Archive for October, 2007

Random Thoughts on Puerto Rico

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

*Rain Forest Motto: It has just rained, is raining, or is going to rain.

*The ‘Americanization’ (read fast food, Walmart, Kmart) is more prevalent that we expected.

*English is spoken, mostly by younger PR Residents outside of the bigger cities and by a great number of people in the service industry. Speaking Spanish comes in very handy here.

*Tourism seems to be the number one industry in PR. Even so there were still places where we couldn’t find restaurants or a place to buy postcards.

*There were friendly people where ever we were in PR. It was very unlike our experience in France in September (where a good number of people were not friendly).

Rain Forest, 5 October

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

We had another lovely breakfast at Casa Cubuy with two other couples; Andrea and Jason from Ottowa, Katia and Don from Washington DC.

We set out up the road deeper into the rain forest and got a short distance before it started to rain. We happened to be at the new gazebo site when the rain started so we took cover there. While we waited for the rain to stop (it didn’t) we did some more yoga shots.

After a while a park official came to tell a guy working there it was OK to go home for the day. He also offered us a ride. So, we took it.

Back at the EcoLodge I hung in the hammock and finished my book while Daniel wrote postcards. It rained a good deal of the day.

Rain Forest, 4 October

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

We had a lovely breakfast at Casa Cubuy, the EcoLodge in the rain forest, El Yunque, of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and dsome sort of potatoes. I especially enjoyed the fruit.

After the morning rain shower Daniel and I set off on a hike. There’s a guy here, Rex, who suggested a hike over on river, to another, then to a swimming hole.

Mostly I was terrified and that fear paralyzed me quite a few moments. We decided instead of trying to cross the river on the slippery rocks we would wade through the water. (Lucky I wore my bathing suit). The water was about waist high. The path to and after the river was pretty rough, mostly of rocks that were wet and slippery from the morning rain. After I got over getting dirty, I just sat on racks to get over them, using my hands and arms to help move me along. Once across the first river, the path was pretty easy. Daniel fell, whole body straight down again, in one of those sink holes at the side of the path. Sheesh that’s scary.

We got to the second falls and got out on to some rocks in the middle of the river when it started to rain. We waited in the forest under the canopy for a short while and then decided to go back. We were soaked to the skin, again.

Nor more than 20 minutes after we got back we could see the waterfall (the river we had just crossed) from the EcoLodge. It had turned into a raging falls of brown run off covering the rocks. The sound increased in volume in proportion to the water volume. Caught in the river we would have been swept away. It rained hard for some time. So hard, in fact, that the road to the highway at the bottom of the mountain was closed because it was covered in water. So, we took a different rout to Chili’s for dinner.

Rain Forest, 3 October

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

We left the beach after breakfast and headed towards Fajardo, just to check it out. We found our way to the place the ferries leave for the islands of Viegas and Culebra. We had recommendations for both. Maybe next time we go back we’ll venture out there.

We carried on towards the rain forest, stopping in a small downtown. We couldn’t find a place for lunch so we went further south to a slightly bigger town and found Strip Mall City, USA. We lunched at Chili’s.

Our car climbed the mountain for 15 minutes going deeper and deeper (and higher and higher) into the rain forest. It appears that the dwellings hang off the sides of the mountains- the view from our room is great. It is solid green from top to bottom. It smells great. Something growing has a beautiful perfume. The sound of the coqui, the tree frogs, is LOUD!

We got checked in by a guy named Dave who showed us the honor bar, the breakfast room and our room. It’s way cool here – and it’s just a world away from the beach, civilization, and everything familiar. I feel like I’m on “Survivor” (minus the challenges and the starvation).

It was close to dark so we went for a short hike to the waterfall that is quite close. Daniel fell on the path. Then her climbed out on the rocks in the middle of the river and fell, cracking the UV Filter on the camera. Then, back on the path, he stepped on some foliage actually off the path covering a hole. His whole body fell in like a sort of a sink hole. We spent the rest of the night playing cards while he iced his finger, forearm, and knees.

Copy/paste this link into your browser to view the pics from the Rain Forest

Luquillo, 2 October

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

While we waited for the rain to pass, we did laundry at the laundromat. The place is small, washers crammed in together quite tightly. We did two loads and the ladies in the place helped ‘direct traffic’ sort of keeping track of who came in when and what washers were soon to finish their loads. The wash and rain finished about the same time and we were on our way. Again, the friendliness of strangers helped us out. We didn’t feel like we were in the way or a nuisance to the ‘regulars’. It all sort of had a ‘it takes a village’ sort of feeling.

I got a snorkel set from the front desk and we headed toward the reef, just a few blocks down the beach. Once I got the hang of it, I loved it! I think I could snorkel every day. I saw neon blue/purple fish, black stripped fish, purple and yellow fish, and one fish that was black with neon purple and green dots! There were also a bunch of orange spiky things and other things growing on the reef – great look/weird growths. It was great.

Here’s a link to the pictures we took in Luquillo.

Luquillo, 1 October

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Morning rain came through and we went to the Blue Flag Beach … and then more rain came through. We waited under cover and, when it quit, we went into the water. The water was quite calm, drastically different that the beach not a mile away in front of our hotel. It’s lined with palm trees, has fine sand, and has lifeguards on busy days. October 1 was not a busy day – there were only six other people in the water. I swam out to the buoys three times, which was a pretty long way for me. The water is easy to swim in. The salt water makes my body feel so light and the calm water is easy to swim through.

We’ve found people here to be friendly – not just the people in the tourism business – but everyone. A guy on the beach today just wandered up and tried to converse. We don’t speak Spanish and he didn’t speak much English … and what he did know was spoken with a very heavy accent. So, it was a short conversation.

Luquillo, 30 September

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Without a hitch we left Old San Juan and headed east to Luquillo, a small town right on the ocean.

The Luquillo Sunrise Beach Inn is right on the beach … just a small street between the building and the sand. Today, the waves were crashing on the shore and we went to ride the waves. I always forget how salty the sea water is. I’m such a land-locked gal. We’d had enough so we headed to the room and about 20 minutes later there was a thunderstorm! They just come out of nowhere, dump their rain, and then, poof, they are gone.

Dinner was at a new Mexican place, Sabor Mexicano. The portions were healthy and the waitress spoke very good English. I had Tres Leche for dessert. It translates to three milks but it’s really a ‘wet cake’. It was yummy.

Old San Juan, 29 September

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

After a continental breakfast at the hotel, we headed to the hat shop. Daniel had his eye on a white porkpie hat with a black band. He looks great in it and he wore it all day.

Fort San Cristobal was our next stop. Its a huge fort build in 1634 – or at least construction began in 1634. It was re-engineered in the 1779’s. It’s the biggest fort in the Americas built by Spain. The walls are over 150 feet tall and protected San Juan against land attacks. We liked San Cristobal a bit better than El Morro. I liked the displays of the flags, uniforms and swords … and I liked the fact that from each level there was a different view.

Dinner at the tapas place in the El Convento (a former convent, now a hotel and restaurant) was fabulous. The wait staff was wonderful, the atmosphere was so cool and the food was scrumptious.

Here’s the link to look at pictures of Old San Juan:

Old San Juan – 28 September

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

On our first full day in San Juan we set out to see El Morro, the fortress at the tip of the peninsula that protected San Juan for hundreds of years. As we were walking up to the ‘front door’ it started to rain … and rain hard. A storm came off the ocean without much warming. By the time we got to cover, we were soaked to the skin. I stayed that way all day.

The silver lining was that nobody else was there. We looked at some of the displays inside and, in just the sprinkles of the end of the rain, we explored the fort. Eventually, the rain blew over and blue skies appeared. We got a good feel for the fort, took some pics, and watched the short film about the fort’s history.

The Spanish started building the fortress in 1539 and spent 250 years fortifying it. They made this a base to control access to ‘the new world’. The English and Dutch attempted to take San Juan but failed. During the Spanish-American war the US won Puerto Rico from the Spanish and it has been ours since 1898.

But, you would hardly know it save for a few things. Everyone still speaks Spanish. The road signs are in Spanish. The streets in Old San Juan are narrow, like European towns, and there’s the fact that it’s an island. I guess we have Hawaii, too, but that seems so unlike America also. Many people speak English and easily go back and forth. And, the currency is the dollar … so that’s the first clue PR belongs to USA.

It’s hot and humid. Daniel and I were in a hat store and when we came out, our glasses fogged up.

Over 11,000 steps on the ped for the first full day in San Juan.