April 2, 2007

It’s fold-up boats and jungle-top tours for HL girl

Emmy Swanson had a blast on her trip to Utila, Honduras

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

A trip to Utila, Honduras seemed more like a trip to tropical utopia for Emmy Swanson of Howard Lake.

The name may sound familiar because Swanson is the owner of Emmy’s Salon in Howard Lake.

Swanson’s uncle and aunt, Bill Wolf and LaRoe Swanson, retired and moved to Utila two years ago. The trip was planned as a visit to her uncle and aunt’s house and was Swanson’s first “tropical” vacation.

“I did a lot of traveling in college, but hadn’t been anywhere tropical,” Swanson said.

The trip was a joint endeavor with Swanson’s friend, Sharon Holland, who is also a hairdresser.

Honduras is comprised of many small islands, of which Utila is one of them. It took four separate flights to get from Minneapolis to Utila, where the airport is quite primitive, Swanson explained.

“The airport consisted of a wooden bench and a flagpole with a wind sock on it – probably enough to scare most people,” Swanson laughed.

Then, just to get to her uncle and aunt’s house, they had to take a taxi to the water’s edge, and then take a 20- minute boat taxi across the channel to get to the house.

Any trips across the channel had to occur only on very calm days because her aunt and uncle’s boat was extremely lightweight.

“It was a teeny, tiny fold-up boat that’s plastic and folds into the size of a suitcase. That way, they can store it away when they get on the mainland, and not worry that someone will steal it,” Swanson laughed.

“There’s quite a few Americans who have set up shops and stores there and everyone knows each other – even though the population is quite large. It’s dirt streets crammed with buildings. There’s probably not enough room for another building, but they’ll put it up anyway,” Swanson explained.

In fact, Swanson said that in a small fishing community called The Keys, there’s no land left to build on, so they started building houses on stilts above the other houses.

“The houses are even over the water. There’s no yards, and kids will bike up and down the docks and sidewalks. There’s just a small strip of concrete sidewalk running through the houses,” she said.

“In that fishing community, the kids have to take a boat ride back to the mainland to go to school. Most of their fathers are fishermen so they get a ride from them. If the kids want a higher education than seventh grade, they have to travel to an even larger community, which is even farther away,” Swanson explained.

The highlight of the trip was the canopy tour of the jungle on zip lines (pully suspended on a cable), which also included a 25-minute hike, Swanson said.

“It’s where you’re hanging from a wire that’s fitted to your waist. They give you a little push and you’re off. We went tree-to-tree and over rivers,” she explained.

Swanson explained that a native guide gave the tour, and he walked around with bare feet.

“There are bugs everywhere and reptiles. He (tour guide) was walking around barefoot. He gave us numerous tips if we were to get lost in the jungle and how to survive. It was very useful information,” Swanson said.

After the tour, the group was treated to fresh fruit and a dip in a natural pool.

“The culture and atmosphere is so laid back there. It was so nice not to have to rush here and there all the time. People take siestas every day for two hours. It was hard to come back and be on a schedule again,” Swanson said.

Because Swanson’s uncle and aunt live right on the water, they went snorkeling every day.

“It was like having an aquarium in your backyard,” she said.

The long trip back home was almost made even longer due to the big snowstorm event March 1.

“We came in that night (Feb. 28). It had just started to snow and we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to land, but we did. It was the best thing to come back to,” Swanson said with a smile.

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