Cruise 09

Our Western Caribbean Cruise (Part Three)

Happy birthday, America!

God bless America!

America, bless God!

(I thought the teacup graphic was appropriate at this time. 🙂 )

Lost? You can catch up here with the precursor, part one and part two.

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I like animals … at a distance. I’ve never been one to invite a cuddle or even interaction because well, I don’t really know why. They’re cute and fun to watch but actually having one underfoot or to care for one … uh, no thanks.

Not my thing.

So when we stumbled across a shore excursion that would bring us up close and personal with exotic birds and monkeys, well, we hesitated.

But when we weighed our excursion options, it seemed like the most attractive alternative, so, we scheduled a time to see exotic birds and monkeys.

The Carnival cruise director strongly suggested we sign up for a shore excursion. Isla Roatan, Honduras is a rather volatile, and unstable country so we were cautioned to not leave the gates beyond the pier unless we had an excursion planned. We were also cautioned not to buy anything from anyone outside the gates as it was likely illegal contraband and it would not be allowed back on the boat.

These warnings were enough to make us uneasy.

However, we met our party on the pier and loaded an air-conditioned van to drive into the bowels of the island to see Gumbalimba Park.

Once we arrived at the park, we were instructed to leave our bags on a table in a pavilion. We had to do this because the monkeys associated bags with food and would likely run off with them. Since none of us wanted to chase a monkey around the jungle to retrieve our precious belongings, we all gladly obliged.

We were also told we were not allowed to use flash when we took pictures. The flash would confuse and irritate the monkeys and put them in defensive attack mode.

Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to me, my camera defaults into flash mode whenever it’s turned off and then turned back on again. So, I took a picture and the flash went off. Our guide was not happy. In fact, everyone in our group was not happy, though most of them didn’t know where the flash came from and to prevent getting lynched, I also pretended not to know where the flash came from.

When the flash went off, the monkey froze, its eyes grew large and it stiffened. Actually, we all stiffened and waited with bated breath to see what would happen. Thankfully, it wasn’t currently sitting on someone’s head but on a vine, which might have made a difference to its reaction.

But after several long seconds, it simply went back to being … a monkey. And we all went back to being … skittish tourists.

I nearly fainted from relief. How embarrassing would it have been to be involved in a gruesome monkey attack that I carelessly started?! I endured several dirty looks, but, thankfully, everyone’s attention soon turned back to the monkeys.

Whew.

To coax the monkey to climb on people, the guide placed a sunflower seed on top of the person’s head. The monkey would then scurry up the person’s body, or jump onto the person’s head, and forage around in his/her hair until it found the seed. This allowed us an opportunity to take close-up pictures of the animals, hence the reason you see several strangers with a monkey on their heads in the slideshow.

None of us volunteered our head – we were just content to watch, but I have to say this, they were awfully cute to watch. Their jerky movements and their sheer innocence was fascinating. They also had a two-month old baby, which you can see clinging to its mother’s back in a few slides and we all kept a respective distance from the momma.

We mothers KNOW about that protective instinct.

But it was really cool because apparently, that was the first time they had had a baby born in the park, so the tiny monkey was a big deal.

Even though I never had a monkey on my head (as opposed to my back – haha), I had one monkey scurry through my legs and I felt it’s silky soft fur against my skin.

That was close enough, thank you very much.

The brightly-colored parrots nonchalantly walked among us. They were intent on picking at the fallen sunflower seed shells that the monkeys dropped so they completely ignored us humans.

At various intervals during the excursion, we would hear this zipping/rope sound. When we looked up, we saw tourists from another excursion riding a zip line over the jungle trees. I thought that particular excursion sounded fun, but I couldn’t get the guys interested in it.

After the monkeys, we walked through an area that contained several large cages of macaws. There’s a picture of Kevin allowing one to sit on his shoulder. I refused because I had seen another bird on another man’s shoulder poop on him and I wasn’t particularly excited about spending the rest of the day with warm poop on MY shoulder.

After we finished with the animals, we waited our turn to walk across this rope bridge. Actually, it was quite safe, it was held with strong cable, but it crossed over a lake and it swayed from side-to-side enough that it was enough to freak me out. I was even more freaked out when Kevin, who was ahead of me and Dude, turned around to take pictures and nearly tossed himself into the lake below. Even though our guide told us that they had yet to rescue a tourist from the water, that didn’t mean there couldn’t be a first time.

I seriously sprouted three more gray hairs from that experience alone.

When our tour was over and we were deposited at the pier, we noticed several armed soldiers patrolling the gates. Kevin was stupid brave enough to venture closer and a few of the soldiers tensed.

That was enough to send us scurrying back to the boat.

Coincidentally, the day after our visit, the Honduran President was kidnapped by their military.

We look pretty rough in the following pictures. It was h..h..hot over there – it was close to 100 and 98% humidity. Since we were in the jungle, there wasn’t a breeze, so the air was heavy and sticky.

Please excuse my sopping self.

You can see a larger version of this slideshow here.

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(RSS Readers: I had to insert the slide shows using Vodpod. As a result, the slide shows won’t show up in your readers. Please click over to view. Sorry about that!)

ø There’s a picture of jungle foliage – if you look closely, you can see that rope bridge I talked about in the background.

ø The next picture is a group of people bent over a plant. I don’t remember the name of the plant, but once you touched it, it wilted in your fingers and died instantly. There’s a picture of Kevin bent over and touching the plant,too.

ø Our tour guide was awesome. So nice and funny. There’s a picture of him with small dark pink flowers in his hand. He gave those flowers to all the ladies and if you look closely, you can see mine in a lot of the pictures.

ø The thorny tree bark – it was called “Monkeys Don’t Climb” trees because monkeys don’t like the thorny texture and stay far away from those types of trees.

ø We did end the tour walking through a man-made cave. There they told the story of one of their more infamous pirates discovering the island and a few tall tales of his adventures.

Overall, our tour was a bit disappointing, at least to Kevin. It was all manufactured – the monkeys had been brought over and then the man-made cave. But it was still a fun excursion because it took us places we never would have seen otherwise.

Here’s a short video Kevin took on the pier.

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Isla Roatan was certainly different and we’ll likely never choose to go back there, but I’m glad we had the opportunity to see this small, and volatile, part of the world.

Next up — seeing a third world country, up close and very personal.