Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day Hike at Cerro Apante

To celebrate Dia de los Enamorados (Nicaraguans have translated Valentine's Day more figuratively), Lily and Josh took a beautiful hike high above the city. We summited Cerro Apante, where a mirador provides a panoramic view of the Matagalpa Valley. The peal white Cathedral, just 4 blocks from our apartment serves as a prominent reference point.

Zooming in... If you trace from the Cathedral to direction 4 o'clock for a few blocks, you arrive at Apartamento Lily y Josh.


While we did not see or hear howler monkeys (que lastima!), the wilderness was beautiful in the natural resurve. Mosses, cacti, and many birds abound...
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Birthday in the Bay Islands

For my birthday, Josh and I went to the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. Despite the geographic proximity it is actually quite difficult to get there because TACA the evil monopoly usually charges an arm and a leg. This time it was just an arm so we seized the opportunity.

Due to the islands' history, there is a mix of English and Spanish spoken, and a plethora of accents within those groups. The islands have been controlled by the British, Spanish and Dutch for periods before becoming part of Honduras. In recent years, a lot more mainlanders have been coming to the Bay Islands for work opportunities, making for a continually changing dynamic. I was really impressed by the relaxed relationship we witnessed between locals, expats and tourists.

We flew into Roatan and stayed in the West End. The town's main road is basically a continuation of the beach and is bordered by bars, hotels, restaurants, dive shops and of course pulperias (corner stores). We stayed at this great place called Posada Arco Iris which is run by an Argentinian couple and is part hotel, part delicious Argentinian Grill. The weather was not great the first day but we were content because we discovered THAI FOOD. After a 4 month separation from one of my favorite cuisines, even just OK thai made me blissfully happy.

The next day we set sail from Roatan to Utila with Captain Vernon on his 39' catamaran. It was about 4 hours and great to be on the water. We met a bunch of nice people on the boat who we then saw about 20 times over the course of our stay in Utila (to give a sense of scale). Utila is much smaller than Roatan and we found it to be really charming. It's known as one of the most affordable places to dive/learn to dive and attracts a backpacker crowd. It was super friendly and laid-back. We had a lot of fun biking around the island on our decrepit rental bikes!

We sailed back to Roatan after 2 nights on Utila. Highlight of our last day was definitely snorkeling. The reef is very close to shore, huge and full of life. Because most people dive there we pretty much had it all to ourselves! The lowlight was seeing what happens to West End when cruise ships come to Roatan - very scary. Luckily, it's not an everyday event but still...I hate cruise ships!

An important observation: Honduran beer is better than Nicaraguan beer.

Breakfast at Cafe Mariposa (beignets, cappuccinos)

Bike ride to the Utila airport. If you look closely, you will see Lily, her bicycle, a herd of cattle, and the one airplane resting on the strip.


Sunset at Halfmoon Bay, West End, Roatan.

Bay Islands images, cont'd

Aboard Captain Vernon's Roatan-Utila catamaran shuttle.

Sunset Utila.

Main street, Utila.

Honduran mainland from Utila harbor. Tallest peak is Pico Bonito (2,400m).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Nuestro Apartamento en Matagalpa

This post is a little late but is a very major update in the lives of Lily and Josh. We moved into a little loft apartment (pictured below) in the center of Matagalpa. It's style is quite modern, not very Nica. The city is in the northern mountainous area of Nicaragua and is where Xoco is based. It's super laid-back and the climate is not oven-like. I'm happy.

Notable lifestyle changes:
1) We cook! The markets/supermarkets are really convenient here - we have 3 in a 3 block radius. Right now we are in the process of making chili. Yum!
2) Less time in the car/bus. Josh's office is about 2 blocks away. Leon is a direct bus away as opposed to a 2 bus journey.
3) Fewer tourists/annoying tourist services. While there is some tourism here, most of the foreigners we have met are involved in long-term projects. The tourists that do make it here tend to be more our style: adventurous and open-minded. I have not seen one creepy old gringo searching for a young Nica lady and that is refreshing!
4) Interesting young people. While it's a relatively small city, there seems to be a disproportionate share of young people, foreign and Nicas, doing cool projects here. We're excited to form a community here.

OK, now come the photos:

View from the street

The courtyard (we share the place with a young family who lives above us)

The downstairs kitchen space

The upstairs loft looking down