Saba The Impossible

Anegada Passage

Early in the morning we set sail from Virgin Gorda’s east anchorage at Saba Rock to St Maarten, an 85 nautical miles passage against Trade Winds and Atlantic swells. Most cruisers motor or motor-sail heading east across the Anegada passage to get it over with as soon as possible. Not us, we are purists, strictly sailing, no engines for us.

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We head northeast. Then tack southeast. Our progress is so slow. In the afternoon we can still see the round belly of Virgin Gorda (The Fat Virgin) floating on the horizon behind us. We estimate it will take us about two days and nights of tacking, about 48 hours. 80 NM from point A to point B can become 160 NM, even more, when zigzagging. With about 20 kt winds and 4 to 6 foot waves stopping us, Fata barely goes with 4 knots. And there are some weird currents, as if always against us.

In the evening small storm cells start floating our direction, a string of dark clouds that come with sudden puffs and rain we’d rather avoid. We watch them closely on the radar and tack north to run away from one tacking back southeast when the danger has passed. We manage to cross the string of squalls without hitting any.

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The sunset is spectacular that day. The sky and sea look smeared with blood, Viktor says ominously. And then the night, thick disorienting blackness, takes over. Since that storm in the Yucatán Channel, we dread the night. We take turns on the helm, short naps in the cockpit. The wind is steady from east, but the currents are messing with us. We get pushed south and by midnight another island looks closer to us on the charts. We change course for Saba, 25 NM south of St Marten.

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We have gained enough height the previous day tacking north, so now sailing southeast on a starboard tack takes us quickly to Saba, an island we know nothing about. On the charts it looks round with no bays and no anchorages on the east and south lee sides. We read what the cruising guide has to say about approaching the island, anchoring, and any other information that will prepare us for what to expect. But there is nothing that can prepare you for Saba. Saba you have to see and experience.

The morning reveals the lonely shadow of a small mountain sticking out of the sea, like an epiphany.

Saba, The Impossible

You must imagine a sleeping volcano, about 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) in territory, rising vertically from the sea, reaching 3,000 feet (1,000 meters), its inaccessible perilous cliffs like the dark back of a sea monster, its green peak where mountain goats roam, always wearing a fashionable white cloud.

Saba
Saba

It’s impossible for ships to access the island. Where would the ships drop anchor if there isn’t a single bay, a single anchorage, a single beach?(Even Columbus who sighted the island in 1493 didn’t attempt to stop.)

It’s impossible for people to live here. Only ships bring people and supplies.

It’s impossible to build towns. The terrain is too steep.

It’s impossible to build a road connecting the towns. The terrain is really too steep.

Most of all, it’s impossible to build an airport. A plane cannot land on a mountain.

There are so many things deemed ‘impossible’ which actually happened on Saba.

Once uninhabited, the island became a territory of The Netherlands in 1816. People and goods arrived on the island via the leeward west shore which, even though there is no harbor, offered some shelter from ocean swells, but boats could only land in calm seas. There the Sabans cut steep steps in the rock to be able to climb on land, a stone ladder so vertical it looks surreal when seen from the sea. All cargo, including a piano once, and a bishop, was unloaded by men standing in the water waist deep and then hauled up the ladder. During invasions it was easy to protect the island with piles of boulder let loose when the attackers were climbing the hills.  

The Ladder

The Ladder

Little by little Dutch, Scottish, and English settlers along with Africans brought as slaves built two villages. One on the bottom of the south side, called “The Bottom” and another on the windward east side called “Windwardside” with houses perched on the edge of cliffs and atop hills up and down the slopes of the island. Even though evidently they did not have much imagination for naming places, the settlers became farmers and fishermen, cobblers and boat builders, creating a unique strong-willed community based on hard work and mutual help. But they had no road linking the two villages.

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In the 1940s Dutch engineers arrived on Saba to look into ‘the road problem’. They came, measured and calculated, and then they declared “It’s impossible to build a road here, the terrain is too steep.” And they left. But one Saban didn’t believe them. Joseph Lambert Hassel, Lambee, born in 1906 took a correspondence course in road building from the International School of Correspondence in the U.S. and with no formal training he designed and supervised the impossible building of the impossible 9-mile long road which they named “The Road”.

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It took a crew of local farmers and fishermen 20 years, using no machinery, only wheelbarrows to finish The Road. For the support walls they used volcanic stones and for the road itself they used cement imported from Puerto Rico. And, as government funding was refused, a local merchant eager to see the road finished paid for the cement. No one could guarantee that the building of the road would be successful, yet the first car arrived on the island in 1947, ten years before the completion of the project. The Road, Lambee’s road, inconceivably steep at places and with drastic 8-curves, was finished in 1958.

The Road

The Road

The Road

The Road

 

The Road

The Road

 

Now, how about an airport, the Sabans asked.

The Dutch engineers returned on Saba once again. And once again the experts declared “It’s impossible to build an airport runway, there is no space.” And they left!

You might have guessed (and as I’m writing this I have tears in my eyes), but the Sabans, once again, didn’t believe them and proved them wrong. They found the flattest spot on the island, called “Flat Point” and cleared it by hand. In 1959 French pilot Remi de Haenen from St. Barth’s became the first man to land an aircraft on the dirt strip at Flat Point proving it’s possible. In 1963 the airport was a fact with a 400-meter (1,300 ft) landing strip, the shortest commercial runway in the world, where only specially trained pilots flying small aircrafts may land.

It must be quite an experience arriving on Saba by plane. We watched one landing, and it was incredible. The plane started slowing down long before approaching the airstrip and miraculously stopped almost immediately after hitting the ground. If the pilot cannot stop because the speed is too fast, they touch down and then lift off on the other side to try a second time.

Our Saba

We approach Saba at noon on the second day of our passage, sooner than we expected, but then, we expected to get to St Marten, not Saba. On the west lee side, which in east Trade winds should be the most weather-protected side, an anchorage is indicated on the charts called Wells Bay, even though it isn’t exactly a bay.

Fata Morgana moored at Wells Bay

Fata Morgana moored at Wells Bay

There isn’t an anchorage, there isn’t a beach. All we see is rocks, rugged black magma towers, sharp and broken, and the red vertical cliffs of the island. There is a row of 9 mooring balls all vacant and not at all close to the island. We grab one. The depth is 60 feet, the water is dark blue. It feels as if you are stopped out in the open sea, holding on to a small mooring ball. Accelerated puffs turn around the island all the time and the boat violently pulls on its mooring ball. Really hard to sleep peacefully here at night. Saba’s shores and waters are so harsh and unforgiving that not many boaters venture this way. Saba is also off-limits for most charter boats; they are not allowed here.

Rocks in Wells Bay, and stone beach, Saba

Rocks in Wells Bay, and stone beach, Saba

From where we are we see only one house up on the green hill and the beginning of a road at the foot of the island. We also see The Ladder which no one uses anymore. There isn’t a marina, not even a dinghy dock, and the shore is rocky. The only way to access the forbidden land from this side is by kayak, a dinghy won’t do.

We kayak to shore and begin climbing the steepest cement road in the world surrounded by thick tropical vegetation, huge elephant ears and ferns, fragrant flowers and tamarind trees. There are no cars, no people, only shy mountain goats grazing on the steep hillsides. The place looks deserted. It takes us an hour to reach the top of the hill, all sweaty, legs hurting, hearts exploding. We have climbed up to The Bottom.

 

View of The Bottom from The Road

View of The Bottom from The Road

The Bottom, even though on top of a hill, is still in the foot of the volcano, Mount Scenery, about 3,000 feet tall. It is a fairy tale village, hard to believe real people live here and not elves. All houses etched against the dark mountain are painted white with green rims around the windows and doors, and red roofs, white picket fences, tropical flower, and mango trees. Each house has its own rainwater collection system, some almost two hundred years old made of stone, as there is no freshwater on the island.

House and rainwater rock cistern on the slope of the hill.

House and rainwater rock cistern on the slope of the hill.

We decide to go to the other village, Windwordside. Every car passing us on the road stops and people offer us a ride, and we have to explain that, in order to see and experience the place, we rather walk the 9-mile road, The Road.

House in Windwardside, Saba

House in Windwardside, Saba

We pass by the Saba University School of Medicine, established by American expatriates, whose international students make up a fifth of the entire population on the island, which is about 2,000 residents (and probably about 2,000 wild goats roaming freely in the forests, villages, crossing the roads, and eating the mangoes that fall from the trees every now and then). Thanks to the university, there is an excellent hospital in Saba providing residents with medical care. Most Sabans are in fact born on the island and some have never ever left it.

Saba University School of Medicine

Saba University School of Medicine

Half the Sabans are white, the other half are black, and when I asked if there is any racism, they told me: “We have lived together for many generations in this tightly-knitted community, isolated from the rest of the world, helping each other. So, no, there isn’t a trace of racism in Saba; in fact we have many mixed-race families.”

Church and graveyard, Saba

Church and graveyard, Saba

The Windwardside, much like The Bottom, is another fairytale place with white red-roofed houses perched on the slopes of hills overlooking the sea. Santa Claus summer retreat. There is an art gallery displaying local artists’ paintings and crafts, a few restaurants and shops. From here begins the long steep but pleasant trail to the top of Mount Scenery, a 90-minute hike up among pristine tropical rainforest, referred to as “The Elfin Forest”. And it is not the only trail, there are many around the island, all maintained by the park service.

View from the trail

View from the trail

We spend 5 unforgettable days in Saba, snorkeling near the volcanic shores, hiking up Mount Scenery, the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and The Ladder, walking the steep road to The Bottom every morning, trying tropical fruits we never seen before thanks to Paul, the owner of The Bean Coffee Shop in The Bottom, hitchhiking between the two villages, drinking beer in Scout’s Place bar with the most stunning view.

Scout's Place Restaurant

Scout’s Place Restaurant

View form the restaurant

View form the restaurant

 

And if I tell you it’s impossible to meet other Bulgarians in such a remote Caribbean island, almost inaccessible, with barely 800 households, you must know by now, it isn’t true. Everything is possible in Saba! We meet Ilian and his girlfriend Bisi the day after we arrive, and we learned that one of the professors in the Medical University as well as one of the international students there are from Bulgaria too.

Ilian and Evo (we met again in St Maarten)

Ilian and Evo (we met again in St Maarten)

Ilian is a professional diver born and raised in the same Bulgarian city Evo and me were born and raised, Varna. He has come to work as diving instructor at the dive shop, Saba Deep, for a short period of time, as Saba is one of the world’s best diving sites with underwater magma towers, coral fields, and over 150 thousand species of fish. And although we didn’t have much time to spend together, our bond based on common interests and worldviews became as strong as the one linking good old friends. We hope our paths will cross again.

Views of Saba

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The Ladder

The Ladder

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Steps up the Ladder

Steps and path up the Ladder

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Paul at The Bean Coffee Shop, best on the island.

Paul at The Bean Coffee Shop, best on the island.

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time

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Trail to Mount Scenery

Trail to Mount Scenery

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Mira on top of Mount Scenary

Mira on top of Mount Scenery

Maya and Mira, eating crackers on Mount Scenery, Saba

Maya and Mira, eating crackers on Mount Scenery, Saba

 

Evo getting 3 ripe papayas. There are many fruit trees in the wild on Saba and usually animals eat the fruit.

Evo getting 3 ripe papayas. There are many fruit trees in the wild on Saba and usually animals eat the fruit. We also got some bananas and lemons.

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British Virgin Islands. Empire of The Cats

 

British Virgin Islands

The BVI, a British Overseas Territory east of Puerto Rico, consists of over 50 volcanic islands and cays, some big and some small, of which 15 are inhabited. The inhabitants, full British and European Union citizens, are descendants of African slaves brought to work on the sugarcane plantations in the 18th century. Today, the main economy in the BVI is tourism accounting for about half of the national income. The other half is generated by offshore banking.

Sunset Cats in the BVI

Sunset Cats in the BVI

One of the world’s greatest sailing destinations, the anchorages around the islands are crowded with sailboats even off-season, mostly chartered catamarans. We have never seen so many cats in one place. It’s truly phenomenal. Our boat, Fata Morgana, a 38 foot Leopard, was once chartered in these waters too. But now newer and bigger cats rented for a few days’ vacation zoom motoring back and forth between the islands, rarely sailing at all. People chartering boats in the BVI don’t always know how to sail, navigate or even be civilized. (They think a boat is like a car and love to go ‘full-power’.)One boat hit us in one of the anchorages but didn’t cause any damage, and another, ironically named Serenity, with 6 or 7 older folks aboard, drunk and ignorant, kept us and the rest of the anchored boats awake all night with their loud stupid conversations and music.

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We clear in in Jost Van Dike anchoring for a couple of days in the bay near the beach. There are many mooring balls $30 per night, but we have the option to anchor for free instead, and that is what we do. Apart from the $37 entry fee and $2 for 2 slush drinks we don’t spend a dollar more during our two-week stay in the BVI, eating and drinking from our provisions, hiking and hitchhiking to places on land, and sneaking in national parks afterhours.

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In the next days we island-hop to Tortola, Lee Bay in Great Camano, Virgin Gorda and we finally stage our next big passage to St Martin at Saba Rock.

Even though too crowded for our taste, we loved all the places we visited in the BVI, each one for a different reason, but if we have to recommend one it will be The Baths on Virgin Gorda, of course.

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And I have to mention Lee Bay again, a small secluded unpopular bay on the west side of Great Camano island with incredible snorkeling which a young cruising couple we met first in the Dominican Republic and again near Tortola, Stephen and Natasha Smith (skydiving instructors and gravity coaches) told us about. Thank you guys! We loved Lee Bay and we loved meeting you again in the BVI. And (if you are reading this) thank you for the chicken and beef broth-base and seasoning! Hope our paths will cross again someday!

Lee Bay

Lee Bay

Jost Van Dike

The smallest of the four main islands of the BVI, 8 square kilometers or 3 square miles, Jost Van Dike offers a deep protected harbor for boaters on the south side, Great Harbour, with customs and immigration on shore, a nice little beach and various beach bars and restaurants; and a challenging steep hike to its highest point, Majohnny Hill at 321 meters.

View of the anchorage from Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

View of the anchorage from Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

Mira and Maya on Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

Mira and Maya on Majohnny Hill, Jost Van Dike

 

Beach and anchorage, Jost Van Dike

Beach and anchorage, Jost Van Dike

Beach Bar, Jost Van Dike

Beach Bar, Jost Van Dike

 

Beach restaurant and grill, Jost Van Dike

Beach restaurant and grill, Jost Van Dike

Tortola

The largest and most populated of the BVI, Tortola is a volcanic mountainous island with an area of 55 square kilometers or 21 square miles. We anchor on the north side where the best beaches are and spend a day hiking up and down a winding mountain road all the way from Cane Garden Bay to Smuggler’s Cove, the beach where The Old Man and the Sea with Anthony Queen was filmed. On the way we also visit an old rum brewery still working, and the North Shore Shell Museum in Carrot Bay. We hitchhike on the way back.

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Evo and Maya watching the anchorage from the top of the hill.

Evo and Maya watching the anchorage from the top of the hill.

 

The old rum brewery

The old rum brewery

Smugglers Cove

Smugglers Cove

 

Beach at Smugglers Cove, Tortola

Beach at Smugglers Cove, Tortola

The North Shore Shell Museum

The shell museum is a funky old house full of local shells and wisdoms both carefully collected and preserved by the artist for over 25 years. A magical labyrinth, very much like the soul of a black Caribbean  man. Among the thousands, maybe millions of seashells stuck on the floor, hanging from the ceiling, there are signs painted on wood, for sale, quotes given to the artist by friends and family. A heartbreaking collection of authentic local voices. “I ask my friends what do you remember your father or mother said, and they tell me. I just write it down on the board.”

North Shore Shell Museum, Tortola

North Shore Shell Museum, Tortola

A MAN IS LIKE A BIRD. LOOK INSIDE

 

MR JOE WIFE TELL HIM. YOU IS A SICK MAN.BUT O BOY. WHEN JOE SEE A YOUNG GIRL. HE JUMP FOR JOY

 

MR DICK SAID. JUST FOR PEACE SAKE. SOMETIME YOU WALK OUT THE HOUSE LEAVE WIFE AND ALL. O GOD HELP ME

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TWO LADY LIVE IN ONE HOUSE. JANE GO TO CHURCH ON SATURDAY. MARY GO TO CHURCH ON SUNDAY. AND FIGHTING OVER A MAN

 

TELL ALL THE BOYS AND GIRLS COME

 

THE OLD MAN SAY. I AM SO DOWN. HE SAY O GOD HELP THE FALLING BROTHER. HELP COME HIS WAY. MARTER SAY PUT SOME IN MY CUP

The Artist

The Artist

OLD LADY TELL HER SON. DAN WHEN YOU DO GOOD GOD BLESS YOU

 

THE LITTLE BOY SAY. SEA WATER LOOK GOOD BUT I CANT SWIM

 

THE OLD MAN TELL HIS WIFE. I HAD TWO FOOT.SHIT WILL FLY ALL DAY LONG

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COME HOME MARY. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW SWEET LIFE IS ON TILL YOU WALK IN MY HAND. I LOOK UP. I LOOK DOWN

 

SOME MEN SAY LOVE IS LIKE A TREE

 

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN IN HIS HAND. HE JUMP WITH JOY. TO SEE HOW MUCH HE HAVE IN HIS HAND. BUT O GOD HE NEVER SHARE. I HAVE SO MUCH BUT MY SOUL IS LOST

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COMING SOON. CAPTAIN COOK. SEAFOOD MARKET

 

THE OLD MAN. WITH THE BUTTY FULL LADY. BUT HE CANOT SLEEP WITH HIS TWO EYES CLOSED. HELL

 

MISS JANE TELL HER HUSBAND. I GOT A ROOM IN HEAVEN FOR YOU. BUT YOU GOT TO PAY ME FIRST NO WAYET ME ON THE OTHER SIDE. WHEN HE COME-A-MAN

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MARRY SAY. JANE YOU IN THE SAME BOAT TOO. HELP ME

 

COLUMBUS LIE. HE TRY TO FOOL THE PEOPLE. THAT HE DID NOT SEE ANYONE. BUT HE HAD TO RUN LIKE HELL

 

HARRY GO TO THE TOP FLOOR. AND GET A DRINK

 

JOHN TELL HIS WIFE JANE LIFE IS SO HARD SHE TELL HIM GET UP YOUR OLD ASS AND LOOK WORK

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Lee Bay, Great Camano

Hidden between rocky shores is a small bay not everyone knows about. There are no mooring balls here and anchoring is tricky as the bay is deep and rocky getting shallow and sandy only too close to the beach. And not many venture this way. It is fun watching the charter boats arriving and trying to anchor unsuccessfully again and again sometimes for hours. But the best part of the bay are its volcanic rock formations covered with corals below water which are like a fish nursery with dense schools of tiny fishes swimming around. We spend two days here snorkeling for hours and kayaking along the rocks and many grottos.  

Rock in Lee Bay

Rock in Lee Bay

Grotto near Lee Bay

Grotto near Lee Bay

 

Snorkeling inside a fish cloud

Snorkeling inside a fish cloud

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

Viktor hovering above baby fishes

 

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The Baths, Virgin Gorda

On the west tip of Virgin Gorda there is a spectacular geological wonder. Huge granite boulders of beautiful shapes and impressive proportions once imbedded in volcanic lava stand near the shore and in the water forming grottos and saltwater ponds. It is a different world above and below water, a world of coral cities and fish citizens, of ancient labyrinths and giants. We have been cruising since almost one year now visiting many places, spending months in Florida, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, but we have never seen anything like The Baths: the best snorkeling site hands down.

Maya, Viktor, Evo and Mira. The Nomadik Family

Maya, Viktor, Evo and Mira. The Nomadik Family

The Baths is a park with mooring balls getting filled with boats, 40 to 50, by noon each day, and no overnight mooring permitted. But just a short distance to the east, there is a small bay, Spring Bay where we drop anchor in front of a fabulous beach and spend 3 days kayaking and snorkeling to The Baths every afternoon, when the many boats and tourists have already left.

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 Spring Bay Beach

Spring Bay Beach

 

Fata Morgana anchored in Spring Bay

Fata Morgana anchored in Spring Bay

A short hike in the park, The Baths

A short hike in the park, The Baths

 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Mira, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya and Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

Viktor, Evo and Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Viktor, Evo and Maya, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

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Mira, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Mira, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Evo, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Evo, The Baths, Virgin Gorda

 

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Maya

Maya

 

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Evo

Evo

 

Mira

Mira

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Viktor

Viktor

 

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Mira

Mira

 

Maya

Maya

Saba Rock

On the east side of Virgin Gorda there is a vast bay among mangroves near Saba Rock where most cruisers heading across the Anegada Passage to St Martin stage their departure. On the east shore there is a marina, luxurious resorts and restaurants, and a few small sand beaches. The village is on the other side. We wait here one day before we start the 90 mile passage to St Martin taking advantage of the incredibly strong Wi-Fi coming from the bar on Saba Rock which everyone in the bay can catch from the boat, to check the weather and update the blog.

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Tom’s Island

Sometimes our boat brings us to a place we never heard of before and know nothing about. We then “discover” the place on our own and our perception of it forms entirely based on our experiences there. Whom we meet or what happens, even the weather, determine our relationship with the place.

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Druif Bay, St Thomas

After a few hours of sailing east from Puerto Rico to the US Virgin Islands and an epic battle with a reef shark who got caught on our line, we arrive in a small harbor near a tiny island south of St Thomas. We drop anchor.

reef shark

reef shark

Aboard our kayak Agent Orange we make our way between many cruising boats in the anchorage and we land on the most beautiful beach. Fine sand, crystal clean water, palm trees, a small shack in one corner selling beer.

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach

Honeymoon Beach in Druif Bay was once a 50 feet long stretch of rocks extending only about 10 feet from the water line. The islanders removed the trees and the brush, hauled off 200 truckloads of rock and gravel and broke up the beach stone with a bulldozer. They sifted the sand to remove any remaining debris, dredged an area of the bay to remove the seaweed, deposited sand on the shore, and planted a row of palm trees thus creating a superb man-made beach.

Honeymoon Beach View of the anchorage

Honeymoon Beach
View of the anchorage

“Hey you guys, how nice to see you again,” someone familiar greets us; what a nice surprise. It’s Rob and Kate, a cruising couple we met a few months ago in the Bahamas. They tell us about a fort up on the hills.

The cruising community chilling on Honeymoon Beach in the afternoon

The cruising community chilling on Honeymoon Beach in the afternoon

As we slowly climb the steep road a car with a coconut stuck on its cracked windshield pulls over. We meet Tom, one of the oldest residents of Water Island. He starts explaining how exactly to get to the fort and tells us some incredible stories on the side, and we end up spending the day with him.

Tom

Tom

Tom is a character. You don’t meet people like Tom every day, full of stories and jokes. For many years he was a captain on a private boat owned by a stubborn Chinese man named Wong. Their crazy adventures around the world deserve to be told in a book and Tom has already come up with the title: Sailing Around The World The Wong Way.

“Hop in my truck, I’ll take you to the fort. But first I have to fill this bucket with seaweed.”

Tom, telling stories, explaining facts....in his garden

Tom, telling stories, explaining facts….in his garden

In the next few hours we collect seaweed for a duck who was found injured by a friend of Tom’s; we visit Fort Segarra, a bunker with tunnels and underground rooms built by the US Army during WWII to protect the submarine base on St. Thomas; we learn about the island’s history, flora and fauna; and finally we collect hibiscus flowers for Tom’s tortoises, they love hibiscus flowers.

Fort Segarra, Water Island, St Thomas

Fort Segarra, Water Island, St Thomas

 

Today a residential area with less than 2,000 km2, Water Island was named after its vital freshwater ponds , Tom’s says, where pirates would stop to replenish their ships’ water supplies. It was like an oasis valued and respite by everyone, as most islands in the Lesser Antilles lack potable water, and even enemy ships would not fight here.

View from the fort

View from the fort

This was the first island in the region to erupt out of the sea and for many centuries remained alone, before the other islands around popped up which explains the many endemic plant species found nowhere in the world. Like the little white and pink orchids.

Orchids on Water Island

Orchids on Water Island

On Water Island there are also some interesting animal species but none are cuter than the red-footed tortoises slumbering in shady places all day long who come out to eat grass and flowers in the cool afternoon hours.

Red-footed tortoise on Water Island

Red-footed tortoise on Water Island

Tom has many in his garden. Angel with a cracked shell which Tom patched up with glue, and a bunch of babies which he releases back in the wild as soon as they are big enough.

Tom showing us Angel.

Tom showing us Angel.

But some don’t want to ever leave Tom’s garden, the tortoise version of the Garden of Eden. Bananas and citrus trees, papaya, exotic spices and fragrant tropical flowers provide plenty of shady hideouts.

We wish we could stay in Tom’s garden on Tom’s island forever too.

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Maya meeting a tortoise on Water Island

Maya meeting a tortoise on Water Island

 

Maya with a baby rad-footed tortoise

Maya with a baby rad-footed tortoise

humming bird nest

humming bird nest

 

a cactus plant with a fruit

 edible cactus fruit

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These cactus cherries are really tasty!

These cactus cherries are really tasty!

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Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S.Virgin Islands

From Culebrita, Puerto Rico’s last island to the east, we cross over to St. Thomas, the biggest of the U.S. Virgin islands, less than 20 NM of sailing.

Harbor and town, Charlotte Amalie

Harbor and town, Charlotte Amalie

The Danish West Indian Company established control over the island in the 1660s and begun a massive sugar cane production using slave labor. For a period the largest slave auctions in the world were held here.

Fort Christian, Charlotte Amalie

Fort Christian, Charlotte Amalie

St Thomas fine natural harbor became a popular pit stop for sailors with its many drinking establishments ‘tap hus’ or rum shops.

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We anchor near Water Island for a few days and briefly visit Charlotte Amalie, the capital and largest city in the U.S. Virgin Islands, named after the wife of Denmark’s King Christian V.

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Established in 1691 Charlotte Amalie is St. Thomas primary settlement declared a ‘free port’ where ships from all corners of the world would bring their cargo to be stored in large warehouses and distributed further to other New World colonies. The town became a busy commercial port with a growing share of the West Indian trade passing through.

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Today the old warehouses are housing shops, galleries and restaurants in the hearth of the town, seducing visitors with their massive stone walls, heavy doors and narrow streets.

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The best way to see the island is by taking a long ride on a small local bus which passes every 5 minutes and costs $1 per person from one end to the other.

Evo Maya and Viktor. Paying for the bus ride

Evo Maya and Viktor. Paying for the bus ride

You can hop on and off anywhere, the price is the same. And don’t be surprised, the cars here still drive on the wrong side of the road, even though St Thomas is now a territory of the USA after United States purchased the island for 24 million dollars in 1917.

Maya

Maya

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Puerto Rico Conclusions

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Short History

 

The history of this island, the smallest of the Greater Antilles, is marked by an almost constant struggle for independence, yet independence never came. Larger world powers have always controlled the island thus shaping its identity into what is today Puerto Rico: a territory with two flags, two languages, and two cultures strangely intertwined. It reminded us of another such double-language double-flag place back in Canada where the issue of identity and independence still creates controversy.

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An important commercial and military port of the Spanish Empire during the conquest and colonization of the New World, Puerto Rico experienced a great economic decline in the last half of the 19th century as the agricultural industry struggled. Commerce with United States and the European colonies in the region was restricted until 1897 when the island, stricken by poverty, was finally granted autonomy from Spain. One year later, as a result of the Spanish-American War and the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1898, Spain ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in exchange for a few million dollars.

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Since then, the island has been a property of the United States with a Commonwealth status. A U.S. military government followed by a civil government built a large infrastructure: roads, ports, bridges, hospitals and schools, and introduced great investments thus reviving the Puerto Rican economy in the 1920s. But this economic growth had a price on the Puerto Rican identity. There was a period when it was a felony to display the Puerto Rican flag in public, sing patriotic songs, and the only official language was English. In the 1930s, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party struggled in vain for the country’s independence. The majority of people felt more comfortably being a part of the rich powerful United States of America. A referendum held in 1967 affirmed overwhelmingly the continuation of the Commonwealth status with voters for independence gaining merely 0.6%.

View of Ponce

View of Ponce

 

Today Puerto Rico is an ‘unincorporated territory’ but not a ‘state’ of the United States of America, has its own Constitution but benefits from all rights and freedoms the American citizens have, including unemployment insurance and welfare.

 

Quest for Authenticity

 

Our quest for authenticity in Puerto Rico was somewhat difficult and confused until we realized its unique flavor is precisely this mixture of cultures. Latinos who speak Spanish and listen to salsa yet drive the same cars on the same roads like Americans; who eat mofongo and empanadas but wear the same clothes and shop for the same products in the same stores and shopping centers like Americans. A culture with a deep Spanish root like all other Latin American countries, but Americanized.

 

If you ask someone Are you a ‘proud American’ or a ‘proud Puerto Rican’? you may get a very interesting answer. Try it!

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The Happiest People on Earth

 

The very first Puerto Ricans we met as we sailed in a small harbor west of Ponce told us they were the happiest people on Earth. Two guys in swim shorts kayaked to our boat to greet us. We discussed many diverse topics, in English, ranging from religion to sailing to economics. They said that Evo looks like Jesus without hair, that if we go to the Bermuda Triangle we will disappear for sure, and that the best beer is the free beer. We agreed with them completely on everything. They also said: 

 

We chill on the beach all day and listen to music. We are all set. We receive welfare each month from the American government so we don’t have to work, it’s enough for the rent and for beer. Life is beautiful. (They tell us that 60% of all Puerto Ricans are unemployed and receive social benefits from the U.S. government. The official unemployment rate is around 14% which is still very high. Their standard of living is much higher than most Latin American countries.)

 

 

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We spent our time in Puerto Rico shopping: provisioning and upgrading the boat, and visiting some of the island’s most popular points of interest: Old San Juan, El Yunke, Viequez, and Culebra. We learned that the popular places are usually very crowded, especially on the weekends.

 

Old San Juan

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We had the best time in Old San Juan visiting the two big defense forts built in the 16th and 17th century where many epic battles were fought, roaming through the colonial town’s narrow streets, and eating the best frozen yogurt.

 

Read full article Cats and Ghosts. Battles of San Juan

 

El Yunke National Park

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El Yunke is the most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico after San Juan. It is a national park with a large territory covered with tropical rainforest, with rivers and waterfalls, and a number of hiking trails. While it is the most beautiful rainforest we have ever seen, our hiking experience there was very disappointing. We went on a Saturday and the place was so packed with tourists, we got stuck in a human traffic jam on the trails.

 

Read full article El Yunke, Unfortunately

 

Culebrita

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Even though there are not as any sites to visit and things to do on land as in Dominican Republic, cruising around Puerto Rico is much easier and more fun than around the Dominican Republic. On the south side of the island there are many anchorages just a few miles away from one to the next. We would sail for 3-4 hours in the morning and spend the afternoon in a new place each day. Our favorite spot became Tortuga Beach on Culebrita, a beautiful lagoon home of hundreds of sea turtles.

 

Read full article Culebra and Culebrita

 

 

 

 

 

Facts and Useful Information

 

 

 

·         Puerto Rico is United States of America – Almost everything is the same, it’s very strange and unexpected.

 

·         Checking in by boat – you have to go through U.S. immigration and customs and agriculture inspection. All you need to pay for is a cruising permit good for 1 year, costs $19 (Canadians don’t need visas, other countries citizens do need to apply for US visas before travelling to Puerto Rico). The officials are extremely nice and it is easy and even pleasant to check in if you don’t bring any foreign garbage. Remember, just don’t bring any garbage.

 

·         Language – Spanish is the local language, but almost everyone speaks English

 

·         Shopping – After the Bahamas and Dominican Republic and before the BVI and the Antilles island chain, you have to stock up in Puerto Rico where you can find everything and it’s cheap. There are Walmart, HomeDepo, and Sam’s Clubs in every big city, and WestMarine in San Juan and Fajardo. Here the motto “The more you spend the more you save” is 100% valid. There isn’t a cheaper place for provisioning until you get to China.

 

·         Fishing – We would catch a mahogany snapper almost every time we trolled, plus a tuna, a few barracudas and a reef shark. We released the barracudas and the shark; ate the snappers.

 

·         Security – Many people told us to be careful and not to trust everyone as the crime rate in Puerto Rico is very high. We never had any problems.

 

·         Transport – There is no public transport between the big cities. (Everyone has a car in Puerto Rico.) The only way to go from Ponce to San Juan for example is to rent a car, take a taxi, or hitch hike. Rental car rates are the same as in USA.

 

 

Other related articles:

Bahamas Conclusions

Dominican Republic Conclusions

 

 

 

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Culebra and Culebrita

Culebra

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After a few days in Vieques, we sail 9 miles north to Culebra, Snake Island. Once a refuge for pirates the archipelago comprising one big island and 23 smaller ones is now part of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands.

We anchor on the west side of Culebra and walk across a little hill to Flamenco beach ranked #2 in the top 10 most exotic beaches in the world (I don’t know who ranked it; the beach is nice but nothing too special and there are way too many people making it not so exotic for our taste).

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As we walk towards the west end of the beach which looks more secluded, we encounter the most peculiar object. A rusty old tank all covered with graffiti. Beautiful!

Maya writing her name on the tank

Maya writing her name on the tank

Looks like the U.S. Navy was here too! The entire archipelago was used as a gunnery and bombing practice site since the beginning of the Second World War until 1971 when the people of Culebra begun protesting the Navy’s bombing activities and in 1975 all operations were moved to Vieques. This explains the bombs in the water around Vieques and the tank on the beach in Culebra. But, if the bombs in the water are not yet a popular snorkeling destination, the tank on the beach is a local attraction, a work of art to my view.

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Culebrita

East of Culebra lies a tiny island populated by hermit crabs and wild goats, Culebrita, Little Snake Island, where we spend a few more days swimming, snorkeling, and hiking in the hills.

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hermit crab

hermit crab

 

On its north side is the most beautiful  lagoon we have seen in Puerto Rico, with fine white sandy beach and palm trees, and if you walk or kayak to the east corner you will discover a few small natural pools formed among black volcanic rocks.

Maya and Mira at the pools

Maya and Mira at the pools

The only way to visit this place is by boat and, except on weekends when locals and tourists invade it, the anchorage is so peaceful and serene.

Goats in Culebrita

Goats in Culebrita

An abandoned lonely lighthouse stands on top of Culebrita, a pleasant walk away from the beach.

Nick, Pete, and Vick walking to the lighthouse

Nick, Pete, and Vick walking to the lighthouse

Built between 1882 and 1886, it was the oldest operating lighthouse in the Caribbean until 1975, when it was finally closed down.

Culebrita Lighthouse

Culebrita Lighthouse

Spiral steps rusting away, red bricks crumbling down, paint peeling off, today it is a beautiful old ruin still standing on its hill watching the sea and the boats sailing back and forth.

View fro the lighthouse

View fro the lighthouse

          Good by old lighthouse.

          Good by Fata Morgana.

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Vieqes, The Devil At Work

Sun Bay

Vieques, the biggest of the Spanish Virgin islands lying 8 miles east of Puerto Rico with a land area of 52 square miles, is today a popular cruising destination with many little harbors on the south Caribbean side just a short distance from one another. The most attractive one is Sun Bay with a long sandy beach and a row of palm trees offering tourists and locals a perfect spot to chill and enjoy the tropical sun and water.

Maya in Sun Bay

Maya in Sun Bay

We park Fata Morgana close to the beach on the far east corner for a couple of days and do just that: chill. The kids: Maya, Viktor and his two best friends Nick and Pete (with us on the boat for two weeks), have a blast playing in the water with all sorts of inflatables and going on ice cream missions walking all the way to the other corner of the beach where the ice cream place is.

Nick, Pete and Vick in Sun Bay

Nick, Pete and Vick in Sun Bay

Bioluminescent Bay

Not far from Sun Bay is Mosquito Bay, a natural landmark where bioluminescence can be observed at night. The luminescence is caused by a micro-organism which glows when the water is disturbed creating a trail of neon blue. The first Spanish colonists exploring the area thought that the bioluminescence was the work of the devil. Today the bay is national park with no admission fee, and a major tourist attraction with organized tours in the middle of the night for $45 per person. We decide to check it out.

Evo and Ivan ready for some water-fun.

Evo and Ivan ready for some water-fun.

Thus, around 10 p.m. our group of seven grab various inflatables and small boogey boards and hike on a dirt road in a forested area for about half an hour, in the dark, braving hungry night bugs, all the way from Sun Bay to Mosquito Bay only to be greeted by two police officers guarding the area, extremely impolite, who inform us that we are not allowed to go in the bioluminescent bay if we haven’t pay for an organized tour, otherwise we will have to pay a fine of $500 per person.

Soon a huge group of tourists arrive by school bus, with a trailer full of kayaks behind. They all have paid for the tour and are looking at us as if we are some sort of criminals trying to sneak in for free. We can’t believe this! Is this place a private property, we ask. No, but there are strict rules and regulations and if you break them you will be punished, the police woman tells us very aggravated. We just hang around for a little while watching the tourists getting ready for the bioluminescent tour. Evo has a green headlight and the police woman tells him No green light is permitted; he switches it to red and she tells him, No red light is permitted, and he jokes asking if purple light is permitted. If you say one more word I will arrest you, she screams at him and everyone is looking at us.

Tourists at the Bioluminescence Bay

Tourists at the Bioluminescence Bay

We walk back to our beach and back to the boat disappointed not only because we didn’t see the famous bioluminescent bay (we have seen intense bioluminescence in Sand Key Florida and near Havana Cuba last year, so for us it’s not such a huge deal), but because of the attitude towards us and towards Nature. In some countries the limits on freedom and the free are unbearable and even the littlest site of natural beauty, a forest, a waterfall, a bay, has been transformed into a money-making tool in this case for private gain through organized-tours-only.

How To Visit The Bioluminescent Bay in Vieques For Free

There is a way to visit the Bioluminescent Bay legally and for free as it is not a private property but a national site with free admission. You can bring your own kayak but you have to have a lifejacket, a whistle, and a glowing stick and you are good to go and explore it without getting a violation ticket. You can bring your kayak either by carrying it or transporting it overland all the way from Sun Bay, or you can anchor your boat outside Mosquito Bay and kayak across the shallow channel in the bay (don’t forget the lifejacket, whistle, and glow stick). Best time to do it would be after midnight when the groups are gone and most probably the police too.

We consider doing this the next evening but we are already turned off the whole thing.

Explosive Bay

The next day, we sail to an anchorage at the east end of Vieques where we are in for another surprise. The place is completely deserted. No settlement on land, no boats in the anchorage. We like this. In Puerto Rico all nice spots are usually crowded. The guys decide to go spearfishing but return shortly only to announce we are surrounded by bombs.

The diving team

The diving team

 In 1941, during the Second World War, the United States Navy bought two thirds of Vieques in order to provide a safe haven for the British fleet should Britain fall to Nazi Germany, which never happened. After the war, the US Navy continued to use the island for military exercises, and as a firing range and testing ground for bombs, missiles, and other weapons. After the war, the locals protested the United States Navy presence angry at the expropriation of their land and the environmental impact of weapons testing and target practices which continued for many decades. In May 2003 the US Navy finally withdrew from Vieques, and much of the island was designated a National Wildlife Refuge under the control of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

But we don’t know all that. We don’t know that the quiet anchorage we are in was until not so long ago a site for weapon testing and is filled with all sorts of bombs and missiles, some unexploded. Thousands of them, some huge sticking out of the sand, piled on the bottom of the sea in 10-20 feet of water.

Evo checks the anchor. No bombs near it. On the beach there is a sign: DANGER! Restricted Area. Unexploded Ordinance. What do we do? We decide we are not going snorkeling and fishing anymore today and we are getting the hell out of this place first thing in the morning (if we are still in one piece).

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Sailing Puerto Rico. Ponce and The Coffin Island

 

Puerto Rico, unlike the Dominican Republic, offers many weather protected anchorages especially on the south and east side, which makes the island a fun place to cruise and explore by sea.

 

Ponce anchorage and La Guancha boardwalk at sunset

Ponce anchorage and La Guancha boardwalk at sunset

We spend two weeks in Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico, at anchor there. The anchorage in Ponce located between the marina and La Guancha, a boardwalk with many little restaurants, is not very popular with cruisers. It’s not our favorite anchorage either, deep with murky waters, it gets very noisy with 6 different types of music booming from La Guancha’s restaurants until late at night; powerboats, paddle-boards, kayaks and jet-skis zooming through the anchorage every day. On Saturdays, kids from the sailing school practice sailing between the anchored boats hitting them from time to time, by accident (or for fun). Fata Morgana got a big black scratch on the port hull by one of the sailing school boats.

Mira at la Guancha

Mira at la Guancha

We use our time there to provision the boat, even though there are no shops near by and we walk for over an hour to get to Sam’s Club and WalMart, a few kilometers away to buy what we need. We don’t mind walking, we actually enjoy it, except when we have to carry cases of beer or 50-pound bags of flour on our backs in the scorching heat of the day. But we did it.

We also meet great new friends in Ponce which is the best part of our stay there, Greg and Michelle s/v Semper Fi who invite us for a movie (Captain Ron) and popcorn on their boat and give us tons of tips about the places we are planing to visit next down the Caribbean islands; and we share our daily walks to the shopping mall as well as rental car for a week with the SailingDee family making a few trips to San Juan, the mountains, and the stores together.

 

With Maria Dee enjoying pork chops at a local restaurant

With Maria Dee enjoying pork chops and mofongo at a local restaurant

And when swallows start building a nest inside Fata Morgana’s boom we know we’ve been here too long and it is time to move on.

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With our friends who come for a two-week visit we first sail to Caja de Muerto, The Coffin Island, just 7 miles southeast of Ponce. It’s a very little island with a nice beach and an old lighthouse perched on the hill, beautiful.

Beach at Caja de Muerto

Beach at Caja de Muerto

The legend has it that, many years ago, after her tragic death, a sailor buried the woman he loved on this island and would visit her grave every now and then. Pirates decided that he is hiding a treasure on the island and went looking for it but all they found was a coffin with a dead woman inside.

 

Lighthouse Caja de Muerto

Lighthouse Caja de Muerto

On weekends the small island and beach can be crowded with weekenders from Puerto Rico, but on a Monday it is completely deserted and wonderful.

 

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto

The Nomadiks & Friends at Caja de Muerto

From here we sail east every day for a few days, a few hours in the morning, until we reach Vieques, an island southeast of Puerto Rico.

 

 

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El Yunke, Unfortunately

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El Yunque National Forest in northeastern Puerto Rico is located on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo mountains, encompassing 28,000 acres (43.753 mi² or 113.32 km²) of land. Ample rainfall creates a jungle-like setting — lush foliage, crags, waterfalls and rivers are a prevalent sight. The forest has a number of trails from which the jungle-like territory’s flora and fauna can be appreciated. It is home to over 200 species of trees and plants, 23 of which are found nowhere else. 

– from Wikipedia

 

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We first attempt visiting El Yunke about a week after arriving in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Everyone we meet, locals and cruisers, tell us You have to go to El Yunke, it’s amazing!

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After two hours of driving with a rental car (there is no public transport from Ponce where our boat is to anywhere in Puerto Rico) we get to the national park’s entrance only to be told that El Yunke is closed until further notice, at least few more days, due to too much rain and landslides. Disappointed, we drive back.

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About two weeks later we get another chance to visit El Yunke, on a Saturday. This time it’s open. Admission is free. We put on hiking shoes and prepare for some serious hiking. This should be the Puerto Rican equivalent of Dominican Republic’s Pico Duarte. But pretty soon we start seeing disturbing signs, things are wrong.

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First red flag: on the parking lot before one of the trails to the waterfalls there are so many cars and busses that we have hard time finding a parking spot.

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Second red flag: From the cars and busses descend young girls wearing high hills and miniskirts, obese men, women and children, Asian women wearing romantic long dresses, and Hindu families with silk saris and sandals. Not exactly the kind of people and equipment you see on hiking trails. Suspicion starts creeping in our minds.

Third red flag: The hiking trail is paved! It is not a trail but a narrow “street” made of concrete and there are steps to go up and down. Every now and then there are small rain shelters and the place looks more like a residential area than a forest.

Waiting for incoming traffic to pass before being able to continue down the "trail"

Waiting for incoming traffic to pass before being able to continue down the „trail“

 

Soon we are stuck in traffic on the narrow “trail”. Hundreds of visitors creep slowly up and down, usually led by the slowest of the group, a large lady who barely walks, passing is very difficult, and we have to stop and wait for incoming traffic too. It gets worse when someone in front decides to light a cigarette and we all have to breathe it.

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We are no longer seeing the forest, the trees, the river, the waterfalls. Our entire attention is focused on the traffic of tourists all around us. Guides caution their groups to „stay on the paved trails at all times because the forest is full of poison ivy and there are no hospitals nearby.“

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As we get to the famous waterfalls we witness another perversion. People have surrounded the little pool under the fall and wait in queue to take turns photographing each other with the waterfall behind them, the same picture they have seen on the brochure. But it’s hard to take a picture with no strangers in the background.

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We can’t take any more of this. We run back to the car and escape this crowded place, heading to a more secluded and less populated area back in the city: the shopping mall.

Conclusions:

1. Never visit El Yunke on the weekend.

2. Avoid the popular „trails“ and find some less popular unpaved ones.

3. Go early in the morning when there are less people.

4. Instead visiting El Yunke, which is the most popular tourist destination in Puerto Rico, visit a less popular park or forest, there are plenty of others on the island.

5. El Yunke is the most beautiful rainforest we have seen so far, but we had the worst hiking experience there…

 

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Cats And Ghosts. Battles Of San Juan

San Juan View from Fort San Felipe

San Juan View from Fort San Critobal

Old San Juan is full of cats. You have to be very careful not to step on a cat when walking around looking up at old historical buildings, for the cats, like shadows, blend with the cobblestones paving the narrow streets of the old city.

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Founded by the Spanish colonist Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521 on the north-eastern coast of the island, San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico is the capital of Puerto Rico and the second oldest European capital city in the New World after Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

San Juan Port entrance and stone wall

San Juan Port entrance and stone wall

Enclosed by massive stone walls at the mouth of San Juan Bay, Old San Juan is today a major cultural tourist destination attracting visitors with its ancient two-storied houses, a network of narrow streets covered by adoquine, a blue stone cast from furnace slag brought over as ballast on Spanish ships, historical buildings housing museums and cultural organizations, public squares, and cathedrals.

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But the most important buildings declared National Historic Sites here are the city’s former defense forts: Fort San Felipe del Morro and Fort San Cristobal, a part of humanity’s cultural patrimony.

El Morro

El Morro

Built by the Spanish government in the 16th and 17th century the two forts defended this important seaport used by merchant and military ships traveling between Spain and the Americas against foreign powers.

Battles of San Juan

Many battles took place outside the stone walls of these ancient forts, battles of epic proportions. In 1595 Sir Francis Drake attacked the city but the El Morro’s canons repelled the English battleships.

In 1625 the city was assaulted by the Dutch but El Morro withstood once more and was not taken. Instead, a counterattack left many Dutch soldiers dead after Puerto Rican soldiers and civilian volunteers of the city militia boarded and defeated the Dutch ships.

In 1797, during the French Revolutionary Wars, the British attacked San Juan once again but the siege of the city was unsuccessful and the British army was forced to withdraw in defeat for a second time.

Finally, in May of 1898 United States Navy ships arrived at San Juan Bay. The American bombardment caused a lot of destruction on the city, but the Spanish forces commanded by Captain Mendez heroically withstood the attack for many days. Yet, with just one signature, Spain ceded the island to the United States after the Treaty of Paris agreement. Puerto Rico became and remains to this day an unincorporated territory of the United States.

During the next century, many uprisings against the United States occurred in different places in Puerto Rico all by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, and failed. One of the most notable ones is the uprising in San Juan on October 30, 1950. A group of nationalists attacked the residence of the Puerto Rican governor and the United States Federal Court House. The battle between the nationalists and the police lasted 15 minutes and four of the five attackers were killed.

El Morro and the Atlantic Ocean

El Morro and the Atlantic Ocean

Walking next to the stone walls all around the small island looking at the bay, and through the narrow streets of Old San Juan stepping on the blue cobblestones from the Spanish colonial era, roaming inside the dark humid corridors of El Morro and Fort San Felipe is an unforgettable journey back in history and our best experience in Puerto Rico.

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Maya

Maya

Iguana on the stone wall, Fort San Felipe

Iguana on the stone wall, Fort San Cristobal

 

San Juan Cathedral

San Juan Cathedral

View of San Juan

View of San Juan

 

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