Saturday, 9 August 2014

Caribbean Island Update – one month on Utila…

We have now been on Utila, a tiny Caribbean island off mainland Honduras, for just over a month and in that time we have really settled into the laid-back pace of island life. I have to keep pinching myself to find out if I’m only dreaming of being in this tropical paradise. The thought of spending another two months here is a blissful thought - and we feel very lucky indeed!

At Coral Beach on Utila
We came here so that my lovely husband Trav could scuba-dive on the most amazing reef in the world, and where this month and next, he hopes to dive with Whale Sharks. Whale Sharks are the world's largest fish and the tropical island of Utila is known as the Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean. Trav came here as a PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and he is now working as a Dive Master Trainee. He was recommended to Eco-marine Dive Centre in Utila and feels very happy indeed to be diving with such a fabulously friendly, fun, and totally professional bunch of people. He says he is learning so much and loving every day here.

Eco-Marine Dive Center Utila. Photo Copyright: Steve Dankewich
The island of Utila is known as The Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean. Photo Copyright: Dave Thatcher

While Trav is out diving, I’m writing a new novel, it’s a romantic adventure set in the Caribbean. I’ve never written a novel in just three months before, and I’m finding it challenging to keep to my strict writing schedule when I have so many wonderful distractions around me!

And this month there have been many distractions, as it has been both Utila Carnival and the SunJam Music Festival. I posted lots of photos on my Facebook Page of the carnival, which was great fun. Trav and I hung out with the dive crew from Eco-Marine that day and we had a fantastic time, which concluded with far too many drinks at the infamous dive bar Skid Row - for me that is - as Trav is far too sensible and would never drink too much rum!

We had so much fun at Utila Carnival 2014!

So when do I write and how do I also manage to fit in some down time?
I begin working each morning early and I edit the previous days work. Then I try to write at least 2000 good words. I do take one full day a week off with Trav, usually a Thursday. This is the day when we go to the beach, do some snorkelling, have a lovely lazy lunch with drinks, and chill out. We always have lots to talk about and it’s great to have a whole day off in which to appreciate exactly where we are and what we are doing.

A lazy day on our favourite beach - and sometimes we have the whole place to ourselves

I’ve also taken the odd impromptu day off writing, like when I was asked if I’d like to join the team and have a day out on the dive boat, seeing the whole island from the sea and snorkeling on the reef. It was a fabulous day and we also stopped off at The Cays – a small chain of tiny islands off Utila. We had lunch at Pigeon Cay the only Cay with a restaurant. It was a day not to be missed and it was actually super research for my book. I just had to work harder on my writing the next day!

An amazing day out on the dive boat around the island and to Utila Cays

I do also take a half day off on a Wednesday, as I’ve started taking yoga classes. This is something I’ve always wanted to do and although I find it challenging (I often get myself completely tied up in yoga knots) it really is doing me good to stretch my aching writerly muscles and strengthen my back.

Most writing days I stop at around three pm, as I’m usually feeling pretty wiped out by then. I go for a swim in the sea and then I have a glass of wine. If we are eating in at our Little Yellow House, I’ll prepare something simple, usually involving a salad: the tomatoes and avocados here really are the most flavoursome I’ve ever tasted. We eat out every other night (and eating out here is really affordable) and we usually choose fish. We haven’t eaten meat here at all. The fish is amazing and of course it’s so fresh. I particularly love tuna and king fish.

Mmmm.... seared tuna at Neptunes Restaurant
Consequentially, with all the swimming and exercise and such a great diet, we are getting much fitter and slimmer here on Utila and it’s not so hard to do!

But it'’s not all perfect here in paradise – as it is really hard to deal with the bugs and, being close to the beach, it’s the sandflies that bother us most. I honestly have hundreds of bites all over my body, constantly driving me mad with itchiness. I’ve tried every suggested spray, oil and remedy, in fighting them off, and although they have all helped to a certain degree, nothing is really effective. Local people say that after a few months your body becomes immune and it doesn’t react, so that the bites don’t bother you so much. I’m hoping that is true. Meanwhile I find the best relief from the itching is to float about in the sea every day, rinse off and then to use an antihistamine cream. Poor Trav is currently suffering with a heat rash too, but a cream from the pharmacy has hopefully got that under control.

Any other downsides to report…? I won’t dare complain about the incredible heat or the intense humidity, but I will have a wee whinge about the electricity supply, which has been off more than on and which makes for a very sweaty night’s sleep. We don’t have air-con, but the ceiling fans make a great draft when they are actually going. But hey, this is Honduras after all. I’m just glad I brought the solar powered torches and wind-up lanterns with me that I got off Amazon before we left.

I’ll post again here soon about life here on the island and how the book is progressing and I’ll also do another monthly round up at the end of August. You’ll also find me on Facebook and Twitter. Do come back soon and before you go please feel free to leave a comment - I so love to read them and promise to reply!

Love, Janice xx


Kit Domino said...

Arrgh, it's a hard life, but someone's got to do it. Sounds as though you are having a really incredible time. Enjoy it while you can. As to those bugs, we were told the same thing in Corfu last year: after a month, they ignore you and move onto to someone new! Garlic and Marmite are very good at scarying away the pesky mossies, though with the Marmite, not sure if you're supposed to eat it or wear it :). Hang in there. And glad you are having time for play as well as work. Happy writing! Kit x

Melanie said...

Glad to hear you're having such a fabulous time. Love seeing your photos on FB and reading of your adventures.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great to see and hear how you're doing, Janice. While I greatly admire you both, I wouldn't want to be there as I don't like the heat! Can't wait for autumn.

Janice said...

Thank you lovely Kit, I'm hoping the bugs will stop bugging me soon. I don't think I've seen any marmite in the shops here though. I loved seeing the photos of your summer garden on Facebook.

Janice xx

Janice said...

Thank you Melanie - posting to a blog and uploading photos to Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with everyone, isn't it?

Love, Janice xx

Janice said...

Hi Rosemary, we get back to Scotland on the 1st October - and I can't bear to think about how I'll deal with the shock of cold and damp instead of hot and humid!

Love, Janice xx

Linn B Halton and Lucy Coleman said...

Enjoy every single second, bugs and all! We've had blistering heat and now rain, with a little thunder and lightning thrown in! There's no better place to be for research for your book - a writer's life is a hard one at time ha! ha! Wish I could pop in for a visit ... Lx

Angela Barton said...

Hi Janice

Your adventure sounds idyllic...except for the flies of course. Heat - yes, I could put up with that!! Like Rosemary I do love the autumn but I'm looking forward to escaping to Paleokastritsa in Corfu for a holiday in September.

So glad to hear you're finding time to write. You sound very organised. How wonderful to write about the gorgeous place you're staying in with all the colours, smells and exotic places. I look forward to reading your new book. Have you thought of a title yet/

All best wishes and I'm so envious of your tan!!

Love Ange xx

Janice said...

Hi Linn - I too wish you could pop in for a visit! We have occasional electric storms here, mostly at night, and they are so violent that they are both fascinating and scary to watch and listen to. The following day though, it's usually back to sunshine and blue skies.

I have to report that the sand fly bites I was suffering from so badly have abated and I'm hoping that after almost seven weeks here I'm starting to become 'immune' to the wee blighters. *fingers crossed* *touch wood*

Janice xx

Janice said...

Hi Ange - so lovely to hear from you! Corfu in September sounds wonderful - I do so love the Greek Islands.

Yes, it's fabulous being here in the Caribbean for an extended time, not only for research purposes but so I can actually write the novel. Its title is 'Castaway in the Caribbean' and I'm pleased to report that so far I'm keeping up with the writing schedule - which means I haven't actually been able to work on my tan quite as much as I'd like!!

Love, Janice xx

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