Monday, November 5, 2012

Day of Extremes in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a land of extremes which makes it difficult to live here and also difficult to escape. Every day is a day of mixed emotions. I have never lived in a place I both loved and hated at the same time and in the same amounts. Elections are tomorrow and here in PR it is a nightmare driving around any time and more so with all the caravans of idiots driving around with people hanging out car windows waving flags and drinking and yelling and using horns and sirens. Given that it was the final weekend before the big day we decided to stay closer to home to avoid getting stuck for miles behind the crazy road blocking caravans. We visited a few places we have wanted to find but never wanted to dedicate a whole day to. Now that we live in Moca (actually closer to San Sebastian) we are closer to everything. It is hard to believe it has been almost a year in the Moca house! The first place we visited was Salto Collazo which is a waterfall on highway 111. We have driven by many times but never stopped. We met up with Tom and Diana. We walked the 10 seconds to the base of the falls and it was pretty nice. I'll have to come here after or during a good rain to see how the flow changes!
We didn't investigate the lower falls but at some point we should. It just looked awfully steep and trashy (yeah, maybe we'll skip that). We headed on highway 446 (near the San Sebastian Walgreens) to a waterfall we had heard about and tried to locate our first year here. We drove all around looking before but never figured out where it was. This time we had Tom and Diana with us and they know where EVERYTHING is! We parked near some rainbow Eucalyptus trees and walked about 10 minutes through some trees. All of a sudden we were in an official parking lot that was charging $5. There were some buildings, real stairs leading down to the pool/waterfall and this was a good thing gone commercial. We had hoped for a nice private swim and it was not to be. Usually if places require a walk that eliminates most people from going there. Now that there is a parking lot it is accessible to all. So we ended up being part of what seemed like a zoo exhibit with us as the animals! People were everywhere and the noise level was not human. People were jumping from the spectacularly high falls into a pool while other people egged them on with shouting and clapping etc. Not a happy day for me any way. Just like a zoo enclosure - we'll have to return when people aren't here.


This is when the day unravels...the next stop was for food. Food is always trouble because it is expensive, bad, and takes a really long time. I have gotten smart though and I always bring a sandwich. We went to Hacienda El Jibarito which is a hotel just off the cliff from our house. Trip Advisor gives it terrible reviews. We went to see the grounds and see about the possibility of lunch. They make no effort to explain the menu or specials in English - yes it is a Spanish speaking "country" but they advertise this as a tourist spot. Looking at the prices and then seeing the Flintstone's style food go by I knew it was not for me, and the others agreed. A giant slab of greasy ribs and bowls heaped with several starches (potatoes, tostones, rice and more) were rolled by on a cart instead of being carried. We looked around a bit and then headed  to our next stop. We headed to a secret beach by way of a different restaurant - Platano. This supposedly specialized in platanos but really only had the typical stuff - mofango and tostones and rice. I knew  this was going to be bad but we did it anyway. With only 2 small families ahead of us the wait between ordering/paying and getting the food was well over an hour. This was when my brain fried and I short circuited and had a melt down. I was ok until a church group came in and led a prayer/chant/sing along. People were using things as microphones and the hollering was excruciatingly loud and I can not deal with it. I left, told everyone which road I would be walking on and tried to escape the noise. But it is election time. On the road I encountered this funeral truck advertising. What are they saying? Call us when you die? Of course there was super loud "music" blasting and yelling about something. Then I encountered squealing tires and saw a caravan of flag waving idiots with a car doing donuts in the middle of the public road in the middle of cars trying to drive. Smoke, tire tracks, cars revving. Yes, the Puerto Rico I absolutely can't stand.
Just as I realized how dangerous it was trying to walk on the road my ride apparently got their food and got out. They collected me and we were off! So we went to a secret beach in North Isabela or South Quebradilla (not sure - it was that secret). Once we got on this quiet, fairly clean and deserted beach the good part of Puerto Rico showed itself. We passed a couple shore fishermen and headed to some pools. The surf has been rough lately and spray was flying everywhere.
Jeff was the first to venture into the sitting pool and you can see it isn't that deep. There were some sharp rocks and after watching Jeff try to walk around I kept my sandals on!
When the waves broke they ran into our little pool with a lot of force and it was the best part of the day!!! We enjoyed a half hour or more of only nature sounds and good company before calling it a day. This part of the day was really nice and beautiful. The beach in November? Warm 80 something degree water? People who enjoy what we enjoy? That's why we stay here.
But no day in Puerto Rico is complete without garbage, a starving animal or burned out car. Yup. Puerto Rico.

1 comment:

Fran and Steve said...

I have days like that too. Or all bad days. Or all good days. I left in the 70s, though I never really stopped loving it, like one loves an ADHD child perhaps. A lot of the good stuff of the 70s has been replaced by greasier food, louder people, expensive everything, and less safe streets. But there are more conveniences than before and at least here on the east coast I haven't seen the burned out cars, and they seem to be picking up the stray dogs. And you just can't take away the natural beauty, though I wish the locals would appreciate it instead of trashing it. Like you, we have to remind ourselves of the overall blessings of this place, and also that things really aren't much better on the mainland. BTW, these photos are beautiful, Katrina. -- Fran