Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here's That Flamboyan

Here's that flamboyan as you to take the  road that leads to the tunnel.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My ride up to Maunabo 2

Here is a view of a the parking area with a path to La Lucia Sugar Mill.  El Antiguo Ingenio Azucarero, La Lucia off of route 901 in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.

Once you finish your ride on the elevated highway, you reach a dead end and you must either turn left and go to the Yabucoa beach, or turn right and head into town.  So you make a right and at the next light you turn into route 901.  This route will take you on one of the loveliest scenic routes in Puerto Rico.  Not with standing, you will go by some areas which though picturesque, they are also very humble.  As you go towards Maunabo there is still much of Yabucoa to be seen first.  Down the road you will see a new parking area that was just cleared for tourists to stop and view what is left of  La Lucia Sugar Mill.  The metal wheels and gears are quite impressive and represent part of the not so recent history of this area, la Industria Azucarera.  This place was once bustling with life and activity.  That huge valley which now holds plantains and cattle once saw a sea of sugar cane and when it was time for harvest, the sugar cane sported a large long ivory plume that waved in the wind.  It was a sight to behold.  Then the reapers came in with their machetes and cut the cane down and for years they loaded it on teams of oxen that would take it to the mill.  Later, trucks with sugar cane sticking out everywhere would slowly like molasses carry their cargo to the mill for processing.  In some parts of the island trains would pick up the sugar cane and transport it to the larger mills.  It was a golden industry.  I hope they open a museum there because it will honor our past.  

You continue going up the hill and you can see a sign to an inn or Parador called el El Parador Palmas de Lucia in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.  You can check it out at  It is right next to the beach and is reasonably priced. 

You continue your ascent of the mountain taking numerous curves as you go.  In Puerto Rico it was the custom to honk the horn before entering a curve.  After a couple of close calls today, I did just that.  Well, guess what? No one was coming, so I had a graceful descent.  But what I must tell you before I reach the bottom is that there are some spectacular views on the way down.  Just before coming down there is a breathtaking view of Punta Tuna Lighthouse with it gorgeous beach.  You are so tempted to stop and breath it all in, and you can.  There are two nice stops on the way.  First at the very top of the mountain, you can stop at El Nuevo Horizonte Restaurant, which has a view of the ocean and a partial view of the valley below.  If you do not feel like you want formal dining they have a kiosk with typical Puerto Rican fritters such as Bacalaitos, Pastelillos, and Alcapurrias.  You can wash them down with a freshly made Piña Colada with a stick of pineapple and a cherry on top.  A great stop.

Around the next curve you are no longer in Yabucoa.  You are now in Maunabo territory.  Then as you continue down the mountain there is a small restaurant, called Bella Vista, or beautiful view and it is.  This is where you can relax and enjoy the view of Punta Tuna Lighthouse and the palm tree lined beach, below.  Though I have not eaten there my daughters have and they really enjoyed the food.  I can imagine the view from inside the restaurant.  What I have done is stop there on my way back to town in the morning and taken dozens of pictures from outside.  I never tire of it and I am sure you won't either.  

Once you are down the hill, you can either take the tunnel or the beach route.  The beach route has many restaurants and a beach view.  A public beach and government owned villas are only steps from the water.  Taking this road also gives you a better sense of the community while the tunnel gives you a quick route into town and is perfectly paved.  The views from the road leading into and out of the tunnel are stunning themselves.  One offers an elevated view of the ocean with a Flamboyan as a backdrop and the exit has an open view of the surrounding mountains.  Either way has it attractions.  

Finally, there you are on you last lap to Villas del Faro.  The road leads to El Barrio Emajaguas.   This narrow little road lined with colorful bougainvilleas, hibiscus, amapolas, canarios, adorning neighborhood yards, takes you through a Tsunami zone and skirts a preservation area.  This preservation area has a path that leads to the beach and you can actually drive your car to the entrance of the beach where you walk this terracotta colored shore at your leisure. Well at least till five o'clock PM when they close the gaates.  While walking the beach you might find some yellow plastic tape marking off an area to protect Leatherback turtle eggs, or you might discover some zebra butterflies, fresh sand dollars, pelicans flying overhead, or make some new friends.    It has all happened to me on my ride to Maunabo. 

It can happen to you, too.  Just take a ride to Maunabo!

Antiguo Ingenio Azucarero " La Lucia"

This is old machinery from an old Sugar Mill, La Lucia,  in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico.  It is located off Route 901 and it has recently been made available for people to approach it safely. They added space for parking.  

On the Road to Maunabo

The Ride to Maunabo-- a picture tells a thousand words

One of the reasons I drive to Maunabo.  The irresistable views and ever changing canvas.

The Ride to Maunabo

The Ride to Maunabo: I love to travel this route ---I don't like the traffic.  So when I go,  I take the path of least resistance from Isla Verde.  Which one is that, you might ask?  Considering that sometimes there can be gridlock at every turn,  if you turn west to take La Baldorioty, it has no lights but is a traffic nightmare.  Once you approach the Tunnel-- El Tunel Minillas,  La Baldorioty de Castro's slow moving traffic practically comes to a halt.  Depending on the time, once you exit the tunnel to head either towards Caguas, a busted car on the side of the road can slow down traffic to a crawl.  I don't even want to mention how the Caguas Expressway Route 52 is a nightmare from two thirty in the afternoon to seven in the evening--  perhaps even to eight heading towards Caguas.  So what do I do?

I take the Teodore Moscoso Bridge.  That's right.  I fork over three dollars and thirty cents.  And I do it with pleasure.  I avoid the whole harrowing mess by taking the bridge, turning towards Trujillo Alto, crossing through Venus Gardens, and then coming out through Cupey Alto around El Señorial and hopping on Las Americas Expressway to Caguas.  The little traffic I got this morning was mainly around that light on la"Avenida Parana." After that it only took me an hour to get to Maunabo.

It was 8:30 when I got on the Expressway and it was a partly cloudy day which was a delight.  You have no idea how beautiful, lush, and green the hills are just passed the Montehiedra exit.  It is a view for sore eyes.  Vegetation everywhere pouring itself down the hills with shady spots all along the shoulder of the road.  Fortunately, the road itself is mostly in good condition by Puerto Rico standards.  Once you make the curve around the toll booths to head towards Humacao on Route 30, it is as if you let the horses out of the corral.  The road widens around Caguas and Turabo.  Cars scramble to get into a good position and some are never seen again as they speed into the sunset--not really but you get the idea.  Then the real beauty begins.

There are mountains loping one after another on your left.  You really don't want to drive.  What you want to do is cry because it is so beautiful or you want to take out a camera and film it.  What I really want to do is stop, set up my easel, and start painting.  I want to rest my eyes on these mountains for a good long time with the overpass bridge just up ahead with the hills in the background in sequenced layers of shade and the trees as a frame.  It is stunning.  I can still see it.

I am driving and scouting how the Flamboyanes are doing.  Most have lost their blossoms and the reddish orange flowers are very sparse now.  I call them,  Flamboyanes menguantes.  Like the moon when it has passed full moon.  Luna menguante, flamboyan menguante.  Just as the flowers are dying down-- it is October after all, the green leaves are renewed, and the trees become full with the big "vianas" or seed pods.  Just as the Flamboyanes are spectacular, their seed pods are not any less so.  Everything has its season.

So on I go, passing exit 14, a particularly dangerous exit. I make a mental note that I need to be on the left lane when I reach this particular exit since I had an ugly encounter with a speeding truck determined to get on the road to Humacao from this blind entrance.  This is not the only entrance that is especially dangerous so be warned, stay on the left lane if at all possible.   In addition, the road is as rough as sandpaper where it has been patched and pounded a million times. I often find myself manuvering to the left or to the right in order to avoid a rough patch or some pot hole.   It is not a picnic to drive I can assure you.  If it weren't for the views and the destination, I would not take it but for this feast to the eyes.  Oh my gosh, it is so worth it.

Once I get to exit 23, there is a huge green sign pointing to Yabucoa and Palmas del Mar.  There is the beginning of civilization, road wise I mean.  This road leads to Route 53 and Route 53 is in relatively good shape and the views are no less appealing.  You actually start seeing the ocean in little peeks between the hills which are quite intriguing as well.  After taking the road that leads towards Yabucoa, there is some sort of hotel or university up on a hill.  I need to check it out sometime when I have time.  I will write a post on it, but this conglomeration of buildings is only a distraction to what lays ahead.  El Valle de Yabucoa.  This is where you take a deep breath and sigh.

Nothing is really big in Puerto Rico.  It is only 35 by 100 miles and there are people to throw up in the air as we say in Spanish.  Gente para tirar pa' other words we have a lot of people.  So when you come to an open space, it is like finding a walk in closet in a tiny apartment. Whew.  That is what El Valle de Yabucoa is.  It is wide and the road doesn't touch it.  It is an elevated road that respected the terrain.  I love driving through it, rather above it, and looking at the plantains and banana plants below which are neatly planted in rows that look like they go on into eternity.  The only thing that cradles them are mushes of tall curvy bamboo that sway in the breeze with their sparkling leaves.  I could go to sleep thinking about them.

I loved this valley long before I ever saw it in person.  I was meant to love it.  I couldn't understand why my mother who was from Naranjito, a little town nestled in the mountains, had a picture of this valley in her living room in Trujillo Alto.  In fact, it didn't even say, Yabucoa, anywhere on the picture which was easily 24 inches by 24 inches,  sizable photograph at that.    After several years, the picture had become discolored and it looked like a 1950's television spot. Black, white, sad blues, and grays mostly. I despised the condition of the picture, yet I had memorized each part.  Why did she keep it?   Perhaps she enjoyed considering the idea of the expanse, or was it her love for this island, or perhaps she remembered what it originally looked like.  Who knows?

Whatever the reason for keeping it, it wasn't until crossing this bridge without the distraction of conversations with my daughters and their families and upcoming fun, that it finally hit me.  This was the valley on that wall in my mother's house in Venus Gardens.  It was a valley big and wide and abundant.  It was that place I had seen many times, not in my dreams but in Mom's living room.  And it wasn't a boring faded blue.  It was alive in all shades of green with cows going out to the meadow and with field after field of plants.  El Valle de Yabucoa, the Yabucoa Valley, as they say as you enter, zona bendecida.  A blessed zone.  It is.

And we haven't even started going up the road on route 901 to Maunabo. We haven't even started.