Friday, April 1, 2016

Puerto Rico

Hello again.  Since I've last written, we have travelled through some of Puerto Rico as well as both Vieques, Culebra, and even a stop in St Thomas…

Before we had left the DR we had initially wanted to go from Luperon to Samana and check out the whales hanging out there in that bay during this time of year,  but a weather window to Puerto Rico presented itself and we couldn't resist, so we set out from Luperon straight to Boqueron, Puerto Rico.  This trip took us along the dreaded northern coast of Dominican Republic and across the notorious Mona Passage. Frank planned such a perfect window, that we ended up with a nice 2 day and 2 night sail with small seas, fair winds, and trails of phosphorescence in our wake, all of which helped melt away the anxiety we had built up about this portion of our trip.  Catching a 3 ft mahi didn't hurt our mood either. Going from spending weeks in a third world country to Puerto Rico (which is essentially a Spanish speaking America, fully equipped with Walmarts and McDonalds), was surreal to say the least.  And even though this was the furthest we have gone up to this point, we felt like we right back home, which was bittersweet.  To be honest, Frank and I were a little underwhelmed by Puerto Rico itself.   It felt much like being in Miami, as it is very Americanized, and coming from the simplicity of the Bahamas and the way of life in Dominican Republic, we felt we had traveled a long way to end up right back at square one.  Perhaps it was the culture shock of being surrounded by all the things we love to hate but I was not ready to be back in America yet.  This certainly didn't stop us from gorging ourselves on Wendy's til we got sick to our stomachs, as well as enjoy the luxury of having things be so easily available. But still.  

The one thing we did genuinely enjoy while there was renting a car and driving through the mountains that make up the center of the island.  For anyone visiting Puerto Rico, I would highly highly recommend it.  Frank and I had to drive to West Marine way over in San Juan (on the northeast corner of the island) from Boqueron (in the southwest corner), so we decided to make the best of it and take the scenic route. Driving up across and around the mountains on sketchy roads with sheer drop offs on either side and steep 30% grades was a little intimidating at first, but well worth it.  The ride is pretty much through a jungle in the mountains sprinkled with houses precariously perched in seemingly impossible ways on the super steep slopes.  The roads snake their way through bamboo forests and rainbow eucalyptus groves with lush Tarzan-like vines draping from the cliff sides.  Winding across the summit ridge line, you'll pass through countless coffee plantations and banana farms.  Tiny villages with yummy baked goods to offer dot the valleys, burned out cars occasionally left abandoned on the side of the road are slowly being reclaimed by the jungle, and families can be seen going about their daily business on horseback.   All of this works together to transport you back in time and away from the Americanization that seems so rampant on the coast.  It was about a six hour drive in the end running from Rincon east through the country roads before eventually getting back to the highway and our business at hand.  When we set out, we had no real plans, we just sort of quickly glanced at the map and chose what looked to be the steepest, and least travelled roads so long as they were heading generally eastward. Once we set out, we would randomly choose a direction at any given intersection, a type of exploring we have come to refers to as "car hikes."   Frank and I have a long history of car hiking beginning way back when we first met and drove a loop across the US some 13 years ago.  More often than not, these car hikes have led us to some of the most beautiful places we have been able to find.  Being lost and not knowing what's around the next corner is one of the most thrilling parts of traveling for us.  This particular car hike was one of my favorites...

This was off the side of the highway :)
Rainbow Eucalyptus  
Bamboo everywhere...
First mate on watch
Sailing along the southern coast of mainland, PR.
Oyster/Clam stand in Boqueron where you eat
fresh shucked shellfish right then and there.
These black clams are native to Boqueron and were so
so so delicious.  

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