As we have been harbor hoping the southern coast of Puerto Rico we have spent about a week in the anchorage of Salinas.  The anchorage is well protected from winds and waves and other than our Manatee encounter when we anchored (we startled a mother and her calf and they made a large splash which made the two people on the bow jump), it has been very relaxing.

We decided for the weekend  to use the Enterprise Car Weekend Rental of $10 per day for Friday/Sat/Sun, to tour Puerto Rico via the roads.  We drove 275 miles.  The trip from Salinas to San Juan was over several mountains; the island is very hilly, but the major road was 4 lanes so no problems.  On the trip we went from a small town - to no town - and then into the biggest town of San Juan with over 3 million people.

We wanted to go into Old San Juan and since parking is hard to find we took a parking garage approach.  The procedure we found is to park a car in the normal stall and then attendants park cars in front of the stalls thereby blocking the stalls.  The cars blocking the stalls leave their keys in the car so if the car in the stall needs out the parking attendant just moves the car in front.  This allows for a lot more cars in the garage but is rather confusing to an inexperienced parker and trying to communicate this in broken English/Spanish adds for an extra confusion.

The area in Old San Juan is beautiful and has private homes, businesses and several large public buildings.  One of the buildings we walked through had several guitar groups scattered around it.  Each group was involved in lessons and the one group we watched were children learning on 10 string guitars.  You could tell the groups where the lessons were more advanced vs. the beginning lessons after listen for a short time.

We walked up the walkway to "El Morro", the fort at the entrance to San Juan harbor, then read the signs referring to all the Dutch and French soldiers who tried to take the fort over the 250 years of the fort's history, none were successful.  The Spanish had built the fort because it was on the first major island from Europe with fresh water, shelter, supplies, and a deep water harbor .  The fort is now part of the National Park Service; has been kept up well and has lots of history you can learn.  

We stopped and had Wendy's for lunch in Old San Juan, and just outside the restaurant was a large public square with benches and statues.  There were a couple of hundred pigeons about the square and Derek wanted to run through them, but we didn't let him.  A lady came over and grabbed Derek's hand and dumped some bird seed in it and before he knew it, two pigeons had landed on his arm and were busy eating.  She did the same to Kris, and they both had a grand time pretending to be statues as the birds ate out of their hands.  Thankfully, no one got bird poo on them.

Since we have not been driving much; the experience of driving in Old San Juan was an adventure as well.  The streets are narrow, one way with cars parked on one side.  Most of the roads are paved with blue bricks,  and are very hilly.  The map we had from the rental car agency and the old GPS map did not always agree on the routes so we might have seen several of the same streets as we tried to find our route from point A to point B.  There were no fender benders and when we finally drove out of San Juan to the wider roads we were happy.  On the way home we stopped at a Costco and reloaded up some of our supplies, felt just like the USA.

On Sunday we drove up into the hills in the central part of Puerto Rico, around Villalba.  These roads are called two lanes but usually 1.5 wide.  We had to detour several times around bicycle events, one serious race and two local town parades.  The hills make the roads very twisty and slow, usually 30 mph as you weave and wind up and down the hills.  We stopped and looked at a water fall along the road and then went it to a coffee plantation and took a self-guided tour.  This plantation has 120 acres of coffee, mid size for the island, and uses one person per acre to harvest coffee.  Very labor intensive but when you see the slope people have to walk on you can understand the ratio.

It was good to see more of Puerto Rico than just from the water but we were very happy to get back on the boat. 

 

 

 

03/11/13; Puerto Rico so far 

Driving the hills of Puerto Rico

Road side restaurant

Parking garage in Old San Juan

Music  lessons

El Morro

El Morro as it faces the harbor entrance

Old San Juan's streets

Waterfall along the road

Coffee plantation