Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Perfect Last Day in PR (until August…)

I wasn’t expecting much from our Hiking and Caving trip in Utuado, with Batey Zipline Adventures.  Originally, Rachel had wanted to go cave tubing on the Tanama River.  However, due to the difficulty of finding a cost effective, English speaking tour company that offered such tours, we ended up opting to go with Batey, even though they take a small row boat through the tunnel cave instead of inner tubes.  The tour fit into our budget and included 5 caves on a 3-4 hour hike. 

So, no, I wasn’t expecting a lot.  I went on the tour after 3 days spent hiking in El Yunque; I figured the hiking wouldn’t be exciting, and I feared the caves would be small caverns rather than extensive caves. 

It’s more than fair to say my expectations were exceeded.  Our guide was great, the tour was personal (just the 5 of us, the guide, and his cousin), the hiking was fun, the caves were cool, the weather was perfect, and the company was great.

I don’t have many pictures of the day, for two reasons.
1) Caves don’t really photograph well (especially with my un-professional camera); they tend to just look like over-exposed rock.
2) For much of the tour, we were in or very near water, and my camera is not waterproof.  I didn’t want to risk anything. 

So instead of pictures, I’ll just describe (to the best of my ability) my two favorite parts of the tour. 

First, Cueva Hueco.  This was the fourth cave we toured, and was by far my favorite.  The cave is a tunnel through the mountain side.  During the rainy season, it is used as a hurricane shelter.  Before the local farmers built the suspension bridge over the canyon, it was the only (quick) way to get from one side of the mountain to the other.  (Don’t ask me how a tunnel through a hillside and a bridge over a valley get you to the same place…but that’s what our guide told us.)  The cave is not lit, of course, so we turned on our head lamps (supplied by Batey Tours), and entered.  The passage was not tiny—we never had to crawl or turn sideways—but we did have to duck, and at one point our guide told us to hold our backpacks in front of us to ease through more easily.  I felt like I was on a real cave adventure (something I have always wanted to do). 

In the middle of the cave, we stopped, and all of us took a seat on the dry cave floor.  Our guide, Paul, explained something interesting and historical (I can’t remember exactly what at the moment, but it was surely both interesting and historical).  On our way out of the cave, Paul stopped and played the “drums” for us.  The formations hanging on the cave wall are hollow, and each have a different pitch when struck.  It made the coolest sound; I wish I had a video, or even a picture.  (Rachel took a video.  I’ve no idea whether it turned out or not.) 

So that was Cueva Hueco (which translates to “Hollow Cave,” in case you’re wondering.) 

My other favorite moment was simply walking upstream through the Tanama River.  It felt like the set of some beautiful, tropical movie.  The striking limestone walls of the canyon, the brilliant green foliage, the bright blue sky, and the emerald green water of the river combined to form a surreal vision I hope I always remember.

Most of my pictures didn’t do the scene justice, but these two come closest.  

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