shop  overflowing with all sorts of clothes and bags and wooden figures, jungle knives and ashtrays, earrings and massive necklaces. Despite being full of everything, I did not manage to find anything worth buying there... (sorry!) There is also a bakery, on the corner where we meet the main street, and it is always a must stop before going into the supermarket, which is the main reason for going to Tela in the first place. Because after stuffing your face with the largest, most delicious donut, it is likely you won’t buy as much snacks in the shop! The first time we went to town, we also went to a place called Mayavista. It is a hotel on top of a hill, and it has the most amazing view from the roof top terrace! Enjoying a cold beer from a cardboard Coke cup while soaking up the view over the Caribbean Sea and bathing in the sun, in my books that day scored quite high! 
Oh yea, and we made it to one of the biggest newspapers in Honduras!
Go coral reef conservation,Tela Marine Research Centre and Operation Wallacea! 

One of our Tuesdays did end up a little different, however, by the idea of Antal, the manager of Tela Marine. The only five star resort in Honduras is only 15 minutes drive away, with a PGA golf course and a stretch of beach littered with loungers. Apparently, they needed some non-honduran looking “customers” to do a photo shoot for a brochure. Guess who were available? We were picked up at 7am - despite the cries of resistance for having to get up that early on our only day off – to catch the golden hour of sunlight for the photos, but it was a rainy morning and so once we got there we were escorted to a high ceilinged, air conditioned restaurant area, where the nicest breakfast of the season was served to us along with unlimited amounts of coffee (the coffee was needed, trust me...). We were told we would be waiting for the rain to pass before any pictures would be taken, although they were just casually taking photos of us stuffing our faces with freshly scrambled eggs and slices of juicy watermelon. Classy, I’m sure. After the rain finally moved on, we headed to the beach to get some “action pictures” of the activities they offer, such as kayaking and paddle boarding. BEST. CURE. EVER. The hangovers started to subside as we were playing in the water, forgetting about the cameras on the beach, gracefully falling off kayaks and laying like flatfish on body boards, tossed about by the waves. I’m sure the photos are not short of action, but just how “5-star-material” they are, that’s a different story altogether...

The day was not over after the frolicks in the water, and the best was yet to come. Two words: GOLF CARTS! We took off to the golf course in the carts to take some golfing and foot-golfing photos (yes it’s a thing), yet I have a feeling the guy leading us there was not so sure about our appearances... no one had prepared their luggage with “golf gear” ie. polo shirts and good shoes, but luckily the boys managed to scrap together enough pieces to make four almost presentable golfers. First, though, we did the foot golf. It is exactly as it sounds, foot ball combined with golf: you try to kick a foot ball into a hole on the golf course. Now, of course the hole is large enough to fit a foot ball, so it was hidden behind a mound in the golf course as to not get in the way of real golf. In teams of four girls and four boys, they took some photos as we pretended to play the game. I even got it in the hole once! The amount of attempts doesn’t count ;) After the real golf photos were taken as well, we raced the golf carts back to the hotel and sat in the lounge waiting for more. We watched the bartender make a dozen drinks, blended, icy, refreshing looking drinks... There was no shortage of drool. Dibs were called and even though we had to pretend to be in couples, as soon as the cocktails were mentioned no one cared. Refreshments was all we wanted, as they day had been long and hot, and if it meant having to drink your drink (they were non alcoholic we’re pretty sure) in front of a camera next to someone else so be it. And they were so worth it... All in all, the photo shoot was a hilarious experience, with no instructions from the camera guys, and us just being us, but hopefully they got what they wanted. I wouldn’t count on it though, I mean, they didn’t even do our make up! But I guess that’s what Photoshop is for...

I have also managed some more snorkelling during my time here, in between emptying and filling tanks, but instead of writing about it I decided to just show you some photos! Enjoy! 

Millie takes some seriously good underwater photos! This is from
a different time than the rest of the photos, though location is the same.
Can you spot the Diadema?

A Four-eye Butterflyfish
A good hiding spot for an urchin ;)
And below an assortment on photos, too many to be captioning them all! In the pictures you can find a porkfish, some christmastree worms, a teeny tiny squid, a juvenile french angelfish, and a spotfin butterflyfish, among other things. 

Now, the time has come to finally start to wrap things up here in Honduras, at least my part of it... It has been by far one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far, and I sincerely hope my travelling scientist life does not end here. From carrying ridiculous amounts of water in 25 litre canisters every day for nearly 6 weeks, to ending up in a national newspaper as part of a research team, I wouldn’t trade a day away. As cliché as it sounds, I have met some pretty awesome people here who I genuinely hope will not become strangers once the luggage is finally unpacked and the laundry is done.

One more post to come, to bring to you the results of my research here and what we have found out! Watch this space...

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