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El Yunque

May 12, 2013

Puerto Rico – Thursday, May 2

This morning we decided to go visit El Yunque – the big rainforest east of Puerto Rico. So we had some breakfast and then drove about an hour to the rainforest through lots of little towns. We made a stop at the visitor center to get some information on walks and what to see, and then we started driving into the forest. We stopped to look at La Coca Falls and then drove higher up the mountain, where we got out for a hike back to La Mina Waterfalls. We walked on the trail through the forest, seeing unfamiliar trees that were hundreds of years old, and plants, ferns, vines and flowers. We heard a lot of birds, but didn’t see very many, and there were lots of lizards too. Everything was green and thick and lush, and it made us wonder how many undiscovered bugs or plants there might be in the depths of the forest. The trail went up and down, and up and down, and we eventually came to a big waterfall which fell into a natural pool. Some people scrambled over wet rocks to get into the pool by the falls, and Taryn and Jared also did that. Not me – I’d have probably twisted an ankle! There were only a few rocks for people to stand on in the water, otherwise they said the pool looked really deep. We hiked back (the kids sloshed back – it was too humid for them to dry off much!) and it began to rain a bit. We started to head down the mountain, and stopped at a little shack on the mountainside for lunch. We weren’t sure what everything was, but we ended up with chicken on skewers, a fried hamburger/banana thing (sounds weird but we all liked it), coconut bread and coconuts to drink. We listened to the rain on the tin roof of the shack as we enjoyed our lunch watching the fog through the open windows as it rolled into the mountains. As we continued our way back down the mountain, we stopped at an old lookout tower and climbed to the top where there were some pretty views of the rainforest, and farther off to a city and the ocean. Some of the clouds were lower than the nearby mountain peaks, and we wondered of the fog was going to roll right over us too!

Then we stopped once more at the visitor center to look at the exhibits. El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest system, and they’re very proactive in conservation and preservation. They had donation boxes out, and I decided to give them my donation-of-the-day. The US doesn’t have many places like this to preserve!

Then we headed back to Casa Caribe. After drying off and cleaning up a bit, we drove over to Old San Juan, where we were able to wander around a bit through some narrow streets, and we stopped at a couple different places to sample some Puerto Rico beer and eat plantain chips, sausage and calamari. A lot of food down here is made with bananas and plantains, and and the plantain chips were a tasty substitute for tortilla chips. After all the fresh air and walking we were ready for an early night.
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