Thursday, July 4, 2019

Working The Guardian Angel in Central Aguirre

I feel bad about leaving Jezabelle, so she gets to go for a walk first!
We've been working on the boat so much this past week that we totally intended to stay home and hide from party crowds this 4th of July!  But this morning, I woke and got some sort of freaky burst of energy that lifted me out of bed before 7am!  Bruce didn't grumble much when I told him that I wanted to return to the little ghost town of Central Aguirre.

We actually found this place a couple of weeks ago when we were looking for a place to have breakfast!  I think that after today, we will put this on our every-so-often list and it will always begin with a stop at this tiny little panaderia for a tripleta sandwich.  It's a little hole-in-the-wall place and we almost changed our minds when we stepped inside, but we are GLAD we didn't!  When we eventually sat down to eat the sandwich, it was the BEST tripleta we've had!

Doesn't look like much, and the only baked goods we saw were the loaves of bread in the warmer...
One of the old Mill homes still sports the FEMA blue tarps!
This turned out to be the only bakery between our house and the turnoff on 705 that leads to Aguirre, and it's only a few minutes away.  While much of our part of the island is like living  in a time past, when things were slower, by the time you reach the end of this road, it feels like you've truly been transported.

The streets are virtually empty at this time of morning on a holiday, so we decided to park at the little post office.  The parking lot for the Jobos Bay NERR, where we parked on our last visit here, was closed!

We parked and suited up in our sun-protective clothing and large brimmed hats.  It is early but that sun is already HOT!  With a backpack full of water and our two pound tripleta sandwich, we began to look around to see which way we should go first.

The building just to the south of the post office, actually attached , looked spooky and inviting with a larger warehouse building just beyond... but there was a locked gate that we didn't feel right about circumventing by way of what looked like an animal trail...

Guess we'll make due with peering through the gate at what was once probably the housing or offices for the Big Whigs of the company.

Do you think he sees me hiding in the bushes?
We decided not to take the animal trail, but to walk up to where we had our lunch the last visit.  We passed one of the company homes that actually had someone living in it!  The home also has the blue FEMA tarps keeping the rain out some two years after hurricane Maria did so much damage!  The problem with these homes is that in order to fix them, the owners must bring them back to the same condition as they were when they were built.  This is because of their historical status and it keeps the residents from being able to afford the repairs!

I didn't bring the trail map we were given before, so we weren't really sure which way to go, but we followed the first road we came reached leading to one of the sugar mill ruins.

I must say that it is completely strange being "allowed" to just walk around in these old dilapidated buildings.  Having been raised in the US, where there are multiple systems in place to keep people from harming themselves and subsequently suing the owners of the properties... it is just unfathomable to be able to do this!  Not only are these buildings NOT secured... but there are actual trails leading to them!  Gotta love this island!

After a quick look around, we proceeded to the official trailhead.  It looks like there are two trails, but it is unclear what is at the end of the green trail.  We knew that we wanted to see the salt flats, but decided to give the other trail a try first.

Wild cotton plants are scattered throughout this dry, natural area.
Being out here alone with nobody knowing where we are was a little unsettling, but these signs kept us going.
Left or right?  Pick one!  Knowing the water was to the right, we went left for a while...

After a while, we found this little kiosk and Bruce was ready for a break.  We didn't know if there was anything further on and it was getting warm, so we decided to have our breakfast and then backtrack to check out the salt flats.  We can come back and finish this trail next time!

O.M.G.  This is the BEST sandwich!
Tripletas have three kinds of meat, cheese, special sauce and some salad. 

Bees were busy!
We finished our breakfast and backtracked along the trail to where it split, then continued toward the water.

It's a little rickety, but I think the Boy Scouts must be maintaining this area.

We walked along the trails and saw all of the nature preserve signage.  We would love to volunteer with this group!

Soon the trail opened up onto the salt flats.  There are markers to keep you going but we just wandered.
The dried salt crunched deliciously underfoot!

We wandered inexorably to the water's edge.  I wonder how long we will continue to feel as if we are a part of that world, after we sell the boat... It's like we're part of a secret club and we're surrendering our membership card!

We stood in the brisk sea breeze looking out, smelling the air, thick with salt.  The stinky smell of rotting seaweed is as comforting and familiar to me as was the scent of my baby's hair so long ago.

We checked our position on our navigation app... because that's what you do when your life has been of the sea for so long.  Then we turned our dusty feet back to the trail that would lead us back to our life on land today.

I followed the strong scent of flowers in the air, to this little culprit!  How can such a small thing emit so much heaven?

We kind of thought we were done, but then the trail led us to this!
Part of the old rail that was used for transporting sugar cane to the mill
The trail led us right up to this enormous building!  WOW!  Again, we could not believe that it was OK for us to just poke around here!

The light breeze was causing the rusting corrugated tin roof pieces to creak and flap eerily.  There seemed to be a consensus that hushed voices should be used here.

This piece was barely hanging on by a thread!
We walked nervously up to the doorway and I looked up to see if there was a clear path that did not lead us directly beneath some precariously attached piece of tin that was poised to impale me!  Was this it?  Was my life all leading up to this moment in which I would be killed by my adventurous spirit?

I have to admit that my inhibitions were firing wildly as I stepped inside this old place.  The sound of the tin seemed to be warning me off, but with one look inside, we had to continue on.

What the HECK???  This is a sugar mill... could that be sugar?

You taste it.  No... I'm not gonna taste it, YOU taste it!  Bruce tasted it.  SALT!
Looks like stalagmites!

I threw it up, you can see it falling from the top of the photo.  Should have tried that one again!
JUST WOW!  I began to feel like my time was limited, so we turned toward the open air and relative safety!
I can't stop looking!

By the time I got out, again looking up to find the safest path with least possibility of impalement... I found Bruce disappearing into the next part of the building.

We walked through a small anteroom that had a wall of broken glass panes that I found strangely beautiful.  The sounds of this old building made me think that she was alive and just stretching her bones in the morning sun.

It was all so amazing. And sad. When you think about the work and money that went into getting all of this built, for it to just fall to ruin seems impossible.  But is has.  We poked around in this huge structure for a while with Bruce taking the lead.  But when he wanted to continue on through to the next section, I convinced him that maybe we had used up our good karma for today and it would be better for us to get back outside!

So we rejoined the main trail and our nature walk continued
More structure along the trail.  Seriously.  Spooky, dark holes in the trail?  
Well there ya go!  The trail lead us around to the other side of the building where Bruce wanted to go anyway!

We watched two nesting birds try to convince this bird of prey to leave the area.  Nesting!

Hey!  Isn't this the building next to the post office where we're parked???

We mounted the steps, thinking of the people who once lived and worked here.
It feels like loss and regret.
These are the wood floors that must be replaced with a type of wood grown only in the Philippines!

My moment of triumph!  Ha!  I'm IN!
OK... but now how do I get OUT!???
Remembering that animal trail... guess we'll give it a try!
Once again, snatched victory from the jaws of death!
Wow!  What an adventure that was!  One of my fears in giving up the cruising life, would be that our adventures would be over.  But I think that Puerto Rico will keep us lit up for a long time to come!  I must admit that there was a little bit of "We shouldn't be doing this" while we walked among the ruins, but that little bit of danger provides the spark that I've grown to crave!  Thankfully, I've got a strong Guardian Angel, but maybe I'll give her a little break!

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