Our day in Roatan started out in utter chaos.
We’d woken up early for the excursion, thinking that the meeting time was nine o’clock, and we were all dressed, fed and ready by nine. Yet when we arrived at the auditorium for our group meeting to walk out to meet the bus, there was nothing but old people in the room. Which seemed a bit strange since the name of our excursion was “Jungle Hike” and is labeled as “very strenuous”. So we weren’t sure why we’d encountered an auditorium full of Betty’s and Bill’s. The confusion was sorted out when we rechecked our tickets and realized we were thirty minutes late for our excursion, the actual meeting time had been at eight-thirty.
This resulted in a full-family sprint down to the pier where, thankfully, the bus was still idling, having not left yet. Unfortunately this did mean that we had to do the nice little walk of shame to the back of the bus as the only ones in the group that were late. As soon as we had boarded, the bus was able to get going, heading to the national forest park where we would be doing our hike.
The streets of Roatan are very small and thin, with motorcycles the often preferred mode of transportation by the locals. Yet with all of the tour buses and vans coming with the tourists, the little streets turned into a kind of car tetris, backing up and moving around one another. Our tour guide informed us that Roatan receives about ten to fourteen cruise ships per week, and that tourism is the number one income source for the people on the island, so the chaos that comes with the tourists a few times a week is both a blessing and a curse.
The sky was gray and threatening rain the entire ride over to the national park, and as soon as we arrived it immediately began to downpour. Our guide, Trevor, recommended that we leave as much as we could on the bus. He said you didn’t want to bring any jackets or ponchos or backpacks into the jungle with you, because even with the rain, having anything on your body would cause you to overheat.
My mother reminds us on each excursion that you always need to listen to the guide regardless of how strange you think the instructions are. We didn’t think we would be hot in our ponchos, but we listened regardless and left our phones, the backpack and all of our rain gear on the bus. Some of the other people in our tour group left their jackets on though, which will become important later. We disembarked the bus, and stepped out into the entrance of the park. I cannot stress enough how stunningly beautiful this park was. Giant palms and vegetation stretched high up into the sky, and rocky paths lined with bright flowers led away from the entrance. Birds called and strutted around, picking into the ground for bugs.
Everyone had a chance to use the bathroom and grab one of the provided water bottles and walking sticks before we were broken up into smaller groups and assigned a guide to lead us on the hike. Our group was made up of my family of five, another family of three, and a young couple that seemed like they were on their honeymoon. Trevor was our guide, and he led us into the national park and into the jungle.
As someone who’s never been in a jungle before, I was shocked how much it exactly met my expectations. The air was thick and heavy with humidity, and vines and branches hanging from trees stretched everywhere and we had to duck under them as we walked. For about the first half of the trek, I didn’t understand why the “strenuous” label had been placed on the excursion, because other than walking uphill at one point, it hadn’t been all that difficult. Granted, the rain was still falling at that point, helping to keep us cool, and we were taking frequent breaks for Trevor to stop and point out some of the plants and animals that inhabited the jungle. The first stop we took, Trevor pulled a leaf off of a nearby plant which he described as being called “magic tree” which was used for holistic medication and soap. He described that Roatan has a large focus on holistic medication, and how people on the island try to avoid pharmaceuticals as an option for healing and instead try to use the vegetation on the island for various purposes.
As soon as we began to hit the second half of the hike, it began to get more difficult. The rain had stopped so the heat came on fierce and the path sloped sharply uphill. My family is full of athletes, so I think we were doing alright, we weren’t used to the humidity so I think everyone was heaving a bit more than usual, but we had no problem keeping up with Trevor. The family in the back though still had their coats on to protect themselves from the rain, which Trevor had advised be left on the bus. The mom seemed as though she was really starting to struggle as we hit halfway up the hill and everyone was kind of glancing at one another wondering if she was okay, while her husband kept reassuring everyone that she was fine. She made it about another fifty feet and then had to take off her coat and sit down on it on the ground, struggling to catch her breath.
I have problems with mosquitoes. I don’t know what it is about my blood type but they just seem to love me and I get it from my dad, so while we waited for this poor mom to catch her breath, my dad and I were getting absolutely eaten alive by mosquitoes.
As soon as she had recovered enough to continue on, we were able to make it to the top of the hill to the viewpoint.
The viewpoint was a little break in the trees atop the hill we had hiked and it offered a staggering view of the ocean in the distance. Due to all of the minerals in the water, it was a bright striking shade of blue that really caught the eye. I was hot and itchy from mosquito bites, but it was absolutely worth that view atop the hill. We took some pictures as a family, and then dad took a great one with just him and Trevor. It turned out that Trevor was a huge Kansas City Chiefs fan, so he and dad had something to bond over and talk about on the way back.
The way back was actually possibly harder than the way up. Traveling with a sibling with autism means that accommodations have to be made in order for him to participate sometimes. However, David is very physically fit and has no issues with endurance so he was fine the whole way up the hill to the viewpoint, but he does struggle with coordination and understanding new topics and he’d never used a walking stick before this. Trevor gave us the walking sticks because the walk down the hill is slick, so you need to be able to plant your walking stick before you and then step down to avoid slipping down the hill, but no matter how many times we explained it to him, he didn’t understand how to use the walking stick and kept sliding down the hill and almost falling. As he was walking behind me, this meant he would crash into me and consequently take me out as we’re about the same size. It ended up that we had to put Dad in front of David as he was the
only one that wouldn’t fall when crashed into by an 18-year-old. So every few minutes on the way down we would hear some skittering footsteps as David went sliding and then an “oof” as he crashed into Dads back and had to be righted again. No one ever actually went sprawling in the mud, I will say, so the system had to be at least kind of working.
When we made it all the way back to the entrance of the national park, we were given some local desserts and juices that had been made from fruit off of the island. They were absolutely delicious and it was nice to sit for a moment and recover from the mugginess of the hike. From there, we all piled back into the bus and drove to a beach that was a few miles away. There were swings in the water and a little beachside restaurant for people to eat. We sat down and ordered food, and took some pictures on the swings, but at this point it was off and on raining the whole time so the water was a bit chilly and the food wasn’t very good.
After an hour or two at the beach, we all climbed back up in the bus again to head to the cruise ship for dinner.