El Yunque (Josue, Corina, Stacey)
For our final day in this wonderful land, we had one more necessary stop – the rainforest. El Yunque has several trails, tons of waterfalls, and is easily accessible by road. Of course, the ‘trails’ themselves are actually paved, which the department of tourism declares is because of native Puerto Ricans’ love of roads. And because pavement is more preventative of erosion and storm damage from things like hurricanes? Regardless, it was still beautiful.
First we drove up to a couple of the waterfalls and took lots of pictures, trying to avoid the spurts of showers that were inevitable. We didn’t go down into any of these waterfalls, since they were steep enough that there was too much danger of flash floods. We drove up to a second waterfall as well, hoping to take a shortcut over the mountains, but unfortunately the road was closed. Of course, we didn’t figure this out until we drove past a nice old man on a tractor, who started yelling. Evidently there’s no real signs, other than the ‘road closed’ gate that was standing open – he just let us know so we wouldn’t have to turn around and come all the way back when the road just stopped in front of us. Still, we did get to see our fair share of beautiful flowers.
So, then we were off on an ‘actual’ trail – La Mina, so named because of an old nearby mine. We followed it down to a waterfall and back, and it was a beautifully pleasant walk.
Josue actually got into the water, though Corina and I had enough of sitting around wet in our kayaks the day before. On our way back, we investigated the picnic and barbecue areas along the trail, both the well-kept and the mysteriously abandoned.
The story of El Yunque is in itself fascinating, both as a story itself and an explanation of the natural world around us. According to Taino belief, El Yunque was the home of the god of good. Legend was that this god was the protector of the island, giving shelter to native tribes against outsiders, both human and supernatural. In particular, El Yunque was a defense against Huracan, the god of wind, storm, and hurricanes that probably came from Mayan belief systems. Not only did the good god of El Yunque protect the Taino from outside beliefs and cultures, but the mountain itself is a natural defense against hurricanes for the interior of the island.
Corina and I ended the day running errands to get all the appropriate ‘touristy’ souvenirs. We came back to the house sweaty and tired, to the wonderful surprise of no water in the house. Fortunately we were able to shower nearby. We went to bed as early as possible, since we were getting up at 4 am the next day to make our flight. Of course, our Garmin once again decided to take us in the completely wrong direction, and could not tell us how to get back tot hte car rental place we’d rented it from. Hooray! So after lots of circling, frustration, and eventual panic about missing our flight, we were able to turn in the rental and shuttle off to the airport. Everyone was very nice about zipping us through the produce examiner for our bags, and through security so we would not miss our flight. Thank you, Puerto Rico!