Sunday, February 22, 2015

Puerto Rico

A trip to Puerto Rico is an adventure different for everyone.  Though many love the beaches, we could still find almost empty beaches.  We found many such beaches three years ago in Vieques, but didn't necessarily expect it on the big island.  But Playa Punta Santiago was only a few minutes walk from our place.

Caribbean from Playa Punta Santiago. Playa Punta Santiago looking south.

We rented the 2nd floor of a house in Punta Santiago, a little seaside town in Humacao with Highway 3 running through it. It had a down-to-earth funky charm that made me feel like it was the real Puerto Rico. The house is on a small lot full of fruit trees, so from the veranda with the branches in your face, you can watch the birds and iguanas and the glistening leaves from a hammock if you please; only the noise of the highway, the live music from El Limón across the street, or the preacher from the other side of the street where a Pentecostal church which just set up before we came. For two nights he preached and cajoled the souls of the assembled, as well as the entire neighborhood, as his magnified voice boomed hoarsely. The bar and the preacher seemed to take turns. Two nights of loud music interspersed with preaching, and then the third night, an ambulance came sirens and lights a blazing. For an hour it stopped at the church, motor running and lights turning. The next night all was quiet and we could do without the earplugs and listen to the coqui song lull us to sleep, with occasional blasts of music from a car with open windows dashing down the highway.

Cayo Santiago (aka Monkey Island) seen from Playa Punta Santiago.

We had heard from some online reviews that the southern approach to El Yunque National Rainforest was the best way to avoid the crowds and have a more intimate nature experience.  Driving north on 191, we eventually reached a gate and could drive no further.  A few cars were parked along the road.  There was one little trail and we took it a short way along a stream and at the end was a family group reveling in the water and lounging on the rocks.  A friendly woman named Raquel chatted with us and proudly shared some rambutan which her brother grew at his farm in San Lorenzo.  It is a most delicious tropical fruit with a red hairy looking skin.    She tipped us off about the thermal springs in Coamo.  The only other trail was to walk along the road at the other side of the gate where no cars were allowed.

South side of El Yunque.

The next day we got a bit lost on the way to Coamo, since we started to think we didn't have enough time, and should just go to Punta Tuna instead.  That's how we accidentally found ourselves up climbing a twisty mountain road up and up and round and about.  Amazing views but no place to pull off.  Eventually we just took a chance and stopped for this:

View from El Pica towards the south.

The pull off the highway 52 on the way to Coamo, had the statue of Jibaro Puertoriquenno, a tribute to the hard-working people of this land.
Monumento al Jíbaro Puertorriqueño

Eventually we did find Punta Tuna and the old colonial-style lighthouse:

Faro Punta Tuna.

Steve on Punta Tuna.

We could see the top of El Yunque from our veranda.  There was almost always a cloud on it, even when the rest of the sky was cloudless:

 It made us hungry to see it up closer.  We decided to brave the crowds of the north approach.  Coming from Ithaca, we love rain, but it's especially delightful in the rain forest when you think really it's not going to rain, but on the trail back a light rain starts which you can only hear, as its force is blunted by the canopy of leaves.  But after a while the shower falls through, and all the colors brighten as they glisten.

jungle root


jungle path
Path through the jungle Yokahú Tower
From Yokahú Tower, there was a great view of the northeastern coast:

Back on the beach in Humacao, where Great Egrets are common, and there is a good view of the windmill farm in Naguabo.

Punta de Lima Wind Farm in Naguabo, as seen from Playa Punta Santiago.