Saturday, January 7, 2017

October 2016: Part IX - Back in Puerto Rico

The next morning we set our clocks and got ready early in the morning so we could get off the boat as soon as possible. I was ready to go before the ship arrived in port and breakfast opened, so I went to the top tier of the boat to take pictures. I didn't expect to be impressed since I had just been to Old San Juan a week earlier, but it was still amazing. There really is nothing comparable to the view you get coming in from a cruise ship. It'd been too dark for me to appreciate it when we first left.

From the ship we walked with our bags to our hotel. We'd done a lot of walking already, and we had plenty of time, so we thought it'd be easy to walk the 2.5 miles there. That was a mistake! I hope it didn't ruin the wheels on my new suitcase. The walk wasn't so bad, but dragging luggage was. We dropped off our suitcases at the hotel then ended up picking Budget Rent A Car around the corner. Had we chosen them in advance and booked a reservation, they would have picked us up for free at the cruise port. We'll remember that for next time!

It was Sunday, so we attended an LDS service on our way to El Yunque National Rainforest. Our first stop there was at a lookout point. There were a lot of clouds, and the vista was so distant that you really need a clear day to fully enjoy it, so we didn't spend as much time here as we'd originally anticipated.
We did do the hike to La Mina falls, which was quite steep. We were definitely sweating, and not just from the humidity. It was neat to hike through a rain forest. It reminded me of hiking in Hawaii.
If I could do it again, I'd tour Puerto Rico before the cruise rather than after and spend more time in Utah with the family after we got back. Once we debarked the ship we just wanted to get home and had much less enthusiasm for sightseeing than we did at the beginning. And after we arrived back in Utah, we really wanted a break before starting our long drive home. Another lesson learned.

We stopped at a lookout tower on our way back down to the entrance and decided to climb it. There were more buildings in sight from this lookout, but otherwise it was pretty similar to the other one - very distant with lots of clouds obscuring the view. We decided it wouldn't be worth hiking up to the higher viewpoints just to see more cloud cover, so instead we started a long drive out to the famous "Cueva Ventana."
On our way down we stopped at La Coca Falls.

When we got on the freeway Oscar noticed a funny sound coming from the car. A piece on the underside was dragging along the road. Oscar pulled over at a Lowes parking lot intending to get duct tape and zip ties and fix it himself, but I said "this is a rental car. Let them take care of it!" We drove it back to the hub and switched it out for another car. Unfortunately this delayed us a bit getting to Cueva Ventana. We barely missed the 4pm tour and had to wait nearly an hour for the next. They did have food, though, so we tried some Puerto Rican meat pies. They were tasty, and kind of reminded us of a tastier version of Hot Pockets. Oscar called them Puerto Pockets!

Before taking us to the "Window Cave," our Guide pointed out some of the local plant life and took us into a big limestone cave with petroglyphs from the native Taino peoples.
He pointed out some small plants that grow inside the cave from the seeds the bats drop when they come back in the cave. They don't grow very tall, though, because of the lack of sunlight. He told us there were hundreds of bats and thousands of cockroaches, so it was a little creepy. We were instructed not to shine our flashlights up on the bats or they would get scared and swarm us all. He did, however, tell us to turn off our lights while he flashed a dimmer, colored light on them so we could see them (pic on the right). It was kind of terrifying.

You can hear the sounds of the critters and the guide's warnings to us as we went down into the main cave we all came to see.

It was absolutely amazing, like something out of a dream! They used to allow you to go down on the path towards the opening (which you see someone doing on their website), but not anymore. Our guide told us about how he himself hammered in a stake in order to build a viewing platform only to have half the floor of the cave fall 700 feet to the ground (fortunately no one was hurt). Geologists came in to study it and said it had about a 50% chance of crumbling if weight was placed on it, so now no is allowed on that path.

I asked about the view of the cave from the valley, but he said it's so distant that it's not really worth going all the way out there for it.

We tried to get a picture of me with the cave, but either you turn on the flash and you can see the person in the picture but not the view or you can see the view with the person in shadow. You can't see both.

Afterwards I wanted to take the a side trip to see Cueva Indio on our way back. That was the wrong choice. It was too dark and there was nowhere to park by the time we got there, so not only were we not able to see it, but we had a long drive back on that annoying coastal road. It wasn't quite as bad as some of the roads in Barbados, but it was dark, so pretty much equally scary.

We were super hungry by then, so we dined at a nice restaurant and ate Almojabanas, Pechuca Espinacha Chori Majado, Empanada de Res Trifongo, and Mofongo. I can't remember what all those were, but everything was delicious!

It was nice to finally check into our hotel that night. We were exhausted! We'd done a last minute deal, so we got a really nice place for the price. 
We enjoyed the amazing view from our room the next morning before our rental car company dropped us off at the airport. We were then in for over two days of travel to get back home.

We first flew from Puerto Rico to New York on Monday, then had a 3.5 hour layover, then boarded the plane, but it didn't move for an hour after the scheduled departure. We finally arrived in Utah at 12:30am Utah time and got back to the house and in bed around 2am (I woke up Tyler for cuddles, which he didn't even remember the next morning). This was super late for us coming from the Caribbean, so we slept in a bit and left Utah much later than we'd prefer. We also picked up some things last minute from a friend of a friend who lived in Layton. We packed up and left with the kids around 11am, drove until 10pm Washington time, stayed the night at Cambria's house, then left at 8am the next morning and got home at 12:15pm on Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. How incredible. Couldn't believe the view from the cave. It was soooooooooooooooooo awesome. Great job sweet daughter