Saturday, February 01, 2014

Puerto Rico - Explore beyond the shore

Running on the beach free as a bird, with the sun and wind in the my back, then a rainbow pops up over the ocean, then pouring rain, followed by a dip in the warm ocean as the rain abates and all is fresh again. A wonderful memory. And many more from the Enchanted Isle. How about listening to reggae music on boat, sipping a Pina Colada, gazing at the turquoise blue Caribbean sea, with the smell of salt as the breeze gently caresses your skin?

I spent two weeks in PR. The first week was planned by me, the second week by the snow storm in NYC which canceled my return flight. Some nice memories and some not so nice. I won't talk about the must see or do. That will depend on what floats your boat and you can find guide books for that. I used Lonely Planet, for the record. This is a travelogue about my experiences and opinions.

I spent days at the beach, where everyone has a beach body. No, I don't call them beach bodies just because they were bodies on the beach. Frankly, I had never seen so many beautiful people at one place at the same time. I worked on my tan. If you say I am too brown to need a tan, I ask you, why do black people sun bathe? I camped at the beach. It was wonderful to go to bed to the sound of the Coqui frog and refreshing to rise to sound of waves. And there were countless Pina Coladas, from roadside stands to upscale restaurants. It is my new favorite cocktail. It is summertime in a glass. I once ordered a Cuba Libre for breakfast. “Would you like coffee or juice with that omelette? Nope, a Cuba libre please.” It was 8am! After all I was in the rum capital of the world.

The bio bay tour at night was the highlight of the trip. Quite otherworldly. It was like being in the movie Avatar. The water sparkles as you paddle your kayak or run your fingers through the water. It glitters when you hold it in your hand or sprinkle it around you. It feels like magic. And snorkeling in the ocean was fun too. Though not as colorful as the stuff I had seen on TV, still memorable as it was my first time. And the caves were mysterious and eerie. Nature is beautiful in so many different ways. Just when you think you've seen it all, here you are left open mouthed yet again.

I loved laying on the sand as it rained. I enjoyed walking the cobblestone streets of San Juan, lined with beautiful Spanish architecture. I explored the lush green countryside and the gazed at the deep blue ocean. PS, to see those calm turquoise Caribbean waters, visit in summer. In winter, the sea is too rough. Bummer. And I will remember kind souls who helped me find where to get off from the bus and the cab driver who came back late at night to return shoes I had left in the car.

A note to lone travelers. It is much more fun and easy to meet people for company and cost sharing if you stay at hostels and campgrounds rather than hotels. Hostels have a motley crowd of fun peeps, hotels have (at least at the hotel I was put up) snobbish uptight people.

Some more notes or more like complaints. Public transport is terrible. Bus schedules are almost non existent. And those publicos work only if you have all day to spare. Once, a publico went to someone's house as a detour while
we patiently waited twiddling our thumbs. Bikes and bike lanes are rare. You might get an unfriendly vibe, especially outside San Juan, if you speak in English. And sometimes, they will not speak a word in English. Hello sign language. All food seems to be fried. There are no bookstores. The bugs and humidity can be a lethal combination. Everyone is slow to react to everything. Drivers are crazy. I had a fear of speed bumps. Until I overcame so many in PR. Cabs don't have meters. Ok I am done.

Traveling, like life, is a box of chocolates. You never what you'll get. But isn't that the glorious uncertainty of life? Go out there and make memories. I promise the good ones will get better and the bad ones will fade away with time.

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