Thursday, July 16, 2015

We love an "uneventful" trip. This one wasn't.

Hurricane Wilma - a category 5 storm which almost hit the island of Guanaja, off the north coast of Honduras, in 2005. The red circle indicates the location of Guanaja.
I was there!

I just realized that we are about to complete ten years of living and working in Gracias Lempira, Honduras! This got me thinking back to when we moved from the island to the mainland.

It was . . . eventful . . . 

In late 2005, we were in the process of moving our household and ministry from the island of Guanaja, off the north coast of Honduras, to the city of Gracias, deep in the mountains of western Honduras. Allen had traveled to the mainland of Honduras to manage the arrival of a container of donations (our first time shipping an entire container) which was due to arrive shortly. He had to rent a house in Gracias to have a place for the unloading!

Meanwhile, I stayed on the island and packed up all of our household goods, which would be moved by boat. We lived, at that time, on the third story of a wood-framed building, located right on the beach.

During what was to have been our last week on the island, Hurricane Wilma formed, and headed straight toward us. This article states that Hurricane Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin!!! I did not know that until just now, LOL.)

The kids and I evacuated to a low concrete motel, which was still under construction at that time, located a few blocks from our home. We were seriously concerned that our house would be blown down, so I didn't feel safe staying there with the children, and without Allen.

The power went out early on as the weather ramped up, so we had no communications, and we were only able to get reports on the progress of the storm by asking the people around us who had special marine radios.

The eye of the storm was headed directly toward our island - which had been hit about ten years before by Hurricane Mitch, another category 5 storm - and the sense of panic was pervasive! At the last minute, the storm made a sudden turn to the north, and the major force of the storm missed the island and hit the Yucatan Peninsula instead.

The photo above shows the storm, and the red circle indicates our location during the storm. As you might imagine, it was a pretty scary time!

The strong sideways winds of the approaching storm pushed the rain between the boards of the wood siding of our house, so lots of things in the house got wet. Once the storm had passed, I had to dry everything out before finishing the packing. I had plenty of time, though, because all of the cargo boats were behind schedule, since they'd had to stay off the sea while the storm was affecting our weather, and our trip to the mainland, on a cargo boat, was delayed for a week.

Allen came back to the island after the storm passed, thinking we would still travel on schedule that weekend and he would handle the loading of our boxes and furniture onto the boat. When he found out about the delay in our departure, he really couldn't hang around on the island for the week (because of the container issues he needed to deal with - and we didn't have phones on the island, so he couldn't do much work from there) . . . anyway, we decided that he would return and continue the work on the mainland, and I would dry out the stuff that had gotten wet and finish packing, then I would oversee the loading of the boat (I had Russell with me, who was about 17 at the time, and another young man (a family friend and intern) who was about 19, so we figured we could handle it.

The departure day came, our goods were loaded without incident, and the only major decision left to be made was whether we would travel on the cargo boat with our stuff, or if we would travel by plane, and meet the boat over on the coast.

It was a beautiful, clear day. I asked friends who had traveled on the cargo ship at other times, about the trip, and they encouraged me to take the boat. They said it was a lovely trip, and so enjoyable! The boat travels through the night . . . and the stars . . . the cool breezes . . . it all sounded enchanting! Since it was also the logistically easier option (Allen wouldn't have to drive to the airport to pick us up, because we would arrive at the dock along with our things), that's the way we decided to go.

We left our village, Savannah Bight, on the Lady Carminda, at around 3 in the afternoon. The boat docked for a number of hours at the main city on the island, before departing around dusk. During those hours, the weather changed . . .

We ended up crossing the sea during Tropical Storm/Hurricane Beta. I'm not sure where it was in its formation, at the date and time we crossed - I knew nothing about it as I was planning the trip! We were, mostly likely, in very little actual danger, but by the end of that horrendous crossing (which normally took about 6 hours, but took us more than 11 hours, because of the rough seas), death looked like a happy release from our suffering.

I have never in my life seen so many people vomit. At no time in my life have I been more grateful to have no sense of smell.

But we made it to the coast intact. Allen picked us up and drove us to the home of our friends Bill and Jessica, who were living in La Ceiba at the time. Some of us crashed in their beds for a few hours of sleep, while Allen and the older kids went back to the dock to unload our furniture and boxes from the ship and load them into a big truck.

When that was completed we all piled into a van, along with our two large dogs, and headed up to Gracias - a drive of about 6 to 8 hours.

I recounted some parts of this story (some bits that were not included here) earlier on this blog, at a time when we were moving between houses within the city of Gracias. Here's a link to that post, "The Last Time I Moved Without My Husband," if you're interested in more of the story - like the part where the islanders had closed their airport, as a protest, by hauling wrecked boats onto the landing strip, when we needed to fly in. LOL

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