Puerto Rico 2010
One day I was giving a buddy a ride back to his apartment and he mentioned wanting to go to Puerto Rico in the summer. As any good friend would I told him, “i’m down”. I let my pessemistic side get the best of me often, usually thinking yeah what ever this is just BS, but as the days went on we got busy making the best of his paid free time at his University job printing maps and booking hotels for the 3rd to the 14th of August
Halfway in, a second Joe and his cousin joined in on the trip. I had met Joe II through the Mexican American Student Association but didn’t know him well nor did I know his cousin but the more the marrier… in theory.
The point of the trip from the perspective of Joe I is that he is half Puerto Rican and has a grandfather who lives on the island, so it’s about getting at his roots; for me it’s adventure and practicing Spanish; and for Joe II and Cousin it’s all about the girls.
We went to get a drink and came back to everyone having already boarded the plane and the flight attendant shutting the gate. Someone had a small dog on the plane; it wasn’t happy and barked all the way there.
On the airplane Joe II beside me Joe I says you know he is a convicted criminal right? To this day I still think they were screwing with me but who knows maybe he did something stupid as a kid and straightened out.
We got a rental but once again credit card problems like in Puerto Rico ’08, No one had one… somehow we sorted it out and hit the road with Joe II as pilot and Joe I Co-pilot and a gringo on the GPS who kept pronouncing Calle as, “Cali”.
Our first stop was Lunch at “El Fogon de Abuela” on the way to Mayaguez. This was a mom and pop restaurant with an ocean side view. Full on all-you-can-eat we headed out to the rocky beach.
We got checked into Hotel Colonial in Mayaguez. We had a reservation for 3 people; one of the others hoping not to pay and just sneek in. After said person forked up some extra cash they gained the right to sleep inside with us.
After resting a few minutes we went to the university campus (UPR) and walked around checking the place out. Joe has a friend, Angelica, who he met in the US, who is studying at UPR so we joined up. We went to see the basketball Arena, where they do Graduations. The walls are painted green which gives everything a green tint.
Later we met up with Angelica and her boyfriend Dimas in an area popular for students to hang out. We went into a bar called El Garabato which has bar tables built for playing dominoes, so we got a set and played a few games. As Dimas and Angelica were getting ready to go, Dimas dropped his keys into a garbage can full of beer cups and bottles and who know what else and had to fish them out of the very bottom of the can.
The following day we went to check out the Camuey Caves but they were closed due to rain or they had hit the limit for visits for the day so we changed course for the Arecibo Observatory, the largest radio telescope in the world. [china is supposedly working on one even bigger].
On the map it looked like we could cut across the mountains and be there in no time. but as we found out it wasn’t the case having somehow ended up on the via panoramica, going through the Guajataca forrest along the mountain ridge. The road was enough for just our car and very little space on each side, one a vertical rock wall up and the other, trees straight down as far as you could see. Joe II had never driven in the mountains before and was making us all panic since he wouldn’t use the horn when taking blind corners.
After looking for signs of extraterrestrial life we went to Playa Crash Boat and chilled out on the beach then went to Playa Jobos where there was a rock formation [blow hole] called El Pozo del Jacinto. “The legend says that once upon a time there was a farmer named Jacinto who tied his favorite cow to him while he led the rest of his herd. One day the cow got too close to a well’s edge and fell in it, dragging Jacinto with it. Since that day, the well is known as the “Pozo de Jacinto”. Today it is said that if you want to attract luck, you should shout:: “Jacinto, give me the cow!” and you will see the sea lifting its angry waves.”
Our third day I was sitting on the curb enjoying the morning until a lady passed by and cursed me thinking I was a begger. We packed up and headed to to Sabana Grande to visit Joe’s Grandpa. While Joe spent some time the rest of us went off to find some lunch and ended up at a tiny restaurant called Rincon Crillo, a three table locals only kind of place.
We picked up Joe and headed to Ponce, which I was not able to see back in ’08. We brought our things into Hotel Belgica and got comfortable in the supposedly haunted old building situated just off of the main plaza.
Since Ponce Seemed to be shut down around 5 we drove into La Parguera and looked around for someone going out into the phosphorescent bay by boat that evening. The place seemed like the setting for a drug deal about to go bad. But more and more people started to show up and we got on board. They take you out to a Luminescent bay ; little creatures in the water light up due to movement so behind the boat there is a trail of blue green light. A kid, presumably from the area jumped off of the boat and was swimming around, looking like some type of marvel comic character then asked for some tips.
After we got back to Ponce we went to get some food. I went outside to talk on the phone for a few minutes and was approached by a kid about 15 asking if I had a cigarette. un successful he went inside. A bout 5 minutes later all three of the guys came flying out of the restaurant telling me lets go. still on the phone I told them I would meet them in a few minutes. “NOW!,” Joe I demanded.
I had no idea what was going on… The kid who asked me for a cigarette approached the three of them inside asking for some change to get a soda. luckily they were kind souls and gave the kid like 15 cents. He stayed hanging around talking about how he lives on the streets and when he cant fish money out of the fountains he has to use his gun to get what he needs and lifted his shirt slightly so they could all see his handgun. Not wanting to possibly lead this kid to where we were staying we hopped into a bar called Kenepa after the caribbean fruit Quenepa.
The 4th day started with a parking ticket as we were loading up to go to La Guancha, a big boardwalk near Ponce. There were schools of huge fish hanging around, a truck loaded over the roof with bananas but really there wasn’t much to see, but apparently on the weekends its rockin.
We tried, unsuccessfully to find the Ponce Massacre Museum and then headed off to the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center , which is the largest ceremonial site in Puerto Rico and one of the most important in the Antillies. They give a guided tour of Indigenous lands explaining about that plants and layout and history. On our visit there were several groups of Archeologists working to uncover new information.
Two years had passed but not much changed in Carolina; I was able to guide us to where we would be staying for the next few nights, Bibi’s apartment like last time, for all of its problems I really like the people and this place; it has a real authentic Puerto Rican feel.Now that I am thinking about it the gun shots in the middle of the night most likely happened on this trip and not when I was there in ’08.
We headed out to Newyorican Cafe later that evening to watch Desde Cero [the opens to one of their songs] play some live, Afro-Caribbean, Bomba music. This is a really neat type of music because the lead drummer has the challenge of following the dancers movements unlike most music where dancers follow the rhythm of the music.
I took the 7th to just hang out and recharge my batteries, lounging around in the hammock, since the other three wanted to go to El Yunque which I saw in ’08. they were supposed to have been back a while ago and finally I got a call from Joe I saying he is lost and cant find the other two and then we lost signal. I had a map of El Yunque so I tried to help him when we reestablished a connection but it was terrible and eventually faded out again. Hours later they finally returned
Joe II’s cousin Fabio had to fly back on the morning of the 8th so we dropped him off and headed to San Juanto check out El Morro. Parking was ridiculous; we found an area where the car would fit but that was blocked by a barricade so we just moved the barricade, parked and put it back.
On the way out of San Juan we had to take some detours. there was some filming going on for The Fast and The Furious [the 5th one set in “Brazil”]; along the highway i saw several of the police cars that had been smashed up in filming some chase scene. Joe II was on a flight back to Tampa and Joe and I continued our adventure, making our way back to the West side of the Island. In Rincon we had lunch in a small place off of the side of the highway. We checked out the Lighthouse and a big dome which was Puerto Ricos only Nuclear Reactor, which has since been shutdown. The whole way home was nothing but torrential rain.
Joe and I finally made it into the Cuevas de Camuy, finished our tour and and the rain started and closed the park.
In a Borders book Store we got cornered suckered into talking to two Mormons who were really nice but ultimately we had to go eat and let them continue.
The next day on the way home from the store there was a huge accident about 5 minutes from where we were staying, but we had to take a detour; criss-crossing tiny mountain roads at about 15 miles an hour, to arrive home almost 2 hours later.
Our last 2 days Joes friend Richard took us around. at about 1 Am he took us to El Churry a food truck which was packed. Joe and I both looked at one another confused as Richard went through red light after red light… according to him it is legal after a certain time because if not you may get car jacked. On the interstate we got lit-up and Richard ended up having to pay a ticket for speeding.
Other than what I have been able to recall and what my primitive notes revealed this is what I have left of my trip.