Friday, June 02, 2006

Waay Off Topic (Or, Just South of the Tropic)

G-pup and I just got back from a long overdue vacation to Puerto Rico. It was a last minute decision, and we realized that we lived close enough to the Caribbean to be there in less than 4 hours (unless there are delays at JFK - which there were). So we looked around to see where we might go. We usually don't do "resort" vacations, we are more likely to go to either an urban location for a cultural/foodie vacation, or go rough with an eco/camping kind of thing. So this whole pamper resort thing seemed like a fun change. We decided on Puerto Rico because I had always wanted to see it (thanks to the recommendations of many PR friends) and Gavin was really into visiting Arecibo (you know the HUGE radio telescope in Goldfinger and Contact).

We flew down last week and just got back. It was a brilliant trip. We mostly avoided the tourist scourge of sunburn, but the midgies liked us an awful lot. Puerto Rico is a really fascinating place. I have been lucky enough to travel to other islands and PR is really nothing like the Caribbean (not that many of the islands are much like the other islands down there considering the myriad of European influences on the islands). It is a very urban place that is undergoing rapid development (too much really for the ecological balance). It has a unique feel and look. It also has a unique enough eco system to support a rain forest, dry forest, 3 of the 5 biobays in the world, and PR specific species - including singing Coqui frogs (there are Coqui elsewhere, but they don't sing) the Puerto Rican Parrot (only about 200 left).

I would have loved to have had more time to explore Puerto Rico - including the interior, and other beach cities like Rincon and Ponce. As it is we did pretty well with getting into a car (y'all are crazy drivers!) and getting over to Arecibo, spending an afternoon in Old San Juan and watching the kite flying at El Morro. We also got to hike in the rain (no surprise) in El Yunque (the rainforest gets over 100 billion gallons of rain a year).We took an insane kayak trip through a mangrove channel in the pitch black to get to a bioluminescent bay (Laguna Grande). It was mostly insane because of all the inexperienced kayakers, but it was a fascinating and surreal trip anyway. It looked like someone had applied computer enhanced imaging to make us glow in the water.

We also did the obligatory catamaran sail and snorkel out to Cayo Lobos.

Puerto Rico is an island of many colors and cultures all merging together on an island "associated" by the US. The people we met were wonderful - full of community and openness. They loved sharing their unique island. I had also always heard that PR was really into supporting its artistic community, and it certainly shows. There are many fascinating contemporary and traditional public sculptures. The graf there is also really stunning (sorry no pics - we were speeding by in a car).

If you are the kind of person looking for a "typical" island get away - this may not be the place for you, but if you want something that feels more "real" (that's the only way I can come up with to describe it) Puerto Rico is a great place for a trip away. (Next time we'll get over to Vieques and Culebra too).

No comments: