Friday, January 28, 2011

Adventure Tuesday

This week's Adventure Tuesday had multiple adventures.

I got to go diving for only the second time this year. Darryl was taking a couple from the States to Crashboat and I got to tag along.

Then Elaine, Kelda and I went to the Guajataca Forest and to the Cave of the Wind. Finally, after four years, we made it to Bosque de Guajataca!

Like many journeys, the hike to the cave itself is part of the adventure. It's about a 40 minute hike up to the cave. The area is crisscrossed with trails. The map we got from the ranger station was a great help keeping us on the right path.

The trail is narrow and frequently rocky. As it winds upward, it crosses back and forth over what must be a ridge. First a vertical wall is on your left and a drop-off of a hundred feet or more is on your right. Then suddenly you realize they've switched: the drop-off is on the left and the wall is on the right. Then back again. And yet again. Bosque de Guajataca is a rain forest but this is the dry season here in Puerto Rico so the trails were dry. I suspect the trails can be pretty slippery and treacherous in the rainy season. The good news is even if you slipped off the trail, you could fall far because the trees grow tight against the trail.

On the trail we met another couple coming out. They asked if we were going to the cave and when we said "yes," asked if we had a flashlight "'cause you're going to need one!" When we said we didn't have a flashlight, they gave us theirs, one they borrowed from the ranger station.

As you near the cave, the trail starts a steep descent with a couple of cut backs. It ends on a platform at the cave entrance. A set of narrow creepy-looking narrow wooden stairs spirals down into the darkness. We all stood there a moment, not really sure of the wisdom of disappearing into the darkness, all three of us a little freaked out by it.

As we started down, we were really really happy to have that flashlight. Within just a few feet of the bottom of the stairs the circle of light from the cave opening was absorbed by the dark. It was pretty much impossible to see anything.

The light from the flash revealed a surprisingly large open cave that disappeared into the hillside to both the left and the right with fascinating, unexpected limestone structures underground. Creepy, but amazingly beautiful. I have no pictures from inside the cave: the flash on my little camera quit working. But we're already planning another adventure to the cave, this time with more lights and cameras. Now that we've been there once we probably won't be as freaked out by it. Probably.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A week in a day

We've had no - or at best very limited - Internet access for the last week so here are the daily photos I would have posted all week.

Elaine riding KTJ on the beach from a morning ride we took together. Yes, we actually got to ride together!

Sunset through the palm trees at Playa Bajura at the end of "Deadend" Road. Playa Bajura is the stretch of beach east of Shacks going toward Jobos. Even though it is one continuous stretch of beach, each section has a different name.

The full moon rising over the field next to Ola Lola's. I was just coming back from walking the dogs. I forgot it was a full moon night. If I'd stayed on the beach a few more minutes, this would have been a picture of the moon rising over the ocean.

The ocean at Shacks Beach yesterday morning. We don't often see the ocean this flat at this time of year, especially here on the North Shore.

Our dogs, Amber and Jazz, love to swim. This is quick underwater snap of Amber under water.

Our friend Janelle whale-watching on Shacks Beach.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Good karma

We got the Pathfinder back! Remember the one that was stolen? Thursday we picked the vehicle from the police impound. We had it towed to a mechanic to have the steering column and ignition rebuilt from where the thieves tore it apart to hotwire it. It's dinged up in places it wasn't before but basically it's sound and runs good. The new tires are still on it and the new battery is still in it. The stereo and the spare tire are gone but oh, well.

The thieves took all the surf stickers off it but they didn't bother to use Goo-gone to take the glue off so you can still see the outlines. They wrote "se vende" (for sale) on the window with a telephone number but only the area code and six digits.

The police found the car in Aguadilla. A 20-year-kid was joyriding it up and down the street and making the neighbors nervous. They called the cops. The police stopped the kid, ran the VIN, and it popped as stolen. The original license plate is gone and it had a plate stolen from another car on it.

The kid denied stealing it; he says he bought it. The police officer told him, "fine. Bring the guy you bought it from in with you and we'll only charge you with possession of stolen property, rather than Grand Theft Auto." Still waiting to see if that happens.

On Tuesday we go see the district attorney to discuss charges and restitution.

We are all truly amazed that the car was recovered. I'm really happy we have our karma and not the thieves.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The hurrider I go...

My first whale sighting at Wilderness this morning.

the behinder I get.

The new year is less than two weeks old and I'm already behind. Not because there's nothing to write about, but because there is SO MUCH going on.

I haven't written yet about the great night we had with the band Los Petardos on Sunday. This was Day Two of our Sirah's Birthday Celebration Weekend (even though she's back in Colorado). It was a great party and lots of fun with a whole bunch of friends, new and familiar. Thanks to all the guys in the band and to everyone who came out to celebrate.

After a long, unintentional hiatus due to crappy waves, crappy light and much work over the holidays, I finally got back out to photograph surfers this week.

This morning I had my first whale sighting while shooting at Wilderness Beach. There were at least two whales. They didn't fully breech but we did see them come up to breathe. They weren't very far outside the lineup. All the stand up paddleboarders, who are standing on their boards (duh!) and thus had a better view, all turned around to watch.

Besides the whale photo, I got some great shots of surfers. You can see them on our website, As soon as I get a little time, I'll put a set on Flickr as well. Enjoy. Hopefully, there are lots more to come this season.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Morning beach ride

We took a little beach ride this morning to let the horses go swimming - or at least wade around in the ocean a bit. Elaine rode KTJ, Sam rode her 32-year-old Paso Fino Nappy and I rode Chocolate.

Damn, that boy has a boney back to ride bareback!

KTJ did really well. She waded in a little and pawed at the water then walked back in the water at the edge. That's pretty amazing. Just a couple of months ago she would have spooked sideways and moved up the beach away from the water. Now she's taking it in stride, literally.

Chocolate was a pistol. Because Elaine has been sick all week, he hasn't been riden as much as usual and he was a handful. Hanging on was the worse because I didn't had a proper bridle, just a halter with a rope. I didn't feel like I had much control so we didn't venture in the water. But we made it and had a good time doing it. I probably won't try riding with just a halter again anytime soon.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Happy Birthday, Sirah!

First let wish Sirah a very very happy birthday. We're happy you get to spend your birthday with your Colorado family but your Puerto Rico family misses you a ton.

This morning Darryl, John D., Kelda, a visitor named Curt and I went on a birthday celebration dive. Thank you, Sirah! It was one of the most beautiful days we've ever had at Shacks. The ocean was like a lake - calm, flat, no wind, no chop, no surge. Visibility was unbelievable - 70' or more. We saw a turtle in Blue Hole, before the dive even started. We saw three spotted eagle rays during the dive. We don't get many days like this in the summer, let alone in January.

Happy birthday, Sirah! Hope it was great in Colorado. We missed you here in PR.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Feliz Dia del Tres Reyes

Today is Three Kings Day, also known as Epiphany and Twelfth Night. Today celebrates the day when the Bible says the the three kings/wisemen/magi arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for the baby Jesus.

In many Puerto Rican households today is a bigger day than Christmas Day itself. Last night churches were crowded, more so even than on Christmas Eve as many churches here don't have Christmas Eve services. Today is a day for exchanging gifts. In many households Christmas Day brings small gifts while larger gifts are reserved for Three Kings Day.

Three Kings Eve has a tradition that echos stockings hung on the fireplace mantle and leaving cookies and milk for Santa: before they go to bed on Three Kings Eve, Puerto Rican children put hay or grass in their shoes and slide them under their beds. The hay is to feed the Kings' camels. In the morning the children wake up to find the hay gone (presumably eaten by the camels) and sweets or presents in their shoes. (Hey - camels in Puerto Rico is no weirder than flying reindeer in, say, Arizona.)

It's hard to describe "typical" when it come to PR Christmas. There are so many "northern" traditions that have been introduced here, most of them terribly incongruous. For example, we have an inflatable snowman sitting in a chair in front of Ola Lola's. There are strings of snowflake lights in people's yards. Most of the people have only seen snow in pictures. There are wreaths on doors and buildings. Some places - mostly Walmart/Sam's/Amigo - sell cut Christmas trees shipped by container ship from Oregon and Washington. I think that's just weird. Images of Santa in a red suit trimmed in fur are pretty strange when it's 80+ degrees.

I have heard some older Puerto Ricans bemoaning the loss of local traditions. Many of them blame the change on the government's crackdown on drunk driving over the holidays. "Family parties aren't as big as the used to be" according to one old timer (although it's hard to imagine how big they must have been in the past given some I've been to and seen).

The other tradition that has suffered is the paranda. A paranda is like caroling on steroids. You get together a bunch of your friends, at least one of which is really a musician, and go to another friend's house at, say, 2:00 a.m. You sing, you play music, you bang on drums or kitchen pots or plastic buckets. In return for this joyful awakening your host friend is obligated to provide food and drink (preferably coquito made with pitoro, the local "moonshine") for the entire paranda band. After feeding you, your host joins the paranda and you move on to the next victim's, er, friend's house. This continues until daybreak or until everyone is passed out in someone's yard. You can see where a few DUI's would put a damper on this tradition.

However, according to Fox News Latino (always a reliable source), Puerto Rico does have the longest Christmas season in the world. They do have couple of things wrong though. Christmas does not start at Thanksgiving. It starts at Halloween which is really just there to remind people that the Christmas season has officially started. (Halloween is not a huge holiday here, but it's growing.) Thanksgiving is just another part of Christmas, the first BIG family party of the season. The big box stores, particularly Walmart and Kmart, have two seasons, summer and Christmas. Each store has a section dedicated to "seasonal." About the third week of September they take out all the summer lawn-and-garden stuff and put in aisle after aisle of Christmas. Then, about the end of January, they take out what's left of picked-over Christmas stuff and put the lawn-and-garden stuff back in.

On a somewhat more serious note, I do take issue with the Fox report's emphasis on depression and suicide here during the Christmas season. Not that it's not true; it is. But no more so here than anywhere else. The holidays are a time of increased depression and suicide EVERYWHERE, not just in Puerto Rico.

So be HAPPY this season!

Monday, January 03, 2011

an ocean to match a mood

Dark, cold, choppy, disorganized, all dampened by a passing rain squall.

Fortunately, a few moments later the sun reappeared and at least lightened the ocean's mood if not mine.