Just got back a few days ago from a fantastic vacation in Puerto Rico. I’d been to the Caribbean a few times, but always British islands. This was my first time on a Spanish island, which is a bit funny cuz it’s part of the U.S.A. It reminds alot of a humid version of California more than it does of Jamaica or the Bahamas.
Spring break is kinda of a weird time of year for a tropical vacation, cuz spring had already arrived so it’s too late to escape the cold. Still, it was summertime hot down there, which felt great. Out trip was a nice balance of hanging around relaxing by the beach on going on adventure outings. This may be the last big trip for the four of us as a family, with Lizzy going off to college in the fall.
We stayed a resort hotel on the seaside. It was very nice. The first day we arrived in the mid-afternoon and the weather was stormy, so we explored the place, relaxed at the bar and got dinner. Next day the weather slowly improved so we spent most of the day hanging around the pool. By the afternoon the sun came out but the ocean was still too rough to go swimming. We had a visitation in the hot tub by the local giant iguana, who was very friendly.
We went on an evening kayaking trip, starting in a bay on the ocean and going up the river thru a jungle of mangroves to another, inland bay where there was bioluminescent algae. Very Kurztian. We watched the sun set floating on the still water of the bay. Once it got dark the water literally glowed when you cut thru with your paddle or waved your hand around in the water. Other than that the trip back was in total darkness. Very cool experience.
Next day we went to El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rainforest. Went on some hikes to some waterfalls, saw some cool birds and lizards and lots of strange plants, climbed to the top an observation tower. Had lunch a roadside stand and discovered mofongo. Now we need to find a place around here that does mofongo. Yum!
The ocean finally got calm enough to go for a swim, although they had no life guards so I didn’t go too far out, and the kids didn’t go in at all.
Another highlight was we trekked out to the Arecibo Radio Telescope, which was until a few months ago the world’s largest radio telescope, with the main dish 1000 feet across, or 20 acres in area. It’s built in a natural depression in an part of the island with weird hilly terrain, full of caves and sinkholes. It turns out you can’t rollerblade in the dish even if you wanted to cuz it’s not solid. It’s just a bunch of aluminum mesh plates held up by a gridwork of wires. There’s jungle growing underneath! You need special metal snowshoes to walk on it, and there’s a weight limit of 120 lbs. So there goes that dream.
The telescope itself is storied and older than I knew, designed in the 1950′ and operational by 1963. It was where they first measured the length of Mercury’s day, and where they first discovered pulsars. In addition to receiving signals it can send them, so it can function like a giant police radar gun and image individual asteroids millions of miles away, halfway to Jupiter. One of it’s major missions now is building up a catalog of all the near-Earth asteroids. It has a whole ‘nuther antenna for atmospheric research. And more lizards!
The last stop of the trip was Old San Juan and the fort build by the Spaniards in the 1500’s. We threaded thru the neighborhood by car, although the streets were clearly not designed for cars, and as luck would have it we found the one parking spot on the street, as close as you can get. Also right when we arrived a big cruise ship was leaving, so it was all relatively uncrowded.
On the way into the fort we saw a band setting up in the square outside, trumpets and tin pans, but by the time we came back they were gone. I wish we were able to hear more local music. Ah well. At least we found a nice pub and a cold relaxing drink after all that.
The flights were uneventful and comfortable enough. We got home around two in the morning. I don’t fly as much as I used cuz it’s so often a hassle, but this trip was fine. Now I’m thinking of going to France in July for an origami conference.
Coming soon: pictures!