Sunday 7 Apr, Puerto Rico day 3: Driving along the Panoramic Route on the ridge of the mountains.
Great sleep and now ready for another action packed day. Before we leave on today’s road trip, I adjust the mooring lines. The surge is snatching on the bow line and springline, so I add a dampening spring to each one of them and this instantly stops the snatching. Such dampening springs and rubber-snubbers are very common in Europe, but over here it’s rare to see them in use. I wonder why, because we have certainly been in some pretty badly surging docks here in Caribbean and east coast US.
Once in the car we plot our route heading for the Panoramic Route, a scenic mountain road that weaves its way across the high ridge of mountains and runs the entire length of Puerto Rico, east to west. It is 170 miles long so we will only manage to do the eastern half today. We are looking forward to some greenery and cool air after a hot day in town yesterday.
Soon after we depart Palmas Del Mar complex, we are on smaller roads which are crossing fields, industrial areas, and small communities. Then on the country roads we are passing banana plantations and small villages.
And when we start driving up the side of the mountains, with lush vegetation along the sides of the road, we get glimpses of the valleys below us and the peaks ahead of us. All very pretty and we get the impression that Puerto Rico makes very good use of its land for agriculture compared to other islands.
We stop briefly at a shop that claims to be a bakery. We do manage to get a ham and cheese toastie, and in the agricultural corner of the store, I find and buy a machete! I always wanted one. Good for dividing up fish we catch … or intruders! And if I catch the guys who stole the outboard, I might even wish to try it out on them too! Oana is just more concerned I don’t draw even more of my own blood with it. I don’t normally need a machete to manage that!
Charco Azul (Blue Pool) is highlighted as an attraction in the guidebook so we take a small detour to go see it. From the parking lot there is a 500m walk to this poll. The path is paved and we cross three small rivers. When we finally see the pool, there is no wow factor to it. Just a small pool, more greenish than blue. But seems to be popular as there are several people around, mostly basking in the sun on the rocks whilst a few are in the water under a small waterfall.
We continue our drive on tiny roads, and in some places the vegetation almost takes over the sides of the road, just as the guide book said it would.
And when we arrive to Guavates, it feels like another world. The roadsides, for hundreds of meters, are filled with parked cars, lots of kiosks selling trinkets and souvenirs and loud music playing from all the bars and restaurants, which also there are plenty of. A mad zoo! Not our scene at all.
But this is where the roasted piglets are served, and we venture out of the car to have a brief look. Conclusion: indeed, not for us. In 5 minutes we are ready to drive off!
The next section of the Panoramic Route is equally charming, and it would make an amazing ride on a motorcycle. The bends in the road are perfect for a motorcycle ride. Hence a large number of bikers passing us.
Scattered along the side of the road there are lots of restaurants, the parking of which are all full. People must be driving up here during weekend because it is cooler and spending the afternoon drinking, eating and dancing in the many many road side bars. We have already experienced the Puerto Rican’s like to get out on the weekend when the bay on Culebrita island became mobbed with day boats, and now we are seeing the same in the mountains.
Aibonito town is one of the attractions on this route, the highest town in Puerto Rico. A collection of very colorful buildings, but not much going on on a Sunday afternoon. A beautiful church by the town square, a street covered with hanging umbrellas, the usual music coming from the very few bars that are open but nothing else. There must be some attractions listed in guide books, but not in ours. We do walk on few streets to admire the architecture, then head off.
North of Aibonito is San Cristobal Canyon, 700m deep. We want to have a look at it, but the entrance is fenced and padlocked. Hm, why wouldn’t it be open at least for view if not for hiking?
Back on the road, the usual. Too many restaurants and too loud. So we take an even smaller road which seems to run through equally overdeveloped areas. Except it seems to be more affluent, houses are nicer here.
We briefly stop at Jeeper’s road side bar, which so far is the only one which actually has a view over the valleys and mountains below. And this view inspires us to fly the drone for an aerial footage. We are already at 1000m altitude and we take the drone another 400m above us, taking a 360 degrees video shoot over the whole island.
4.30pm by now, so we plan our route back. Heading straight south, the road is equally pretty if not better. It meanders along the ridge of a mountain then follows the side of the mountain and we have spectacular views of the valleys to our left.
As we drive down, the vegetation gets less and then total dry and parched by the time we make it to the sea. Such a change so quickly, just as we have seen on other islands. You can go from dense rain forest to almost desert conditions in just a couple of kilometers.
Salinas Beach catches our attention as dozens of cars are parked along it. But at a closer look, the beach is just a thin pebble beach with wild waves crashing over, and we don’t see the attraction of it.
We then drive through Salinas town, a very slow drive as cars are double parked everywhere. Along the road the same collection of loud and busy bars. Note to self: avoid driving in the weekend.
We pay a short visit to Marina de Salinas to check out the surroundings. It seems to be a very sheltered harbour and quite a few boats are anchored out. We might consider this place as a potential stop on our way along the coast of Puerto Rico, should we decide on the southern shore route. The town itself didn’t look like much (what we saw of it).
From here we aim for the fast way back, on the highway. Which turns out to be another amazing road. Just like most US highways it has a wide area of green grass between the carriageways as it is sweeping through the mountains, rewarding us with magnificent views in this wonderful early evening light. We comment that it’s like driving through the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian mountains of east USA.
Back at Cloudy we comment how nice it is to have a day out and just be able to step back on board rather than the usual wet dinghy ride. And as we have this whole side of the marina to ourselves we can almost imagine this as our secluded little house rather than a boat!
The evening sees us getting a bit frustrated with the internet. With our WiFi booster we are clearly connected to the marina WiFi, but the internet is terrible. Not what we were expecting for our money to stay here. So before we throw the PC over the side, we give up and go to bed. Oh these touristic days can be tiring!