Thursday, March 25, 2010

Unforgettable San Juan Puerto Rico

Ship time and local time are two totally different things. The problem is that nobody bothers to tell you which one you are running on when you book your tours. Tara and Jason and I all ended up on deck an hour before everyone else.
We had time to eat breakfast and take pictures of the sun rising over the beautiful city of San Juan. Whether it was 6:30 or 7:30 am is still up for debate, but all I have to say is that the six sleeping beauties got an urgent wake up call and had to scramble off the ship without breakfast that morning in time to catch our tour guides! We had a good laugh about that one!

Raymond and Joshue were our guides and full of interesting information as they drove us up into the rain forest about 40 minutes from our port. Driving in a 12 passenger van at break neck speeds around corners and up into the mountains was quite the adventure. It was fascinating to see how the people live there.

We pulled up into a private road and ended up near a platform with all of our gear ready to distribute on a gorgeous hillside. As I was debating whether or not to bring my good big camera on the adventure which included hiking up a stream and ziplining and rappelling, our guide came and showed me his camera he was taking. It was the same as mine. He was so excited for the opportunity to teach me about taking some great shots as we went along. The photography lesson alone was awesome. He was constantly asking what I settings I was shooting at and giving suggestions.
As we got down to the stream and began our hike we were all totally wowed by our surroundings. It was beautiful. Everything you would expect of a rain forrest, complete with vines fit for Tarzan to swing on.
Both of our guides had graduate degrees and were so full of information about the plants, animals, insects, and history of the area.
From the flying lizards, edible termites and lichen, deathly plants,to the yummy citrus leaves we were in awe with the wonders of this place.
So many times as we were hiking one of us would look at another and say "Seriously, can you believe we are really here doing this? This is amazing!"

We climbed over rocks as we hiked up through the middle of the stream as we were told it would be the least slippery there.

We waded through water that was on occasion waist deep, and were supported at times by various ropes and pulleys.
Talli and I had the only injuries of the day. A fat lip for Talli and a good slice on my leg from a VERY sharp rock.
When we reached the highest point of our ascent the zipline portion of our tour began. It was exhilirating flying through the air in the most incredible setting.
We all tried our hand at acrobatic skills as we sailed across. Tara and I tried a little Cirque du Soliel, Jason's world view, Lynettes flying woman, and Jeff's upside down poses were all hits.
We reppelled down the mountain and starated making our way out of the forrest just as the rain started to dump down on us.

It came down harder and harder as we walked back to our starting point.

Every one of us was soaked all the way through when we were done. For one who loves the rain this was the cherry on top of an incredibly amazing day, and it wasn't even done yet! We were directed up to a pavillion.
We were told we could change into the dry clothes we had been advised to bring in a small out house like structure that featured dirt floors, a pink rug around the flushing toilet and a window open plain as day to the house behind it. To say the setting was interesting, would be an understatement.
Hanging from the ceiling of the pavillion as decorations were random items like a cinderella barbie doll, a hot drink dispenser, a prosthetic leg, a few different kinds of saws, a samauri sword, and with a large picture of Christ as a backdrop. .

As we approched this odd scene we were met by a guy likely in his early 20's with a cigarette barely clinging to the corner of his mouth. Between his legs was a rooster, bound and blind folded. He was cutting off all the the feathers, preparing it for cock fighting.
Phil using the spanish he learned on his mission spoke with the kid and interpreted for everyone. They had hundreds of them in individual cages up a little road we hadn't noticed as we came in. Apparrently it is legal there.

We had a quick snack of fresh pineapple and mangoes, sweeter than any I have ever tasted, and then piled back into the van and headed for the big city.

We were dropped off in the heart of downtown. The city is clean and beautiful. The cozy little streets looked like so many I have seen all over Europe.
Brightly colored buildings, stone and brick cobbled streets, narrowly paved with doors to homes and businesses almost intertwined with no pattern or reason for their placement. It is so inviting and peaceful just wandering aimlessly through these streets, peering into shoe shops, a beautifully appointed apartment, a mechanics garage with yapping dogs, so many different smells and sounds coming from each. Phil and Lynette ate at a resturaunt here and said it was fabulous.

From the peaceful and quiet witnessing of the sunrise that morning, and our mad dash out of the port to meet the guides and their crazy van ride into the mountains, followed by the lush beauty of the forrest, to the bizarre scene at the pavillion and finally to the cozy streets of downtown San Juan, it was hard to imagine that all of these things had happened in one short day and harder still to imagine that they took place in a 40 mile radius of eachother and not on different planets. This was probably my favorite of all the days we spent on our vacation. It was a trip all by itself.

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