Saturday, June 26, 2021

Discovering The South

You can see the sleeping man in our mountains! Photo credit Redescubriendo el Sur

Most people who visit Puerto Rico never leave the San Juan area.  Even those who do very seldom come around to our part of the island.  There is one young Puerto Rican who is trying to change that.  And he is beginning with those of us who already live here!  The best way to appreciate this island, is by adventuring with a guide!  Finally, the stars aligned, and we, along with some of our neighbors, joined our new friend in Redescubriendo el Sur!

We met up with our guide in the morning, and followed him to the start of the trail where we parked our cars, and donned our hiking gear. From there... the exact location gets a little fuzzy!  

The view from our parking spot

The valley in the center was home to Taino people. 

We followed along single file, as the trail became more steep and scrabbly by the minute.  We stopped now and then for a breath, where the view took that breath away!

That's our parking spot, and we hiked somewhere in here!

It wasn't difficult... in the beginning!
Along the way, we got a lesson about the history of the area, including many little secrets of the Taino.  Many artifacts have been found in these mountains.  The Tachuelo was used to create yellow pigment, as well as to treat various health issues. 
The tree is characterized by the thorny knobs ~ tachuelas (tacks)

We climbed ever higher, and the path became more and more difficult to manage.  Not only was it steep, but it was mostly dry dirt that made for a very slippery slope!

100% sure he was a mountain goat in a previous life!

We climbed through areas that had recently been burned, and I asked José how the fires had started.  He thought maybe some were lightning strikes, and others could be from pieces of glass, which combined with the sun, started the fires like using a magnifying glass.  

The view of the neighboring mountains, and all the way down to #thefreakincaribbean was stunning, and during one of our rest stops, we were treated to our daily dose of pareidolia!

Las Caras de Piedra ~ See the faces in the dark rocks on the right?

Our little band of neighbors!

Las Piedras Chiquitas(?) in the background!

Gotta get our guy in there!!

The patterns made by clouds crawling across the hills and valleys were mesmerizing. 

Along the way, one by one, some of us decided to call a stop to the madness.  My foot is still not so trustworthy, so when I saw that the final destination required what looked to be a near vertical climb, I sent Bruce on his way with the most hearty of souls, while I backtracked to hang with the more sensible, if less adventurous crowd!

We enjoyed the cool clouds passing overhead while we waited to see who made it to the top!

There's José!  They made it!

There she is... the winner!

We watched for what seemed like ages, to see who made it to the top.  I didn't see Bruce (thank goodness he came to his senses), but Sue and LJ both made the final cut.  Hooray for them!  While they enjoyed the fruits of their labor up there, I enjoyed the slightly more sedate view from almost up there! 

So many times during our daily lives, we see the fascinating sight of the rain falling in the mountains.  Today, we got to see that rainfall from a different perspective.  The completely calm breeze stirred, and then began to puff as these sheets of rain disturbed the atmosphere.  I worried that we were about to be standing on a mountainside being drenched... but thankfully, nobody got wet, and nobody got blown off the mountain! But everybody got treated to a magnificent display of mother nature's glory.

Passing clouds highlighted the plains and Caribbean Sea far below.

I watched anxiously as our friends crept back down the mountainside, and I admit to a certain rush of relief when I finally saw Bruce emerge from the brushy trail near where we waited. 

Ahh, there he is!

Look closely on the right and you can see LJ and Julia coming down the mountain.

Happy to be reunited!
The WINNERS!!!  Photo credit ~ Jose

I can't get enough of this view!!

On the way back down, once we had passed the treacherous parts, which somehow no longer seemed to be so treacherous, we stopped to take a look at this small plaque, engrave with the name of the mountain. Wow!  Wonder if all of the mountains on this island have name tags!!

The way back to the cars seemed to go by far more quickly than the outbound trek.  Soon we were packing away our hiking sticks and having a trail snack, preparing for the next stop on our tour... a lovely spring fountain hidden in in the forest just off the roadside!  I LOVE that you can find these hidden treasures, and drink from the very life of the island we call home.  Somehow it makes me feel more a part of this marvellous place!

Glad I still had my hiking shoes on!

Refreshed and cooled by the spring water, we loaded up again and were off to visit a place I've had on my Google Map for a while, but have yet to visit.  

How happy I am to have waited to come to Hacienda Los Maldonado with our trusty guide! He took such good care of us and made sure we knew the significance what we were seeing (the owner did a talk, but only in Spanish). 

After the presentation, we were treated to the ~ now-familiar ~ Pitorro!!!  Yes please!! It was very good, a nice combination of fruit and cinnamon!

Our gracious host and guide!
After a couple or three a taste of Pittoro, we went around to each of the exhibits on the grounds.  José explained the significant items to us, and answered our many questions.  There are some more modern pieces mixed in amongst the authentic Taino artifacts found in this area through the years.  The most amazing thing here became evident quickly...  The owner of the property is an unbelievably talented wood carver!  He has so many works of art displayed here... I'm amazed that they are not in a museum somewhere!  

Various artifacts old and older!

One of the authentic Taino atifacts

Beautiful carving from a single piece of wood!

More wood carvings

Again, this from a single piece of wood!

Dimensions of a previous world record holder

This huge Pilón, or Mortar and Pestle, held the world record until 2015!

This piece of art was carved from a single tree ROOT!!

I'm sure we didn't see everything, and we will come back again since it's so close to our house... but we were getting hot, and were about to drop from hunger!  Next stop, NOT for food!!!  Wait, what?  There's more?  Oh yeah, the petroglyphs I've been dying to see for months!  We followed our guide once more to an obscure location, where we got out and met the owner of the property where these Taino petroglyphs have been found.  

He chuckled as we were introduced and he found out that we had all come from so far away, just to gawk at his river rocks!  The trail to this spot was much easier, and cooled by the forest canopy for most of the way.  


Wandering around the riverbed, I found several possible petroglyph bits...

Papaya fields!
Now we're REALLY hungry!  We said our goodbyes, and loaded up to drive to our final destination of the day... Rene's BBQ.  José ordered a huge pile of food for the group, and we fell silent as we ate ravenously...  After spending the day, and the adventure, together, we all felt like good friends!  While we were offered one more stop in Guayama for some history... we declined!  It was 5:00 somewhere here, and we were dirty, sweaty and pleasantly exhausted from a full day of discovery.  The best part of it all, is that there are many more secret spots to discover, and we will go again with our wonderful guide!  Thanks a million for a wonderful day!