Strap in! This is going to be a good one.With my motorcycle working so well and my friend Adam having coinciding days off, we decided to go and explore the rain forest of Puerto Rico! From traveling around Puerto Rico there has always been this massive mountain looming in the distance, whispering adventure. A lot of times, it has been shrouded in clouds, hiding its secrets. Adam and I decided that it had held its secrets long enough and we set off. Looking at a map, we charted a course to drive all the way through from the South to the North of El Yunque. After arriving near the base of the south side, the road up presented us with the most lush scenery and heavenly, winding roads that made motorcycling all the more sweet.
In the distance, we could see the clouds were shielding the top well, and we anticipated riding through some rain. These roads on the south side were empty of other cars, as the foliage crept over into the narrow roadway.
The ground was wet from the occasional quick showers, enhancing the beauty of the switchbacks. The leaves were looking thoroughly satisfied from their drink, and even the road had its own little waterfalls as the excess rainwater gently flowed down. With the Puerto Rican heat and sun, it wasn’t too long before the road had dried out and our clothes were dry.
The houses we passed had many dogs laying out on the street that would wake from the sound of my motorcycle and chase us up the hill for a short distance. I was taking in the vast breathtaking landscapes while keeping an eye on the pot holes.
The turns in the road opened up into excellent places to take a break and really appreciate being alive and having eyes. Adam and I decided to take a break at a charming lunch spot on the side of the mountain and reveled in the view.
We pressed on anxious to get to the summit and it wasn’t long before we came to a blocked off gate! With confused looks on our faces we parked the bike and started to read the sign. It posted how the road that continues all the way through El Yunque is only open for a couple months and is now closed!! : ( We missed it by a couple of months. This did not bode well as we now had to go all the way around and wouldn’t have time in the same day to drive back down, around, and make it to the top. We had to attack it from the North.
We had planned to drive through and stay the night in San Juan. Now we decided to push for San Juan and come back early in the morning to see the north side. As we made our way down the mountain we stopped at a fruit stand inquiring about some lovely looking bananas. Using my spanish, I asked the older gentleman who had the whole stem with bananas splaying out on each side how much they cost. He insisted that they were free. Breaking two off, he handed them to both of us. I tried to offer him some money but he refused. We smiled and deeply thanked him for his generosity. As we turned to leave from his fruit stand and home on the side of the mountain, he gave us two more for the road. I am constantly surprised by how wonderful, kind, compassionate, and amazing people can be.
As we wound our way back down to the south side of El Yunque, we realized why the roads were all ours for the whole day. Almost no one was driving up the south side with it being a dead end, at this time of year.
We made it to San Juan as it started getting dark and settled on a hostel named casa Santurce. Sometimes, the hostel workers with Lazy Jacks have trade programs allowing the workers to travel and stay at the other hostels for free. After a quick call from the manager at Casa Santurce to Lazy Jacks, both Adam and I had a free bed for the night! There was an event going on in the street and we wandered around taking in the sights, smells, and noises of the city; a stark contrast from the birds, frogs, breeze and relative quiet from the rain-forest earlier in the day.
The party on the street was a pre-Christmas party with delicious looking local food. I went to ask the lady serving it what it cost and she said, “gratis por tu, mi amor.” (Free for you my love.) Adam and I both got a heaping plate of the most delicious food.
We ended up not staying out too late in the city with early plans to try and tackle the rain forest again, before having to head back to Vieques with Adams work schedule. 7 o’clock in the morning rolled around and we both rolled out of bed getting dressed quick and hit the road. Today would not be the same as yesterday. We were going to make it to the top today. We had too.
With how early we set out, the roads stayed pretty clear, but the north side was still much busier than our route yesterday. Advertisements were popping up for zip-lines and more places to get food. It wasn’t too many more turns and beautiful views before we hit some waterfalls and stopped to marvel (and consider climbing to the top.)
Time was a factor and we pushed the waterfall climbing to the back of our minds, not wanting to miss out on some other better things just up the road. We drove as far up as we could, passing a tower that was closed until later in the morning. We continued to climb, on the motorcycle, going all the way to another gate. The road to the top was an “administrative road.” Parking the bike, we knew what needed be done. It was time to hike. The top looked like a two hour hike one way according to the posted maps. The air was cooler at the higher elevation and the air was wet with moisture. Taking a deep breath in could almost quench your thirst. The trails, surprisingly, were cement paths.
With our spirits high and jump in our step, Adam and I were soon to the first tower and completely encompassed by the clouds. You could see the wind pushing the clouds over the ridge and we wondered if the very top would be clear.
We trekked on, deciding to walk the administrative road from the first tower (Mt. Britton) to the very top. Time was not our friend today, and we had to keep a close eye on it. Missing the ferry would be really bad for Adam. A few massive radio/communication towers loomed out of the mist making eerie noises as the wind whistled by.
The clouds choose not to disappear. We kept walking uphill until it finally appeared before us; the top most point. We had made it. And what a view it was. Grey everywhere. And we had it all to ourselves. Unfortunately, even after around 15 minutes, we didn’t get a glimpse at almost all of Puerto Rico below us. Buttttt it was still cool. We imagined and appreciated what it was while we were there. : )
We headed back down to look at that last tower and head back for the ferry.
The hike down was pretty quick as we jogged some small sections and got caught in a little bit of rain. We laughed a lot we found that wearing the motorcycle helmet in the rain makes a funny dinking noise when the rain hits it. You get to keep your head dry and have a personal concert of dink, dinkk, DINK, dink, DINKKK, dink.
We came out of the clouds, hoped back on the bike and headed a short ways down the road to see the tower that had been closed earlier.
Until next time : ).
P.S. Here is a cute picture of a puppy that was at the hostel.