Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ponce and Beyond

The bus rolled out around 10:30 Monday morning for Ponce. Ponce is the 2nd largest city on the island located on the coast in SW PR. The diversity of the landscape really revealed itself as wound our way around the island. It's only about 35 miles top to bottom and 145ish across but has such an incredible smorgasbord of Mountains, Ocean, rolling hills, rain forest, caves, and plains.

It seemed like around every corner there was a collective gasp of "Whhaaaaat? Whoooaaahhhh!" from most of the bus.

On the edge of the Ponce city limits there were these 'uuuuge stand alone letters stretched across the road spelling out P-O-N-C-E. Pretty neat.

The hotel in Ponce was infinitely cleaner, more comfortable, and WIFI equipped than the Shit Palace. The unfortunately thing was that we weren't near anything.

Well, except for the 'Chicken Shack' outside the hotel which provided some awesome food

Our proximity to civilization problem was rather easily remedied by renting a car for the week. We split it 4 ways so it was totally affordable and as we were to discover over the next few days.....a very FUN decision.

We got the car Tuesday and headed down in search of a beach. What we found I suppose could technically be classified as a "beach" but there was def no swimming. Very rocky and had the 'Syringe Beach' feel to it. A boardwalk area "La Guancha" was rumored to be right next to said beach so we went in search of it.....and ended up driving through some random neighborhood avoiding roaming stray dogs and getting plenty of odd looks from the residents. Eventually we headed back to the huuuuuuge parking lot by the beach after realizing there was no way all of that parking was just for the beach. Sure enough the row of buildings next to the beach we dismissed as 'private harbor area' was most definitely 'La Guancha'. Oops.

It was completely dead being Tuesday night but I did see one of the most incredible sunsets ever:

Not bad.

The next day Steve and I made our way into downtown to a'splore a bit. Very cool architecture but def a very teeeeny town compared to San Juan. We checked out the Ponce History Museum and I realized I can read and comprehend quite a bit of Spanish but conversing without sounding like a complete fool is a different story.

B and I went to a local watering hole down the street a bit from the hotel for 'College Night'. One thing I had not experienced up until that point was being a complete minority in a bar. I mean the record player didn't scratch and stop as everyone slowly turned their heads toward us but we were definitely observed. The gals in the place seemed approachable even with the potential language barrier but the dudes (who greatly outnumbered the gals) stared right through us daring us to approach anyone and make it back to our car at the end of the night without being followed. So we abstained. A local band was setting up so we stayed for a bit and were treated to some shitty ass rock. Good to see crappy bands exist everywhere....made me feel more at home.

The real adventure started the next morning as we set out for Fajardo and some Snorkeling radness. $70 bought us a 5 hour Snorkelfest complete with free drinks, lunch, and an awesome crew. Very cool experience and chance to bro-down.

The next morning (I think?) we were off in search of a waterfall in the middle of the island. Davie was stuck at Tiger practice so we unfortunately had to leave him behind. Even in the tiny-ass rental car we feared for our lives on more than one occasion careening up and around the twisty-est, steepest, scariest ass mountain roads ever. Seriously, this shit made Pittsburgh's Dirty Dozen look like freakin' Kansas.

We never got completely lost but ended up in some interesting places. We took one side road that was even steeper and more narrow than the 'main' road where we eventually had to pull a U-Turn and noticed on the way back down the couple of overturned cars in ditches off to the side.

We continued on our journey through some moderately shady neighborhoods. Eventually when we were beginning to lose hope Grooms says "that looks like a waterfall through those trees there". There were two pseudo-pull off spots on either side of the road so it was decided an investigation was in order. After trekking down some very steep natural steps we found what we were looking for. The water fall wasn't huge but was still super bad-ass. It emptied into this little pool that was deep enough to swim in the spilled over the edge emptying into this lagoon type area with some large cliffs on the opposite side.

The way to get across was to utilize the vine someone had attached to a tree off to the side and lower yourself down. After that you battled some slippery ass rocks and swam across the channel. There was no way we were leaving without partaking in some cliff-jumpin'. Holy crap. What a freaking rush. The water was plenty deep and freezing cold. After a couple jumps I swam back over, scaled the slippy rocks and grabbed my camera to capture one my my Comrade's leaps. Unfortunately there was no way to get any footage of myself jumping off but B's jump sums up the radness:

On the way back, we stopped at a little side of the road joint and chowed on some super authentic PR specialities.

The rest of the week included a trip to La Guancha on the weekend and an unsuccessful attempt to find another bar ending in yet another scary ass drive through some rather unflattering parts of Ponce.

While San Juan was fun for the swank nightlife Ponce was much more enjoyable thanks to the awesome adventures and predicaments we got ourselves into.

Off to Arecibo....the city that made Ponce look like San Juan. Woot.

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