Thursday, May 24, 2012

Vieques in a Nutshell


**This post is proudly written by my sister, Liz, who is currently staying with me in Puerto Rico and will be here for two weeks.**



It is with excitement that I accept my position as a guest blogger to narrate my trip with Sue to the island of Vieques. So here is the weekend in a nutshell…but a big nut shell, like the kind coconuts come in.
AND keep in mind that like any good story, all the excitement is at the end, but you need the whole story to get there. Not to brag or anything, but it’s going to be Da Vinci Code good.

By some gift of the travel gods, I woke up well rested and ready for the trip this Saturday. The bright Puerto Rican sunshine certainly didn’t hurt. The morning drive to Fajardo was beautiful, at least by my standards. Perhaps it’s an ordinary transit here, but the brightly painted cities, droopy foliage and coastal roads were a treat for me.

                After a breakfast sandwich and bumpy ferry ride, we arrived at Vieques and the group split. The three of us staying overnight took a complimentary ride to our hostel by one of the owners, Topher. As we drove, he chatted away about the island. We learned that we were the only guests in the hostel and that our host was more than accommodating. We were provided with an explanation of a map, nine publico/taxi drivers to call (and incidentally we had to try every single one that evening), and an open invitation to contact him or Jake for any reason. As he said, “You have friends on the island now.”

Our room at the Hammock House Hostel

                We met back up with the group at Red Beach just in time for rain. We swam regardless and enjoyed the beach. My problem was this: You know Newton’s third law? No?...look it up. It’s good for you to know these things. You should probably read up on the first and second while you’re at it. Anyway, when the raindrops hit the surface of the ocean, another salt water droplet bounces up into any one of a number of unfortunate places (my eyes, mouth, nose, etc). After we left the warm water, the world also became a more chilly and sandy place than necessarily preferred.  While these inconveniences meant an earlier trip back to the main land for the day crowd, it allowed a warm shower and time to change before Danielle, Sue, and I rode to the town of Esperanza for dinner and a bioluminescent bay tour.

Dark and stormy skies at Red Beach, Vieques


                Like so many grand adventures, the biobay tour began with a stranger telling us, “Hi. Okay, just go ahead and get into that blue van.” We did so along with 11 others with varying levels of sobriety. The van wasn’t particularly beautiful on the outside, but it, and the driver, soon proved to have superhuman driving capabilities. The single lane road to the bay was highly eroded and flooded…and sometimes our headlights would simply decide to turn off. Unlike the claustrophobic man in the back and anxious woman watching the road ahead, I loved it.

                We paddled around the bay. Well, technically Danielle and Sue paddled. As the weakest link in the kayak, I was granted the middle position to ponder the stars and play with the water. (For background on the bay see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vieques,_Puerto_Rico#Bioluminescent_Bay). It was an enchantingly dark evening, and with every wiggle of my fingers, my hand glowed neon blue. By plunging my arm in and letting the water run down, sparkles blinked across my skin for several seconds. As we turned the kayaks homeward, the wind picked up, painting beautiful blue streaks and polka dots all across the surface of the bay. Unfortunately no pictures turned out because the darkness of the evening makes it impossible to see anything without a flash, the flash washes out any illumination, and flash photography is discouraged because the light pollution saturates the receptors within the eye, reducing their sensitivity to observe the glow. So, you’ll just have to visit and see it for yourself someday.

...totally photoshopped!!


The following morning, the three of us visited Sun Bay. It was lovely in all the ways a beach should be. The sun, the cool waves, soft sand, and swaying palms met postcard expectations as wild horses fed on the grass behind us. I admire horses, but hereby admit that I have mild horsephobia. In the same way that an adult who has never held a child before shies away from approaching infant, you won’t see me skipping up to greet a horse any time soon. A horse and foal found their way onto the beach and were highly entertaining. After enjoying the little guy’s frolicking however, my heart rate rose as the papa approached us. He came nose to face with Danielle who put our bag of carrots behind her back. After staring her down, he nipped at the camera in her hand, then began rooting around in our beach bag, which incidentally is identical to Danielle’s. He bit at our plastic bag containing cameras, phones, and cash and tried to make away with it and a beach towel, but was scared into changing his mind when Sue gallantly ran around the end of the structure we were standing by (Okay…I had climbed onto it by that time in the hopes of preventing the horse from taking my life along with the valuables).

Sun Bay, Vieques



After the incident, we took a taxi and enjoyed a cold smoothie from a lady near the ferry, then boarded after a short wait.  After sitting down, I reached into our beach bag for the plastic valuables bag to check my phone…no bag. We checked our backpacks…no bag. We rechecked the beach bag…no bag. With 10 minutes left before the ferry departed Vieques, we hustled off to relocate the items. The next 10 minutes ran much like the point when a pair in the Amazing Race realizes they’ve left something behind upon reaching the elimination rug, initiating a frantic backtrack. Check with smoothie lady…no bag. Check with ticket booth guy…no bag! Borrow smoothie lady’s phone to call taxi driver…no bag!! We’d given up on making the ferry and regained our ticket to exchange for a later boat. Sue tried calling her cell when fate smiled on us. One of us had placed the plastic bag into Danielle’s beach bag by mistake…because they’re identical (kudos to those following along at home who solved the mystery at the top of this paragraph). The phone rang within her bag and we internally rejoiced.

So, with no time to spare, we returned the phone to smoothie lady who told us to run to the boat. We had one minute to catch the ferry. So, in true Amazing Race style (plus extra baggage and flip flops and minus a cash prize incentive) we sprinted down the dock and up the ramp just as staff members were detaching it from the ferry. We landed in our bright red seats exhausted, blistered, headached, and burnt, but having fully enjoyed the island. So, yet again, life failed to progress as planned, but worked out swimmingly in the end.

 And now, I return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

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