Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mas boas por favor

I spent the past couple of weeks on Cayo Cochino Menor and Utila, Honduras, working on boas at the former and working on relaxation at the latter. Well, that was the plan at least...

A day and a half before leaving for the big trip, the Honduran army forcibly removed their President from his house and exiled him to Costa Rica. This "military coup," although authorized by the Honduran courts, made me (and especially my dad) a bit jumpy about my travel. I mean, traveling down there is already chaotic, what about during the first Central American coup in 16 years? I went for it anyway, hoping for a miraculous trouble-free journey. Trouble-free it wasn't, but perhaps not for the usual reasons...

We arrived in San Pedro Sula and found that our connection flights to La Ceiba were cancelled. Because of the coup? Um, no. Because TACA airlines didn't pay their taxes and the gobierno grounded their within-country flights. Huh. So they got us an alleged bus, that would allegedly take us to La Ceiba, through an allegedly road-block-free city in the middle of a coup. Not so. Citizen roadblocks there were, and the alleged bus was a no-go. Would a lack of flights and a blockade of the only road out of town deter us? Of course not. We just hooked up with a group of Baptist missionaries and chartered a plane to La Ceiba. No problem!

We spent the night in La Ceiba, went to dinner at Ponderosa. No guns allowed!

The next day it was off to Cayo Cochino Menor, a beautiful small island in the chain of islands known as the Bay Islands.

This trip was a bit different for me from my last two trips in winter 2008 and winter 2009, because for the first time there were more people on the island than just those of studying boas. In summer there is a research expedition on the island called Operation Wallacea (or Opwall for short), and professors and students mainly from the United Kingdom live there doing research and volunteering. Most of them are marine biologists, doing two dives a day and learning about things like reef ecology. And then partying.

Some of the Brits (or Limeys, or lads n lasses, as PJ called them) chilling at the pier party:

Aaron and Clare, the boa dissertation students:

Bailando con los Hondurenos!

The first day went as usual: hunt boas in the morning, lunch, hunt boas in the afternoon, process snakes and samples, dinner, listen to presentations, beber Flor de Cana...

PJ and Chad on the beach on the way to some choice boa spots:

A boa lounging in typical posture on a branch:

A boa sporting two ticks on its face (parasitism of Boa constrictor by the tick Amblyomma dissimile being the subject of our study), as well as a cataract:

I suppose it's just a matter of time on a Boa constrictor-infested island before you see one doing what they're named for. We watched this one constrict for about an hour (don't know how long it was doing it before we got there), then it took maybe 30-45 minutes to swallow. Adult female Boa constrictor constricting and eating a medium-sized spiny-tailed iguana Ctenosaura melanosterna. This is a major staple item in the diet of boas on this island.

Alas, the boa-hunt fun was short-lived for me. On the second day I threw out my back and was completely laid out for the rest of the week. The medic offered me a choice between codeine and an injection (of something) into my back... ummmmm... none of the above! Instead I lounged on the beach (luckily I had in tow Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food to kill the time) and hobbled around between bed and eating place. Disappointing, but still had a good time!

Here are a few more cool photos from the trails and beaches.

A hermit crab making good use of beach litter:

An orchid blooming on the mountain top:

Sea grapes next to the surf:

Next it was off to Utila, another of the Bay Islands, for some RnR. Utila is a major dive spot and attracts the international 20-something backpacking crowd, with whom we were unfortunately unable to mix due to the nationwide curfew imposed because of the coup... okay, so really I wanted to lay round and nurse my back. Here are a few photos from Utila:

Typical scene early morning on the street:

The Treetanic Bar, which is essentially a big ship built up in the mango trees and insanely decorated by a loony glass artist:

The trip home was perfect until I missed my train from LA to SLO, but hey, it was all good once I got home to my doggie, who seemed to have doubled in size once again while I was gone. Fun times in Centroamerica, see you in the winter!


Anonymous said...

um...threw your back out!? hello!? bikram. what the hell happened? wait, something tells me this story is better over phone while i'm drinking brian benson. :-D

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Cayos Cochinos said...

Good stuff. It is interesting to read comments.