El Yunque, Puerto Rica

rain over mountain This is El Yunque, the rainforest of Puerto Rico. It took me forever to decide on a photograph that somehow encapsulated everything I felt about the rainforest. This one shows the height, the rain, the coolness and the endless shades of green in the forest. El Yunque was absolutely magical and such a change in climate from hot, sunny San Juan. I researched the various tours around Puerto Rico and finally decided on Eco Tours which took small groups in a shuttle bus to the rainforest. I called from Texas and although we could understand each other, my Scottish accent was making communication difficult. Spelling my name was trick; K for Kettle, A for Alpha and then she stopped me, saying, “You are saying E but then Alpha”. I explained that it was my Scottish accent that made my Es and As sound interchangeable. We got through the name but then I managed to give my credit card numbers in Spanish, so all was well. The Senora told me that we must wait for the bus at Café Berlin in the Plaza Colon at 9 am. I burst out laughing as it sounded like an assignation that you would give a spy. Nevertheless, on our second day in Puerto Rico, we were waiting in Plaza Colon. At precisely 9 am, a lady turned up in a bus wearing a tree frog hat. I was convinced she was her guide but the company name was different. About 10 minutes later, she came back again and asked our names, we had been subcontracted to another company – another small miscommunication. We then picked up the other tourists from various hotels and proceeded south to the rainforest. Click on the red link to read more. POSTCARD FROM EL YUNQUE – click here

San Juan, Puerto Rico

This is the wonderful vista overlooking San Felipe Del Morro Fort in the Old San Juan, Puerto Rico with the Atlantic Ocean in the background. Finally, we got the opportunity to go on a real vacation to somewhere warm and interesting. Puerto Rico is an American Territory, perhaps, one day, the 51st state, in a strategic part of the Caribbean. It is part of the Antilles in the south west of the Caribbean Sea. The original natives are the Taino and it was settled by the Spanish in the 1500s; an important part of the Spice Trade Route back to Europe. Slaves were brought there to tend the sugar cane plantations and most of them were from Congo. Today’s Puerto Ricans’ are an intriguing blend of European, Native and African and these traditions are reflected in the cuisine, dancing and heritage. Only 20% of islanders speak English and the rest speak a Spanish dialect which has Taino and African words in the patois. One of the locals told me that it would already have been a State if they had any money, or oil in the local water, and perhaps that’s a good thing. There is a familiarity and yet a unique foreign feel to the island. It is a volcanic island so there is little diversity in the fauna and what animals and plants are there were brought by air, sea or human. One little creature makes a very distinctive noise, all over the island – Coquí. It is a little frog, with an onomatopoetic name for the mating call – kockee, kockee. Once you have your ear in, that is all you can hear and there are 17 separate species in Puerto Rico. There are number of distinct ecosystems on the island and we went from hot, windy San Juan to cool, tropical rainforest in just a couple of hours. There is also a dry forest and bioluminescent lake. Old San Juan is full of original buildings with amazing hilly cobble-stone streets. A British trade ship left it’s ballast of iron ore centuries ago and they were carved into wonderful blue, iridescent cobbles that shimmer in daylight and look like moonstones at dusk. Puerto Rico was so amazing that I have divided it into two posts and the next one will be about El Yunque, the rainforest. Click on the red link to see more fabulous photos of architecture and the people of San Juan. POSTCARD FROM SAN JUAN – click here