Saturday, November 18, 2006

Trip to Puerto Rico - Tuesday

Rincon, with the island Desecheo in the background.

Initially, we had planned to take it easy Tuesday and get our bearings.  But we were both feeling so enthusiastic that we decided to head out to Rincon and Ponce.  After a quick “desayuno” (breakfast) at McDonald’s we headed south on Route 2--part of the main highway that runs along the coast of the island.  Puerto Rico’s roadways run the gamut from pristine to nearly unpassable.  The main roads tend to be in good shape--Route 2 is as well maintained as the best interstate highways on the mainland.   Then there is the question of the drivers.  Puerto Rico’s motorists seem to have taken Boston style discourtesy to new depths.  Whereas in Boston turn
signals are seen as an extravagance, in Puerto Rico they seem to be an abberation: the only time I saw them activated was when they were on by accident.  Puerto Rican drivers have mastered the art of the cutoff and the double lane change.  I now understand why liability insurance is provided by the government and insurance companies don’t do business there. 

We took some dizzying roads to the beach at Rincon, which is mostly poplated by American surfers and hippies.  We walked around the lighthouse there, and I had to use a filthy bathroom (really, I would have preferred to pee in the woods).  Overall, I was not impressed.  We soon headed south again.  

In Ponce the roads became confusing and we drove through a bad neighborhood on the way to the El Vigia and the Castillo Serallés.  Although Puerto Rico has the strongest economy in the Carribean, there are pockets of poverty, especially in the cities.  With some directions from a street vendor, we were back on course and up a steep hill to El Vigia, a massive concrete cross built in the 1980s.  We took an elevator which ascended to the horizontal section of the cross, and we were able to get some spectacular views of Ponce.  The interior section was also air conditioned, thankfully.  Another couple showed up as we were heading down.

That's an elevator shaft running up the front of the cross...

After perusing the Japanese Garden, we headed to the Castillo Serallés.  The Serallés family owned the largest sugar cane plantation in Puerto Rico.  They produced DonQ rum and were fabulously wealthy.  Our tour guide was an attractive Puerto Rican guy named Daniel Arroyo, who occasionally faltered in his English.  My Danny helped him a number of times, and I began to wonder if I could make it as an English speaking tour guide if I moved to Puerto Rico.  The house is stocked with artifacts from the 19th and early 20th Centuries, such as an Edison cylinder record player.  There were a number of Americans on our tour, including the couple we saw in the cross.

Just a model, the real one is much bigger!

On the balcony, our tour guide offered to take a picture of Danny & me with Ponce in the background.

By now, it was late afternoon and we nagivated our way back to the main highway just in time for the rush hour.  It took us a while, but we found ourselves at a Sizzler in Mayaguez, where we gorged ourselves before heading home.   

We stayed up late in our hotel room as we watched the election results and the beginnings of a Democratic sweep.

No comments: