Lunch on the Beach - Garifuna Style
07 February 2014 | Cayos Cochinos, Honduras
Beth / bathing suits and sunscreen
Fausto came by yesterday, sold me a pretty pair of earrings and 3 lobster tails, and invited us to come for lunch.
He lives in the Garifuna community on Chachahuate (called Lower Monitor Cay on some maps). I have to tell you that as we approached the thatched hut and dugout canoe lined beach, it was one more of those surreal moments we have come to expect here. This is a tiny cay – maybe half a kilometer end to end, with waving palms, white sand, hammocks slung below thatched roofs – but it’s not a resort. It is not created for tourists. It’s not a purpose built cruise boat stop. There is no electricity, no fresh water except what is brought in jerry cans. It is all sand – no gardens, no chickens clucking around, no dogs even. People live there and raise their kids there and fish there and yes – earn a good part of their living from the tourists who visit.
We motored carefully into shallow turquoise water, edged by the darker coral reefs and pulled our dinghy up on the sand among the cayucos. Fausto waved us to the table waiting in front of his house and fetched cervesas and cokes and even a tot of rum that had been steeped in a jar of reeds and grasses – good for whatever ails you! Girls with trays of jewelry appeared quickly – and while some of it was of the very typical shell and coconut husk variety, some was unique and well made. I bought a pendant with a flamingo tongue shell, said no thanks to the others and was then left alone. While these women were of course anxious to sell their crafts, they didn’t harass us. Unfortunately, they also have jewellery made from turtle shells and we said a definite no to that – Jim stated very firmly, “We don’t buy products made from turtle shells.”
We had ordered the medium sized lunch (175 lempiras), and were soon presented with plates of two small grilled fish (red snapper), a pile of crispy plantain chips and a mound of rice and beans. We added spoonsful of onions in a ketchup sauce from the bowl on the table, and finished with a big square of yummy coconut candy. Mmmmmm – delicioso. We dined with Charlie and Sondra and John (Island Sol), and Jean Marie, Dominique and Danielle (Ete Infini) arrived soon after. Two launch loads of tourists from La Ceiba landed a little farther down the beach and for a couple of hours the place was hopping.
Laundry flapped from clotheslines and was draped over cayucos, children played in the shallows and ran along the water’s edge. Way down at one end, a rousing game of dominoes was in progress and they play the same way here as at Little Farmer’s Cay in the Bahamas – at lightening speed, holding the tiles in a block in one hand and slamming them down on the table. At the other end of the cay, two men were bent intently over some kind of hand work – they didn’t look up and I didn’t want to pry but it looked like they may have been mending nets.
This whole area was badly damaged by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998. It killed 13,000 people and left 2 million homeless in Honduras. Chachahuate is so low that we figured it would have been destroyed for sure. We’ve heard that all the folks from all the cays around gathered on the big hill behind Turtle Bay Eco Resort and there was wind and water rushing everywhere. It must have been terrifying, such a contrast to the benign conditions we experience now.
As we climbed back into the dinghy and waved good bye, Fausto said “Come back anytime. You all my friends.” That man has a good attitude!
(and PS – he said the same thing the next day when we didn’t buy anything from him.)