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Stories picked from the Headlines
For some weeks now we have been trying to look into several different reports of strange activities in the Pumpkin Hill area of this beautiful island. So far all of our attempts to investigate have lead to closed mouths and brick walls, but the little we have learned has convinced us of the necessity to pass on what we do know and let stronger souls find the truth.
First let us tell newer readers a little about Pumpkin Hill. It has long been understood that Pumpkin Hill is a dead volcanic peak, part of the same range that form the islands of Roatan and Guanaja . In fact Utila gets its name from the Mayan word (and the islands old name) Uttla, which in mayan means little smoke. Because it will have bearing to the following story we would like to point out that Uttla when written with the mayan equivalent of a capitol letter at the beginning has a slightly different meaning…Temple of smoke.
About three weeks ago we started receiving reports of nocturnal landings and take offs from the new runway. A few of the local guys who ride their motorbikes down their had reported being “ruffed up” by guys in American military uniforms, and told not to tell anyone what they had seen.
One of these guys was brave enough to tell us what he saw, but made us promise not to print his name, as he is scared about his own safety and that of his family. What he saw, was what appeared to be soldiers loading heavy wooden crates onto a Chinook helicopter with no markings. Even as he told us this he broke down and asked not to print this information but we feel it is the islanders right to know what is going on.
There has been a lot of building activity in the Pumpkin Hill area over the last couple of years and it has accelerated to an unprecedented level this rainy season, but why build in rainy season?
Surely it would be easier to build with dry roads and easy transport? One thing about rainy season at Pumpkin Hill, there are not so many tourists there, not so many “prying eyes”. We managed to take some aerial photographs (above) and believe they start to explain what has been going on.
We spoke to a local archeologist, he is an American (who married on Roatan six years ago and now lives here), and who has been searching for the lost White Mayan City here in Honduras for the last twelve years. He told us that about three years ago he had to stop his research on the white city because what he describes as “typical U.S. government agents” had threatened himself and his family. Interestingly enough his research at the time pointed towards a migration of the Mayan royalty and high priests to the bay islands of Honduras, during the Spanish invasions on the mainland. Taking with them their treasures and libraries. But no-one to date knows exactly where they chose to hide or where the final resting place of the royal Mayan treasures.
Okay let me return to the alternative translation of Uttla. Temple of Smoke. What I will now tell you will probably leave you as chilled as it did us when we found out. In the Mayan tradition smoke was held, by the priests, as the form gods would choose to manifest themselves, taking physical form from their burnt offerings. In all of the final records found left by the Maya, references are found to the royal family and Mayan histories being kept safe by the gods from the Spanish invaders in the Temple of the Living Gods. According to research by our local archeologist two other Mayan words were used to reference the Temple of the Living Gods, these words were Atuttla (Temple of the Smoke Gods) and our old namesake, Uttla.
When we obtained this information we decided to take matters into our own hands and have a look at a building that we had been told regularly had nocturnal truck trips arriving empty and leaving “heavily loaded down but seeming almost empty” as one pumpkin hill resident put it.
We went during the day and what we found amazed us. Using the help of a couple of local builders we entered the “house”. At first it seemed a normal small one bedroom cabin, then we entered the bathroom to find it was the entrance to a recently dug tunnel. As we were about to enter a truck came into the property and we had to hide further up the hill. Four men in military style jumpsuits carrying automatic rifles, loaded what looked like very heavy but relatively small objects into the back of the truck. The weight of these objects was obvious not only by the way the men were struggling but also by the way the suspension would drop each time something was loaded.
One of the guys noticed the broken lock on the door and then talked into their radio. We didn’t wait around as both of our local friends said we should make a swift exit, and to be honest I think we were all a bit scared. We went over the back of Pumpkin Hill to see two small army helicopters buzzing the area as if looking for something and decided to leave by the beach to the end of the new airport as there was plenty of cover to hide from the helicopters. To our amazement when we arrived at the end of the airport, the same truck we had seen in pumpkin hill was off-loading into a Chinook and the two smaller helicopters had landed but all still had there engines going. Within seconds the cargo had been loaded and all three helicopters took of and the truck drove off at high speed. We were so scared we waited for an hour before walking the rest of the way round the coast till we reached the point. Only then feeling a little safer.
We believe that Pumpkin Hill is the fabled Temple of the Living Gods and certain parties have been hiding this information because, under Honduran law, if any artifacts or treasure were found on the island, any money made from selling or exhibiting these artifacts has to be split equally. These same parties have been working with the American military to remove treasures and important artifacts from this island. We understand this will come as a surprise to almost all of you, but we had our office windows smashed and both our computers stolen two days ago and also an anonymous threat left on one desk which simply read “don’t print anything about Pumpkin Hill if you want to print another paper”. We are already in above our heads but felt if it is the last thing we print, you still have a right to know. In case they do shut us down we would like to thank all of you who supported us, and we hope someone can sort this mess out. By Lari Hisllubt; Published; 1-Apr-2006 [April Fools Day]
News in Brief
Carnival Committee Meetings
On the 16th of March the organizers of Sunjam got together with the Carnival Committee to discuss changing dates in order to leave a week between the 2 events. The dates agreed upon are: Carnival 22-30 July and Sunjam 5th August.
The Carnival Committee met again on the 20th of March to decide how merchants and businesses will be charged over the Carnival week. Bars, restaurants, hotels and stores will pay a set price according to their size. The businesses on the main road will pay more than those out of town. The dive shops have always willingly donated money and will do so again this year through UDSEC (the dive organization).
All funds raised this year will go towards building bathrooms at Chepes beach. For information about the rental of spaces for this year’s Carnival please see Michelle. Her office is located above the Utila fire station.
Strike in La Ceiba
On Wednesday 15th of March all bridges out of La Ceiba heading towards the airport and dock were blocked by taxi and bus drivers protesting the introduction of mini buses in the city. One taxi driver told us “There are too many permits as it is, with more there will be less work and prices would have to go up in order for us to make a living”. By 2pm that afternoon the bridge to the airport had been re-opened and the last flight to Utila was FULL.
Parrots Dive Center re-opens
After closing its doors about two years ago, Parrots Dive Center re-opened this month. The dive center offers PADI courses, fundiving, whaleshark safaris and snorkelling. It is located on the main street next to JC internet.
Westjet offers flights from Canada
Canadian airlines Westjet are running weekly charter flights from Toronto to Roatan and Montreal to La Ceiba. These flights will continue while the demand is there. So all Canadians living on the Bay Islands tell your family “it’s time to visit”!
Off to La Ceiba
Earlier this month an American tourist almost fainted before entering the water to dive. He was suffering from Hypovolemia (lowered blood pressure due to dehydration and lack of acclimatization). He was treated at the Clinic with IV fluids and oral rehydration but before leaving nearly fainted again. In cases like this overnight observation is necessary so Dr. John flew with him to Ceiba where he was treated by Dr. Mardiaga at the D’Antoni and kept in overnight for observation. He returned to Utila the following morning. Three days later a Canadian tourist suffered the same problems but recovered quickly after IV and oral treatment. (see page 15 for tips on preventing dehydration).
EFR training for teachers
Seven teachers, 4 from the public school and kindergarten and 3 from UMCC spent 2 days in February doing an Emergency First Response course with instructors from UDC. Neil Ross and Yamil Ortiz de Ora Ortiz donated 2 days of their time to train the teachers in many types of medical emergencies. The teachers all passed the course and are now waiting for their certification cards to arrive.
Utila Dive Centre provided the teaching staff and learning tools, The Mango Inn donated the use of their conference room and Ace International covered the certification costs. It’s great to have so many teachers medically trained and a further weekend of training is planned for the teachers of the Adventist school.
Thank you to the teachers for attending and to Andy, Neil and Yamil for their time and willingness in organizing the course.
The new garbage truck has finally arrived on Utila. This is the first garbage truck that has been paid for with municipal funds. The other trucks were donated to Utila.
The next project on which the municipality will work is the public dock on the Cayes. The Mayor hopes that the materials will be ready within a week. At the moment they are working on the quota process. Furthermore they are waiting on Troy’s barge to be fixed, as it will be used for planting the posts of the new dock. The dock will be placed in the same spot but will have more posts so it will be stronger. The municipality will fund the construction of the new dock.
The municipality is also working on plans for a new municipal stadium. The aim is to develop a playing field. So far it looks positive. It involves 7000 m2 of property.
Work has begun on the 20 feet access road into Camponado. Hopefully the new access road into the area will be finished before the end of this year. The funding for this should not be a problem. Cascajo is currently being moved from the point to an area next to Camponado for the construction. More about this project will be known around June of 2006.
About 37,000 Lempiras have been spent on cleaning the garbage dump. The municipality would like to thank Mark Williams who provided a bulldozer at a discounted price. The garbage dump is now in really good shape.
The pumps in the wells on the island have been replaced this month and the sign at the graveyard has been redone. Furthermore, the municipality would like to start removing weeds on the road to the airport.
The sanitation project is still being worked on. The Mayor is still in talks. About 16 million Lempiras will be spend on this project. It probably needs 18 small pumps to go to the special treatment area.
The municipality has received many complaints about the noise coming from the bars this month. It believes that we all have to co-exist and that it is selfish to play music so loud so late into the night. The mayor asks the bars to comply with the laws otherwise action will be taken.
The municipality hopes to complete one project per month. At the moment it is working on the access road to Camponado which will take longer.
According to Juansito Valdez it’s a karma thing with bees. “Good thinking and good will are important”, and after watching him move 10,000 bees without one stinging him you have to believe that he has an attitude that bees like. “They were Blanca de Castilla, which are the smartest. The small swarm on the outside was the guards but on the inside they hadn’t settled yet (that takes about a month), so it only took a couple of hours to move them.
When they are settled it is much harder. You smoke them in the same way so they think it is on fire but then they start to eat the honey and they can hardly fly. It’s like they’re drunk on honey. Sadly the nest has to be destroyed to move them”.
Bees have intrigued Juansito for nearly 30 years and his mentor was Rego Bonilla who spent about 3 months passing on his knowledge. “The most dangerous bees on Utila are the African. They are like mutton pepper, the hardest to move, the baddest but their honey is sweet like molasses. They have to be willing to move and you have to be willing to move them”!
The Blanco de estrilla are the most rare. Juansito has only seen them once in 30 year. They are about 1.14” long and their honey has a lemonish taste. Juansito believes the bee population on Utila is declining and there are now far fewer nests. “They are getting scarce. Running from wickedness, they look for peace and happiness”.
We spoke to Rosalita Henderson about her and Archies recent retirement from the grocery business. “We decided that after 32 years of running Tienda Popular Hendersons that we needed a break!
It was such a long time of hard work but it was a nice time. We raised our 3 kids and now they are grown up, want to do other things and see some of the world! We decided to only keep the Deposit of beers and frescos, charcoal and cigarettes plus the dive shop and hotel.
We would like to thank you all for shopping with us for so many years!” Archie, Rosa and kids. Archie Hendersons parents ran the store for 55 years before Rosa and Archie which adds up to 87 years of Hendersons being run as a family store.
The store has been taken over by local man Joe Murry Castillo who already has a busy store on the road into Camponado
Hal Whitefield was fixing his fishing line when he saw a splash which “frightened the life out me” close to the dock. The splashing didn’t stop and Hal says it was like bombs going off in the water.
Then he spotted the tail and realized that it was a fish. A very large fish. He called for others to help, jumped in the sea and tied a rope on the tail. It turned out to be a 9’4” Marlin. The Marlin had a sucker fish in his gill and Hal believes he got himself into the shallow and was thrusting his head into the sand to try and knock it out.
“He had himself about 5’ into the mud and it was hell to pull him out. He was like a post in the mud”. A thrashing one at that as Hal reckons the Marlin said to himself
‘I’m not going on land” and ended up pulling over all five people (Hal,Lejourn,Paul, Phil and Miss Floretta) who were trying to pull him out!
When they finally got him on the scales he weighed in at 225lbs and measured 37” around!! On the same day Rolando Crimmins(Babe) caught an 80lb wahoo! There’s some BIG fish out there!!
The new tower on Stuart’s Hill is a communications tower built by Tropico Telephone and Internet (TTI) of La Ceiba. The tower is 60 feet high and is constructed of galvanized steel with a concrete base. The tower is used to provide high-speed Internet to Utila, La Ceiba, and Roatan.
The communication system that is installed uses gigahertz-range microwave communication to create high-speed connections across the sea. The level of power used is much less than a cell phone, and the energy emitted by the tower poses no health hazard to humans or wildlife.
The result of this new tower is that the speed of Internet to the island will increase from 3 megabits per second (Mbps) to 8 Mbps initially. The equipment on the tower has the capability of providing up to 80 Mbps of Internet to leave room for future growth.
This new tower is now in partial service and is providing all Internet to the island of Utila except for that handful of residents that have their own private satellite Internet systems. To handle future growth, TTI is also installing fiber optic cable from the tower into Utila town to expand the capacity of the DSL system located behind Rivera’s Commercial across the street from Miss Iris’ house.
The tower will be fully in service, with its link to Cortes, in about two weeks’ time. Cortes, you ask? The tower will receive its connection to the Internet from Puerto Cortes, 111 km from Utila.
Nearly all Internet connections in Honduras pass through Puerto Cortes because that’s where the undersea fiber from Miami arrives in Honduras. The microwave wireless connection between Cortes and Utila is 111 km long and is believed to be the longest wireless data link in all of Honduras.
The installation of the Utila tower and the towers in Ceiba, Roatan, and Puerto Cortes represents an investment of about US$200,000 and more than a year’s labor by TTI. About 1/2 of that amount was invested directly on Utila which is now the “hub” of TTI’s network.
I am seriously excited about the improvement in TTI’s network. TTI and the people of Utila are no longer beholden to Hondutel’s terrestrial network (which used to carry Internet traffic to TTI in La Ceiba), and we expect reliability and speed to increase. Lots of folks asked me if the Internet will be faster or cheaper as a result of this improvement. The answer is a qualified yes. Initially, reliability will be the biggest area of improvement -- fewer outages, more reliable downloads, and clearer phone calls. Also, TTI can now offer connections faster than 256k, which was the previous limit due to limitations in the speed of the older network.
As for cheaper, TTI hopes to be able to lower prices in the future as we realize savings on our own Internet costs. At the moment, however, with such a large investment that must be paid off, there are no immediate plans to lower monthly fees. In the interests of full disclosure, and in case you were not aware, I am a TTI employee and shareholder.
We would like to clarify last month’s ‘mysterious sphere’ story. The ball the children found was literally there one minute and gone the next. The 3 year old who was watching it while his brother ran in the house said “the boo boo’s took it up”, pointing to the sky. Boo boos to Utilian kids are anything spooky or alien-like!
It was calm evening and a local man was sitting on his motorbike at Chepes looking out to sea, as old sailors do, when a ball rolled past him! Thinking how strange it was he turned his bike to light the grass towards the lagoon and went to get it. “I was going to take it home for the kids”. The ball………was no where to be found! How could a ball roll past him with no breeze and then disappear? He searched harder and even got help from a Spanish man on the beach. They hunted for ½ an hour and with their skin prickling and more than a little spooked, they gave up! Name withheld.
Another spotting of the mysterious sphere?
Let us know of any strange encounters you may have had. Visit us at the Ace International office of e-mail us at [email protected]
A documentary on the whale sharks of Utila has started production. Each year around this time we have a huge population of whale sharks passing by the island. Some individuals have been catalogued and identified returning for the past 8 years. So it is an ideal time for production to start.
Funky Fat Fish Productions, a local underwater video company, have got together an array of people from both Utila and around the world. Headed by Johannes Leichtle, a final year Film Production Student from Vienna, Austria, they aim to produce a 45 minute film about whale sharks and Utila.
“The film is essentially about the whale sharks and research that is going on here on the island, but we also want to capture the beauty, feel and character of the island. So were going to try and interview as many people as we can about their lives and opinions on the sharks,” said Johannes.
Dan Cain, cameraman, started filming last year to catalogue as many different sharks as possible and record their behavior. “As an underwater videographer I have always wanted to film sharks and these guys are amazing. We are so lucky here to have such access to them and most people lives here are connected in some way to them, even if its purely economic from money bought to the island from tourists wanting to see them.
We also have some other things to look at like the Rough Toothed Dolphins that are being studied by The University of Southern Missisippi, and the Swamper Iguanas,” said Dan. “Last year I went out with Steve from Deep Blue Resort everyday tracking the whale sharks and started to see some interesting behavior patterns. We want to see which sharks are coming back to the island, try and find out where they’re coming from and where they’re going to. Also why do they come when they do, are they mostly male or female, old or juveniles.
We collected a lot of data last year but now we want to see if it correlates again,” he continued. The makers want to include as many people as possible from all walks of life on Utila along with any visitors who may have experience in making films or just a lot of enthusiasm to be involved in a project. “We have the guys from Fish Bowl productions helping us, a guy from Germany doing Geographic research on the island, another in Costa Rica who is going to make us some animations, a group in Austria who will be making the music, journalist, photographers, environmentalists, Marine biologists, fishermen, its starting to get very interesting!”
If you would like to help or are just interested the please contact Johannes by email at [email protected] Or visit their office at the Hideout internet between Utila Dive centre and Altons Dive Shop. If you have any photos of whale sharks here on Utila please email them to Johannes. They will be submitted to an international photo identification library so that we can get a better understanding of the worlds whale shark population, numbers and movements.
For more info on whale shark photo identification visit http://www.ecocean.org.
For these and more of the latest Utila News stories download the entire paper ( 11.2 MB Adobe PDF format)