Monday, June 30, 2008

Coral Island

We wandered to the other side of the island past the old airport where the bigger waves hit the shore. Everything not covered in the shallow water of the mangrove lagoon is old coral. Even the road is made of crushed, recycled, dead coral.



These photos are not black and white. The coral on the shore is all grey.












The “Technicolor” living reef that lies just beyond the beach under those waves turns into building materials for islanders who constantly battle the fact that their island is little more than piles of coral from the reef and plants. Most of the houses are on stilts to stay out of the water. It seems sort of like an island that sits a few feet beneath the surface of the ocean.

Here is another self-timer portrait. They’re turning out quite good so far.



Just some plants with waves in the background.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bando Beach

Self-timer portrait on our porch:


The beach near our house is on the inside of the barrier that divides the harbor from the open sea. This makes it feel somewhat like a swimming pool with a sandy bottom, from which you can look out into the waves of the ocean crashing on the coral reef along the shore.

Bando beach:



Self-timer portrait 2:

So far the snorkeling has been mediochre. We’re not used to the water, and are scared easily by the sheer unknown of swimming with fish and other creatures, plants, and who knows what else.

The fish biologist next door has assured us that we’re quite safe. He’s been stung or bitten many times by eels (which we were told live in the rocks just under our dock, so climb out carefully…), sting rays, jellyfish, and other creatures. Nothing to worry about.

Tomorrow we’ll rent bicycles to ride over to the beach on the opposite end of the harbor, further away than it looks, because we’ve heard the snorkeling is better over there. Go to a place called the blue lagoon, ask them if you can jump off their dock, and you’ll be right there in the reef, so they say.

It’s been windy so the waves outside the harbor are too big to go out snorkeling along the exposed beaches on the other side of the island. The wind isn’t bothering us otherwise though, because with our room being out over the water and the wind, there are no bugs at all. It also keeps us cooler when the wind blows in through the open door.

This photo is titled "relaxation":

The food here is wonderful. It’s sort of like Mexican food with its own style and some totally different things thrown in. It’s the kind of food that looks disappointing, but tastes incredible. There’s not much to do here, so hopefully this isn’t boring. We’re happy with the slow pace of things. You can see from the pictures that there’s plenty to look at.

The main drag:



From a restaurant this morning:



Lovely licuados:

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Utila Lighthouse, Honduras

We arrived in San Pedro Sula at 8:00 PM realizing after we’d seen the sun set from the plane that in the summer, the sun does not set later further south. We asked the taxi driver to take us to a hotel in our guidebook that sounded reasonable, and was close to the bus station. Upon arrival in the dark and supposedly quite dangerous city we were informed that there were no rooms available anywhere. I kind concierge offered to call all the other local hotels to see if he could find us a room. After about thirty minutes of hearing him ask, “do you have any rooms for tonight?” Saying, “Thank you,” and hanging up saying each time, “llena” (full), we started to feel a little bit of fear. Sitting on the couches in the hotel lobby we thought, we could sleep here…

Finally, they informed us that they had found us a room. After telling them a few minutes earlier that we would be willing to pay for an expensive room, just any place to sleep, I prepared to have to spend a little extra money. What I did not prepare for, however, was the tiny, dark room we entered for the first night of our Honduran dream honeymoon.

I just couldn’t bring myself to take a picture of the room (it was so small I probably would have needed a wider angle lens than I have anyway). We said, “oh well,” and we carefully laid our sarongs (oh, the sarong of a thousand uses) on the bed, put a couple of chris’ t-shirts over the pillows, and pushed the heavy bed in front of the door to supplement the somewhat flimsy looking lock. We slept surprisingly well, got up and six to take a cold shower, and go out looking for bus tickets out of San Pedro Sula.

The bus ride was beautiful. When we bought our tickets the woman asked if we wanted first class. I said yes, having read that the first class buses were much better. It turns out that we had asked for first class on the first class bus. Funny contrast. Disney world resort to hotel room where you don’t want to touch anything to having a weird lunch served in your luxury bus seat.

After our experience in San Pedro Sula, we opted to head to Utila as we’d originally planned to take advantage of the room we had reserved. The ferry was small, I think it was packed with about 50 people.

The Utila Princess:



La Ceiba harbor:


As you see in the photos, it was a dark cloudy day, and the wind made for some awefully large waves out in the open ocean. The little ferry was tossed about by the waves, many of them crashing over its roof. I think at least five people threw up during the trip and many more looked kind of grayish green. Chris thought it was better than any of the rides at Disney world. I thought it was terrifying until I realized that the boat was probably not going to capsize.

When we arrived on the island of Utila, we walked down the street along with many other backpackers getting off the ferry. The main street is lined with little open air restaurants, hostels, and dive shops. We heard Bob Marley’s music coming from at least two of them in our 5 minute walk to the lighthouse hotel. We walked up the stairs to our hotel that is built over the water on stilts, and the woman who owns it called out, “Hi Emery!” What a difference from the previous night.

Our room is incredible. Our honeymoon dreams realized. It is new, has wood floors, a nice bathroom, a very cute kitchen, and it is on the corner with a sliding glass door facing the harbor and the blue water of the Caribbean.

Standing in the doorway of our room:



Thelma, the woman who owns it is from New Orleans, and is wonderful. Our guidebook says that Utila is boring. We’re glad to have little to do other than sit on the wrap around porch in the Adirondack chairs and hammocks looking out at the ocean.







The breeze makes sure the bugs are nonexistent, and our neighbors are fish biologists who study Caribbean coral reefs when they’re away from the professor jobs. Well, time to try out the snorkel mask.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Animal Kingdom

This was the Disney Park I was holding my breath for, and it was AWESOME! We spent the whole day walking from "Africa" to "Asia" and back and forth. We loved the gear shops and prayer flags at the base of Everest. The photos opportunities were surprising.

Africa Sampler:









On african safari, self-portrait.




Asia Sampler:

India




Nepal















The sad thing is, I've always wanted to take photos like some of these, but the fact that they are taken at Disney world is dissatisfying to say the least...

Epcot

Yesterday evening we walked through the world showcase, miniature replicas of the most quaint, idealizedm and obviously now commercialized of eleven of the world's (apparently) most popular countries. It's neat, but one thing I will say just to start out, whoever made the observation that Disney France was in any way even comparable to real France (or any other country) was out of their freaking mind. After hearing that someone could argue such a think I entered with awefully high expectations and was rather let down by the tiny, fake-looking, but fun pretend countries as Disney imagines them. That said, there were a few countries that I couldn't help but love.

Disney's version of Morocco provided some great photo opps. We had a good time trying to imagine the throngs of tourists as Moroccans at a bizzarre or something of that sort.










We also like Canada, of course. Apparently it is the only countries with any sort of natural attractions.



China was of course beautiful, and there were plenty of beautiful things to buy.






Japan's food made us happy. Probably one of the best meals of our trip so far (needless to say, we've not been frequenting the high-dollar Disney buffets).



On the other side of Epcot is Future World. I suppose this is what all the countries are going to look like once we all become highly-trained austronauts? We went on the Mars mission ride twice, and were especially impressed by the "more intense version" that simulates the feeling of gravitational forces as your spaceship leaves Earth's atmosphere.







Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Magic Kingdom

At first we didn't want to go to the magic kingdom. We were set on Epcott and the Animal Kingdom (which we still plan to visit). The draw of Magical Kingdom for us was that on Monday night it stays open until midnight, and the other parks close at around 9:00 PM. Since we are only going after the conference ends at four, we thought midnight sounded good.

Although it was crowded and the lines dissuaded us from many of the rides, we enjoyed wandering and people watching. Later in the evening the lines shortened and we rode a few that had sparked our interest. Chris loved the thunder mountain mine train roller coaster. I loved the jungle boat tour which, in the course of maybe fifteen minutes, takes you on a tour of the Amazon, the Nile, and the Ganges River. Amazing.










The castle is the center of the magic kingdom. In the evening there are fireworks above it and we had a great spot for watching them with a reflection of fireworks and magic, color-changing castle in the lagoon surrounding Tom Sawyer's island.







Chris did a great job catching the reflection of the fireworks in the water with this shot.



Another quintessential Disney event we marveled at was the parade of lights. By this point in the evening (around 11:00 PM) I was really amazing at how many people we dragging their half asleep, obviously exhausted and no longer interested children to yet another ride, store, or candy shop. Whoa.










The peacock was one of my favorite floats. I also enjoyed the giant fish. The most interesting part of Magic Kingdom for me was how much like Disneyland it is, and how many things I remember from a trip to Disneyland when I was maybe seven years old. The entrance, with it's hundreds of candy and ice cream shops (that is all you eat in your magical dreams right?) and the view of the castle is still pretty awe inspiring.



This evening we are headed to Epcott to see the world. Tommorrow we'll go to the Animal Kingdom to see mount everest and go on African Safari. Honduras is really going seem relaxing after this!