Deo and I took the ferry over for the weekend to do a bit of work on the land. We borrowed a chainsaw for the trip, and took over a little sander as well.
My weekend project was sanding down the countertop in the kitchen area and sealing it, and Deo's project was taking down some of the scrubby trees that needed to go. It was his first experience using a chainsaw, so it took a little time to get the hang of it. Jose came over and helped out, and then made a lot of progress the 2nd day for us.
We had some time to relax on the dock and do a bit of fishing. I took the kayak again and did some more adventuring, including a very long kayak around the north side. We just had 2 nights, so it went by fast!
My friend Kate, along with her husband and daughters all came down to Roatan to visit, so we planned an overnight trip to Guanaja. Deo is also down, and his friend Sherman agreed to take us over- Deo's first trip to see the cabin!
We had perfect weather for the trip over. On the way, we made a small detour to Punta Blanca to pick up a kayak that I bought from someone leaving the island. We continued on our way, and got to Guanaja mid-day, and then spent a little time getting unloaded and settled in. Our gutter that we had put up last time had done the job- there was a full barrel of water waiting for us! So exciting, we didn't have to haul any water from the well!
I had never really tried to snorkel out to the reef in front of our place, as Deo and Auri said it was really far. Since the weather was super calm, we asked Sherman to drop us off at the reef, and we'd snorkel back. It actually wasn't a bad swim at all, with fins on (probably 1000-1500 meters, but didn't take that long). The reef was beautiful and healthy. I'd like to eventually put in a mooring buoy out there, so that people can kayak out, then just hop in to snorkel once they're out there.
After the snorkel, Sherman went to the cay to fuel up. Kate and I stayed put and did some reading in the hammocks, everyone else went along for the ride, and came back an hour or so later.
The sunset was incredible. Most of us went to bed early. I had brought over a couple more mattresses, so the 2 sets of bunk beds now have them, plus an extra that we put on the floor. Kate, her family and I slept in the main cabin area. I put up camping cots for Deo and Sherman in the screened porch, but they ended up going out to the dock to sleep, as even with the screening, they were getting bites.
This last week has been incredibly hot, and the cabin was a bit toasty, especially with so many bodies in it. I brought the battery bank and 2 usb fans, so Kate and I had a bit of breeze blowing on us. Despite the heat, we all slept ok. I was up early for my beach walk, and then went out for a kayak. Once I got back from that, the rest of the gang were getting up.
Kate and Kevin went out snorkeling again, and then they got packed up and prepared to head out. Since they were only down for a week, they could just spend 1 night, so Sherman took them home, and Deo and I stayed.
We waved them goodbye, and then Deo helped put some legs on a little table.
Late afternoon, I headed out in the kayak again, this time around the point to the east. The water was super clear, I could see that there was reef pretty close to shore once I was over around the point- I thought it would make a good spot to try out snorkeling on my next time out (I hadn't put my snorkel stuff in the kayak).
Deo tried fishing, but didn't end up catching anything (except for a baby black tip shark, which he released). We enjoyed the sunset together on the dock.
On Saturday afternoon, Deo took a boat over to Mangrove Bight for his fly fishing camp. I got a lift over, so that I could stop and visit Jerom and Paizley (Jerom was my neighbour in Roatan, but has moved over to Guanaja where his girlfriend lives, and they've just opened a bar). It was nice seeing their place and visiting. Jerom gave me a ride back after, and I had my last night in the cabin on my own.
Sunday morning I woke early, kayaked around to the east point, pulled up into a little cove, and then hopped in to snorkel. The reef in that area was so close, only about 20 feet away, and lots of stuff to see.
Jose had asked me on Saturday if I wanted to have Watchie, the little dog that used to belong to the caretaker at the end of the beach (the caretaker has left). I decided I'd like this cute little guy that's been following me around everywhere, so on Sunday when I headed out, I made a make-shift leash with a hammock strap, and loaded him into the water taxi to head to the ferry dock. Now I have a little part of Guanaja to keep me company in Roatan :)
I've been promising myself that I'd go over for a longer stay once high season wound down, so this last week, I made good on my promise. I took the ferry over last Friday with my friend Nikki. She took the ferry back on Sunday, and I stayed myself for the rest of the week.
I recently bought an inflatable stand-up paddleboard moving off island, so I brought it along. We took the large cooler, and bought ice once we got there. Nikki brought her dog along, so we were fully loaded, between cooler, paddleboard, groceries and pet :) The water taxi met us at the ferry dock. We tried a few spots, but everyone was having an ice shortage, we just got 1 bag. I left money with the water taxi driver, so that he could pick up a couple extra bags to drop off when he returned to pick up Nikki on Sunday.
Our cute little cabin was there waiting for us. We got unloaded, and put everything away. We had a couple days enjoying the crystal clear water. We also met some new neighbours- an Italian guy who owns a lot a few lots down from us (purchased over 25 years ago) has begun clearing his land to start building. His workers were camping out in a tent.
On Saturday during the night, the winds picked up. When we got up in the morning, we weren't sure if the ferry would run, or if the water taxi would come to pick up Nikki, but both confirmed that they were going to. So we got Nikki packed up and ready to go. Off she went, and I had the next days all to myself. Sunday was windy all day, so I started putting wood sealer on the porch walls and floor, and spent the rest of the time curled up in the hammock with a book.
By Monday, the wind was gone, but tons of seaweed had washed ashore. The water was still pretty stirred up, but it cleared up in the next couple days. I spent the rest of my week alternating between walks on the beach, applying sealer on the cabin, reading in my hammock, going in the water, and raking up/burning sticks/leaves where we've started to clear in the back.
The week was over before I knew it, time to head back home to reality, but I'll be back soon to my beautiful escape :)
As we still had a few things that Farrel needed to finish at the cabin since the last visit, I had really wanted to get back and see how everything looked. This week is a huge holiday week, Semana Santa, which meant a different ferry schedule, so it would be possible for me to take the ferry over for a few days. Even though it's a busy time at the hostel, I decided going over for the start of the week would work.
I was sad not to have my DAM team with me, but I recruited a hostel guest named Kelley to come over with me. He's here for a month and a half, and was curious about Guanaja. We caught the ferry on Sat afternoon- it didn't leave til 4, which meant we arrived to Low Cay at about 5:30. By the time we got our bags and got in the water taxi, it was after 6, which meant darkness was falling as we got dropped off.
We had just enough light to make our way to the cabin. I've put on a combination padlock, so I opened things up, and we got everything inside and switched on the solar light that we hung up last trip.
The porch had all gotten screened, screens in the windows, bunk beds in place (with ropes, so that the top bunks can be tied out of the way when not in use), and a little kitchen counter- so cute! We got things put away, had some cheese and crackers, and a salad that I had packed, and decided not to bother cooking anything. We took a walk out to the dock to enjoy the stars, and then called it a night.
The next day, I was up early and went for a walk on the beach. I saw Jose, who accompanied me back, and brought along a few things that we had left with him previously, like a big plastic pan for washing and a machete. We discussed our next steps of clearing all the land in the back, and filling in the marshy spots. Jose gifted me a cat, Payasina. She had followed him over, and when he said she was ours, she stayed! Not sure how that plan will work with us not being there, but he'll bring over some food for her, and hopefully she'll stick around and keep any rodents away.
Over the next few days, Kelley helped out a ton as we got more of the back area cleared. He put up a shelf in the kitchen with some scrap wood, so I got my kitchen area all organized. We also worked on putting in a little footpath up to the steps, mosaic style using some broken pieces of cement from around the property (there had been a home there that got destroyed during Hurricane Mitch in 1998), and then filling in the spaces with pretty blue stones that Farrel had left for me. We mixed some work and some fun. Kelley brought an inflatable paddleboard, so we took turns going out on that in the morning, and took a few swim breaks during the day. I brought along a couple books, so had a few book reading sessions on the dock and in the hammock. Of course, leaving on the busiest week also meant that I needed to keep up with some things at the hostel, so I listened for the 'ding' of my phone to keep up with messages. The connection as a bit more in and out than last time (I'll need to look into how I install a booster to get a better signal).
Jose has arranged a guy to bring us bags of fill, so he and his family came several times to drop off bags of sand. He has 5 kids that look like they're about 7years and under- they played in the water with me, while their mom and dad unloaded bags of sand from the boat.
A friend who spends part of the year in Roatan and part in Canada sent me a message on Facebook. She was in Guanaja! I told her that we were too, so she decided to take a water taxi over on Monday and spend the night. She arrived with a bag of ice and 2 bottles of sparkling wine to toast the new home :) We had dinner together, and a few drinks and watched the sunset, which is so spectacular from our side of the island. We headed to bed fairly early. The next morning, Kate cooked us all breakfast, and then we took a walk along the beach to the south. There are 2 houses further down the beach, both which just have caretakers in them (Jose in one, and a guy named Manuel in the other). The owners of Manuel's house were there, so I got to meet them, a very nice family that live in San Pedro Sula and come over a few times a year. The 2 little dogs that followed us last time followed us again- I ended up having to walk down the beach with them later to bring them back home, as they didn't seem to want to leave on their own, and then that time, the bigger dog followed me back!
Kate headed out early afternoon on Tues, and Kelley, Jose and I did a bit more clearing out back (well, mostly the 2 of them, I helped a bit). We had Jose stay for dinner, and then went to sit on the beach for the sunset. Another early bedtime.
Wed we had to head out by 9:30. I got up and took a walk on the beach, then starting packing up and organizing so I wouldn't be rushed. Once everything staying had been stored and everything leaving had been packed, I headed out to the dock for one last reading and relaxing session. I tried to take lots of pics so we can remember the various stages of progress, and so I can share them with the boys.
I've made notes of what I need to bring next time (hammock hooks, spring for screen door, coffee cups), and what projects take priority (gutter and a tank to collect rain definitely high on the list!). I'm hoping that I can stay for a week sometime in May, when things are quieter. Maybe I'll also be able to get a group interested in going over just for a night or 2 on a private boat in the next few weeks, so that we can bring over the other mattress that we need and a few bigger/heavier items that don't work so well if taking the ferry.
Now that the build was completed, I needed to get over and inspect it. I could tell from the photos that the placement wasn't back as much as I had wanted based on where I was envisioning putting in other buildings, so I'd have to rethink my overall layout a bit, Other than that, the photos were looking really great, but I wanted to see it in person, and finally get to meet Farrel, as well as take over a few things.
I planned a trip over with a few friends, one of them a return hostel guest, another a former hostel guest who's now living on the island, and a friend from the neighbourhood. Sherman agreed to take us over again, but he has school during the week, so we could only go for 1 night. The day before, I drove over to his place with the 3 mattresses that we were taking with us, propane tank and stove top, well hand pump and a few other items. Then in the afternoon, I loaded up the trunk with some additional items- camp chairs and table, cooler, drink cooler, groceries. Early Sat morning, we met at the hostel, drove to the gas station to pick up ice, and then down to meet Sherman by the boat. One of his friends also came along.
The weather was great for the ride there. We drove along the north coast of Roatan, then cut through the mangroves just east of Camp Bay, and hugged the south coast past Helene and Barbareta. Once we got to the open sea, it was a bit choppier, but not too bad. Lauren lay on the pile of mattresses, so she had a super-cushy ride!
It took about 2 1/2 hours to reach Guanaja. Since we're on the west side, it makes for a shorter boat ride. As we pulled up to shore, we could see another boat already there, and Farrel was at the cabin. He had warned me the day before that the material hadn't arrived to do the bunk bed supports and the window screens, so I had brought along some gauzy curtains to keep out the bugs, and we'd just put the mattresses on the floor.
To my very pleasant surprise, there was no bug attack! I don't know if it was the time of year, or the breeze, or that the grounds had now been raked/cleaned for several months- whatever the reason, I was so glad that I wasn't getting bitten! I met Farrel and his brother Brian, and they showed me the cabin. They nailed up my curtains and helped me put up a solar light, we talked a bit, and then they headed out.
Lauren had already disappeared for a beach walk, and Elizabeth promptly fell asleep. I spent a bit of time organizing and settling in. Sherman and Prince headed to Low Cay to refuel and get some lunch. Tom helped me with putting up some towel hooks (I had brought over a hammer and drill), and carrying back a few buckets of water from the neighbour's well.
In the afternoon, we all relaxed on the porch with a drink and marveled at what a beautiful spot we were at. We went in for a swim, went for a beach walk, and enjoyed just being in nature.
The sunset was obscured by clouds, but by night, the sky was clear, and the stars were incredible. Tom and I hopped in for a quick night swim, bioluminescence lighting up the water like fairy dust.
We all went to bed early. It was the best sleep that I've had over there. Comfy mattress, no bugs. I woke up early, well rested, and went for a walk on the beach with Elizabeth. We stopped to sit at a dock at the far end of the beach, and got to see a eagleray swimming by.
Too soon, it was time to pack up and head back to Roatan. I can't wait for my next trip to our beautiful paradise!
I got a recommendation of a builder in Guanaja from a friend, and started messaging to find out how much it would cost to put up a little cabin, just a shell of walls, roof and floor. I decided if we were investing into it, we'd make it with the layout that we'd eventually want to use down the road as one of our retreat cabanas, just without any of the plumbing, electric, glass windows etc.
I started making sketches of what I was envisioning, both for the cabin layout as well as for the layout of all the building at the retreat, so that we could plan where to put the cabin. I had wanted to meet with Farrel, the builder, on our last trip, but it hadn't worked out, so I decided we'd just arrange for him to build without actually meeting in person. He was very responsive on messages, and lined out the costs for materials, labour and permit fee.
We talked a few times, and messaged back and forth, with me sending sketches of what I wanted and where I wanted it, and him sending photos of some of his other builds.
I sent him a partial payment on labour, and then got in touch with the hardware store to pay for materials. They weren't able to process my credit card without being there in person, but Deven from the hardware store had a trip planned to Roatan, so he brought along a portable POS machine. We met up inside of Wendy's at the mall, and put through the transaction on my card.
The materials aren't kept in stock in Guanaja, there was a bit of delay as they ordered them and had them sent over. Farrel kept me up to date on getting our site inspection done, and let me know when the materials arrived, and had been transported over to our land (we're water access only, so everything had to be brought over by boat).
I got daily photos of the progress, when I forwarded on to Deo and Auri, so we could all share in the excitement. Within 2 weeks, the shell was pretty much complete, aside from a few finishing details of screening, and supports to have a couple temporary bunk beds to use for the next few years.
Deo and Auri came back down to spend Christmas in Roatan, and were here for 2 months, along with Deo's girlfriend. We decided we'd plan another camping trip to Guanaja. One of Deo's friend's had a boat that he could take us on if we covered the fuel costs, and the boys brought other friend along, as they said that they would be clearing the land.
I told them that I'd be getting groceries, but everyone should bring along some food. And bug spray, lots of bug spray!
I had done some shopping to make camping a bit less rough. Camp chairs, a camp table, a camping cot, a battery bank with portable panels. A better cooler (and Deo had also brought down a good cooler). It all went in the boat. Jose had asked for a wheelbarrow, so that went in the boat too. And the dog also went in the boat- when we headed out, we were fully loaded!
When we arrived, we got things unloaded and set up the tents. Again, the bugs were out in full force. I thought we had prepared with bug spray, but even with it on, it didn't seem to slow them down at all. The camping cot made life just slightly more pleasant, but I was determined that the next time we went, I'd have a little shack with a mattress to sleep on and screens on the window.
Deo and Auri are spending the next few years working up in Canada, saving money. As we were planning on closing on the land in Aug and they were coming down for a month, we thought we'd plan a camping trip over for a few nights, so that they could see it for their first time.
The closing kept getting delayed, so we checked to make sure it would be ok to camp out, even though the land wasn't officially ours yet.
We arranged a boat to take us over from Jonesville and drop us at the land for 2 nights. We stocked up on some groceries, packed up a cooler, tent, travel hammocks, water and a few other basics, and off we went! Fortunately the property a few lots down has a rundown dock, which is a good landmarker, so we found our spot pretty easily. So exciting to pull up to our land for the first time! Blake (the boat captain that took us) helped us unload supplies, and then headed out to stay with his uncle while we were camping. His uncle coincidentally turned out to be our realtor Sidney. Sidney wanted to come out to show us the property boundaries, so we planned to see them the next day.
We got our tent set up and started raking our land and burning all the leaves. The property had just said idle for years, so there was lots of debris, and the bugs were relentless. Tons of plastic bottles everywhere that had washed ashore. The boys took a break to snorkel and see what they could see. I kept raking, and had multiple fires going- the smoke helped a bit with the bugs. I had brought some bug spray, but the boys hadn't packed any, and it was clear we were going to run out. Fortunately we had a cell signal, so we asked Blake if he could pick up some when he came, as well as bringing us more drinking water and more ice. We couldn't even hack 1 day of camping before calling for support!
The property a few lots down had a well(the run down former resort that I had originally looked at), so we filled up a bucket of water from there for bathing. We met the caretaker Jose (I had met him briefly when I was looking at properties, and had been in touch with him already to see if he would be interested in doing some clearing for us). He had his entourage of several dogs and a pig with him. We visited with him a bit, and talked about what needed to be done on the land.
Our first sunset was so amazing. As we're on the west side, we had a perfect view. We cooked some dinner over the fire, and marveled at our incredible piece of paradise. Then night came, and we went out to lie on the dock and look at the stars. Amazing how many stars you see when there's no electricity!
I visited Guanaja for the first time in 1997, a few months after Hurricane Mitch had wreaked havoc on the island. I was instructing diving at the time, and a few of my students were traveling around on their sailboat, so they offered me a ride over.
Once I was there, I went to the former Bayman Bay Club to visit with the manager, who I had met at a dive show in the US. They had some guests that were interested in doing a dive course, and they had no instructor on staff, so it worked out perfectly! I stayed at the hotel for a few days, taught a course and earned money to catch a flight back to Roatan.
Ever since then, I had thought about going back to visit, but there were no ferries from Roatan, and flights were pricey and had to pass through La Ceiba. I met someone at the hostel who was living in Guanaja and interested in starting a hostel there on his uncle’s property. I encouraged him to get started, and would occasionally contact him when one of our guests was interested in Guanaja, to see if he had gotten anything going. A few years later, he still hadn’t gotten anything started, so I decided to plan a trip over with my boys and give him some motivation as well as getting to know the island better.
We loved our days in Guanaja, and we helped give Aaron a nudge to get his place going. We planned several trips over after that, and one summer, the boys spent a week there at a fly fishing camp.
Now that my boys are starting adulthood, Deo’s been considering buying a piece of land. He wants one on Roatan, but I thought I’d look for something for the 3 of us to buy together in Guanaja, so we could enjoy both islands.
I went over in March 2022 to spend a few days on Guanaja at Aaron’s place, and arranged for a realtor to take me to see a few properties. I was mainly interested in the leeward side of the island, as I don’t like constant wind. We went to see a few pieces of land on West End. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach with almost nothing on it. 2 houses that are vacation properties with caretakers, and a rundown former resort that was being sold. That immediately attracted me, I was so excited about the thought of it. I sent the boys videos and photos. There was another piece of land a few doors down from there, but I pretty much immediately dismissed it as being more than we wanted to spend for completely undeveloped land.
I started day dreaming about the business that my kids and I could develop together over there. I headed back to Roatan, worked on an offer with the realtor on the 1st spot, and waited to hear back. Unfortunately they turned us down flat, not even a counter offer. I asked the realtor to find out their best price, but it seemed like they weren’t really interested in selling.
I shelfed the day dream, and tried not to feel to disappointed. I figured the right thing would come up at the right time.
Fast forward a month later, and the realtor contacted me to let me know that the owner of the 2nd piece had dropped his pricing by $30,000. I called the boys, and we discussed whether we wanted to make an offer. It had to be a team decision, we were only moving forward if all 3 of us were ready to commit together. The boys hadn't even seen a photo of the property, but they trusted my judgement, so we decided to put an offer in. After a few weeks of back and forth, we had a signed deal in April 2022, with a close date in August. Power of attorney paperwork issues with the absentee sellers turned the close date into November.
I'm Mel. Together with my 2 sons, Deo and Auri, we form the DAM team (Deo, Auri, Mel). I'm Canadian, my boys are half Canadian, half Honduran, and have grown up on the island of Roatan. We have a hostel in Roatan called Roatan Backpackers' Hostel, which I started when the boys were young. Now that they are adults, we've decided to start a new venture together on the beautiful neighbouring island of Guanaja. In 2022, we purchased our land, and in March of 2023, we put up a little cabin so that we have a little spot to sleep in and store things while we slowing work to get our project together. We are hoping to get our business running in the next 3-5 years, with these next few years giving us a chance to save up capital and advance a bit at a time at planting and infrastructure. Our blog will share our adventure with anyone who wants to follow it!