Christmas at Mango Creek Lodge

Nov. 27 saw the arrival of Thomas Horton and his girlfriend Natalia. These guys had visited us previously day fishing but had so much fun they decided to come back for a few days and stay over in Cabana 1 (closest to the restaurant).

They wanted our guide Tie-Tie to get them “hooked up” with bonefish and permit. The method of attack was using light spinning rods with crab on the hook of the fly. Tie-Tie (whose real name is Terry) was pretty excited. Natalia was 25 years old and model material. This would put extra pressure on Tie-Tie. The other fishing guides were seriously jealous.

Special meals were prepared around Natalia’s diet requests, which consisted primarily of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, lemon, artichokes, egg whites, and grilled chicken. Now this was a challenge for our Honduran cooks. How can they cook for these crazy gringos? That problem was quickly solved by Natlia, who took over the galley and won over the cooks with her crazy sense of humor. All we could hear from the front of the restaurant was the laughter, so we knew they were having a good time.

Thomas was happy with his fishing. Each day he managed to land bonefish with the aid of Tie-Tie and our resident land crabs for bait.

One day Natalia decided she would rather hang out with the lodge managers and opted for an exciting trip down island to buy supplies for the restaurant. She was given her own shopping cart to run up and down the isles. She arrived at the cashier with a cart full of every kind of junk food imaginable. All it was a great hit when we arrived back at the lodge.

After a couple of days fishing, Thomas sent along the rest of his family for a visit to Mango Creek Lodge. A wild and crazy time was had as we got to know Thomas’ family and friends. More visits were sure to follow. We met his mom and stepdad, his uncle Tony, and Sue.

About this time, the jungle at Mango Creek decided to fight back. The heavy rains we had last month resulted in a spurt in the growth of all things green on the property. We were all waiting for Terry and Patrice (the owners of Mango Creek Lodge) to arrive in early December. We wanted the property perfect. So what happens? Both our remaining “weed whackers” died within a few days. In a panic, we drove all over the island trying to buy another one. Everyone else’s whackers had died, too, and there wasn’t a remaining one left on the island. I wrote a panicked e-mail to Terry to bring two down with him. I hinted he might want to bring down a hay baler with him.

We were doomed to fate worse than hell by the encroaching jungle. Our guides Kessel and Tie-Tie decided it may be a good idea to take some of the pressure off us. They pulled the carburetor off one of the whackers and managed to finally get it started. They also ran one of our large whacker lawnmowers over to Oak Ridge, where its front end was welded back on. Smiles were back, and grass flew everywhere. Within a few days, the property was looking good again. We hired Kessel’s son Jake, who was on school break, to help with the cleanup.

The first few weeks in December saw increased activity. Day fishing increased as local resorts began filling up with tourists for the season. Every few days, our guides would run off to BJ’s bar in Oak Ridge to pick up clients. The weather had turned much better, and the fishermen were reaping the benefits of ideal conditions.

We enjoy having the day fishermen because it gives us a chance to show off the property. Many of these fishermen return to Roatan, and the next time they come, they usually book to stay with us. Many return with their family because they realize that their spouses can be out snorkeling, sailing, hiking, or kayaking while they fish.

Terry Kyle finally arrived in Roatan! Patrice had stayed behind because her daughter was getting ready to make her a grandmother. They had managed to purchase a 32′ Albemarle Sport Fishing boat in Florida and had made arrangements to ship it down by to Roatan. Terry had made the trip on a roach-infested ship to accompany the boat. It took a day of paperwork to finally get the boat released from customs, and it finally sat on its mooring in front of Mango Creek Lodge by Dec. 7. It was full of goodies, including two new weed whackers (one of which died within a week of use on the jungle).

Terry got right back in the swing of things helping out solving problems and starting new projects. In this photo, he is bleeding in the main generator on the property just before we headed off to the Port Royal Day Party.

Dec. 9 was the 2nd annual Port Royal Day Party, hosted by Matt and Corrine, the owners of Royal Playa Dive Resort. The party was pretty much made up of all the residents of Port Royal. Also represented was the gang from the Hole in the Wall and BJ’s Backyard. The music was live, loud, and Caribbean. What a blast!!

Dec. 18 was the first run for High Rocks, the new sports fishing boat. We needed to go to La Ceiba to check out a catamaran that we were interested in buying. We also needed to run over a 40-HP 4-stroke Mercury outboard to the marina there, and since we were going, we would drop off our 86-year-old carpenter and his granddaughter Dagmara. So off we went with Terry on the wheel at 20 knots with all 600 horses pushing us through the Caribbean sea effortlessly. Two hours later, we arrived. Unfortunately there had been extensive flooding in La Ceiba. This meant that Joe, our regular taxi driver, couldn’t get through the mud to pick us up at the marina. Julie had arranged to visit three doctors while in the city, so it was a scramble.

In the end, Terry returned to Mango Creek alone and we stayed overnight at Banana Republic Hostel. The next day, we managed to get everything done by 4 p.m. and caught the high-speed ferry back to Roatan. We were to have been picked up by a taxi driver at the ferry dock, but he was a no-show. Never mind, situation normal for Honduras. So after 15 minutes, we flagged down another driver. The ride to BJ’s in Oak Ridge was kind of spooky, with our driver just barely managing to work his way around large pot holes in the road that we were barely able to see. At one point, we passed an accident where someone had obviously lost an argument with a large gravel truck.

We arrived at our pick-up point at BJ’s in the dark, but no one was there to pick us up. Yikes. For a while, we thought we would have to sleep under a table in the bar (not a good idea). However, it turned out that Terry had come out to pick us up in the panga but had missed his landmarks in the dark. It wasn’t long, however, before he found his way in through the reef to pick us up. We were saved!

Day fishing continued and the customers poured in. We recognized a real skill in Terry and decided to promote him to our director of sales, while still maintaining his position of visionary manager of projects.

Stella and Ben Khan, all the way from London, England, dropped by to take a look at the place. With Terry’s enthusiastic tour, they were soon out fishing, and Ben was thrilled to land his first permit! Stella jumped into our new Hobie sea kayak (which is powered by peddling instead of conventional paddles) and had a blast exploring while her husband battled on the fishing flats. At the end of the day, they both had smiles on their faces.

We were now rapidly approaching Christmas, and our new tree was decorated by Julie and Chena, our cook. Preparations were being made by Julie for a good, old-fashioned turkey Christmas meal complete with stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Joining us for our meal would be all the staff, sailing friends anchored in the harbor, our good friends and ex-managers of Mango Creek Graham and Pam, and visitors Tony and Lauren–18 people altogether.

It was a great time. A big leg of pork had been prepared by Elavese for all the local staff. I tried it, and it was delicious. They generally prefer the pork to the turkey we like in North America. Chena, with Julie’s help, cooked her first pumpkin pie. We moved through Christmas and New Year without seeing a snow flake. Indeed, the temperature never really got below 80 F.

Tony Hughey and his wife Lauren Kerr, from Washington DC, arrived on Dec. 23 for a one-week visit. As the week fished on so did the work at Mango Creek. Mr. Terry (as the locals call him) ratcheted up the number of projects ongoing at Mango Creek.

Our new sports fishing boat took up all our remaining dock space. This situation demanded the addition of another dock. Our local mayor, Perry Terry Bodden, was given the contract, and soon the place was swarming with another 10 workers.

To link the new dock to the rest of the property, it was necessary to build a new pathway. Manuelito was hired on contract for that job, and soon he was up to his elbows in cement and broken tiles for the steps.

Our main generator used for charging our batteries had sprung leaks in its radiator. Our backup Isuzu diesel was in bad shape with either a bad piston or valve and couldn’t be used. Terry made a deal with Matt next door to exchange our old batteries for his Kubota Diesel. He and Tie-Tie then settled into pulling apart the old Isuzu and installing the new Kubota. Now this was not that easy because the old generator didn’t want to bolt directly to the new diesel. Terry designed a plate to try and fix the problem. When he went down island to get it built, he lucked out. The machine shop had one already built!

He also was making up a trolley for moving our new batteries that were coming. We are off-grid, you see, and the new batteries would replace our old tired set. There were 24 batteries coming, each weighing 600 lbs! All the batteries would have to be moved halfway up the mountain to our solar panels and wind generator. Ugh! The same machine shop was to make the axles for the trolley. Terry was told to return at 3 p.m. and everything would be ready. At 3 p.m., Terry, Julie, and I all returned to pick up the parts. We were told they were already picked up for us by another “gringo”. Guess what? We still don’t know where the parts are.

As all of the projects continued in the background, the carnival was still going on. Tony continued to catch fish, and Lauren enjoyed her days snorkeling, paddling, and peddling our new kayak and reading.

One day just before supper, Lauren and Tony were pulling the kayak out of the water to secure it for the night. I was over by the boat house talking to some of the men when we heard a loud splash. Lauren had fallen in trying to move the kayak on the dock. It was obvious she was “OK,” but she sure did look like a wet hen.

There was no way I was going to let this go by without a good heckle, which I promptly did.

I then went to help Tony finish moving the kayak. I took one step back, and the damn dock disappeared! In I went over my head!! Now Lauren and Tony and every worker in the lodge had a good laugh. Later that night, Tony fell in while trying to retrieve a lure while fishing off the dock. We think we should order new t-shirts that say “I fell in at Mango Creek.”

At the same time Tony and Lauren were visiting, we were joined by Gord and Cathi Joyce from Mississauga, Ontario. A few days into his visit, Gord managed to hook a huge permit. Perry, our guide, maneuvered our fishing skiff while Gord fought the monster. By the time they actually landed the fish, they had been dragged halfway down the bay. But there were big smiles on everyone’s faces when they returned to the lodge for sundowners. Gord and Cathi also opted to go snorkeling with Randy, our resident snorkeling guide extraordinaire. Cathi took some excellent pictures of dolphins as they were surrounded by a school of over 100 on their way to the end of the island.

JR, his wife Kim, and daughter Gabby from Calgary arrived the end of December to celebrate New Year’s with us. JR was an enthusiastic fly fisherman and started tying his own flies. Each day he fished our flats with Tie-Tie. Meanwhile, his wife and daughter were busy each day snorkeling, sailing, and kayaking.

Kim, Randy, and Julie did the big hike over to Paya Bay resort for lunch. Julie was a little sore the next day but thoroughly enjoyed herself as did Kim. This was Julie’s first hike since we arrived here and she managed to take pictures of the event.

Ed Kettyle

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