Many Travels – Puerto Rico Part 5

San Juan (Corina, Josue, Stacey)

The next day was beach day!  We stayed close-in around San Juan to try and conserve as much time as possible, since we were going to Fajardo to visit one of the bio-luminescent bays that night.  So, we debated long and hard about about the most beautiful, least crowded, and most picturesque beach we could visit in the area.  And if we did go a bit out of our way in the end, it was well worth it.

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Josue met a new friend to go snorkeling with who had been ditched by his own friends, Corina got her palm trees and beautiful blue water, and I got a bit of sun, even if I did end up burning my tush the last 20 minutes we were there.  A very positive start to the day.  Evidently I lost at least one of my favorite beach pics, or I took it with someone else’s camera, because I’m missing the one of Corina’s face in profile on delicious beach.  Oh well, maybe later.

Fajardo

We got back with just enough time for each of us to shower and change clothes for our bio-luminescent experience.  Actually, we left in plenty of time to get there and have dinner before our tour at 8:30.  Josue knew a great place nearby that has red snapper and all kinds of good seafood, so I was really excited about that.  Of course, freaky PR traffic struck again and we were basically sitting on the only two-lane road into the protected bay area for at least an hour, possibly more.  The number of people driving on sidewalks, pulling U-turns in spaces much to small, or generally making a nuisance of themselves was far too many for me to count.  Just the thing I needed to get my driving skills back in tip-top shape!

Of course, then there was the tour drama.  We had made reservations online about 4 days previously for the Sunday night 8:0 pm tour, but had never received a confirmation email.  Of course, when I made the reservations, it said took at least 36 hours for processing.  So I called them on Saturday when we still hadn’t heard anything, and left a message with my number.  No one called back, and on Sunday, of course no one was even in the office.  So we decided to just wing it, and have a nice dinner if we couldn’t go on the Kayak tour as anticipated.

Well, evidently that particular tour group doesn’t operate on Sundays.  They didn’t mention anything of the sort online, there was no indication of the fact when I made the reservation, and no one bothered to let me know this even after I’d called.  Still, we were able to slip in with one of the other tour groups that did operate on Sundays with no problems.  Of course the traffic meant we barely had time to scarf down some fried food before we took off, but we were grateful to be able to actually go.

So, the tour itself involves paddling partway around a sheltered bay in two-person kayaks, heading into a narrow mangrove-filled channel, and eventually ending in a protected lagoon under the open sky.  Once there, your guides give a short talk about the dinoflagellates that give off that sparkly glow, and you’re allowed to paddle around a little bit and stick your hands in the water.  The entire lagoon and mangrove environs are free of light pollution, so it’s beautifully dark, and the sky sparkles are mirrored below as you move.  Technically you’re not allowed to go all the way into the water, but since fewer tour groups operate on Sundays, the guides let us bend the rules.  So I got to go swimming surrounded by watery fire, which was amazing.  Unfortunately the waterproof camera we’d brought didn’t have the capability to really capture what we saw, but I will cherish in my mind the sparks that seemed to fly from my fingers due to so many drops of water.

Of course, there were also drawbacks to the experience.  First of all, quite a few people on the tour had never been in a kayak before.  The basic idea of steering was lost on them, and even speed was a problem.  There were plenty of bumping boats even on the way in, and in the darkness of the mangroves it was virtually impossible to see, even with the glow sticks on the front and back of each kayak.  Going in Corina and I hit a few trees ourselves, though we generally managed to avoid other kayaks.  Low-hanging branches were also a difficulty.  Though I managed to duck these myself, Corina got hit right int eh face at least once.  Coming back out was…more difficult.  About halfway through we managed to lose all five of our guides, and the people in front of us were unable to see or steer.  Corina and I just watched them go back and forth across the canal, not really moving forward at all.  Since they were unable to keep their kayak straight together, they were just getting angrier and angrier at each other.  As Corina mentioned later, it was the worst possible idea ever for newlyweds, and even some of the older couples were having problems keeping tempers in check.  Also, the kayaks in front of us kept stopping to try and figure out which way to go.  I did understand that they couldn’t really see and were worried about getting lost without our guides, but there as only one channel.  As long as you’re still going forward and you haven’t run into a tree, it’s the way out.  Finally we got back, thoroughly soaked and pretty tired.  But I would highly recommend the tour to anyone – just make sure to wear a swim suit, even if you don’t expect to get into the water at all.  You will get wet.

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Many Travels – Puerto Rico Part 3

Ponce (Corina and Stacey, Kelsey)

Same song, third verse – a little bit louder?  Corina and I joined up with Kelsey to attempt, once again, to visit Hacienda Buena Vista.  This time we ascended the slopes in two cars, confident that we’d just barely make the tour schedules for 10:30 am.  Alas, for us, evidently you need reservations to join a tour even at the published scheduled times.  Of course, the Hacienda does not proclaim this, even on the sign directly outside their front gate, nor did the tour book we referred to, but why should a vacation go according to plan?  We were, however, able to get inside to at least buy some of he famed coffee, for which I give my personal thanks to the gate guard.  The gift shop employee was also very helpful and informative about the programs and initiatives the Hacienda was involved with, and we did get to see a bit of the natural beauty of the complex.  Here’s a bit of info, in picture form (and Spanish).

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Following that, we were on our way to Tibas, one of the largest cultural sites for the Pre-Taino and other native Puerto Rican groups.  It was awesome.  We took a look at some of the excavation sites, various ball courts, a model village (several pictures below), and also walked through a nature preserve atop the site to protect against erosion and overzealous archeologists.

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Pictured in the hut below are Kelsey, blowing a kiss, and Corina, to the left and back.

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Our tour guide was delightfully knowledgeable both about past cultures and about native flora and fauna, and clearly explained a variety of native cures for all sorts of ailments.  My favorite involved boiling a plant in honey, siphoning off the liquid, and drinking it.  Yum!  Finally we met a very nice man who gave us the first passionfruit from his garden and invited us to a drum circle later that evening, which we were unable to attend.

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Evidently, the thick outer rind is not meant to be eaten.

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All in all, Tibas was delightful.

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Yay!  Us three!  Especially note my clam-white legs!

Cabo Rojo (Corina and Stacey, alone once more)

Following that outing, Corina and I again ran off on our own to explore the coast even further west, and to stop off at one of the more picturesque clifftop lighthouses on the island.  Sure you have to tromp through a bunch of weird red salt flats to get to the actual lighthouse, but who cares?  Lively water not far from a protected bay with a beach? Perfect for late afternoon relaxation.  Plus, the lighthouse itself had character.  Where else can you find 500 copies of the Odessey available for the casual read, in a variety of translations?

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Book on the table?  Of course it’s the Odessey!

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It may have been at this point that our stupid garmin first led us to a dead end, or it may have been the tropical downpours decreasing visibility or it may have been coming from the far side of the island – regardless, we got back to San Juan late.