Monday, December 23, 2013

Caves in Our Neighborhood (almost) - 4 New Ones

On Sunday we stayed close to home and went off with Tom armed with some guy's 50 year old not-very-descriptive report of the locations of a bunch of caves near our house. Weather looked iffy so water caves were out and being close to home sounded great. The information was sketchy but Tom's knowledge of topography/geology etc makes finding things possible and probable! First we drove on 112 to the spot where we see the drug dealer stand guard 24/7. We had gone down into this cluster of houses before and asked around. People pointed to the hillside and we were coming back to scope it out! We parked, changed, and walked behind a house up onto the hillside following the river and came to our first "find." It was a large opening that went through to the other side. The bottom looked scoured by lots of water which was strange. The other side was a field and it is hard to imagine it draining that much water. We looked around. Tom was more interested in it than we were since he understands the geology and we don't. There wasn't much to it so we poked around a bit and then climbed the hill to what looked like an upper level.

This upper level wasn't much either but did have a tiny hole that we thought might lead somewhere. I went in feet first having to really flex around a stalagmite with my helmet off. I did end up in a nice little room but it did not go anywhere. One of these times I am going to get in somewhere I can't get out of! A little swelling or water drinking and I could be stuck! I contorted my way out head first. Oh, such relief to be out!

Next we roamed around the ridge and came across a hole that turned out to be the amazing find of the day! This little cave is full of decorations! Unfortunately a majority of the stalactites have been broken off but the amount of decoration was still amazing given how close this cave is to houses and people. After a couple small drops you enter a large room with a side room and a deep cut in the bottom. We explored it all looking for passages to continue on but didn't have any luck.

We wandered around for another hour or so in pouring rain and found another cave, Cueva Armistad (?) which is where rebels reportedly stashed guns and maps of attack plans. No rebel booty here though - just lots and lots of bats. Not much of a cave passage-wise but interesting for a few minutes. We continued wandering around looking for a few other caves without finding them. It was an early day which was fine with me - rainy and cold. We hacked through the jungle with a machete (or at least Tom did) to get down to this field. We walked across it so we could climb up the other side to the car. On our little trek we were hoping to see another cave...running water was there, vegetation was there and all the conditions were right....but no. No cave. We hiked up to where the car was and headed to our house for a beer and snacks and mainly a nice HOT shower! Kind of a different day with a big payoff. We discovered one very nicely decorated cave close to home.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


These two (Jackie and Chicken) look like they are up to no good - munching on catnip and the paranoia has set in... Blanco yawns after a box-nap, then sleeps some more and then gives the "look how sweet and beautiful I am" cat pose.

Then he goes outside to the porch to snuggle with Pollo in one of the many cat beds. Pollo is tuckered out from her excursion to the roof. When Jeff showers in the morning he sees her (and some of the other ones) climb up the ladder and onto the roof. Enjoying the sunrise maybe? Taking a look around? Even the cats seem to enjoy our views!

Rip is kind of a strange loner except when he is stalking the others or playing chase with Jackie. He has been hanging out on the porch more often. I think since he is 3 now he is calming down. He can contort into the strangest positions. EVERYBODY loves the catnip pot. I think it is one of the best things I've done! At first they didn't take an interest but once they figured out what it was they have all taken turns snoozing in it!

Even Dakota the 15 plus year old guy has managed to stand in it - can't quite curl up. And Jackie? Busted and guilty looking...totally high!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DAM and Guajataca Tunnels

Saturday's weather was not dry enough to go caving as planned so we came up with some alternatives! Tom had found the Quebrada de Los Cedros Dam on an earlier outing and took us, along with Diana, on a trip out there. This dam is on the Aguadilla/Isabela border near Jobos and is completely overgrown to the point of never being able to find it if you didn't know it was there! Not quite sure when it was built but Tom and another friend (Ron) told us it was built as a hydroelectric dam. Unfortunately, despite warnings by geologists, they built this massive structure on Aimamon limestone which is porous and won't hold water. Needless to say, this huge structure never worked. Tom knew exactly where to go and in a short machete chopping few minutes we were on the top of the dam. You can't tell, but the structure has got to be 50 feet tall? We walked down a steep slope to it's base. Jeff and Tom are going in a little opening. We walked through a lot of these openings and most were pretty full of guano. Mounds and mounds of bat poop! Holy shit!

We then went through it and into the river bed which, if the rock weren't so porous, should probably have water in it. Of course we encountered garbage (cars, stoves, tires, etc). We then found the tunnel that leads to the partly built hydroelectric plant. We didn't go all the way through the tunnel but will return on another day for that. It goes for almost 3 miles and comes out at the bluff overlooking Jobos beach. That is a view I'd love to see. We didn't continue because we were spooking bats and a group of rats and don't know if the end is capped or open. We didn't want to disturb the bats or trap them.

After that it was on to somewhere we have always wanted to go but haven't  because we usually have more exciting things going on. Today was perfect since it was close to home and rain didn't matter. We headed up number 2 and parked on the right just before you get to the giant Puerto Rican flag on the way to Quebradillas. Behind the lottery stand is a nice trail that is clean. It leads to a tunnel that is garbage free and loops back around to the highway. You can see nice stone bridges/walls and flower blossoms were on the ground everywhere (pee tree blossoms).

Then we headed west on 2 to get to the other tunnel. This area was a totally different story...people know where this one is and you don't really have to walk. The parking lot wasn't too bad. Tom told us about how different this spot was 10 years ago - how there were vendors and food stands and it was cleaner and kind of an attraction. That is not what we saw. We saw graffiti, smelled urine, saw trash of course and wished it were how he remembered it. There is a flat trail that goes for a little bit along what could be a beautiful coastline (if people didn't throw trash everywhere). It has great potential to be a beautiful walking, biking, roller blading trail that could connect to the nice Isabela/Jobos trail. There was a small cavern at the end of the tunnel that was the official bathroom and garbage can. Just think what a few trash cans, bathroom stalls and supervision could do for a spot like this. There was even a "no tirando basura" sign stuck on the rock high out of view where most people wouldn't see it. I mentioned this to Tom and he thought it was high so no one would steal it. Maybe a joke or just plain sad. Sometimes those signs really mean "throw it here." Just like the "no parking" signs or a colored curb mean "park here."

The tunnel has spectacular views (if you can overlook the trash) and you won't find more dramatic scenery. I am glad we came out. I'd love to visit on my own to photograph but unfortunately I don't think it is safe. The waves were really high and a lot of the rocks looked like they were floating or were about to levitate. Bi-Polar PR. Immense beauty and ugliness together again. If you want just the nice....go to the first tunnel. It doesn't have the water views but it doesn't have the trash. Neither is physically taxing and both are a decent outing for a rainy day when nothing else is going on!

We had a good meal at the Cheesecake Shoppe "Just Say Cheese," where they have different beers, pizzas (on a nice thin crust) and...cheesecake. On someone else's table I spied an awesome looking salad, so that is what I had. Unexpected! I have trouble just eating a big ball of cheese followed by whipped cheese so I gobbled a real salad with different greens, tomatoes (not just an under ripe slice), nuts, cheese crumbles, cranberries and a nice dressing. I did follow that with half a slice of cheesecake and coffee. They have made menus since the last time we were there! They offer good food and service (and of course being in good company always helps). It was the first time in a lot of outings that I didn't sit out the food part or whine about it. I am sure that pleased my company immensely!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Final Tropical Thanksgiving

This was our final Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico. The weather has started to get wonderful, the skies are blue and the humidity has dropped. Where else can you sit outside for Thanksgiving? As a final hoo-rah we decided to have a nice dinner in a nice place with good friends we may not see for a year or more. Our friends Toni and Gerd spend 5 months in Puerto Rico each year and this Thanksgiving had a couple visitors from Germany staying with them. We all headed to Royal Isabela for a Thanksgiving buffet. The setting is spectacular and is an example of how all of Puerto Rico could be. Royal Isabela is a golf resort that isn't locally advertised. I found out about it while talking to the gal whose husband sells bread at the farmer's market. I was asking where he sells his bread. She said "Royal Isabela" and Villa  Montana (another restaurant/resort). She also said she worked in the organic gardens on the grounds there and that they try to source local produce and meat for meals there. I managed to get a phone number and when Jeff's parents visited we took a trip out there. The food was good quality and service was very good as well. It isn't crowded either since no one knows about it and there aren't any signs showing where it is.

We met our friends and took them along the twisty roads to find the place. As you arrive you are greeted by a large gate that opens as you drive close. Personnel come out and greet you and direct you to the restaurant. We had reservations for 3 and the table was ready with our name on it and the Thanksgiving spread was already out. There was roast turkey with a crushed casava stuffing. There was gravy and cranberry sauce. Roasted pork loin with a mango chutney and ham with pineapple were also available. There was a pasta station with made-to-order pasta and a pizza station for made-to-order pizzas. Candied yams and Italian chard stuffing and rice were nice sides. There were a couple salads and pasta salad, bread, and a  fresh local fruit salad. For dessert tres leche, flan and pumpkin pie. We all gorged and enjoyed talking for a couple hours. Gerd and Jeff used some "app" on their phones to figure out who the tugboat/barge we could see was. Toni and I wandered the grounds a little enjoying the views. We all had a very nice dinner. No leftovers in the fridge...but no dishes in the sink either! This Xmas will be our last and I'll go all out at home with turkey and everything else. Royal Isabela is on the Kruse "recommended" list.