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PART 4 - WAITING ON THE WEATHER Jun. 30th - Day 14 - Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation

Updated: Jan 29

Puerto Rico - South Coast - Windmills

The latest forecast has worsened, and I likely will only be able to get back in the water on July fifth. Tomorrow the East winds will be sustained at 25mph, The worst of the storm will be in the afternoon of July third; Waves are projected to reach 18 feet and the winds will gust above 40mph. July fourth will still be pretty choppy, and then on the fifth conditions should be normal again with calm mornings and manageable headwinds in the afternoon. Unfortunately, that means I’ll only have 11 days to complete the journey, so it will be a stretch for me to go to Viequez and Culebra. It’s an eight-mile crossing from the mainland to Viequez and another ten-mile crossing from Viequez to Culebra. The Vieques crossing is against the wind, and the Culebra crossing wind is exposed to the ocean swells, and I would need calm conditions not to drift past the islands. I’m afraid that like Caja de los Muertos, those adventures will be for another journey. There were a lot of things to sort out. First on the list was finding somewhere to stay after July first when I get kicked out of the hotel I’m at. I found one place in town through Airbnb very close to a viable place to launch in the morning for the July 4th night. The price seemed like a total rip-off, $109 for a modified shipping container, but the host assured me it had AC and there would be space in the fenced area for the kayak, so I ponied up the money for the reservation. Next was where to keep the kayak for four days until I could launch again. For now, I have it sitting pretty just outside my room door shaded under the concrete walkway overhang from the second floor. I even found a hose to wash the salt off and would be thrilled to leave it there until launch day but the hotel staff told me it was a bad idea.

“On the holiday weekends this place gets filled with drunken riff raff from San Juan who puke everywhere. There’s a good chance some drunk guy will piss in your kayak, or worse.” “Oh, I pee in the kayak, and don’t do it drunk. But yes, someone else’s pee is a different level of repulsion.” Fortunately, for me the hotel receptionist offered to keep it in his house, a twenty-minute drive away, but I would need a car to take it there. Therefore, the issue now became where to rent a car, and not just any car, but one to fit my kayak. I checked on google and found an Enterprise Rent a Car office at the Ponce Airport thirty miles away. The town here is too small and far from Ponce to be worthwhile for an Uber driver, but after asking around at the local marina I was given a number for a private driver who would be willing to make the journey. I think he could tell from the sound of my voice that I was in a bind because he charged me $120, paid in cash, one way. I felt ripped off, but I soon forgot about it when Enterprise hit me with the cost of an SUV rental. “The four days will run you $900 plus tax.”

“Are you sure?” I asked, and then asked again to make sure I’d heard it right.

“It’s the last SUV we have and if you don’t take it, I’m pretty sure it will be gone in a few hours. The holiday weekend is coming up, and I’m surprised we’re not sold out already. Bring it back before 12:00pm on July 4th or you have to pay for an extra day. Tolls get billed to you separately plus a 10% fee. And we also need a $200 security deposit.”

I had no choice but to swallow this bitter pill. There went a good chunk of the money I earned gambling. With all that out the way, I felt like the day could finally begin. I took a drive on a road called La Ruta Panoramica , which runs along the spine of the diving mountain chain in the center of the island and climbs some 3,000 feet. Getting up there was quite the ordeal. The road crosses through the jungle, is narrow like a goat trail, and so steep that I had to stretch my neck out to keep my eyes on the pavement. At one point, it felt like the car would lose traction and topple backwards. The most harrowing aspect of these narrow mountain roads in Puerto Rico is that they are all two-way traffic, and whenever a truck comes in the other direction, someone has to drive backwards to the nearest bend and hope there’s enough width for both vehicles.

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Once I arrived at the summit ridge I relaxed a bit. The view is stunning; on one side was the Atlantic Ocean and on the other, the Caribbean. It was surreal to look on either side at the light blue water and think, “yes I paddled there, and there as well.” As I kept driving I came across a sign on a side dirt road for Cañon Cristobal. I had heard about a large canyon in Puerto Rico that few people visit. The road had a gate with a padlock, but it was easy to walk around. I parked the car and went to see how far it went. As I walked, two local girls caught up to me. I asked them if they knew where the road went, and they said it later turned into a trail further up and ended in a waterfall. They went on ahead and decided to follow them but given that I wore flip flops, and they wore shoes, they soon outpaced me. Just as they had said, the dirt road gave way to a trail, which descended some 300 feet into the dense mountain jungle. I walked for about 3 miles until the trail ended at a viewpoint of the Cañon Cristobal and what I think must be the biggest waterfall in Puerto Rico which dropped some 1,000 feet down a steep limestone cliff into a thundering river below. It’s a mystery to me however as to where the two girls went. The trail did not have any branches. I did not see them on the way back, and when I arrived at the trailhead, only my car was there. Where could they have gone I do not know.

Sea Kayak Puerto Rico Circumnavigation


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