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Friday, December 31, 2010

goodbye tropics

Don't be a pig
It was finally time to head home, pile down comforters on the bed and take a few deep breaths before checking if all my research notes were legible. So here are a few belated highlights as I whip this Puerto Rico assignment into shape and indulge in a little flashback procrastination:
Culebra
Wow. As I've hinted at a number of times, this pale scribe is no lotion-bearing beach bunny, but the white sand and dreamy coastline of Flamenco Beach lived up to the hype. After biking there to cross it off my to-do list, I had to return the following day and indulge in the full sensory experience (and get body slapped by a sneaky wave). On the drive over, I swear I saw a road construction flagger teasing a tarantula with the end of a pole. Or was that long-legged thing a crab? Shows how tired I must have been.
Fajardo
Got caught driving through a succession of downpour curtains blanketing the highway, and had to slalom through the resulting water parks on the pavement. Same thing at night, plus a few thunderbolts thrown in for good measure. In the countryside just south of town, the hills sprang to life after dusk, with frogs that chirped like rusty swing sets and fist-sized toads lurking outside my door.
El Yunque
At a deserted ecolodge on the south side of the park, the coquis really did eat all the mosquitoes, and a chartreuse 5-inch-long lizard stared at me from the wall across the room. Snails with shells the size of golf balls slurped up the exterior walls, and I could see a waterfall from my bed when the clouds cleared away. I hiked a bit up Rte 191, which crossed the park until closed by landslides years ago. Traipsing along through warm rain, I watched the road devolve from rutted pavement to jungle-reclaimed rivulet, turning back when the water crested over my sneakers and the route demanded a sharp machete.
Western mountains
You know you're driving a true back road when a half dozen dogs snoozing in the middle of a hairpin turn raise their heads up to look at your car but don't bother to move. That and the sight of basketball nets set up in the road. At this point, you also realize that you are very lost.

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