Traveling Over Some Old Dirt Roads
Cabo Rojo is a town on the South West corner of Puerto Rico which has several beautiful beaches. One is El Combate and the other is called Boquerón. Cabo Rojo is the seat of the Municipal Government, but Boquerón has grown to be a respectable little town while El Combate still retains its small village charm.
We first visited el Combate and stayed at El Combate Beach Resort. When I think of a resort I think of famous hotels with a multitude of amenities such as five star restaurants, beauty salons, spas, pools, and boats to a private beach. El Combate Beach Resort was not that. It was better. Who wants to be in a place where you can easily get lost and almost everyone is a stranger? I didn't. Well, El Combate Beach Resort may not be as big as let's say, El Conquistador Hotel with its extensive acreage, yet it does have a beautiful pool, a cute path that leads to El Combate Beach which was tranquil, lovely, and almost private. This boutique hotel was spotless yet modest. It offers a snack shop and beach store, as well as cable television and free wifi. The rate includes continental breakfast for two with each room. It was there in this secluded hotel, that I found about six guests who were from the States in addition to my own friends. They were making themselves at home using the guest computers available to them off the lobby.
Since we arrived in the evening, the hotel did not have food available but they did give us an ample list of local restaurants. We chose to go to a nice restaurant there in the village just down the road from the hotel. It was Annie's Restaurant which had great food at reasonable prices. The waiters and waitresses work as a team and provide very good service. When one of them heard that two of my friends, identical twins, were celebrating a birthday, they gave them a free dessert and a boisterous rendition of their own birthday song.
The next day we ventured out to explore the area and had several experiences that for me proved to be very memorable. The first was going to a small business that is a basically a pool hall by night but a seller of cold fresh coconuts (cocos frios) by day. The best part is that the attendant not only got us the best coconuts but then he cut them in half after we had drunk every last drop of coconut water. He gave each of us, half a coconut and even cut us these special rounded spoons so we could dig into the coconut flesh. It was heavenly!
The second experience was going to the Interpretative Center at the Salinas Salt Flats. This center is run by an environmentally conscious nonprofit organization that provided us with kind bilingual service and valuable information about the flora, fauna, and habitats of the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Reserve and the history of the Cabo Rojo Salt Flats. They had so much information that it is worth your while to visit especially, if you have children whether home schooled or not. The Center has a three story observation tower that gives you a bird's eye view of the area, including the lighthouse, salt flats, and a beach which are a little further down the road. We were able to buy the most delicious salt I have ever had. It was mild but extremely potent and it only went for a dollar a bag. I bought some to give as gifts.
Finally, we ventured up the road to Boquerón, full of memories of taking my children to my brother's place in Villa Taina. The memories fill my eyes with tears of those far gone days of bathing suits, carrying babies, and the thought that our greatest worries were getting sun burnt. The beach is still serene but all of our lives have changed a bit. My brother is in heaven, and the boat rides are gone. Yet this day, I was making new memories with my dear friends of almost 50 years. Boquerón beach is still gentle since it sheltered by tranquil bay. To my surprise, Boquerón has changed but some things are still the same. It still has a small town life. We saw bustling school children dressed in their uniforms getting out of school and their typical Puerto Rican parents giving them a watchful eye. The town was always a typical beach town but now has several time shares and lovely condos.
We decided to go to the Balneario. Maybe I decided. I had memories there. My brother, Hector, told me that if I only wanted to get something at the fishing village, I didn't have to pay the fee to get in. Since what we wanted to do was eat Pastelillos de Chapin and bacalaitos, a small tasty fish filled fried pastry, that is what we did. We told the guard at the gate we were going to the fishing coop (la villa pesquera) and she let us through. She gave me a special look like, "you know the secret." I smiled. You turn to the right at the entrance and take the sandy road. The dirt road was full of memories of evading the deep depressions on the road which at other times contained water. The Chinchorro was still there but now under new management.. It was still selling tasty food, chilled coconuts, and beer. And the beach, was there as it ever was before, quiet and peaceful yet different. It's okay. Life changes, doesn't it?
All these experiences alone made the three hour trip to this side of the island totally worth it. I could do it again and again. Hopefully, I will.