¡Feliz navidad!

Day 23 - Utila

Rain lashed our island paradise, the waves tossed the boat nauseatingly from left to right. Passengers doubled over the side and we questioned our judgement. It wasn't like this in the brochure so lasciviously flicked through in my head. A sodden golf cart whisked us through the weather to a striking white wooden structure jutting out into the Caribbean sea. The verbose landlady (perhaps a better term should be invented for an island hotelier) delivered a filibuster of a welcome talk while previous recipients looked on with amusement. A piece of advice she did give was to acquire supplies lest Santa enforce a shutdown the following day. In need of personal hygiene but finding deodorant priced the same as a bottle of wine it was clear that that night would be spent stinking drunk (I already have my coat on). Walking back along the main street we dodged children on quad bikes and spied building after building flying the red and white flag of scuba. On Utila a driver's license would appear optional, a diver's license compulsory. All about people lounged in hammocks trading anecdotes of underwater fauna. On an island of natural curving lines I felt like such a square. This pair of part time snorkelers had little cache in a 'dive culture' that was more than surface deep.
And so it came to pass on the night before Christmas these people who lived far below the waves did entice, bribe and cajole us into their antithetical existence. Embolded by Nicaraguan rum even Michael showed little resistance to their stories of sea horses and tales of turtles. Promised life-changing experiences we promised a life-changing decision. The fact that this all took place in the strangest and most surreal place I have ever been in only added to the acquiescent euphoria. The bar gave little clue of the Carollean wonderland that lay beyond when we first ascended the stairs. After ordering a drink we were advised by the barmaid to explore out the back, adding 'don't mind the spiders, they're harmless'. I don't know precisely why I thought she was talking about some kind of joke plastic models but this view only lasted until I walked face first into a thick, glutinous web. As my eyes acclimatised to the dark surround and Michael fired up his torch, hundreds of multi legged shapes were picked out in the night. Thousands of beady little eyes stared unblinkingly back, motionless save for the lightest of breeze. The cardinal points had them to both sides and above our heads, surrounded but for a waspish trail of planks. We edged along this bridge into hell, crouched and cowed as though the Styx itself did flow beneath. The webs coalesced into one giant silken structure metres across, what chance a bug in this forest of death? Highly evolved and rational as we are a cool terror was maintained while we walked through our nightmares. The reward was a fairy tale land of rainbow spanning colour and visceral texture. Angular and smooth, swooping and straight, the senses engorged by its psychedelic beauty. We had stepped into the wardrobe, the looking glass was through. The human imagination is glorious indeed. The rest of the night passed in a sweet fog of dancing and dive talk as our new acquaintances whirled us here and there in a hedonistic rush. Morning found us be-hammocked already, watching the sun rise over the glossy sheen of our watery destiny. There would be ample opportunity for doubts later but for now it was bedtime.
The time had come for us to leave the island that you never leave, to push east through Honduras to countries distant and foreign. We packed our bags for the umpteenth time and set our stride to the main street in the direction of the dock. Not ten metres had been walked before we reached the crossroads. To the left lay Alton's dive centre, straight ahead the ferry. Do we walk on to the uncertain certainty of the road or take a turn to the left and a giant stride off a short pier?

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