Saturday, February 15, 2020

A Typical Saturday

The entrance to the beach from the parking area. 
When we lived on the sailboat, I often marveled at how our days played played out, often being nowhere near the way we planned it...  It seems that living in Puerto Rico it's just the same!  But while the old, control freakish me might have hated that... the new, more ZEN me ~ LoVe's IT!

Looking for a little exercise, and a change of scenery this morning, we decided to revisit the Punta Tuna Reserve.  We met a man on our last visit to this beautiful place, who confirmed that you could walk the whole distance of the palm trail on the beach.  In fact, it was nice to do a loop!  That was our plan for today.

Fallen palms provide a shady rest stop.
We dressed for a swim, just in case, but found the waves to be a little more ferocious than we wanted... but still, the walk was delightfully cool with intermittent palm shade, and a nice, fresh seabreeze.

We took off our hiking boots and enjoyed the sand in our toes!  The waves churn up the sand, causing it to melt beneath our feet, and giving our legs a workout!

The Punta Tuna lighthouse sits atop the point that gives this beach its name. 

The fallen palms allow us an up close view of these baby coconuts!
There's a little bit of black sand mixed with the golden.
Our footsteps are the only ones here today!
Well, except for maybe those of the resident wildlife.  We chased this beautiful bird all the way!
We exited the beach at the far end of the palm trail to do the loop.

Next time we will do the loop backwards. The beach is always nice and cool with the sea breeze and the palm shade.  The palm forest trail can be warm at mid-day with the sun directly overhead.  Plus, we can walk in our hiking boots along the palm trail (although flip flops would do just fine) and then take off our shoes to finish the hike in the sand.  That way we wouldn't have to find a way to wash the sand from our feet in order to put on our socks and shoes.  But today, we were able to make due nicely with some fresh water from the wetlands.

We enjoyed the trek along the trail, littered with little white flowers!
Our progress was much quicker along the palm trail.  This time, I didn't stop to take photos of EVERY flower... only some!

Our attention was more focused on the mirador that overlooks the wetlands, where we would stop to have a picnic lunch.

We climbed to the top and enjoyed the cool breeze and scent of nature as we unpacked our lunch.  Being on a diet, I completed my preparations of a rather nice unexciting salad.  Bruce had a ham and swiss sandwich, of which I had to remind him it was not nice to torture me with glowing descriptions thereof...

The venue was delightful, but my thoughts turned to the delicious Pincho vendors we had passed on our way here.  Screw it!  I'm ditching this stupid salad and we're going for PINCHOS!  I packed my salad up and we left the mirador and made a hasty exit of the palm path.  The entire loop was just under a mile and a half.  Seemed like longer because we dawdled... But it's a nice little walk and it's good to see something different from our own beach all the time.  Poor ME!!!

The beginning and the end!
This is the point at which our planned day diverged!  Our plan was to take a walk and have a picnic, then return home, maybe head out to the Carnival in our town in the late afternoon.  But what actually happened was THIS!

During our search for Pinchos, we took a road less travelled.  We found a delightful little spot called El Puerto Bar.  Driving down the steep road to water level, we found a nice crowd of locals out enjoying the bar and the dock.  Fishing boats (we learned) come here on Saturday mornings with their catch for sale.  The Pelicans must love this place as well, because there were bunches of them floating and diving in the swell just beyond the surf break.

This little place can be seen from nearby Playa Los Bohios, and it has been on our mental back burner to figure out how to get here since we first visited this coast.  Today we checked it off of that list, and added it to our list of favorites!

We parked on the hill and walked over to the water's edge to watch the pelicans for a while.  A quiet group of locals were doing the same. Trying not to look too much like tourists, we ambled casually over to the bar and went inside to the cool and inviting interior.  WE stepped up to the bar, and seeing some very fattening local food favorites but no pinchos, we quickly made the decision to have a drink and continue on our search elsewhere.  We ordered drinks, and turned to find a seat, when a couple greeted us and beckoned us over to talk.

This turned into two drinks and almost two HOURS of friendly conversation!  Puerto Ricans are SO SWEET!  Bernie and Janis were so nice to welcome us, having seen right through our guise, the guessed that this was our first time here.  By the end of our time with them, they assured us that we were indeed, Puerto Ricans ~ and no longer tourists! We exchanged numbers and made plans to meet up again!

By this time I was starving, and while the plates of food we saw served to other patrons looked marvelous, I wasn't looking for a full meal.  Just simple Pinchos!  We said our goodbyes and walked past some horses (only in Puerto Rico) to get back to our car so that we could continue on in our quest for Pinchos!

One more glance at the kids jumping off of the dock as the sun began her descent.
The rider is enjoying a drink inside!
There are PLENTY of places to get food along this road, but most have more fried foods and not so much Pinchos.  For these, we must visit a roadside vendor.  We have passed by this place many times without stopping. Today, the spirit moved us to try it out.

We meant to pick up and take our pinchos to go, but Luis, the owner was so welcoming, we just couldn't disappoint him.  We sat at the table and enjoyed the shade and another long conversation!  Add this place to our favorites as well... and next time, we'll try the Pinchos de Tiburon!  SHARK!  Luis swears that people come from all over the island to eat them.  OK!  WE're convinced!  Next time...
Meager accommodations, but it somehow just works.

With tummies full and the day coming to a close... we said our goodbyes to yet another new friend, and headed for home.  Fully five hours later than we had intended, we had no regrets.  In fact, we couldn't have planned for a better day.  We feel more connected to our island home than ever before.  This is what a typical Saturday SHOULD look like.  So many people wander from one of the little restaurant/bars (called Chinchorros) on the weekends, and maybe we'll just add this to our regular activities.  Only next time, maybe we'll dress up a little more, instead of being sweaty from a hike!  We LOVE PR!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lago Patillas From The Kayak

We woke up this morning and stretched our groggy limbs... "What should we do today?" I asked Bruce.  "Hmm, I could work on changing the bicycle tire and go for a ride."


Rejecting that idea immediately, I suggested a far more fun thing to do... Let's go see if we can find a way to get our kayak onto Lago Patillas!  No argument from Bruce!  

We bought this little kayak and I thought it would be flimsy because it was really inexpensive. But it's really very well made and we're super excited to get it out and see where it can take us!  

This lake is just 20 minutes up highway 181 into the mountains.  

We've passed it many times, and knew that there were a few spots where we've seen cars pulled over beside the lake. We've seen fishermen out there, and kayakers as well... But there is limited access from the road to the water's edge.  One spot looked like it might be better than the others, but the dirt path disappeared down the embankment so we weren't sure we would be to get down there with the car.  

No way to find out besides just taking the plunge!  Happily, it ended with the discovery of a very handy way to get our kayak to the lake~  

Bruce laying out the kayak so that it can be inflated.
The shores of the lake are littered with these little clam shells
Almost ready!  You can see the parking area and the slope down to the water's edge.
Ready for launch!
This is the second time we've used the kayak, and today we've added our new fanny pack PFDs. Now we're ready to explore!
Hopefully we will return here eventually...

Being unsure about the mountain wind currents, we set off with the wind in our faces.  Long years on the water have taught us to read the water's surface to see where the wind gusts are, and which direction they're blowing.  As expected, the winds are very quirky and unpredictable as they come down off of the higher mountains through the passes.  Once I even saw a puff on the water's surface that came directly down and fanned out in all directions!  No way to work with that!

But as unpredictable as the winds were, they were not strong, and caused us very little difficulty as we paddled along the shoreline.

Small streams and rivers empty into this lake.  We found the mouths of several, but none flowing today.
This river comes down from the mountain and runs right past our favorite Ceiba Atabey!
While we are hoping to get some exercise, we aren't crazy about it... And quality of experience is more important to us today.

We alternated between paddling along, and coasting so that we could sneak quietly up on the wildlife living along the banks of the lake.

Birds, iguana, multitudes of turtles, and even a couple of cows were our entertainment today.

Soaring trees and rocky embankments towered over our heads.
I love rocks!

There's a dam on the other side of the lake.
Turtles on the rocks, turtles on the logs, and turtles in the water.  Turtles everywhere!

This area still bears proof of the passing of hurricane Maria.
Couple of cute little fishing shacks on the opposite shore.
This bank seems to be the downwind spot where all the logs have collected.
We paddled along, sometimes against the wind, but mostly not.  It was quiet and peaceful, the sound of many birds in the trees providing us with nature's music.  The water was cool, but not cold, and the passing clouds kept us from being too warm.  Conditions were pretty much as perfect as one could ask for.

Our car is directly across the lake from here.
After about two hours exploring from the eastern shore north, and all along that shore to the western bank, we decided we should head for the car.  That meant paddling right across the middle of the lake, where the winds were bound to get us.  But, the alternative, backtracking or continuing on along the shore, would take quite a bit longer.  So off we went, paddling hard when the gusts hit us.

It's easy to see the rain coming as it drops a veil across the mountains.  We knew we were going to get it... question is, how much wind will there be? We paddled like mad as the first raindrops began to pelt our heads!  Thankfully, there wasn't any wind in this little squall, and it actually added an extra layer of fun to our adventure.  We were dressed for wetness... so who cares where the water comes from???

The rain came, and the rain went, and we were still paddling hard to get back to our car.  Our little kayak does a wonderful job of gliding across the water, but we had those gusty winds to contend with... and yet ANOTHER squall fast approaching.  If we paddle like the devil is chasing us, maybe we can make it to shore before this one hits!

Nope.  We can not.  ALMOST!  But it was such fun, rain or no rain.  We reached the eastern bank just as the rain stopped.  In the steamy sun, we removed our gear from the kayak, flipped it over to remove the fin, then drained the remaining water out.  It's very lightweight and we carried it up onto the grass.

Like no rain ever happened!
Expensive clothes drying rack!
We never want to put it away wet, so I towel dried it and we deflated and rolled it up, then I changed clothes and laid my wet stuff on top of the car to dry while Bruce finished packing.  Before we were ready to go, one more passing shower threatened to undo all the drying my clothes had achieved...

Then one more squall...
From doorstep to doorstep, we had spent five hours in all.  Nice way to spend a day!  We drove our tired bodies back home for a brief rest before we joined our friends on the dock of the bay for sundowners.  All in all, not a bad life!  Goodnight sun, thanks for a great day!