Thursday, February 24, 2011

We Have to Move Closer to My Job Because My Drive is tToo Long

We love our house and where we live but the drive is too much for me. Even the weekends are spent in Aguadilla or passing through to go caving so doesn't make sense for us to continue to live in San German. We have been putting this off as long as possible. We have done so much work in the yard and with the house we really don't want to move, but the jobs are all moving north. The weather is much better in San German than it is up North. We get far more sun and probably 20% less rain here. Unfortunately I spend almost 3 hours a day following the "PR driving rules." It's dangerous, stressful, and costs a lot of money. We have to sell the house and move. We are finally doing the remodel on the master bathroom and everything is really nice now. Even the fruit trees we planted 3 years ago are producing great fruit. The solar system is working well, Katrina just resealed the roof and repainted the walkways, and the house is pretty much how we want it but...I just can't stand the drive. As soon as we can find someone to buy the house we will move to Isabella, Aguadilla or Quebradilla - close to work, caves, and diving. Things could change of course and that's what we kinda have been hoping for but the foreseeable future has me working in Aguadilla. We are ready talk if someone wants buy our house. We'll post more about it later but the location is great (if you aren't working in Aquadilla). It is rural but only 6 minutes off highway 2 and 20 minutes from Mayaguez Mall. There is an Econo and a Mr. Special and Kmart, Payless etc one exit north of us and a perfect location if you work in Mayaguez at the University or at InterAmericana or the Hospital. Hospital Concepcion is 6 minutes away. If you don't work there are services close but it is definitely rural and there is most definitely better weather here (I drive through it all to get home). We have been dreading this but I want to enjoy Puerto Rico and the driving is pretty awful. Jeff

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cueva Pencho, Camuy Puerto Rico

There are so many caves in Puerto Rico...some are just holes in the ground that don't go far and others go and go and go. Part of the fun is not knowing which ones will continue on. Another part of the fun is not knowing what you will find inside. When we went into Cueva Infiernillo the only information around implied that it went about 200 meters. That turned out to be way off - in four trips we discovered hours and hours of entertainment along with a 20 foot waterfall and huge lake inside. This cave was thought to be a short cave and indeed it was. Short but spectacular! We drove around in Camuy and ended up at a house. After talking to the owner's son we were led a short distance to the cave. Oh my god...this is what we found...a 100 foot drop down to a HUGE waterfall and lots of water! The photo does not even begin to show the scale of things. Recently a local man had to be rescued from here, and the resident was a little nervous, so we set a rope (it took all 100 feet) even though we were going to enter through a horizontal entrance.
We entered a watery entrance and immediately were in a fast moving river. Jeff and I have seen a lot of water in caves but not water moving like this. This IS the dry season. I don't want to be here when it rains or be here in the wet season. Jeff is inside the entrance in the water and from here you can see out to the waterfall entrance.

We decide to head that way (we were told it "ended') quickly and then go back away from the water area to explore side passages. Once we got there the immensity was awesome! I am halfway down the waterfall looking up at Diana and Jeff. The water is cascading in a couple directions one of which is into a passage-like tunnel. Here Jeff is lounging at the base of it.

There was another drop you could walk around, a pool to swim through and then you could get to the other side of this hole. Here is what it looked like. I made Jeff stand here so you could see the scale of things.

All this water is rushing down these waterfalls which are tall and wide and backing up in a pool. It is a sump and there is no way for us to go anywhere else unless we are diving. Personally I would not want to dive with that much water just disappearing - you'd have no idea how fast the water was moving and how small the hole got...would it open into a bigger passage? This is a lot of water. Here is the view coming from around the other side to the second cascade. You can see the vertical entrance in the upper right. The rope is dropped in from up there. From the opening sun beams burst in and with all the spraying water and noise it was very surreal. Maybe even religious if you are a believer (or an extraterrestrial experience - beam me up!).

We went back to explore a couple side tunnels which were very muddy and involved crawling (my kind of thing). Here Tom is doing his best bat imitation while returning from a sloshy watery pool that I don't think went on. Here's another view of the top of the waterfall. It is times like this that I wish there were better quality, small, waterproof cameras. All these photos are crappy because of mist, fogging on the lens and of course the optics are not great. On the other hand it is pretty great to be able to take any kind of photo in these conditions. So there you have it...a mini Niagara falls 10 minutes behind a guy's house in the jungle. I want a cave in my backyard!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Things in the Yard

My neighbor Amparo brought over a handful of magic beans for me to plant. They were pink and pretty humongous for a bean.
I soaked them for a few days and planted a few of them. This thing is like a dinosaur coming out of the ground...this is the first set of leaves!
Since it was drizzly today I did a yard tour instead of yard work.This is a cluster of flowers on the Paguil (cashew).

There are also small cashews/fruit growing! Here in PR people eat the fruits (I don't like the texture) but I am really after the nuts. I'm not going to try to roast only a handful of nuts but I love the bizarre way they grow. Nut on the bottom and not inside the fruit.

Another bizarre one is the Buddha de Mano (Buddha's Hand) which is Citron. That's the fruit cake stuff - not good eating but a really cool looking thing to grow. It is a gnarled, twisted creepy fruit that looks like twisty fingernails!

One of our favorite fruits (up there with quenepas and corozones and mangoes and avocados) is the canistel. This is the first tree I put in and we have had over a dozen fruit and it has only been a few years. This Ceiba was only 4 inches tall when someone gave it to me.

Our cinnamon tree...Right now the corazones are ripening. I have to watch them carefully and listen for birds. I have to get them before all the little twittery birds peck into them.

A ripe corozone that was a pound and a half - Chicken is just amazed! This flowering tree is one I planted that is indigenous to the island supposedly.

Finally my lemon tree is blooming. Lemons are a MUST have in the yard and you can never have too many. You can always put the juice into ice cube trays and freeze it. Just a cube in a glass of water is refreshing.
I planted some peppers but I forget what they are. I am getting a bunch of peppers though.

I planted the tomatoes too early I think but do have a lot of little ones. I started some more plants but I am probably too late. I am really hoping for zucchini. I love zucchini BBQ'd, spiralized, in currys etc. I haven't had much luck with them. To the right is berejena (eggplant). They should grow well but the stems have nasty thorns on them. They get to be a nice sized shrub.

These are not the fiber less mangoes, they are the local "everywhere" ones that are delicious also. I freeze them for smoothies and use in chicken mango curry. The fiber less mango tree is blooming and has little ones too. This tree is 60 feet tall and puts out thousands of mangoes, so many I could spend all day processing them but I lose interest after the initial ripening phase. This year I will harvest more. So there you have it...fruit at the Kruse's. The trees are starting to fruit and the arboretum is filling in. A grafted avocado tree is 8 bucks to buy. In 3 years you will probably get a handful of fruit and at $2 or more a piece you will get back you initial investment. Plus you can control your use of fertilizer and avoid pesticides or at least use oils and detergents so your food source is chemical free. I have black covering a lot of my citrus tree leaves and just before blooming did a Neem Oil treatment. Now things are blooming and the trees are almost fungus free. I think we forget how lucky we are here to have all this fruit all the time. Right now we have a lot of bananas and some plantains. I just had a plantain, ground beef pizza of all things (at Faccio's pizza) and it was really good. A different use for sweet plantain - maybe the dark beer made it taste extra good. Anyway, we are really lucky to have mature fruiting trees and our new little ones already bearing fruit. Hard work brings good things!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Puerto Rico Driving Rules

Sorry, no photos. Taking photos would endanger my life. While driving around Puerto Rico over the last few years I've noticed some unique road rules. If you want to blend in you need to follow them. If you have been here please add to the list!

InchWorm :
This game is played at each and every stop light. There is usually a willing player. At the red light take your foot off the brake and go an inch. The next player will do the same. Continue until both of you are in the middle of the intersection or the light turns green.

This one is crazy since it is a real law that is just not exactly followed. If you pass up where you want to turn (an exit, a food stall, place to buy roadside stuff) you just back up. Yes, even on a three lane highway you just do it. If there isn't a shoulder to do it in you just do it. If it is unsafe and you can make people swerve all the better. No back-up lights? Score an extra 50 points.

If it is starting to rain, getting dark, the sun is rising, the wind is blowing, or whatever, you can start your own parade by driving with your emergency lights blinking. Everyone does it. For extra fun you can "even steven" with a blinkyblink and hold your own event. Or you can join in someone else's parade and swerve behind them and pop the button! Don't worry about a real emergency, no one stops for ambulances, police, fire trucks, or tow trucks. Wait, tow trucks? Yes, they not only have blinky blinks but also blue swirly lights, strobe lights and other seizure inducing flashes.

This is played by driving as fast as you can to get around people by going in the left lane or past the left lane in the breakdown lane or shoulder...bouncing off the curb (not really) and cutting across at least 2 (better to cross three) lanes of traffic to exit the highway all in the space of about 3 minutes.

You must go slow and look like you are pulling over on the right but really you are making a SuperSwerve and taking a left.

Just like the childhood game. At the red light it is red rover red rover come over come over - at least 5 cars (or as many as will fit the intersection) run the light and form a car-chain to block the intersection.

Text now is also dial now. At the red light it is the perfect time (if you have no reflexes) to start trying to see those little numbers and letters on your phone. You have to be first at the light though so you can hold it up enough so that only you get through the light.

EvenSteven - My favorite game of all. For this you must drive as fast as you can to reach whatever car is ahead of you. Then you reach them and go the exact same speed - even steven - so you can block everyone else. Even Steven is best when you even up with someone going at least 15 under the speed limit.

So there you have it, the best rules ever! Makes driving a pleasure.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cueva YuYu on Saturday

This is a nice cave we have been in more than a few times. It is really neat but full of water and very cold. There was a short section of cave we hadn't finished surveying and that was the point of the trip. This cave is probably the furthest from our house - about 2 hours. There is no good way to get there by car and even the jungle walk is kind of convoluted. We drove, parked, hiked and arrived later than usual due to a later start. Tom, Diana, Brett, Jeff and I were on the trip. There is a rope coming down the "wet" entrance. There is also a "dry" entrance to the cave that isn't really dry...just drier.

After we were all down the rope we found the first station and started the survey leap-frog style. I'd find the station, Diana would come and take over, measurements would be taken and recorded and I'd hop to the next one.

The water in the upstream section was only ankle high - just high enough so we'd have wet feet the whole time. The water in this cave is very cold. Here's some nice flow stone. Photographing in this cave is hard because it is so wet and misty. It is hard to survey because the water is loud and you can't hear yelling over the water sounds. More formations.

I thought these layers were very interesting. Wish I could make a waterfall like this in my yard! Flow stone always looks like dripping candle wax or ice cream sundaes to me. The rock is wet, colorful and at interesting angles. More ice cream cone stuff.

What started out as a "short" (we know better) trip turned into a bunch of hours as we fully explored some previously unexplored little holes. Brett is coming down this one. I went up it and Jeff got tired of waiting for me and left. I went up, and up some more, and over in a small crawl and up some more, up some more and it was very interesting. I got to a place that went up again but I needed some rope and someone else around if I were going to scale it. It was a vertical rock about 6 feet tall that might have gone even further up! On the way out it was difficult since it was muddy, I was alone, it was part breakdown (which is like a maze) and hard to go down things I had come up since I could only fit feet first and with my stomach to the rock - which meant I couldn't see. Thankfully Brett was there as I was working my way out. He answered my calls and then fit through this hole to shine his light so I could work my way out! Then we both backed out and joined the others. These small spots always seem ok going in but are difficult coming out of! There is something creepy about coming down when you can't see what you are doing and it is too small to turn or anything. You just have to commit. Here's the river level passage.

So after all our investigating we headed back up the ropes. After an error on the rope I lived my 9th life I think. I thought Tom was off the rope, and he was but his pack wasn't. The pack was stuck and I headed up a loose rope. Thankfully the carabiner on it was wedged firmly between a couple rocks and there was a ledge for me to teeter on so I could get off rope, dislodge the pack, he could pull it up and I could get back on and continue up. It was precarious on the ledge and I will be much more careful listening for "off rope" and shouting "on rope" next time. There is always someone on the trip who is "insurance" (the person things happen to) and today it was my turn. Stupid me. Here Jeff is coming up. Once we were up we wandered around the jungle looking into different cracks and holes that didn't go far. When we were tired and hungry we worked our way to the cars and off to the mofongo mobile. It was a long day but very interesting!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cueva Mucara

Ron Richards invited us to join him on a trip to Cueva Mucara in Aguas Buenas near Caguas. The trip would include Tom and Diana, Jeff and me, Ron and his son Ben and Eddie. We all met, departed on time and entered the cave after a short walk. Ron wanted to survey a large collapse area/entrance. While he was getting organized we took a short tour around since Jeff and I had been here before. We showed Tom where the drop to the river was, where another entrance/ exit was, and then investigated some short tunnels. Jeff then went to the bottom of the collapse, dropped into a hole and went for a bit until he got to a very low spot where he'd have to crawl. He doesn't like that. He came out and encouraged me to take a peek and, well, low and small is my specialty! I did my investigating and came back for the others. No one seemed interested. I ended up going into the area at least 4 times with people who then came out and would tell others to go in! So here we are going in. Ron is up above at the drop-in spot and Diana is making her way down to the main tunnel. It looks like a pipe on the right but it is a root...a BIG root.

Inside this tunnel were some neat formations. This cave is similar to Sistema Vientos in San German with the grey limestone, flow stone and general "look" of the place. You can also see the water-line which is about head high (mud line). The sides of this slot had some neat calcite formations. Then it kind of narrowed and got lower. There were some side tunnels that didn't go far or were plugged up with sediment.

Then came the crawl. Jeff stopped at this point. People don't like to crawl unless it is going to go somewhere and often it is hard to tell. A lot of the time the REALLY small places just get smaller and end. This one, however, opened up after a 6 foot belly-crawl. It wasn't even that tight. Ben is making his way through.

On the other side of the crawl was a big room with some very interesting mud. It wasn't exactly mud. I'll call them transition materials. Tom thinks the room was filled with with this material and over time water has removed a lot of it. Very interesting. This room had a few bats in it. The bell holes were very wide and not initially created by the bats. Bats are opportunistic and started living in existing indentations and further eroding them. See the bats? More mud.

Returning out the tunnel the ceiling decorations were more obvious. Kind of like a line-up of teeth. The mud designs were just fascinating! The striations kind of looked like photos from Mars. Here Eddie is looking at some of the fossils and flow stone inside the room. Formations...

Eddie and Ben near a wall. After these odd mud designs the room ended. There was a small pool of water that may have been a sump on the left. There was an upper stand-up chamber that didn't go anywhere and didn't have water dripping or anything.

Elsewhere in the cave the rooms and passages were very large and open with light grey colored limestone. This was a nice change from the dark broodiness of Hell. Here Tom is straddling some rock to take a measurement. Here's a nice open passage. It looks like Tom might have found some more fossils to look at. Here's a final shot - Ron going out the little tunnel from the lower room!

Afterwards we all headed out for sushi. I had some alcohol (a couple lemon drops - I love lemon drops and don't find them often). Jeff and I went to Starbucks for some chocolate cake (we shared) and I had an espresso shot with whipped cream. Lots of yummy food after a great caving day! On the drive home there was an amazing sunset. I had Jeff stop the car several times so I could photograph it!