Birder's Eye View

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Service Learning in Puerto Rico: part 2

Partly from exhaustion and partly from the symphony of coqui frogs outside my open window, I slept like a baby during my first night in Puerto Rico (zipped up tightly in my sleeping bag for fear of insects crawling in!).

We awoke with the sunrise and met our van in front of the guest house to take a day trip to the Arecibo Observatory, the largest radiotelescope in the world. After a harrowing 1 1/2 hour ride down some more treacherous mountain roads, we drove up a steep mountain, parked, and then hiked further up the steep mountain to the tiny observatory museum.

After wandering around, watching a short movie (which was in English, surprisingly!) we exited out the back door and found ourselves looking down into a massive dish that encompassed the entire valley.

It was one of those things that is really too big to even comprehend. It dwarfed the mountains and rain forest that surrounded it, like a giant bowl set into the earth.

We gaped at it for a little while, took some pictures, enjoyed the view, and then trekked back down the steep mountain. Our guide wanted to show us more of Puerto Rico, so we continued on to the city of Aricebo, on the northern coast of the island. 

Just as we were close enough to see the waters of the Caribbean in the distance…. BANG!!!! … With a jolt and the sound of a gunshot, our right back tire blew out in the middle of the road. Our driver pulled off to the side by a chain link fence and an old car lot, and we dutifully filed out to evaluate the damage.

The thing was ripped to shreds and our hubcap had spun off about 40 feet away. After retrieving it, and trying to jack up the van, the driver and guide discovered the jack was too small. We tried several variations of propping it up with wood and rocks, but to no avail. Eventually the driver called a friend who had a larger car jack, and we waited another 30 minutes out in the sun for him to arrive. Eventually they got the donut on and we were well on our way again, disaster averted.

When we arrived at the beach, we found ourselves amidst a cacophony of blaring Latino music and roar of waves breaking on the brown sand. We found a quieter place along the beach and headed into the waves, clothes and all. I discovered the hard way, however, that the waves in Puerto Rico are nothing like those on the gulf coast. Once you walk out to about waist-deep, the current is so strong it literally pulls you in across the rock bottom and then throws back at shore again, completely whipping you off your feet. It was kind of exciting at first, until waves got big enough to pull me under — not so fun anymore.

I had a blast, though. Once everyone got back, we rinsed off as best we could, piled in the little van, and sped off back to town for lunch at a crowded local BBQ joint. The food was delicious — we enjoyed meals of yellow rice, beans, beef, chicken, fried potatoes, and plantains, all cooked to perfection.

Yellow-shouldered Blackbird
Upon returning to the house late afternoon, I spent the rest of the day relaxing on the porch and exploring around the nearby trails. Tons of birds were around, as always, their calls, chirps, and whistles echoing through the mountains. 

Multiple species of hummingbirds and Puerto Rican Todies flew right through the porch to taste the plantain blossoms that grew around the building. They were way too fast to photograph though.

Mystery bird?
I also managed to get a shot of this little guy, but I'm not sure what it is. Any ideas?

Stay tuned for part 3 in the next few days!

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  • hey, I've just found this via facebook and really love it. You've got an awesome writing style and seem to be having some bloody awesome adventures! I'd love to go to anywhere in that part of the world.

    all the best


    By Blogger Liam Curson, At April 16, 2011 at 1:38 PM  

  • Thanks for the comment! And I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. You should definitely try to get to the Caribbean/Central America one day -- it's a totally different world!

    Thanks again!

    By Blogger Andrea, At April 30, 2011 at 10:30 AM  

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