Saturday, January 9, 2010
A Day at el Yunque, the Puerto Rican Rain Forest
Saturday was our first and only free day on the trip, and as such, a third of the group opted to take a day trip to el Yunque, the Puerto Rican rain forest.
El Yunque is situated about 40 minutes East of San Juan, so we rented a minivan and headed East. The drive was interesting as Movement teacher Jabvier Cardona acted as tour guide, navigating us through the narrow and winding roads along the north-east coast of the island. Once we arrived at the entrance to the park, it was another 40 minute drive up a steep, narrow, winding road to the entrance to our hike. En route, we stopped at the Coco Falls to admire a cascade of crystal water falling over a large sheet of black rock.
The hike to La Roca del Yunque (The Rock of El Yunque) was a one hour climb uphill, which proved to be tremendously arduous, but e collectively persevered and supported each other the entire way. Once at the top, we were treated to an incredible view of the entire northeaster corner of Puerto Rico, from San Juan to Fajardo, and Culebra, Vieques, and St. Thomas were viewable in the distance.
The flora combined enormous ferns, coconut, palm, and bamboo, along with other unidentifiable greenery. Most amusing was the Muerte y Vida (Death and Life), a small fern-like plant with animated leaves that close when you touch the plant (seemingly for protection from insects and other predators that would eat its precious leaves). This video shows the subtle action of this little miracle:
On the way back to San Juan, we made two additional stops: the first at a gorgeous beach on the north coast and the second at a small road-side fry stand, that served sweet plantains stuffed with meat, yucca stuffed with meat, green plantains stuffed with meat—all then deep fried—a heart attach waiting to happen, but so delicious, it seemed like an even trade off :-)
In the evening, my roommate and I took a walk across the lagoon bridge to Condado Beach, and while crossing the bridge we watched a fully-clothed man jump into the lagoon (probably 15 feet below) and swim to shore (because the water appeared inviting is one theory). We stopped at a small Mexican restaurant for a bite to eat and headed back to the hotel for much needed rest after an eventful day.