Monday 30 March 2015

Return to paradise….

Early in the morning, on the last day of February, my husband Trav and I flew out of cold and icy Edinburgh heading back to our island paradise in the Caribbean Sea.

Utila is the smallest of the three Bay Islands situated just off the coast of Honduras, Central America. After spending three amazing months on the island last year, we were keen to escape from the Scottish winter and get back to tropical sunshine and the lovely friends we have on the island. Our plan this time is to stay for four months.

It’s a long haul journey from the UK to Utila as there is no direct route. Our flights this time were with Lufthansa and United Airlines, a much better experience than last year when we flew with American Airlines. I was particularly excited to fly into Newark International airport in New York. I’ve never been to this iconic city before and it was a thrill to see a close up aerial view of the Manhattan skyline and the Empire State building souring into the grey February skies. In the bay, the Statue of Liberty was clearly visible. As it was the end of NY fashion week, the airport was very busy and departing flights were being delayed due to the weather. It was even colder in NY than it had been in Scotland and heaps of snow lay all around the aircraft waiting at the gates. We hung around the airport, ate a burger (when in NY!) and had a couple of drinks and where shocked to be set back by the extortionate sum of $100! Seven hours later, we were glad to be able to board our flight to Houston Texas.

At George Bush Int Airport Houston Texas - headed for Roatan

Last year we flew from Glasgow to Miami then onto San Pedro Sula in Honduras, where we had an over night before catching two small planes to the island. This time we had an over night stop in Houston before flying on to Roatan early on the morning of the first day of March. Roatan is the larger of the Bay islands and we had planned a two night stop over here at a beach resort hotel. There are no such resorts on Utila, so it was a treat (I had a birthday just a few days away). After experiencing a Scottish winter, I had to pinch myself that I wasn't just dreaming of tropical sunshine and white sand beaches.

The Paradise Beach Hotel, Roatan. Tropical sunshine and white sand beaches...

Then on the third of March, refreshed and relaxed and with the sea calm and the sun shining down, we took a small boat from Roatan to Utila. The boat journey took around two hours and what a thrill it was to look out for and to spot the familiar shape of the island getting closer and closer.

We had arranged to rent a house in the Sand Bay area, very close to the dive centre and shops and bars and local amenities. Last year we stayed in a lovely but quite isolated little yellow painted house at The Point, which is a couple of miles out of town. It was a quieter spot but a bit of an inconvenience socially. So this time we are in a neighbourhood. Our house, which could be more accurately described as a shack, like all the others close around us, is a traditional Caribbean design. It is made of wood, elevated on stilts, and has an open balcony both at the front and the back. It has a tin roof which is watertight but very noisy when it rains and particularly so when a coconut falls onto it from one of the many towering palm trees outside - which often happens at night and wakes you up with a shock! The windows have wooden shutters and a mesh to stop the bugs flying in but there is no glass. This is to encourage a draft into the house. The downside is that you can hear everything that goes on around you by day and night – people shouting, children playing, babies screaming, dogs barking, cats howling, chickens and roosters calling, loud music blasting and motor bikes revving (there are no cars on the island and so motorbikes and scooters and quad bikes and tuk-tuk taxis the main ways to get about). Personally I’m a great fan of walking or cycling or taking a boat - the island is not that big and most of it is mangrove swamp! The upside of us living a little more inland is that, unlike last year when we were close to the beach, there are no sandflies around to torture us, which means that we can have the doors open and make full use of our balcony and outdoor space without being eaten alive. You win some and you lose some and compromise is king!

In the house, we have two bedrooms, a bathroom with a shower, an open plan sitting room and a fitted kitchen with a large fridge freezer and a gas cooker. It’s very nice. We have electric included in our rent and, although there’s no air conditioning, we have ceiling fans – which are a blessing when the heat and humidity is really high and they are whizzing around distributing the occasional waft of air coming through the mesh windows. It has taken us a few weeks to get used to living so close to other people and to cope with all the social noise – but that is entirely our issue not theirs due to us being used to living in a remote and almost silent part of the Scottish countryside for over 25 years. Now that we are getting used to it all - we love it. Okay, the place might look a little rustic and rough around the edges but that is part of its charm. It is the Caribbean as it should be and the people we live among here are always friendly, helpful and welcoming. I’m sure we are a bit of a novelty to them actually – the white skinned English speaking couple who live in the blue house under the trees - although Trav and I are working on the first two issues by getting our skins darkly tanned and practicing our Spanish!

Our casa - by night and by day - with a flowering banana tree just outside the front door...

Next time here on the blog I’ll be chatting about our first month spent on the island – about life in our Caribbean house and all the action happening down at the dive centre where Trav is working as an instructor. The local night life. Parties on the dock – including my fabulous birthday party - with photos! Weekend picnics at the Cays – tiny tropical islands just off Utila. And I’ll be charting progress on my own personal venture this time around on the island - which is to learn and practice Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in order to remedy my poor aching writer’s shoulders, the repetitive keyboard strain in my wrists and fingers and strengthen my stiff and weak lower back – all caused by a long winter spent sitting down at the laptop.

Yoga Utila

Come back soon and please do feel free to leave a comment. I promise to reply!

Love, Janice xx