Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Tour of the Mountains en-route to the Airport: 7/31/11

Sunday, I went with Eddie to pick up my roommate, Jenni, from the airport.  We took off with plenty of time to spare, and Eddie took us the scenic route, through the mountains.  Along the way, he pointed out various sights.  We passed through Guavate, a town known for lechón, which is pork that’s been slow-roasted over a spit.  The town was already beginning to fill with Sunday crowds as we drove through.  He pointed out a picnic and hiking area near Guavate which is a shady spot to pass the day, half an hour from Guayama.  We drove past one of the largest lakes in Puerto Rico, with water the color of caramel from all the rain.  We stopped at the dam at the end of the lake and took a few pictures.  Even when we didn’t stop, the mountains took my breath away.  I really can’t put into words the beauty of the jungle-covered peaks. 

We reached San Juan about 40 minutes before Jenni’s flight arrived, and Eddie decided to take me to Loiza, San Juan’s beach.  We drove out to the point, then pulled off and crossed the roadside barrier on foot to explore.  After a few pictures of the main beach, we climbed the coral-covered rocks at the end of the beach (and Eddie collected 4 small hermit crabs) for a view of the other half of the beach.  Then we headed back to the car, with only a quick stop for helado polar (what they call nieve in Mexico—a cross between sherbet and shaved ice), and were on our way back to the airport. 

We picked up Jenni, then made a beeline back to Guavate. 

On the way, we passed a roadside restaurant, and Eddie suddenly said, “My mom is there!” and he pulled the car over to the left hand side of the road, then proceeded to back up half a block (in reverse, in the left lane, on a winding mountain road…are you picturing this?) to where she was.  It turns out Eddie’s mom and step-dad are in a motorcycle club called Los Bandoleros.  There were perhaps 25 of them on their cycles, and they were winding their way up the mountain.  We met and waved at Eddie’s mom about 3 more times throughout the day, sometimes pulling off to the left again to exchange a few words with her.  It was almost as if we were playing leapfrog with the cycle club.

By the time we reached Guavate, it was 2:30pm, and the town was packed with tourists and locals come to enjoy the Sunday scene, which includes live music and dancing, lechón, and cheap souvenirs for sale.  It took us nearly half an hour to inch our way through the traffic to find a parking spot.  When we did, though, it was worth it.  We ate at a place called El Rancho Original—lechón and arroz con gandules (rice with small peas) and grated fried plantains (which I’m sure have a Puerto Rican name, but I can’t remember it).  Neither Jenni nor I could finish our hefty portions—so we have leftovers for another meal!

We left Guavate right after eating, completing our twisting descent through the mountains.  And since I’d taken my Bonine (my preferred brand of motion-sickness medication) prior to leaving, I enjoyed every minute of it!

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