Puerto Rico Day Four: An Unplanned Hike Into The Guanica Dry Forest

After returning from my visit to Gilligan’s Island, I was soon driving on the narrow and winding route 333 toward the town of Guanica. I was headed to the unique dry forest that is located in this area. clouds over farm Guanica

I made my way to route 334 and followed as it  meandered upwards through a small village. houses in village outside Guanica

I was headed to the ranger and visitor center in the Guanica dry forest. However,  I soon came to a gate across the road.  I  spoke to some young folks  who were also disappointed to see the gate blocking their entrance into the reserve. . They told me they believed the reserve was closed because of damage from the hurricane. gate at entrance to Guanica dry forest

I turned around and decided  to look for a gas station while I was near the town of Guanica.  This was not as easy as I thought. There are not many gas stations in Guanica. I finally located one and found it was full service.  I haven’t been to one of them in years. I filled my tank and returned to the resort. gas pump in Guanica

I wasn’t going to watch television in my room on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. I drove to a trail I had seen earlier in the day on my morning walk. trail to dry forest

It entered the dry forest and I thought it would be a good place to explore the area and try to see some wildlife. trail to dry forest

The trail was a steady uphill climb.  There were many cacti at the beginning of the trail,trees along trail dry forest

and some more agave plants, many in bloom, with there tall flower stalks towering over the trail. agave plant in bloom

It was now mid-afternoon and it was hot. Temperatures were in the mid to upper 80’s and the mountains blocked the breeze that was present near the ocean which was now far below me. 

As I struggled uphill in the hot afternoon sun I came to this sign along the trail.  I wasn’t sure what it said but I knew something about a century or 100 something and a Guayacán. I had no idea what it meant. .sign on trail dry forest

I descended a steep and rocky trail, the longest 200 meters I ever walked. The trail led me to the shade of the mountainside where I found this large tree.I later  learned it was El Guayacán Centenario a 700 year old Guayacan tree.700 year old tree

I sat on it’s large roots and under the shade of it ancient branches and thought of all of the history it had seen. A member of the  Taino native American tribe could have sat here long before any Europeans set foot in the New World. Or a member of Christopher Columbus’s crew could have seen it on his second voyage, He landed near this area. Or so many other folks over the years. After some reflection I walked the steep 200 meters back to the trail. 

I continued upward and was soon in the shade of the mountain side where I found taller and greener trees. The shade provided much needed relief from the sun. The temperature must have dropped 10 degrees. tree lined trail dry forest

It was a different world. The air had a different, more earthy smell to it. And, as I walked further into the forest,  I encountered swarms of these striped butterflies hoovering in the air. It was almost magical and like something from the movie Avatar.striped butterfly on leaf

I also saw a few dragonflies. I knew there had to be some water source in the shade of the mountains. dragonfly on twig

And I saw theses holes in the ground which I knew had to be made by some sort of critter, I am guessing maybe a land crab.holes in ground on trail

I was surprised and delighted to have walked into this new environment, so different from the harsh dry conditions from the start of my hike. I decided to turn on my cellular service on my phone and check Google Earth maps to see where I was. I was surprised to find I was nearing the Guanica Dry Forest Reserve main park ranger and information area! This is were I tried to get by car earlier in the afternoon!  I had walked my way into the dry forest! 

I still had about a quarter of a mile climb to reach  the parking area.  I was  tired and thirsty from my hike in the heat, but there was no stopping me now. I continued my upward walk up and again saw sunlight as I neared the top of the mountain.

There were now electrical lines up here and, unfortunately, they are not a good thing for the many turkey vultures  in the area. This poor fellow looks like he found that out the hard way. dead turkey vulture

I was surprised to not see many birds on my hike. I did hear a few in the trees and shrubs and did capture a photograph of this one, a scaly naped pigeon. . 

I now made it to the parking lot, ranger station and visitor center. It was late afternoon so I began my hike back down the mountain. information center in dry forest

It was  a refreshing walk while in the shade of the mountain but once I left that shade, I found that, even though it was now late in the afternoon, the sun was still intense and the temperatures still in the mid 80’s. sun drenched trail in dry forest

I was glad to reach my car and return to my air conditioned room. After drinking a few bottles of water and a long cold shower it was now almost time for dinner. I walked out to watch another beautiful sunset.sunset over bridge and ocean

And sat down for another great meal of ceviche and mofongo on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. After dinner I spent some time sitting near a fire on the beach looking forward to another day exploring the dry forest. Here is another link to some photographs from my afternoon hike. Puerto Rico Day Four: Afternoon hike February 11 2018. ceviche and monfongo and a glass of wine

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.” –Robert Louis Stevensonbrown pelican in flight

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Puerto Rico Day Four: A Short Stay On Gilligan’s Island.

I returned to my hotel after my morning walk and enjoyed a nice late breakfast.  After eating I was soon on my next adventure. A boat ride to Gilligan’s Island. Yes, Gilligan’s Island. 

Pier at Copamarina resort

The small island is about a mile from the resort. It was named after the famous 1960’s television show. As soon as I read about it I knew I had to visit. 

The next boat left the pier at my resort   at 1:30 p.m.  It returned every half hour until 4:30 p.m. As I boarded the captain asked when I would return and I said on the last trip. He asked why I was going and I told him to explore and take photographs. He suggested I take the next trip back since there was not a lot to see. 

Well we took the short ride to the island, watching the resort and mountains recede as we neared the island. 

The small island was surrounded by a number of small boats and one  rather large police boat.

I walked onto the dock and found these birds standing in line to greet me.  I think they are sandwich terns. terns in a row on pier

Once on shore I  found it packed with local residents enjoying the few small beaches and shallow waters that surround the island. They were swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing or picnicking  on the tiny sub-tropical  island. 

The island was beautiful but there really wasn’t much to do. It was covered in mangrove forests and it would be a perfect place to swim and snorkel. I did see some beautiful fish in the shallow waters.mangrove trees along beach

And there were many of these shorebirds on the islandsandpipers on a log .

They are some type of sandpiper but I can’t make a positive identification. Any help with a more accurate identification would be appreciated. sandpiper in flight

However I had my camera and couldn’t go swimming and  the large crowds of people did not make fort he ideal conditions to relax and reflect. The captain was right, I waited for the next boat back. While I waited I did get to watch and photograph the many terns  flying near the shore, looking for a fish or some food from the picnickers.tern in flight

On my way back to the resort the captain told me he heard  there were many birds near the ranger station in the Dry Forest Reserve, about 8 miles from the resort. terns in flight

After a brief boat  tour of the area, I returned to the resort, saw this iguana near my room, and was soon off to the Guanica dry forest ranger station. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to Gilligan’s Island. Puerto Rico Day Four Gilligan’s Island February 11 2018. iguana

“It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!” — Calvin from Calvin and Hobbestern in flight

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Puerto Rico Day Four: A Morning Walk Along My Own Private Ocean And Beach

I awoke early my first full day at the Copamarina resort. Located on the southwestern side of the island, the resort and the surrounding Guanica Dry Forest Reserve was spared the brunt of hurricane Maria. The area is noted for it’s rare dry forest and I was ready to explore. After finding some coffee, I was off looking for the ocean and a  sunrise. trees at Copamarina resort

I drove  about a half mile to the tiny village of Punta Jacinto, located on a peninsula where I thought I could watch the sunrise. It was nice driving through the quaint village. There was a bed and breakfast with a private beach and residences ranging from modest smaller homes to large luxurious mansions overlooking the ocean. The sounds of roosters crowing was everywhere.  However, I was disappointed to find there was no place to watch the sun rise. large home in Punta Jacinto

I once again drove the two miles on narrow route 333 to the beaches I visited  the day before. There was no traffic  on the road at this early hour. I parked at the end of the road and was soon walking one of the many beautiful and pristine beaches in the area. I missed the sunrise but still enjoyed the beautiful solitude of my own private beach. clouds and beach at ocean

I followed the same trail I had walked the previous night. I learned later it was the Meseta Costal  trail. I was surprised  not to find much  bird activity. I chose this area because of it’s  unique dry forest and the many species of birds that inhabit the forest. I did see a few of these common ground doves along the shore. I was disappointed to not find more shore birds on the unspoiled beaches. ground dove

I walked east on the trail that hugged the shore line. It provided many spectacular views of the pristine beaches and rocky coast of southern Puerto Rico. rocky shore along ocean

I was again intrigued by the many different species of plants and trees growing in these rare dry sub-tropical conditions. dry forest vegetation

I wish I had the time to identify them all. Maybe someday, but for now I took plenty of photographs. green plant with berries

I particularly liked seeing all of the cacti.cactus in bloom

They took many shapes and sizes.cactus in bloom

There were also many agave or century plants towering over the trail. agave or century plant in bloom

The trail was narrow and covered with hard, sharp coral like rocks which made walking somewhat difficult. But the scenery was sure worth the effort. rocks on trail

The trail meandered along the shore sometimes leaving the ocean and at other times  approaching spectacular cliffs. In one of these areas I found a limestone cave which I explored. Here is a video from a limestone cave I uploaded to my YouTube account. 

As the sun climbed higher in the sky it got hot. I was surprised to hear quite a few birds along my hike. Most were further in the thick forest of shrubs, trees and plants but a few landed on the trees, I believe this is a gray king bird,  king bird perched on tree branch

or on a cactus near the trail. 

The king birds became more numerous as the forest become less dense as I continued my hike. 

I walked out about two miles when the heat, and  my hunger, influenced me to return to my car. I continued to enjoy the beautiful views of the shoreline, 

and of the many variety of trees, plants, shrubs and even some flowers,

and some more birds including some more American oystercatchers  scavenging the beach for an early meal. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike.  Puerto Rico Day Four: Morning hike birds

I returned to the beaches near my car and now found a few local residents enjoying what had been, for the past few hours, my own private beach and ocean.  Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning hike. Puerto Rico Day Four Morning walk. 

“It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.” 
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Silmarillion

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Puerto Rico Day Three: Copamarina Resort And The Guanica World Biosphere Reserve.

I continued my drive on Route 333 beyond the small town of  Guanica in southwestern Puerto Rico.  The road was  winding and narrow. Soon,  beautiful, but distracting,  views of the ocean could be seen far below the road.  There was barely enough room for two cars on the narrow road. There was  no place to pull off and take in the spectacular views. After a few miles there was a pull off and I stopped and walked to the pristine  sandy beaches between rocky cliffs. .Tree on isolated beach

I had the beach all to myself and enjoyed listening to the crashing of the waves on the shore. trees along beach

I didn’t stay long  at this beach.   I wanted to get to my hotel and begin to explore this rare region of our planet. The Guanica World Biosphere Reserve  protects the dry forests found here. This is one of the few areas remaining on our planet  were these tropical desert like conditions exist.

I drove a few more miles to the Copamariana Resort where I would be staying the next three nights. The beautiful resort is secluded in this remote  location.  I thought it would be a perfect place to explore this unique natural area. It was around 1 p.m.when I arrived.  I  was glad to find my room was available.Entrance to Copamarina Resort

After settling in my room I had  a quick lunch and  was  ready to explore the area . I was told by the clerk at the desk that there was a beach about two miles down the road past the hotel.  I decided to walk the narrow road and find the beach. tree lined narrow road

Well this  wasn’t a very good idea. It was sunny and hot with  temperatures in the high 80’s. I immediately noticed the dry vegetation to be much  like that you would find in the deserts of the southwestern United States and not on a sub-tropical island. dry forest vegetation Guancia dry forest

Much of plants were unfamiliar to me but I did notice plenty of cacti growing along the road. And that was the problem. There was little room for a car to pass on the narrow roads. And when they did pass they  came way to close for comfort. I was unable to get off the road in some areas because of the prickly cactus and other desert plants.

I still tried to continue my walk observing the strange vegetation and also seeing quite a few turkey vultures flying overhead. I was hoping they weren’t looking at me as possible road kill.  turkey vulture in flight

I also saw a few brown pelicans stray from the nearby ocean,brown pelican in flight

and a few of these magnificent frigate birdsfrigate bird in flight

After walking  about a mile, and a few close encounters with a speeding automobiles,  I decided to turn back to the hotel. Here is a link to some more photographs from my afternoon walk. Puerto Rico Day Three Copamarina afternoon hike.

It was now late in the afternoon and I decided to drive the narrow  road to the beach and watch the sunset. After a two mile drive, I came upon some beautiful beaches crowded with local residents enjoying a Saturday afternoon.  I drove to the end of the road, parked my jeep, and walked a trail to some more secluded beaches. 

I soon found that I had the rugged shore line all to myself. 

Well I shared it with a few brown pelicans that flew overhead. brown pelican in flight

I again  noticed many strange plants, including this cotton like plant,

these large milkweed like plants, milkweed like plant Guanica dry forest

and many cacti. Of course there  were  many more strange and  unique plants,  too many to photograph all of them.cactus in Guanica dry forest

I walked out about a mile and found myself alone on a beautiful, rugged and isolated shore. I listened to the crashing of the waves and enjoyed the always present trade winds for awhile . shore at Guanica dry forest

I wasn’t sure I could see the sunset out here so I decided to head back to my hotel. I ran into a pair of American oystercatcher birds on the way.American oystercatcher along shore

I drove back to the hotel and watched the sunset from the private beach of the hotel. palm trees at sunset

 I had a nice dinner at the resort’s restaurant. Afterward I spent some time on the beach enjoying the stars and warm ocean breeze. It was a great way to end an exciting and fulfilling day exploring the beauty island of Puerto Rico. And I was looking forward to some more exploration early in the morning. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening hike. Puerto Rico Day Three Copamarina evening hike. sunset  Copamarina resort

In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth – Rachel Carson, Our Ever-Changing ShoreAmerican oystercatcher closeup

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Puerto Rico Day Three: A Rainy Drive Through The Mountains To The Sunshine In The South

I awoke a little earlier my final day in San Juan, Puerto Rico . I always try and watch the sunrise and sunset on my travels.  I  knew I would have to walk to the other side of the massive walls of Castillo San Cristobal to see it.  I was soon walking along the old city wall with it’s spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean. palm trees and clouds along Atlantic Ocean shore

I was surprised with the many joggers I encountered. I have walked at dawn in many cities around the world but I would have to say I have not seen so many folks running in the streets so early in the morning as I did in San Juan. Puerto Rico Capitol at dawn

I walked around the walls of Castillo San Cristobal and found  the sun was still too far to the south to see it rise. And there were a lot of clouds obscuring the southeastern horizon. Capitol of Puerto Rico

It was still a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Capitol of Puerto Rico in the early morning light.Capitol of Puerto Rico at sunrise

I returned to my hotel via the cobblestone streets of old San Juan one last time. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Morning walk. February 10 2018.

I wanted to explore more of the Gallery Inn before I left.  However  I had to get to the airport to pick up my rental car at 8:30 a.m. Entrance to Gallery Inn old San Juan

I wasn’t able to see all of the many rooms, filled with paintings, sculptures and other works of art, during my short stay. .  There are also five  famous Steinway pianos in this  charming hotel. Nor did I even get to see the famous view of San Juan and the Atlantic Ocean from the rooftop lounge.sculptures in room in Gallery Inn

I did get to meet the gracious and talented owner, Jan. She is also a famous sculptor and artists. She is an ardent supporter of the arts and a strong advocate for protecting the natural resources of our planet.Painting and sculptures in Gallery Inn

This place was so much more than a place to sleep. Unfortunately, because of the beauty of old San Juan, and the hours I spent exploring it,  that is just about all I was able to do . I am hoping to visit again someday. Here is a link to some more photographs of the Gallery Inn. Puerto Rico Day Three Gallery Inn February 10 2018room in Gallery Inn

I took a 15 minute taxi ride to get my car at the airport. I wanted a jeep but was told when I reserved my car they only  had  a Toyota Rav  available.  I was pleasantly surprised when a Jeep Patriot awaited me. I have owned a Jeep Cherokee for 20 years and love it driving it. I was happy.  Jeep Patriot rental car at airport

I left the airport and began my drive on the roads of Puerto Rico. I had read many warnings in the travel guides about driving in Puerto Rico. They said some drivers could be aggressive.  I found the highways pretty much the  same as in the States. Well maybe the fact that there  really are no  rules about passing another car. And the side roads, now  that was a different story. trees and clouds on Highway 52 Puerto Rico

I drove Highway 52, the equivalent of one of our interstate highways, on my way to Guanica Dry Forest on the southwest coast of the Island. It was congested at first but traffic became lighter as I approached the mountains.

Unlike in  old San Juan, there were many sign of the damage from Maria along the way. Many traffic signs and trees were still lying on the roadside.road sign destroyed in hurricane

Unfortunately, it began to rain, which prevented me from enjoying the mountain scenery. I was able to still see the many fallen trees from the hurricane but it was not safe to pull along the roadside in the rainy conditions. I was able to stop a few times to observe the hurricane damage. 

I had planned to stop in  a few small towns in the mountains and walk around to see the extent of the damage. The rain changed theses plans. I still left the highway of at one exits but could not really explore  the town because of the pouring rain. I did notice many electrical repairs along the way and saw many downed electrical lines.

I also saw many roadside food stands, most of them closed but I am not sure whether that was because of the rain or damage from the hurricane.

I returned to the highway and soon was through the mountains. As I descended to the southern side of the island the rain stopped and the thick forests became more sparse, and soon non-existent,  I was now in a much drier climate, resembling southern California. 

I drove through the city of Ponce where I left highway 52 and followed Route 2 for about 20 miles through some very picturesque towns and villages. 

I next followed Route 116 through the outskirts of the small town Guanica. 

This area  is were Columbus landed on his second voyage to the New World.  A town was established here in 1508 and it was the Capitol of Puerto Rico for a number of years. It was here that the first United States troops landed in the Spanish-American War. Lot of history here. 

But it  is also near the famous and rare  Guanica Dry Forest Reserve, one of the last remaining in the world, and the reason for my visit. 

I was now near the eastern part of the preserve and my hotel the Copamarina.  I drove the narrow road and after a few sharp turns came upon beautiful views of the ocean. 

 More about this unique and beautiful area  in my next blog post. Here is a link to some more photographs of my drive to Guanica. Puerto Rico Day Three Drive to Guanica February 10 2018. 

 

‘You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.’ – J.R.R. Tolkien

 

 

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Cedar Waxwings And A Sign Of Spring At The PPl Wetlands

It was nice to return to Northeastern Pennsylvania after my visit to Puerto Rico. I have always said you don’t have to travel far to find the beauty of nature. I did see many wonderful things in Puerto Rico. There was beautiful scenery and I saw many exotic birds  on my trip.   But there is also so much beauty here too, even in Winter.  And I went looking for, and found some, of this beauty at the PP Wetlands yesterday. Trees and mountains along Susquehanna River

It was a mostly sunny and seasonably cold morning. The temperatures were in the low 20’s.  We had some warm weather while I was gone and there was no snow on the ground.  I immediately noticed how swollen the Susquehanna River had become. trees along river

The heavy rains and melting snow had it reaching the tops of it’s banks. As I walked in the wetlands and found most of the canals and ponds were still frozen.  Even though they were now lifeless, they still had a unique beauty to them. ice covered pond in wetlands

I heard a few birds in the distance, woodpeckers, crows and black-capped chickadees, However I did not see a single bird or other critter until almost a mile into my walk. I saw  these two red squirrels scurrying through the underbrush. pair of red squirrels

I continued my walk to the river lands section of the preserve and frozen Lake Took-A-While.frozen lake Took-A-While

I still wasn’t seeing any  wildlife. I knew the water birds would be gone because  the lake was frozen.I was surprised  there were none  of the  usual winter birds commonly seen here. bridge and lake under cloudy sky

This changed when I walked to the river trail. I first noticed a few woodpeckers in the trees. woodpecker on tree branch

I soon walked into a flock of one of my favorite birds, the cedar waxwing. cedar waxwings in tree

These birds are very social and can be found in large flocks, especially in winter.cedar waxwing in tree

They feed mainly on fruits and can be seen fluttering among the tree tops in small flocks in the summer. This flock was larger than the ones I have seen in the summer. There were about thirty birds in it and they were searching for the few remaining berries on the trees. cedar waxwings in branches

And as I have often  observed before there were now other birds in the same area. I noticed  that different species of birds tend to  travel together, probably for safety, in the cold of Winter. I saw a few tufted tit mice, 

and nuthatches in the same vicinity as the cedar waxwings. I watched the birds for a while enjoying the fluttering of the cedar waxwings in the trees over my head. nuthatch in tree

After observing this group of birds I only saw a cardinal and a few sparrows on my return walk. It was still a pleasure seeing the waxwings. On my return walk I  looked for, and found this, a first sign of Spring. A skunk cabbage sprouting up in wetlands! skunk cabbage sprouting cedar waxwing on branch

It is now mid February, and we may still get some frigid weather and snow here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but the sun is higher in the sky, and the worst of Winter is over. Spring will arrive soon and Nature will put on it’s greatest show of the year. And I will be sure to be outdoors and watch it arrive. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike including some more of the beautiful cedar waxwings. PPL Wetlands hike February 17 2018. 

tree lined frozen pond

If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.     Vincent Van Gogh

 

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: So Much To See In Enchanting Old San Juan

After my tour of the historic Castillo San Cristobal,  I  again wandered off to explore the streets of old San Juan. I first made my way through  the now familiar Plaza Colon and it’s towering statue of Christopher Columbus. trees and Christopher statue Plaza Colon

I decided to walk up one of the most famous streets in  old town San Juan, El Fortaleza.Colorful cobble stoned street

Like all the streets in old town it was paved with blue cobblestones. These pretty stones were brought from Spain and used as ballast on the ships. Once in San Juan they were removed from the ship and were replaced  with gold for the journey back to Spain. The residents used the discarded  cobblestones to pave the streets. 

shops on cobblestone street

The  street is now lined with many small shops and upscale stores, selling all kinds of souvenirs, clothing, electronics,  luxury goods and any other thing that can be sold  to tourists from the cruise ships,gist shop old San Juan

and restaurants and outdoor cafes of all types  ranging from  five star gourmet  to local eateries. outdoor cafe old San Juan

I followed the busy narrow street and found myself once again at the Governor’s mansion near the old front  gate to the city. There is no motor vehicle traffic allowed on the street near the mansion.  cobblestone street leading to Governor's mansion

Next to the mansion I saw what I thought was  a church. I love to visit churches, temples and mosques on my travels and tried to enter. The door was locked.Hospital and shrine House of Health operated by Servants of Mary nuns

A friendly caretaker approached,  told me the chapel was closed, but  he would see if the nuns would allow me to visit. Shortly a young nun appeared and waved me inside.photograph of Blessed Mary in hospital

I remember very little Spanish from my high school days.  The  nun spoke no English.  She was  kind and friendly and we communicated through gestures. She lead me to a beautiful  chapel and she left me alone to  take photographs. shrine and chapel House of Health Servants of Mary

As I was leaving I encountered the young nun who was now accompanied by a middle age nun. I tried to explain to them that I was taught by Bernadine Sisters as a child. My attempt was not successful.  Statue in House of health

A third older nun now appeared.  I again  tried to explain to them my schooling by Bernadine nuns. Finally the young nun got the caretaker, who spoke English and we had a wonderful conversation with the help of our translator. We laughed about the nuns who thought me  and how they  hit us with a ruler when we were bad. One nun laughed and pointed to the oldest one. She shook her head, no, not her. We all laughed.  We also talked about the the 1960’s  television show, the Flying Nun. They, of course, all heard about it. Three Servants Of Mary sisters

Now I was their friend and the oldest gave me a tour of the facility which was a convent and hospital for the old and poor. She took me to a balcony with spectacular views of San Juan bay, and the Governor’s Mansion. It was truly a blessed experience which I will always cherish.  I learned the building was built in 1524. The nuns cared for the sick here for over 125 years. Here is a link to some more photographs of my wonderful encounter with the sisters and their mission. . Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan Convent February 9 2018.

I next  walked to  the Puerta de San Juan or the main  gate   and up atop the old city wall. The views were again spectacular. view of San Juan bay from city wall

I saw  more sculptures, old houses and some beautiful flowering gardens. sculpture old San Juan

I made my was back to the park in front of  “El Morro” when I decided to begin my return journey. park and view of "el Morro"

I meandered through the pretty streets,calamari and rice revisiting many of sites I saw the day before. I wish I had time to visit the many museums in the city. I did stop for a nice, and reasonably priced snack, calamari and rice, with all the lemonade you could drink a restaurant located in one of the museums. 

I returned to my hotel mid  afternoon and spent some time editing photographs and exploring the many art filled rooms at the Inn. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike through old San Juan. Puerto Rico  Day Two: San Juan afternoon hike.

I wanted to see the  sunset and decided the best place would be  the high ground of “El Morro”  It was a beautiful evening in Puerto Rico. Huge billowing cumulus clouds floated on the ever present trade winds. 

I walked along the old city wall and came to a beautiful cemetery situated above the Atlantic Ocean. 

I spent a few minutes taking in the serene scene.  And I was delighted to watch a rainbow appear over the ocean. Here is a link to a video I uploaded to YouTube. Cemetery video.

I walked up to an old battery wall near the fortress and joined a group of local residents and tourists also waiting for the sunset. Unfortunately clouds moved and we only caught a brief glimpse just before it set. It was still a  great place to be. 

I  walked back along Fortaleza Street  enjoying the sounds of tourists and residents at the many cafes, bars and restaurants.  I ate dinner at a quaint  French restaurant, Trois Cent Onze,  recommended by a friend. The food was excellent. I finished my meal and returned to the streets which, despite a passing showers were still alive with the sounds of folks enjoying the warm tropical evening. 

It was an uphill walk to my hotel but I soon heard the crashing of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the rocky shore. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk. Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan evening walk. February 8 2018.

I also listened to the music rising up from San Sebastian street from a balcony in my room.  I was tired  and soon  fell asleep listening to the sounds of music and partying that lasted until sunrise. Here is a link to a video of the sounds of San Sebastian Street from my room.

“Fall in love
with the energy
of the mornings

trace your fingers 
along the lull
of the afternoons

take the spirit 
of the evenings
in your arms
kiss it deeply 

and then
make love
to the tranquility
of the nights.” 
― Sanober Khan

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Puerto Rico Day Two: San Juan: Castillo San Cristobal

After a light breakfast at my hotel, I began my second day in San  Juan by heading to the massive fort that prevented me from observing the sunrise earlier in the  morning.view of ocean and Castillo San Cristabol

Construction of Castillo San Cristobal was started by the Spanish in 1634 and took over 150 years to complete. It was the largest fortification in the New World. 

I was able to enter the castle with my admission receipt from my visit to “El Morro” the day before. entrance to Castillo San Cristobal

Once inside I again learned so much history about the fortress and San Juan  from the many exhibits throughout  the castle. They ranged from the defenses of the fort to how the soldiers were housed and fed. soldiers sleeping quarters

The fortification was built because of land assaults on San Juan by the Dutch and British in the 17th century. This newer  fortress protected the city for the next 300 years 

I roamed the many passages and tunnels throughout the fortress.tunnels in castle

Along the way I visited the dungeon which had these drawings on it’s walls. They were probably made by some poor soul awaiting a long prison sentence or execution. You probably didn’t wind up in the dungeon for petty crimes. drawings of ships on dungeon walls.

There were spectacular views from atop the walls of the fortress, including this view of the Capitol of Puerto Rico. View of capitol of Puerto Rico from castle walls

While enjoying a view of the ocean from one of the casements I saw a rainbow form over the water. The weather is usually sunny here this time of year but there were a lot of showers during my visit.rainbow over ocean

The exhibits told the history of how the lives of the  soldiers who defended the fort changed over the years, ending with the American troops who were stationed here in World War II. flags waving in wind

Once again time prevented me from seeing all there was to offer in this spectacular and historic fort.clouds and city view from fort

Hopefully I will get the chance to return to San Juan and visit it again. But there are so many countries to explore and I am running out of time. So I am glad I can share this visit with my blog readers. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to the castle. Puerto Rico Day Two Castillo San Cristobal. February 9 2018. clouds over castle

 

On 
My 
Travels 
i have been 
A guest in 
Many castles 
Yet the 
Monument 
Which i 
Find 
Divine 
Is the oasis 
Where the heart 
And the silence 
Intertwine.”

~silent lotus” 
― silent lotus

 

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Puerto Rico Day Two: Up Early In San Juan But No Sunrise For Me.

Despite the night long celebrations on San Sabastian Street I slept well my first night in San Juan. I was up before my alarm went off,  hoping to see a sunrise. I thought I could see it near Castillo San Cristobol, the large fort to the east of my hotel. clouds over ocean near walls of fort

Sunrise was around 7 a.m. and I hurried along the wall overlooking the ocean to be on time. Well, as I approached the fort I realized it was obscuring my view to the east and I would never get around it to see the sunrise. narrow San Juan street

Instead I walked back down toward the cruise ship pier again on the narrow cobblestone streets. Christopher Columbus statue old San Juan

I came upon the Plaza Colon where a towering statue of Christopher Columbus overlooks the plaza. The plaza was surrounded by restaurants and gifts shops but there was no activity at this early hour. colorful buildings old San Juan

I made it to the pier where I found a contrast of the old and the new, a  sail ship and a gigantic cruise ship. sail ship and cruise ship in morning sunlight

This is were you can also find more contrast between the old town and the new growth from tourism. There was a Walgreen store next to a Sheraton Hotel,hotels and stores in old San Juan

and there even was a Ralph Lauren store. Philadelphia doesn’t even have one of these anymore. Lot of tourists dollars flow around here. ralph lauren store old San Juan

I meandered through the streets of San Juan observing the colorful buildings and many shops and outdoor cafes and restaurants, of course, closed at this early hour.outdoor cafes in old San Juan

I next  walked back up the steep streets to Norzagaray street were the entrance to my hotel is located. It is the last street along the massive wall that was built to protect the city. graffiti old San Juan

I noticed the many building located below the wall, next to the ocean and remember reading about this residential community, La Perla.La Perla sign along Atlantic Ocean

The guide books I read said to stay clear of this poorer neighborhood, so, of course, I had to visit. I walked through the narrow old gate into the village and found a few folks who were pleasant and friendly.old gate in wall La Perla

The buildings were run down and appeared damaged by the hurricane. Unfortunately it appears many of the residents could not afford to make  repairs.colorful house on street in La Perla

I walked to the ocean and enjoyed watching and listening to the waves crash along the rocky shore.

I also watched a large cruise ship enter San Juan Bay, giving an illusion it would crash into  “El Morro” .cruise ship near "El Morro"

I made my way  up the steep road to Norzgaray Street and back to my hotel. I spent some time exploring it’s many room. All adorned with the art work and sculptures created  by  the owner, Jan. I had  a small breakfast and was soon off for more explorations of the wonderful city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning walk.  Puerto Rico Day Two San Juan morning walk. 

room in Gallery Inn

“Life is an experiment in which you may fail or succeed. Explore more, expect least.” 
― Santosh Kalwar

 

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Puerto Rico Day One: Getting To Know Old San Juan

After  my arrival in Puerto Rico  at the Luis Munoz Marin  airport I took a taxi to  old town San Juan .  As soon as  walked up to my hotel, the Gallery Inn, and entered  the gates I fell in love with the place. It was like walking into an art gallery. I was greeted by a pleasant young lady at the desk  and this noisy but lovable parrot. More about this wonderful place later.  campeche the white parrot at the Gallery Inn

I quickly settled into my  cozy room, unpacked,  and  was off to explore old   San Juan. My hotel is situated on the northern end of the city overlooking the old city wall and Atlantic Ocean. I walked south into the old town on the  blue cobblestones of narrow  San Justo Street. San Justo Street old San Juan

I soon discovered  all of the streets in old San Juan are narrow and made of this unique blue cobblestone. blue cobblestone street

Like my first visit to any city,  I was, at first, disorientated. I forgot my map at the room.  I  knew enough  from my research for the trip to somewhat find my way around. ( As I write this post I know the old town  like the back of my hand). I made my way down the narrow street to the newer areas of the town near the cruise ship docks.street vendor and cruise ship in background

The tourists from these ships provide much revenue to the city. I believe it is  why the water and electric infrastructure in old San Juan was almost completely restored after the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall. Old San Juan was  again catering to it’s many tourists. colorful building old San Juan

I continued my walk westward on the Paseo de la Princesa. This street lies outside the massive walls that protected the city.old city wall San Juan

I welcomed the  many trees that lined this street. The sun was intense, and, even with the ever present trade winds, it was still hot. Temperatures were in the mid 80’s. tree lined street old San Juan

I also found many interesting statutes  and sculptures along the way. sculpture of family

I walked  to the Fuente Raices, a monument depicting  the different races of people  that contributed to,  now make up Puerto Rico. monument old San Juan

I next followed the street as it continued outside the city wall providing spectacular views of San Juan Bay. San Juan bay from outside old city wall

I entered the old city through the Puerta de San Juan, the main gate to the city. It is through this gate sailors, soldiers and dignitaries would first enter the New World after a long voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You could almost feel the history and ghosts  of the many people who walked through here over  the past 500 year. old city gate San Juan

I entered the old city and it’s beauty and enchantment were everywhere. Old trees, brightly painted buildings, and cobblestone streets made you feel you walked back in time. trees and old buildings

There was so much to do and I had so little time to do it. I have always been fascinated by Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth. I had to visit his final resting place in the impressive Catedral de San Juan. Ponce de Leon tomb

I explored the beauty of this church for awhile and, like always, wish I had more time. Here is a link to some more photographs of this beautiful and historic church. San Juan Cathedral February 8 2018.altar Cathedral of San Juan

I roamed the many narrow streets just talking in the many sights of tourist and residents enjoying this delightful city. people feeding pigeons

I took  in so many sights it would take hours to describe them in this short blog post, but there were so many restaurants, shops, tourists sites and museums one could spend weeks exploring them all. outdoor restaurant old San Juan

And I only had two days. So I  made my way to Castillo San Felipe del Morro or “el Morro”,  the large fort that was built almost 500 years ago. This is  one sight   you cannot miss. El Morro fort San Juan

The large fort was built by Spain to protect the harbor used to replenish ships making the long voyage from Europe across the Atlantic. view of Atlantic ocean rocky shore

There are many exhibits in the fort explaining the strategic significance of the island of Puerto Rico. It was the first land encountered as ships crossed the Atlantic that had fresh water and was vital to controlling access to the “New World” .Spanish canon

I roamed the fort for over an hour and learned so much history while enjoying spectacular views of the ocean and city. Here is a link to some more photographs from my visit to “El Morro” El Morro February 8 2018.walls of Spanish fort El Morro San Juan

Once gain time was not my friend. It was getting late and I was getting hungry and tired. So reluctantly, I had to walk back to my hotel. I still was able to enjoy  many more  sights of old San Juan along the way . Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. San Juan Day One afternoon hike. old cemetery on shore

I got back, showered, and realized it was near sunset which around 6:30 pm. I was saddened to learn the only place to watch it would be from “El Morro” and I had no  time to get there.  I was starved so I walked to dinner at a restaurant famous for it’s local food, El Jabirito.  narrow blue cobblestone street

It was a family style restaurant with much chatter and laughter coming from the many local residents dining their. local restaurant

I had the fried red snapper and mofongo de yucca (mashed cassaba)  a local specialty. red snapper fish and mofongo

After my delicious meal I made my way through the noisy and bustling streets of old San Juan. They were filled with music and laughter and would be, I learned, throughout the night. It is like New Orleans, the city never sleeps. Here is a link to some more photographs from my evening walk and meal. San Juan evening walk February 8 2017. narrow street at night San Juan

I was soon in my room, and despite the music and noise rising from San Sebastian,  I quickly fell  fast asleep, looking forward to another day of exploring  San Juan. San Sabastian street old San Juan

What I can tell you is that for Puerto Rico being such a small island, it has culturally impacted the entire world. Fat Joetotem monument

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