Sunday, June 3, 2012

An Escape at Casa Cabuy

I was pumped to stay at the Casa Cabuy Eco Lodge after reading about it in my guide book, but the place surpassed all my expectations.  The building is set right on the hill overlooking a valley of the rainforest.  One entire wall of our room was windows for us to look out on the lush scenery.  A 10 minute hike downhill from the waterfall brought us to an impressive waterfall.  We got there too late on Sunday to do any exploring, but made plans to conquer more trails on Monday.

Monday morning, it rained.  Lots.  No worries, though; we were in the rainforest, after all, and Liz and I just pulled on our ponchos and set off to explore.  We decided to do a long hike in the morning, then go and explore the falls in the afternoon. 

Just up the road from the hotel, 3 trails in the south part of El Yunque have their start.  We decided to take the Sabana Grande trail up to El Toro peak, then come back down.  However, on our hike up the road to get to the trail head (the gates were locked since it was a week day, so we couldn’t drive all the way there), a man walking two massive dogs stopped to tell us two things.  Number one: Please don’t go in the river.  The current is strong after all the rain, and it’s dangerous.  (noted.)  Number two: After you come to the next gate, keep going for just a little bit, then take the little path off to the right.  It will lead you to a small bridge where you’ll get a spectacular view of the waterfall. 

Sounded promising…so before tackling the Sabana trail as planned, we decided to find the off-shoot path he’d described.  We passed the 2nd gate and continued up the road, looking for a trail off the to the right.  After about 15 minutes of walking up the sodden road, the trail seemed to end.  Well…correction.  A path continued after the end of the road, through grass and mud.  Liz took approximately one step before her shoe sank into a puddle ankle deep.  We turned around and headed back for the Sabana Grande trailhead, agreeing to give up on finding the bridge. 

As we came back down the road, I noticed a tiny path off to the side.  That had to be our path.  So we took it, and found ourselves walking along (sometimes on top of) a large water pipe.  Super cool!  We found the little bridge, took our awesome pictures, and then decided to continue along the same path for awhile, since it was enjoyable walking along the pipe next to the river. 

No swimming?  But then...why give us
the handy ladder?

Sadly, after a few more minutes, we came to what certainly appeared to be a dead end.  We turned back. 

Cross the pipe...or turn back.
Walking around in the mud and rain and having trouble finding your correct path sometimes dampens your ambition and your energy level, so at this point, we decided to abandon the idea of hiking the Sabana Grande tour.  (About halfway along it, the trail becomes a “primitive” trail, the sign told us.  Based on our experiences on other “maintained” trails, we weren’t really sure we were ready to tackle “primitive” in the mud.)  So, we headed back to the Eco Lodge.

We spent a few hours reading and relaxing and having lunch.  Then, at about 1:30, we left again, this time to hike to the waterfalls and beyond—the trails maintained by the hotel. 

These trails were quite the adventure, to say the least.  After 10 minutes of switchbacks down the mountain, we came to a river crossing.  A rope was tied across to aid hikers, but there was no way to cross without getting one’s feet wet.  Plus, we couldn’t tell where the path continued on the other side. 

handy dandy rope!

The falls, as seen from the middle of the river.

Yet after a few minutes’ deliberation, Liz and I crossed the falls.  On the other side, we found not so much a maintained path as a game of “follow the yellow flags.”  We hopped over rocks and between trees, looking for the next piece of yellow caution tape tied to a tree to tell us which direction to head.  How FUN!  We came to a second river crossing, and a really big tree, and finally stopped at the end of the trail, at another river.  Despite the day’s rain, the waters were calm there, and the setting was utterly peaceful. 

The path leads between the two big rocks!  Walk on the fallen trees.

The peaceful end point to our hike.

We returned to the hostel around 3:00pm, showered, read for awhile, played cards, and waited for Rachel and her friend Karen to meet us there.  The evening finished with dinner at a local restaurant, a game of Phase 10, and an up close encounter with a coqui frog that made Rachel’s year

coqui in Rachel's lap!

Tuesday morning after breakfast, the four of us (Liz and I, Rachel, and Karen) took the short walk down to the first waterfalls and spent nearly an hour there playing, climbing, and taking pictures.  Because it hadn’t rained the day before, the water was much calmer, making climbing much less terrifying.  We had a blast! 

If I could spend every day in the rainforest, I don’t think I would get tired of it.  

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