Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Puerto Rico - Getting outside of San Juan

One of our goals when we settled on Puerto Rico was to see how much damage the island had sustained from Maria and support local tourism. We had read about this tour on the the Cruise Critics Ports of Call boards and wanted to give it a try. They are having a harder time, as the rain forest susained significant damage. The tour company is called Atabey Tours pronouced Ah- tay be not Attabee like I was saying. They picked us up at the hotel at 10am (we wanted to allow time to get off ship and check into the hotel). We met Jorge, a med student, and tour guide. (He's in a blue shirt in the photos). He was a gratious host and loved this island very much. The van was a comfortable 8 person air conditioned van. He offered us water and discussed with us various options. One of our family members was 80 &  had a bad cold and was fatigued, so we limited the level of exploration. Admittedly, we were all tired from the cruise and wanted to relax. We were quickly away from San Juan, passing the airport.
 We were amazed at how the New England Noreasters were pushing sand onto the roads near the beaches on the way to the Arenas region.

The beach was beautiful. Lots of sealife being brought ashore and we enjoyed looking for sea glass.

There was a pelican that was also enjoying the sea life and I could have watched him dive for fish all day.

Lots of local residents hang out here and it was nice to be away from tourists. The food looked good but I kept myself from diving in....
                       We then turned and headed south. In the distance you can see El Yunque.

We drove across the Rio Grande de Loiza river into the town of Loiza.

Each town has their "colors" and you can tell when you enter a new town because the colors change.

They are most notable for their opened-air cave where the bees like to nest. They gather their honey and support the bees.
We made a pit stop in the power. This large town has been without power since the hurricane in October. (Soapbox rant here- this is an American territory. Do you think we'd allow Florida or Texas go that long without power? And look at how many Puerto Ricans staff our military....okay, rant over). We used the bathroom in the dark. It was amusing.

We then went over to the cave but stopped because we were fascinated by the large Ceiba tree.The official tree of Puerto Rico is the ceiba, also called silk-cotton tree or kapok tree. Often the tallest tree in the forest, the ceiba attains heights of 150 feet and has a ridged columnar trunk and a massive umbrella-shaped canopy. Its far-reaching limbs often host aerial plants, such as moss and bromeliads. The indians used their roots to make canoes.

                                                    Be careful! Ouch!

We also liked the lizards running around

We went into the cave and saw the bees swarming. They also had the bee keepers tools and explained how they gather their honey.

                                 One of the bee hives with the bees on the left hand side- pretty high up!

                                                              A fallen honeycomb
                                       They say nature has carved a profile of a Carib Indian

                                 Jim found his's his favorite thing to find on vacation
                                                                A big lizard below!

                                                                Loiza's firehouse

We started to travel to an area where they had a nice beach, great local food and a market. We followed this pickup truck with a skinny horse for a while.

                     Statue in honor of the Puerto Rican Parrots called the Puerto Rican Amazons
 We could see some of the countryside as we headed for the Loquillo area. (I could easily stay here for a week). We stopped at the restaurant called Terruno and had some really amazing food.

                                                            Kid in a candy shop!

                                                                         Crab and mofongo

                        I forget what thi is- I know it had mofongo and coconut milk in it. Excellent.
                                         I got the crispy fish bites and wow, was it good.
                             This is a huge lobster in between the glass and her!
 Lots of places to shop along here, as well as food. On the other side a beautiful beach

We start heading back towards El Yunque outskirts Guzman Abajo.
We went into El Yunque. There wasn't as much destruction to my untrained eye as i had imagined. Nature recovers faster than people.

                             Ken says "I think we just got stuck in the mud!" He was right!

We went down to a friend's private property to see a waterfall. It had a nice view from the top of the hill. It was strenous and our parents decided to see the house but not crawl through the jungle. They are very smart!

                     We enjoyed the waterfall and it was a bit of climb through the brush!

Bette and Ken had climbed up the hill as we saw the waterfall. Reluctantly i climbed the hill...we had a deal! But the van was stuck! Thank God we had a farmboy, who was also an engineer, and 3 of us pushing to get us out of the mud!

                     We could only locate the 2 star bottle of rum, but that'll do! Back to the hotel we went.
             Ken rested and we walked down to Yarba Buena near the hotel for a nice meal.

 We were entertained by local people raising money for a global mariachi competition

We had a lovely day in Puerto Rico and it is most certainly OPEN FOR BUSINESS! Go!