by Hank Leukart
September 26, 2008
In Honduras, a perfect moment
A romantic plan culminates.
A couple looks at the horizon during magic hour in Utila, Honduras. (view all Honduras photos)
TILA, The Bay Islands, Honduras — My ex-girlfriend and I took the bus east to La Ceiba, checking into the Lodge at Pico Bonito, a beautiful eco-lodge in the Honduran jungle. Nestled among banana trees and climbing monkeys in the verdant rainforest of Pico Bonito National Park, the lodge offered excellent opportunities for bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, and white water rafting. More important for my plan to win back my ex-girlfriend, the lodge’s secluded location made it exceptionally peaceful and romantic, far from any Honduran pop music, making it easy to spend time together without distractions. Our charming jungle bungalow felt like a magical tree house with its rustic furnishings, cute porch hammock, and private surroundings.
With the help of the world’s biggest machete, a naturalist guided us on a hike through the seemingly enchanted adjacent rainforest, where he showed us cocoa plants, wild fruit orchards, and monkeys playing on huge tree branches above our heads. Eventually, he guided us into a hidden valley, where below the thick tree canopy, we arrived at a sparkling waterfall. Covered in sweat after the demanding hike in the sultry air of the Honduran rainforest, my ex-girlfriend and I stripped off our clothes and jumped into the river. The cool water was at once relaxing and invigorating. After I spent some time like a six-year old trying to dunk her head under the surface, we swam to the waterfall, and under the exhilarating shower, we kissed.
After our romantic stay at Pico Bonito and a quick side trip kayaking in a mangrove forest, she and I jumped on a plane and arrived on a tiny airstrip on Utila, a small, remote island off the coast of Honduras. While living in Honduras, my ex-girlfriend had been working toward a professional-level scuba diving certification and had been begging me during our trip to learn how to scuba dive. So, for the final step of my Honduran wooing plan, I agreed to stay on Utila and attend scuba school with her for a week.
The smallest of the Bay Islands, Utila is only 24 square miles, with a limited infrastructure of small inns and scuba diving schools, and golf carts and mopeds for transportation. We checked into a room for about $12 per night at Rubi’s, a small, family-owned inn filled with twenty-something backpackers looking for a clean but cheap place to stay. Our sparse but charming room had a shower, a bed, and an ocean view from the hammock on the balcony outside the door.
Strangely, the delicate curtains that covered our room’s windows are one of my most vivid memories of Utila. The wispy, white, flowered drapes made our empty room seem somehow simultaneously luxurious and charmingly plain, and they were easy to use: we tied them in a knot to “open” them and loosened the knot to “close” them.
Like the knotted curtains, our life on Utila was simple. Refreshingly, every day was the same. Early each morning, I woke up and walked to the Utila Dive Centre, our scuba school. After eating a deliciously moist and savory hot cinnamon bun from the vendor across the street, I boarded a boat and took two scuba dives for my certification class. While I recovered from my dive-induced lightheadedness with a huge banana smoothie, my ex-girlfriend met me for lunch. Then, I returned to the inn for a nap while she went on her own dives for her certification. After my nap, I woke up and read on the balcony until she returned, and then we spent the night together.
We had no television to entertain us, no computer to distract us, and no newspapers to worry us. When we were bored, we talked together or read books in our hammock, looking out over the ocean. When we were hungry, we walked across the street to one of only a few restaurants. When we felt amorous, we unknotted our curtains.
One evening, with only a couple days of our trip remaining, as we lay in bed, with the unknotted curtains blowing in the breeze, my ex-girlfriend began to cry. She cried for a long time, and as the emotion flowed out of her, I hugged her, but I didn’t know what else to do. I realized that I had no idea why she was crying. Then, I went into a panic. If I didn’t understand why she was crying, maybe I didn’t understand her at all. What could she be crying about after we had just spent two wonderful weeks together? Maybe this woman, who I thought I knew so well, was someone I didn’t know at all. My master plan to win her back suddenly seemed ridiculous and childish. I had been taking cues from clichéd pulp novels, trying to create forced romantic moments in an attempt to win a target — a beautiful woman I clearly didn’t understand and whose feelings I had barely even considered.
And so, I began again. Talking late into the night, we discussed our hopes and fears surrounding our relationship, like adults. I discovered that she was crying, not because I had done something wrong, but because she didn’t know what she wanted or how to react to the feelings we were both having. We fell asleep feeling closer but more confused than ever.
On our final days on the island, we went on dives together, playing in the weightlessness of the water, watching sea turtles, whales, and sharks through our masks. Sometimes, we tried to communicate underwater using sign language, which we found difficult at first, but our skills improved with each dive. Under the surface of the ocean, I thought about how much of our trip had been spent underwater — in hot springs, river waterfalls, and the Caribbean Sea. After our dives, we lay together on the bow of the boat, with our salty, goosebump-covered arms touching, toasting in the sun.
During our last evening on Utila, as I waited for her to return from a scuba class, I sat in the hammock outside our room, reading the epic love story The Time Traveler’s Wife and watching the sun set. The magic-hour light created a striking indigo glow over the ocean, and I looked out across the water. On the dock, another couple sat gazing into the horizon’s abyss. A feeling of serenity overwhelmed me. I realized my plan hadn’t worked — not exactly. But it didn’t matter. My travel partner appeared in front of me. Her beautiful gray ojos looked at me. She smiled. It was a perfect moment — the kind of moment you experience only two or three times in an entire life. Despite my plan, we were in love.