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Friday, April 20, 2007

West End Girls and Boys

We had some time to kill before leaving Roatan for mainland Honduras, so we left the cushy confines of the resort and wandered out to the street to catch a taxi to West End, where the budget-minded travelers tend to congregate. The taxis work two ways: you can take a regular taxi for $5, or you can take a colectivo taxi for $1.50. The latter is where the taxi will stop and pick up other passengers until its full.

The taxi we hailed already had a passenger, so we hopped in the back seat. The guy in front, Tony (from Seattle), had just arrived on Roatan from Guatemala. He had no idea where he was going to stay, but he did know he wanted some kind of dive package.

We invited him to lunch, so that he could peruse our Lonely Planet guidebook.

We had planned to eat at a place called "Galley," but when we got there, we found that it had changed hands and opened as the "Pasta Factory at the Galley." The Italian woman running it said she kept the name Galley to capitalize on the previous tenants entry in the Lonely Planet guidebook. Obviously, she´s getting traffic, because here we are.

In a it's-a-small-world way, Serge, our refresher course instructor, rolled up on his motorbike and ambled onto the porch of the restaurant. "This is my wife's place," he said. "We invested everything we had in opening it."

Serge gave Tony some advice on cheaper places with dive packages, and then showed me his "baby"--a tiny Rottweiler, only weeks old.

After lunch, we parted ways with Tony as he wandered off looking for lodging. We were just looking to look.

West End is a laid back Key West-like town with a dusty unpaved road with nautical rope stretch across it to serve as speed bumps. During the day, it is rather quiet since most everyone is out on (or under) the water. At night, the party gets underway and goes all night.

In front of one West End bar called the Buccaneer hung an Ohio State flag. I couldn't resist finding out who and why. I walked into the empty bar and up to the first person I saw in the empty establishment. Pam Wilbur told me that her husband, John, and her son, Dave, moved permanently to Roatan from Columbus in 2003. The bought 10 acres on which they are developing condominiums and a hotel that will be finished in the next six months. John Wilbur had been a developer in the States, and Pam had been a caterer, which made opening a bar pretty simple.

The only problem, she said, was finding good employees. She was willing to give me a job on the spot. "And, it's easy to get a work permit here. We thought about movng to Belize, but the work permit was taking too long. My son got one here right away."

Dave ushered us into his four-wheel drive and took us up the hill to see the units that were under construction, as well as the hotel, then drove us back to the main road and we headed back to the resort.

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