Category Archives: Day Trips

Enchanting Moments from an Island on the Mend


Posted by Cassie

Front gate flowers
Hibiscus Flowers and ocean beyond at our house

For us, things are starting to normalize a little. The crisis has passed. I know that a lot of people are still awaiting electricity and a few still don’t even have water, but overall there’s more righted than upturned. We have been enjoying the cool winter weather of December in Puerto Rico. It’s one of the best times of year.

Beautiful Rincon
Sunset over Desecheo Island

The air is fresh, the sky and seas are clear, and this year, as a special treat, the roads are clear as well because there are virtually no tourists around. We have had some amazing experiences recently, another sign of tide turning for the better. Here are a few I will share with you.

Lighthouse Rincon
New kiosk bar at the Rincon Lighthouse

We have been hanging out with our friends Bill, Jenn, Linda and Keith a lot more recently. We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the Rincon Lighthouse. A new little kiosk has opened and plays music and serves drinks. It has added a lot to the best park on the west coast. We watched the sunset and the surfers at Dome’s as we laughed and talked about the tribulations and tremendous moments in this tropical life.

Hanging with Friends
Overlooking Domes

Bill JennSunset Selfie

Cassie and Domes
Rosy sun glow at Domes

We spent time at Keith and Linda’s guesthouse, Casa D’Palma. You should check it out, it’s awesome!

Pool Party
Pool parties in December are the best!

We also had the opportunity to go out on Bill and Jenn’s sailboat for the first time. I’ve been on a few sea vessels, but never a sailboat, so it was a great first for me! We left early afternoon for the Cabo Rojo harbor and motor-sailed until sunset. It was beautiful watching the flying fish and we were mesmerized by all the overturned and crashed boats. I am sure Bill was worrying a lot for his boat during the hurricane! It felt so good to relax and enjoy life again after such a long time struggling just to eat, drink and survive.

Bill
Cap’n Bill at the helm

Britton and Boat Marina
Loading up

Britton and Keith
Britton and Keith kicking back

Capn Bill and Jenn
Bill and Jenn in a sweet moment

Cassie Sailboat
Sea life for me!

Sun and Sail
Sun and sails!

Sunset on boat
Sunset at Sea

Sunset B C
Yet another sunset selfie

Feet resting
Ahh, time to kick up the feet and relax

We have continued to make progress on the property clearing more paths and hang-out and campfire spots (we certainly have more than enough wood now!).

Kitty fire
Kitty, Cassie and a campfire

We have also been enjoying the nightlife a little. We’ve gone out to the Art Walk and while it is not very busy due to the abysmal tourist season, hey, at least there is parking now!

Congueros
Congueros at the Art Walk

IMG_2241
Fun making friends and playing pool at a local chinchorro (hole in the wall bar)

Hurricane Maria’s fury has passed, but the scars are still seen and may last forever. Interspersed with intense moments of beauty we still see the remnants of the trauma. 

Car load
Always something to see here (note the house without a roof as well)

Overturned Boat
Overturned boat washed ashore

Villa Cofresi no beach
A popular hotel in town, Villa Cofresi lost all of its beachfront

But probably the single most magical moment I have experienced recently was a harbinger of hope and love that flew into our life. I was sitting up on top of the cabana reading a book as Britton worked on the Mustang (there is always something to do on that car-haha). Suddenly I heard a little flutter and looked up from my book. A pretty little bird landed on the chair next to me. I said, “Hi, pretty bird” and he jumped onto my shoulder and then snuggled up right under my chin. I couldn’t believe it! He was trembling and hungry and must have had quite a journey to find me. I asked about and found out that he is a love-bird. A rosy-faced lovebird that would need a friend like me to help him survive. Just call me Snow White, making friends with the lovely fauna of the forest! I just can’t wait to meet the 7 dwarves. :-)

Cassie Lovebird
Me and Birdie Bird

Lovebird
Resting after his journey. Look how beautiful the plumage is!

Sometimes it is difficult to describe just how dichotomous life can be here. On one hand, it has been the hardest thing we have ever done in our entire life, and on the other it is the most fantastical fairy tale you could conjure. I suppose that is the way an enchanted isle would have to be.

3 KingsA little holiday/hurricane humor: the gifts the 3 kings will bring this year (gas, water and ice)

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After Irma


Posted by Cassie

All is good in the hood as they say.

Banana trees
Many banana and plantain plants folded over in the wind

We have weathered the storm and come out just about as good as you could hope. Not only was there not any damage to our immediate area, but even the water and electric came back on within 5 days for most people. There are a few people who are still without some utilities, but everything is slowly booting back up.

Group foto
Hanging with friends Priscilla and Ivette in La Parguera

On Monday, Labor Day, we went down to La Parguera to meet up and compartir with some friends. It was eerily vacated as people prepared for what was to come. For us, it was good to get away from the news and the worrying.

All day Tuesday we spent hauling our stuff from the wooden cabin to the concrete cabana. We definitely over-prepared, but when the news says that the largest storm ever is coming straight for you, even I, the don’t-worry-be-happy girl, started to be slightly concerned.

Avocados
A branch on one of our avocado trees fell so we had to gather the aguacates. Did someone say guacamole?!

Come Wednesday, the power goes off around 12noon. It seemed to be a precautionary measure as there was still hardly any wind or impact of Irma. That was the last time we had contact with the outside world until Saturday when we went to Home Depot and were able to use their free wi-fi (as an aside it’s actually kind of nice to sit and use internet in there on their patio displays -hah).

The worst of the storm passed in the middle of the night Wednesday into Thursday. We could hear major wind gusts but not much else. There was very little rain and we commented that we’ve been through a lot worse in Greeley where our house would receive the full force of wind from the west. And in the town I grew up in near Wyoming, the joke is that a metal chain is a wind sock. So I was underwhelmed to say the least. Not trying to taunt you, though, Irma!

ft_windsock
When you come from a windy area, you expect a bit more

The next morning we went to check out the damage. The worst of it was right at the bridge where a medium-sized tree uprooted, got tangled in another tree and landed on the bridge. It caused no structural damage. We just had to chainsaw it out of the way. I think we caused more damage breaking dishes and glass jars hauling our stuff over to the cabana and back than Irma did to our property, not to mention that Britton was pretty hung over. Yes, we definitely can cause more damage to ourselves than any storm.

It was hot and boring without internet or electricity to run the fans for 3 days. We did end up hooking up and using the 400 gallons of water, so we were thankful for that. We took the opportunity to spend a lot of time reorganizing our stuff that we moved over and cleaning the cabin. After a few days I tired of eating canned foods and junk food. We were happy on Saturday to go into Mayaguez for a few parts and a nice meal at Pollo Tropical. A lot of other people had the same idea too it seemed.

Tree down on bridge
Trees on the bridge to the cabin

Someone mentioned they would like to see pictures of the places we visited before the storm. I assume this means the gas stations, banks and grocery stores. There really isn’t much difference now from then. You wouldn’t even think a major hurricane nicked us because there is hardly even any plant debris on the sides of the road. Occasionally you can hear a generator still running, but overall almost everything is returning to normal. We even went out to Sunday Funday in Aguada and had a fresh coconut water/whiskey drink.

Coconut drink
Sunday in Aguada…everything looks pretty good!

I am not sure if this hurricane prepared us for something larger or made us less because we didn’t see much destruction. Either way, I am glad nothing much came of it for us. I was very sad to hear that St Maarten/Martin received a lot of damage because we were just there on our cruise! And I hope the other islands and Florida are able to recover swiftly.

Chickens
Even the chickens, turkeys and Kitty are all fine!

Here’s a short video during and after Irma at our property.

 

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Our First Cruise: Hot and Dry Aruba


Posted by Cassie

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya…

Cassie view
Our first morning glimpse of a sandbar off the coast of Aruba from on high in the ship

We couldn’t get that song out of our head as we arrived in Aruba and sang it throughout our time there, which would be our longest day in port. From 8am to 11pm! We decided since we had extra time that we would make this day an official “excursion day” in which we bought the trip from Royal Caribbean at their desk located next to client services. We chose the “Best of Aruba tour” which was an air conditioned bus because Britton’s ankle had swollen up and he wanted to do a little less strenuous activity than the days prior. We were also super sunburnt from Curacao the day before, so we needed a break from the beach and brutal southern Caribbean sun. I wished I had brought some aloe for my poor skin! We had some time prior to the tour at 1pm, so we explored near the ship as well.

Aruba on high
Oranjestad, Aruba from the ship

All of the stops accepted the US dollar, but in Aruba, they had their own currency, the florin, as well. I really liked the little square coins we got back as change from our stop at the gas station where they spoke to me in Papiamento and my Spanish was understood better than English.

Aruban money and chips
Local Aruban junk food and change

Cassie tourist
Exploring the area near the port -this building was like a wedding cake

C B Aruba port area
From the wedding cake looking toward the ship

Diamond Ladies
A lot of people tried to get us in their stores, mainly jewelry shops

Around 12:45 we loaded onto the bus for the tour of northern Aruba. My main impression of Aruba was that it was the Arizona of the Caribbean. Hot, dry, and windy! There was a cheaper open-window bus tour that seemed a little more fun, but I think we chose well to get the air conditioned bus instead. We are used to heat in Puerto Rico, but I was shocked by the dry heat, the searing sun, and the lack of shade trees nearly anywhere in Aruba.

Old church and cemetery
A few things we just drove past like this 1700s church and cemetery

Cactus house
Private residence with cactus fence like in Bonaire

We drove past a lot of things such as an old church, an ostrich farm and private residences. We made a few stops at various locations such as the rock formations, collapsed natural bridge (which must have been spectacular but now is not nearly as interesting), the cool California lighthouse and I think we probably got the best feel for Aruba than any of the other islands because of this 3-hour tour! What was a little disappointing was just how stick-in-the-mud everyone on the bus was save for the bus driver, us, two Puerto Rican women behind us and a Dutch kid who liked fart jokes. We were the only ones laughing and having a good time. It was like death warmed over with the average age being around 65.

C B Natural Bridge
At the collapsed Natural Bridge in Aruba

Cassie and little bridge
A smaller bridge near the large natural bridge (son of a bridge as the busdriver called it) that they say will soon collapse too

At the Natural Bridge area they had a gift shop and small café. They tried to charge us $1 each to use the bathroom and wouldn’t refill our water bottles with tap water. As jungle hillbillies, we have become comfortable peeing in the bushes, or in this case in the cactus.

Rock formation
Ayo Rock formations

Our next stop was to the Ayo Rock formations. This was pretty cool because it had a beautiful view of most of Aruba including the haystack mountain. They also had a little bar with decent priced beers, filled our water bottles with ice cold water and let us use the bathrooms like normal modern human beings.

Local Beers
Bon Bini (welcome) to a friendlier place in Aruba than our first stop!

Aruba landscape
View of Aruba from atop the rocks

Cassie on rock
What else can you do with rocks and boulders besides sit on them or make granite counters?

Haystack hill
Haystack hill/mountain

Britton on steps
Britton and the view

Because we got so sunburnt from our beach day in Curacao I had been looking for aloe all day. Ask and you shall receive. Not only did I find aloe on this tour, but a whole aloe vera factory! ha!

Aloe Vera
At an aloe vera farm/factory in Aruba

Aloe tourAloe vera demonstration

Aloe processing
Inside the factory as they made soaps and lotions with the aloe

Our final stop was to the California Lighthouse in northern Aruba. It was a very iconic lighthouse and from the restaurant we enjoyed a panoramic view of the rest of the island.

California Lighthouse
At the California Lighthouse

Overlooking Aruba
View from the restaurant of the California Lighthouse


A short video of the tour

When we returned from our bus trip we still had a little more time before we needed to get back on the ship for dinner so we walked to the nearest grocery store to refill our stash of illegal alcohol. A friendly Colombian woman pointed us in the right direction. As we arrived near the store, a drunken homeless man started talking to us in English and Spanish and asking us what we were doing, what we needed etc. He ran in front of us to the store and told someone who worked there to show us the alcohol section of the store. We thanked him and told him we would give him a shot of whatever alcohol we bought when we exited.

When we left we sat down on a step near the store to pour the liquor into the water bottles and give him the rest of the bottle. He was not happy with just that though and wanted us to give him $5 for helping us. We said that seemed a little ridiculous, (especially because we didn’t need nor ask for his help) but sat and talked with him a bit more. I was giving Britton the eye that we had better get out of there before something weird happened. The man said he was a portrait artist and he could draw me. I took this as an opportunity. “Ok, but where is your paper and pen?” He staggered up and ran off to find some. I told Britton we should book it. We grabbed our stuff, left a dollar under a quarter of a bottle of rum and literally ran off. We could hear him yelling “Come back, here! Come back!” but we were long gone around the corner and had another pretty good story to tell our tablemates at dinner that night.

Aruba
Goodbye (Ayo, Tanten! in Papiamento) Aruba and southern Caribbean!

The adventures are almost always found off the main roads in life!  Oh Aruba, I won’t soon forget you!

Next stop, St Maarten!

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Beachy Days


Posted by Cassie

Cassie at steps
Enjoying Steps Beach

Most things on the island revolve around the beach at least to some extent. We don’t always go swimming or into the water, but we are often near it in one way or another. Here are a few fun random pictures near the sea.

IMG_0144
Britton climbing a coconut palm

Ismael and Angel
Meeting new friends in Aguadilla- Ismael and Angel at bar called El Varadero

Madeline and the tree
Behind the bar that is built around a huge Maria tree

Fish face
And this guy with his fish that he just caught

Boats in Aguadilla
Right across the street on the malecón of Aguadilla

Cassie beer 2
Enjoying a cold one on Sandy Beach, Rincón

anniversary
Celebrating our anniversary at Carbón de Palo, Mayaguez right on the water

Maureen Michelle BK
Meeting up with friends Maureen and Michelle at Villa Cofresí to watch the sunset

Cassie snorkel
Fun snorkeling at Steps

Long tree down
Exploring new and strange sights
With Omar
With friends Omar and Christopher at our favorite bar, Olajas right on the water in Aguada

Cassie cool pic 2
Relishing in the beauty of the beach

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