Arriving in Puerto Rico, I was pretty excited about seeing a country with lots of beautiful beaches, mountains, and rainforests. I rented a car and headed out of San Juan to a small beach town that was near Americas only Rainforest that is a national park. After spending a night sleeping in my car, I woke up to enjoy a beautiful sunrise on the beach. From there, I drove the El Yunque National Park where I spent the morning hiking about ten miles to several different waterfalls, and the peak of El Yunque. Hiking in the rainforest is always amazing and fortunately since it was morning and I was on a mountain, the temperature stayed around 80 degrees. So far everything in Puerto Rico was what I expected.
I spent the rest of the day driving along a series of roads that winds through the central mountain range in Puerto Rico. It is called the Ruta Panoramica and follows about a thousand turns every five miles along the ridge of the mountains. The drive was pretty impressive and the map that I had identified sites along the way. The only problem was, I kept driving and coming up on these "sites" and there really wasn't anything to see. The road was filled with lot's of abandoned cars and no where to eat. At sunset the first day of the drive, I went into a town that the guide book said had a place to camp and shower. After searching for a couple of hours, it was nowhere to be found. I looked for something to eat forever it seemed like before coming across a burger king in the middle of nowhere. I settled for this and found a nice quiet spot to settle in for the night in my car again. I was extremely frustrated. With the next day came a new beginning. I was excited about returning to the ruta panoramica to cross the rest of the island. After a few hours of seeing the same scenery and no real sites, I had enough! It was time to get off this winding road and get to the surf towns on the west coast.
Upon arriving at the surf towns of the west coast, I was disappointed in the lack of atmosphere and quality of the beaches. I stopped by several places and then deicded to move on to another area of the island that contained the third largest cave system in the world and the big radio telescope that you see in the movie contact and goldeneye 007. The caves were supposed to have camping so I pulled up to the gate and found that they were only open from wednesday to sunday. Realizing it was Tuesday, they would not let me even camp there for the night since they weren't open until the next day. I found a bite to eat at a road side guy grilling chicken and found a spot nearby to park my car for my third night sleeping in the car without a shower. At this point I was beginning to hate this place!
I awoke the next morning in desperate need of a shower. I had a cup of coffee and a donut and headed to the caves. I was able to convince the guard to let me use the shower at the camping area that morning. This was the first thing to go right in several days! After a shower and shave, I felt like a new person! The caves were pretty impressive, but a bit on the overly american tourist route. Well worth the quick tour. From there, I headed over to the Arceibo Observatory, home to the largest radio telescope in the world. This thing was impressive! It was a cool as it looks in all of the movies. Billy would have been in paradise!
After leaving the observatory, I headed for old san juan, an area of san juan with cobblestone streets, historic buildings and a couple of gigantic forts protecting the bay. After checking in to my $28 hotel room, (it looked like what you would expect a $28 room to look like), I headed out into the city. Overall, it remindse me of a spanish new orleans. Narrow streets and sidewalks with little balconies and bright colored buidlings everywhere. The forts are pretty impressive, taking several hundred years to construct and surviving use in multiple wars, until we stole Puerto Rico from the Spanish about a hundred years ago. Anyway, I am wrapping up my tour of Puerto Rico this morning and heading to St. Vincent, which is pretty close to South America. From there, I will be sailing on a 75' schooner for a while. I am looking forward to settling in to my own living space for a bit without having to worry about gathering up my things to go to the next destination. We will be sailing throughout the carribbean so at the moment, I don't even know where we will be heading! You can visit the website for the boat at: http://www.sv-illusion.co.uk/
Stay in touch!!