Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Culebra, Fajardo, and San Juan

Puerto Rico is both familiar and exotic. It has the familiarity of the U.S. Postal Service, Coast Guard, National Park and Forest Service, and just about every chain store and restaurant imaginable. Although English is widely spoken, Spanish is the main and first language in most conversations (a surprising number of people just ignore you outright if you speak English to them). Traffic signs are in Spanish. In an odd schism of competing measurements, speed limits are in miles per hour but distances are in kilometers and gas is sold in liters.  A Quarter Pounder is a "Royale with Cheese"--wait, never mind, that's something else.

Mostly it is verdant and scenic. For the first time since we started cruising, we are anchored next to big rolling hills filled with lush greenery. The waters are nowhere near as clear as the Bahamas, but from what we hear, that's something we'll have to get used to as we head further into the Caribbean.

The peak at El Yunque. Cell reception was not as great as you'd think.
After our long passage, we spent a few days on the island of Culebra, making sure to eat at Zaco's Tacos. Several cruisers raved about it, as did the Customs officer that checked us in. It's a funky little place that actually lived up to the hype. We also spent a night at Culebrita.  It is a lovely island nearby with an amazing beach and a fun hike to an old castle/maze-like lighthouse.

Even though we gave up 20 miles of easting, we then headed to Fajardo on mainland Puerto Rico to pick up some boat supplies and food. We got a good deal on a rental car for a few days. It took some time to get used to zipping around in the unpredictable traffic. When you're used to traveling an average of 6 knots an hour with no one else near you, 50 miles an hour in hilly and heavy traffic seems really fast. Mark kept asking, "How fast are we going?"
Taking advantage of our new found mobility, our first stop was El Yunque, which is the only rain forest in the U.S. National Forest Service. It is filled with waterfalls and natural pools, as well as hundreds of varieties of vegetation and wildlife--mostly frogs (coqui'). Mark and Conrad surprised us by climbing over six miles to the highest peak and back with minimal complaining. Another long hike took us to a waterfall and pool where Matt and the boys took a refreshing swim and experienced a waterfall pounding on their heads.
After a long day of hiking, we drove over two hours (apparently rush hour traffic is another aspect of the mainland US that has taken hold here) to the town of Guaynabo because Matt saw something on the internet about how there was supposed to be a festival for the patron saint of the town. When we got there, there was no festival, and no one we talked to had ever heard of the festival.  So definitely believe what you read on the internet!  Despite the lack of festivities, we had a fantastic and inexpensive meal at El Guayabo. They served up fine examples of the local fare, including arroz con pollo and mofongo con churrasco.  We took it as a good sign that all the other patrons were locals.

Our next entire day was spent doing laundry and shopping for boat stuff and groceries. Mark and Conrad love the Laundromat. Other people must think that they really don't get out much.

We also visited Old San Juan and walked around the forts. We had a great meal at Fattie's, which is a Jamaican and West Indian fusion restaurant with local influences. It is relatively inexpensive and a favorite of foodies visiting the area. The restaurants here are dangerous to our waistlines and pocketbooks. All told, we managed to spend $2,800 in five days. That includes $500 of diesel and gas, loads of provisions and some deferred repair items, but still. We spent $1,300 in the entire month of March. Yikes.

Now that we're stocked up on provisions and boat supplies and if the wind is favorable, we will head over to the United States Virgin Islands. We were originally going to go to Vieques but decided against it because the famous bioluminescent bay there has reportedly been quite a bit dimmer this Spring and the moon will keep things bright until the early morning, which makes it hard to see the glowy creatures in the water.


  1. I loved Puerto Rico. When Larry and I were both Active Duty Navy, we deployed to Roosevelt Roads Naval Station (near Fajardo) for 6 months. We got SCUBA certified there. When we complain about crazy local traffic we usually end up saying "it could be worse, we could be driving on the shoulder in Puerto Rico". Although I think we would prefer that to the lazy, I don't need to get anywhere fast, driving here on Okinawa. We also refer to the steps leading down (and back up) from the waterfall in El Yunque. Especially here where there are so many steps to get to shrines. Larry and I spent a weekend in St Thomas and fell in love (with the island and with each other). I love reading about your experiences in places we haven't been but I'm really enjoying reading about your experiences in places we've been. It brings back a lot of REALLY good memories. Thanks for that.

    1. Thanks for sharing your cool memories. I sometimes forget that you've been to so many places. I love reading about your adventures too!


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