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31 March 2016

A little tour of Puerto Rico

March 18 2016

Marina Puerto del Rey
We moved from Vieques to the giant marina of Puerto del Rey, near Fajardo. 

With 14 docks, over 1000 vessels and a permanent carrousel of golf carts ferrying people and luggage around, it is an impressive sight. 

After squeaking our 13"6' beam into an approximately 15 foot slip, we went to rent a car for a little driving tour of the island.

We first set out to the south, on the back roads through Juncos to Guavate for one of the culinary monuments of the island, Lechon Asado. (roasted suckling pig).

Continuing on the scenic route 184,
Central valley in Yabucoa region
we drove a semi-circle in the mountains and central valleys of the island and were very impressed by the natural beauty of it, and how little tourism there is outside of San Juan. 

We finally arrived in Yabucoa and followed the seaside to Patillas and Guayama, where we eventually found a little hotel on the water.

Near the hotel in Guayama

Time to try another prized local dish, Chillo Frito (fried red snapper) as well as well as the local flan de coco. We are rapidly regaining all the pounds we lost on the boat.
Chillo frito

The next morning, breakfast of champions in the covered market of Guayama with Domplines (fried bread) and excellent Habichuelos Guisados (red beans in sauce) to accompany our coffees. A trend is clearly developing.
We continue to Ponce, where we stopped in 2011 on our original southbound trip, for a lunch at the Casa del Jefe (more local specialties, obviously), and some shopping. 

And then, back to the mountains through
the middle of the island, to Adjuntas, 

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the capital of Puerto Rico coffee production.

We score a few pounds from a small producer who also has a coffee shop in the town square, have one of the strongest expressos of our life, and continue towards the lake region, stopping at the Lago Dos Bocas.

It is already evening when we arrive in Arecibo, and the only recognizable hotel is right on a 6-lane highway. We decide to go for a guesthouse or boutique hotel, but discover that these never have signs, and that a few web entries lead to ruins. As dark settles we find a place that looks good, but the air conditioning of this boutique hotel (2 rooms!) is down. The manager tells us he has another property, and leads us to a place that we had ignored as looking like a crack house. It is just under renovation, but it is clean, the beds are ok and the manager brings us missing supplies. 

The next morning we are off to the famous beaches of Rincon to see the surfers. We first stop at Crash Boat Beach, a very charming family beach. 
Crash Boat Beach
The crowds and the volume of the boom boxes are very impressive, and everyone seems to have a great time.

As for Rincon, the surf is absolutely flat, and there are no surfers. Susan learns the sad difference between a surfer bar and a sailors bar by getting served the weakest piña colada of the island. We will have to retry somewhere else. JP prudently sticks to local beer.

It is time to drive home and rest for our climb the next day of El Yunque, the tallest mountain here. Following the excellent advice of fellow cruisers Karen and Michael of Mischana, met in the marina after a four year hiatus, we start early and arrive as the site is still deserted. 

We have a wonderful walk through this rainforest and get to the top in about two hours, walking most of the way in a mist, with occasional raindrops. 

The top is supposed to be the best view of the many climbs in the Caribbean, but obviously it is rarely to be seen due to the permanent cloud surrounding the summit. With a little thought for the millions of Japanese who have this experience every year at the Jungfraujoch, we start our climb down.

Best view of the Caribbean 

As we climb down, we cross more and more people going up, and when we get to our car, every parking lot is full. We cross another 176 cars and buses on the park road going down. Where did they all go? 

What to do after a few hours of healthy exercise? Go to the Kioscos for more PR fried food, of course! 

The real Piña Colada
The Kioscos are a long row of beach shacks, ranging from very basic food stands to restaurants, in Luquillo, just north of Fajardo. We indulge in an octopus salad and chicken-stuffed fried sweet plantain. Susan can finally enjoy her piña colada, from the selection of the pineapple to the eating of the innards and of course the drinking.

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