Wednesday, July 10, 2013

- El Yunque

A long time ago I went on a trip.  To Puerto Rico.  I still haven't completely written about it, so I'm here today to write that wrong.

Are you going to mention how great that pun was, or should I?

Moving on - after our lovely few days soaking up the sun on the beach and snorkeling, we checked into a new hotel.  Different resort, same meh.  El Conquistador was showing it's age around the grounds but the room was pretty nice.  Not as nice or as clean as it should have been considering what we paid, but still nice.  On the flip side Gran Melia had beautiful grounds...
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Ze pool.  It had a swim up bar, but we never swam in it.  Or up to it.
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The front desk and lobby was an elaborate open air structure with lots of little pools and comfy couches everywhere.  Oh, and I met this dude, who could meow and sense that I was bird-friendly.
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The hotel rooms were in smaller individual buildings.

Ironically, despite how beautiful it was outside - the interior of the rooms was disappointing.
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It's everywhere around you but not inside your room.

We should know - we tried out three different ones before we just lowered our standards and accepted the last one.  Plus we were tired and sunburnt and ready to just lay in a bed and watch some Law and Order SVU.

Our last full day in Puerto Rico we kind of saved the best for last.  I know I said that snorkeling was my most favorite day ever, but the rainforest was second only by a smidge.  Much like I'd never been snorkeling, I'd also never been in a rainforest, so there was a lot to wonder at.
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That's just the view from the hiking trail.  Of the hiking trail.  The lush greenery kind of blew my mind.
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Beyond the palms on the side of the trail there was even more great scenery. We eventually hiked to the top of that tower.

There were two main goals in the rainforest: hike to the summit, and swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall.  On the drive up to the start of the trailhead you pass right by La Coca falls.
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The hike up to the summit takes about 2 hours, and I would have hiked for much longer just to get to a view like this:
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Look at the color of the ocean.  Just look at it!
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The clouds may look threatening, but it actually never rained on us while we were in the rainforest.

On our way back down we stopped and took the hike out to La Mina falls, which is where you're allowed to swim in the pool.  The whole hike follows along the river and there are several little mini falls that provide a great soundtrack.
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They don't really hold a candle to the main event though. 
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As for the swim; the 60 degree water was a bit of a shock, but worth it for life experience.  And after about 5 hours of hiking around it was mostly insanely refreshing.
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Want a great way to soothe your sunburn?  Swim in a waterfall.

The entrance to El Yunque is very close to Luquillo beach, where there's a row of about 40 food kiosks that offer pretty much the best assortment of fried local favorites you could make a dinner of, especially after hiking all day and having trail mix for lunch.  Also, it's not a terrible place to be during the sunset.
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A picture of me about to take a picture.
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A picture of me posing awkwardly for a picture.

That night we drank rum in a beach bungalow and lamented the beginning of the end of our trip.  The next morning was our last morning.  And we couldn't end our trip without one last look at a beach.  One last chance to soak up the 85 degree weather before heading back to a city that would have at least 5 more snowfalls before Spring took hold.    
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Beware: Paradise.
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A picture of me being probably the most sad I've ever been on a beach.  

And then we went to the airport and got on a plane and ended up back here.  Home?  I don't think I've ever fully accepted the reality that I went on a trip that was too awesome to comprehend, and then it ended.  Although, every great trip I've ever been on feels like a dream when I remember it.  So I'm keeping the dream alive by planning for the next big thing: Ireland/Scotland - late Fall 2013.  I'm going to only take a backpack.  Ride the train like Harry Potter.  See the Wicklow Mountains.  Cliffs of Moher.  Go to an Ireland vs. New Zealand rugby game in Dublin.  Drink Guinness.  Look for Nessie.  Hike in Skye.  Hang in Edinburgh.  Use my passport!  And when it has come and gone, I will remember it fondly as the time of my life.

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