Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Girls~on~the~Loose and Bruce - Happy Beach Sounds

See that boat?  Fun!!
As action packed and strenuous as the past two days have been... today was not.  Today, we took off on the road about an hour to the north of us, to check out the beach and possibly snorkel at popular Crash Boat Beach!  Don't ask me why they call it that.  The beach was neither crashy, nor particularly boaty... until it was.

But I'm getting ahead of myself!  First, I wanted to check out another beach that someone told me was good for sea glass.  I've got several marked for visiting, but we stopped at this one first.  I've never been to Playa Los Almendros before, but it was a nice easy-access beach.  There was public parking and some rental stands set up for water sports. The beach is very beautiful and it wasn't crowded on a weekday early... but there was no sea glass.  Not one scrap!  

And it's gorgeous too!
Maybe we'll try again some day, because even our own beach isn't always happy hunting.  But today, we moved on to a beach that I KNOW will pan out! Playa Parque Colón never disappoints.  We didn't stay more than 10 minutes and Sue says she has now more than doubled her entire sea glass collection!  I picked up a good handfull, being more picky than usual.  Here, you can afford to just go for the colors or the best tumbled pieces.  If I have to complain about something... I didn't find any good blue pieces today!

Sorry for the terrible video quality.  It was a bit of a scramble.  But you get the idea.  Leaving this beach, we began to notice more traffic.  It's Thursday Wednesday (who can keep track?), but it IS Puerto Rico, so the beaches will be starting to fill up!  So we made haste to our next stop, and today's destination, Crash Boat Beach!

As soon as we arrived and began setting up camp, another family showed up and plunked themselves down right in front of us.  RUDE! Just don't!  But after having been the entertainment already (we had difficulties putting up our shade tent and ended up ditching it, much to the amusement of a large group of tourists near us) we just decided to stay put and try to enjoy paradise with a blocked view.   

I was forced to turn my chair to the side to improve my view... Woe is me!!

It was very sunny when we arrived, and I was concerned that we would have trouble keeping cool with only the beach umbrella for shade. But Sue had her little personal chair umbrella, and shortly after we got settled, the clouds that are normal for afternoons on this side of the island arrived and cooled things off. They were nice for temperature regulation, but they dampened the stunning blues of the Atlantic so our photos aren't as awesome as they could have been.  I was also rather disinclined to get into the cold water for snorkeling.  Bruce went in for a while, and he was not as impressed as I had hoped, so Sue and I skipped the snorkeling all-together.  

Wow!  Reading that back, I sure sound bitchy and spoiled rotten!  Well, maybe we are a little bit spoiled, living here in Paradise as we do.  We can afford to cherry-pick.  We did enjoy the day!  We even had a delicious and very UN-nutritious empanadilla and pincho de cerdo, WITH a Pina Colada, for lunch!

Still beautiful even with the dramatic clouds!

Sometimes there would be a fish riding the waves and you could see it.  I didn't catch them though.

Thanks for the photo Sue!

Why pick just one...?

Toes in the water, ass in the sand...

The gentle waves continuously rearranged these little lines in the sand. Fascinating... I know!
Yes, there are Beach Pigeons!

Having a day to just chillax was just what we needed after the activity of the previous two days.  Just because we're on vacation, doesn't mean we have to do something every minute.  Especially considering that we LIVE HERE!  And we can come back any time we wish!  All week long, Sue and I have continually reminded ourselves how fortunate we are to have done whatever it was that brought us here. 

I went back to my chair and dried off.  Even though I had been in the water a couple of times, I didn't feel sticky or sandy.  Nice!  I reclined and closed my eyes, just listening to the happy sounds.  The waves gently breaking. The occasional bird call. Children chasing one another or a daddy snatching his kid up and running for the water. Far away music, not too loud.  Until a power boat showed up with a row of huge speakers blasting!  We all watched in horror as the boat cruised by, then backed in and threw out anchors fore and aft.  This kept their speakers aimed right at us!  Well, this day is over folks!  More than one group began packing it in. 

It's OK though.  I really had been putting off the inevitable.  If we left right now, we would just exactly make it to the dinner place I have picked out on time! We all three changed clothes at the car.  Risqué I know! But we're Girls~on~the~Loose!!

Mojito de coco, muy rico!
I don't have any idea how I pick these places... but somehow I have a 100% track record for picking the good ones!  El Coral in Jayuda, a sleepy little waterfront restaurant with no redeeming qualities other than the view is unrestricted fabulous, the food is 5 Star, the dessert is sublime. Oh, and it's completely unpretentious... just the way I like it!  
Thanks Sue!

OMG we enjoyed a delicious meal, huge servings and perfectly attentive service.  Prices were very good and, while we may have been the object of a couple of glances wondering how we broke into this secret spot, we were completely welcomed and felt like we belonged here... with the other Locals!

Did I mention the Lava Cake?  I'm just gonna leave this right here...

I love the Boricua Pride!
Well folks, that's another fabulous Staycation day down!  Don't hate us because we live here... well, OK, you might as well go ahead!  Because it's THAT AWESOME!  One more full day, and then the ride home to go!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Girls~on~the~Loose~ And Bruce Day 2 - Hike in Guaniquilla Reserve

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, intrepid explorers all!

After a not-so-great night's sleep in a new place, we were nevertheless up early and ready to go out and see some sights!  I had an itinerary for the whole trip, which began with today's search for a pirate cave!

Today, we would venture out into the Guaniquilla nature preserve, managed by our Amigos at Para La Naturaleza!  While I would have preferred, and searched to find in advance with no luck, a guided tour of the reserve, we set out on our own with emailed permission from the property management group, to enter at our own risk.  

I searched for many days to find definitive information about the trail, hoping for a map.  But with only some vague instructions, and our Google map image, we parked the car and entered the property.  The stretch from the very small parking area to the Ruins of Hacienda la Romana was very wide and well-travelled.  A nice shade dappled walk took us gradually up, with lots of stunning views of the Mona Channel to our right.  

We easily reached the ruins, and I began to think that all of my searching and worry had been for nothing.  So far, the trail was super easy with no choices to be made other than the obvious.  Maybe my theory that the less information you can find about a thing, the less information you will NEED about the thing!  I haven't been able to find much about the ruins here, other than that it was once a place where sugar cane was grown.  The trail leading to the Dog's Teeth, and the elusive Cueva de Pirata Cofresi led off to the left of the ruins. 

Let me say here, that not only would it be advisable to go with a guide for the safety factor, the wealth of information imparted by a caring guide is invaluable.  We will do this again when Para La Naturaleza is resumes offering tours (post Covid).  I was able to find this very nice review of one of their tours.  Please read through it to find little tidbits that I will not repeat here.  Also, I/we entered the cave without appropriate safety gear.  This area is prone to strong earthquakes, which continue almost daily.  Rocks could have fallen on my head at the least, and a cave-in could have occurred at worst.  I do not advise you do this without proper gear and a guide.  We were lucky, you may not be!!

Laguna Quaniquilla and the Dog's Teeth

We soon learned that wherever there was a choice, there was a map!

You are HERE!

Karst formations called Dog's Teeth

Looking down into the jagged ridges of the Dog's Teeth

Continuing on, the trail became more muddy and a bit more of a challenge.

Another thing we soon learned, was that if there was a map, there were two trails shown on the map, but a mysterious third trail at the crossroads.  ALWAYS take that extra route, because it leads to awesomeness! The next marked fork in the trail left us a little confused.  The trail showed two choices, but clearly there was a third.  I left my crew and dashed off down the trail to check it out, only to quickly call them to follow.  This was it!  We had found the Pirate's cave!!

There are two openings.  One on the far left, and one just right of center.

No way down there!
We peered down into the closest opening and immediately decided that we would not be going down there, and that we had brought our flashlights and headlamps for nothing. The way down was very steep and no obvious trail could be discerned.  Bruce balked completely, seating himself on a rock just outside the second entrance for a little rest.  I moved on past him and looked down.


Here you could see the smoothed and dirty hand holds, and some definite footholds.  Stripping off my backpack, I left my crew up top to see if I could creep down into the hole without falling.  It turned out to be much easier than I thought at first.  The footholds were solid and easy to reach.  Suddenly, I was down inside the cave!!

Once down at the bottom, I saw that it opened up, being mostly just a cavity beneath some stacked boulders.  There was a trail leading down into the more underground portion of the cave.  I could see a faint light that must be coming from another entrance.  But as much fun as this was, I wasn't going any further into the earth today!

What a thrill this was!  But I have to admit that I felt like I was on borrowed time down there.  We've had earthquakes and they continue to this day!  I was steadily stifling that voice of reason that normally governs my actions.  Thankfully, I was not punished!

Further on into the ground, you can see a glimmer of light from the other opening... and lots of darkness!

This is looking further into the chamber I'm in, which is pretty much stacked boulders.

This is back over my right shoulder where there's another opening.

This is looking up where you can see sky through the crevice.

Looking back the way I had come.  My Swabbies would not come down!

I got in, and I got OUT!  And lived to tell about it!

Tres Amigos!

See that sign?  It wasn't the only one...
So WOW!  We did it!  We found the cave, and easily I might add.  Now we continue on to see if we can get a better view of the Dog's Teeth karst formations that lie in the center of Guaniquilla Lagoon.  We backtracked to the sign post and took the other trail, which very quickly led us to another choice.  This time the unmarked third trail took us NOT to the edge of the lagoon as we assumed it would... But to a BONUS CAVE!

Bruce takes the lead!

This time, I wasn't going to be the only one to have the excitement... and the DANGER... of going into the earth!  Passing not one, but two signs warning of seismic activity, we stupidly intrepidly forged ahead.  This cave entrance led us through a long crevice, deep into the rocks more than down into the earth.  At the furthest spot we reached, it began to go down inside the ground, and we decided that we had tested our Karma quite enough for one day.  We marvelled at the amazing place we found, and then we got back out of there with no shaking ground or falling rock. 

Photos/video clips with us both in them are taken by Sue!  Thanks Sue!

Thanks SUE!!

This is the place we did NOT go!

Hmmm one extra choice we did not take!
Reluctantly we climbed back out of the crevice and backtracked to the fork in the trail.  We were elated that we had found the cave, and didn't die for it!  All of this excitement buoyed our footsteps as we moved on along the sun warmed trail. I think that this may be the last of it's kind until next winter.  While it is still cool enough with a breeze, that mid-day direct sun is becoming rather warm for hiking! 

Very soon, we found yet another choice to be made, and this time it WAS the lagoon trail.  We clambered out onto the rocky shore of the lagoon and just stared at the marvelous vision before us.  Too bad these rocks were in the center of the lagoon... I would have enjoyed a closer look.  But today, we will settle for watching the ducks swim lazily across the water in the bright sunshine and pure, fresh air!  Ahhh it smells lovely here! 

The Dog's Teeth look like a sleeping dragon stretched across the lagoon.

With all of our objectives for the day now having been met, we took a quick vote on how to proceed.  Should we backtrack the way we had come, or should we press on and hike all the way around the lagoon.  I have to admit that I'm surprised at the unanimous vote for taking the long way home!  

We trekked along through the changing landscape, leaving the rocky hills behind, and entering the salt flats where we wound our way on sandy ground with mangroves and sea grapes shading our path. 

Beautiful blue Caribbean waters cooled the breeze that made our path an easy one

A canopy of sea grapes

We found LOTS of termite mounds!!
Ever want to see a termite mound up close?
This unusual tree is discussed in the article linked above. 

I have searched and can not find the name of this tree.  We found it growing all along the beachy part of the walk today, and it has thin layers of bark sloughing off.  The article linked above mentions it and states that some people used to survive on boiling the bark to make a "chicken soup".  I would love to know more if anyone can find it... please send me a link!

The rest of our walk was relatively uneventful, but we still found plenty of things that interested us.  If only for the small private little stretches of beautiful beach, this route was a score!

Healthy mangroves!!

Caribbean on our left...

Guaniquilla Lagoon on our right side!

And lots of wild-growing cotton!

On the road back to the car, the sun has come up, lighting up the Caribbean!

Our hike took us almost four miles full circle, and almost 5 hours!  Of course we were ravenous, and thanks to Bruce... we made haste to get to the little country store for a home made pizza! Elis's Mini Market has a pizza kitchen tucked way back in amongst the everything-else she offers.  

OMG that pizza was delicious!  
We were done for the day.  We took our pizza back to our house and showered, then plunked our butts down in our chairs out on the veranda to eat, drink and while away the evening until mosquito hour chased us inside.  
Day two of our staycation was done, and all of our lingering doubts about finding the cave were vanquished!  If our trip ended right now, it would have been a great one!  But wait... we have more days!  Stay tuned!