Birder's Eye View

Friday, May 20, 2011

Final Days in Puerto Rico

Finally finished with school for the semester and wanted to post a few more pictures from my final days in Puerto Rico last month (wow, was it already that long ago?). Didn't see any new birds really in the final 2 days, but I did become very accustomed to the regulars -- scaly-naped pigeons, stripe-headed tanagers, tons of hummingbirds, wrens, and yellow-shouldered blackbirds.

After finishing work on our second-to-last day, we spent the afternoon hiking in the waterfalls. These falls were about a 15 minute trek from the Hacienda into the jungle, and were comprised of a narrow, rocky stream that ran down from the mountain top. I also found out on our last day that this was the source of water we had been drinking for the last week! No filtration or processing, just pure mountain water piped straight to the house. It tasted delicious, and no one got sick from it so I guess it was clean enough!

Climbing down (I'm in the purple hat)
We literally followed the stream for hours, climbing up waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. It was seemingly endless. Some were small and needed only a short step up, and others were taller than I am and required some intense finessing to get up. Coming down again was a whole other ordeal!

On our last day, we packed up again and headed off in the sketchy red van, with more people than there were seats bouncing around as we hurtled down the mountain. It was another gorgeous day, and I couldn't help but feel reflective and somewhat melancholy as we left the pristine jungles for the coastal city.
As if a testament to the urban growth slowly taking over the island, we passed this gigantic overpass that cuts straight through the rainforest from Ponce on the coast to Utuado inland. For a rainforest that  had made me feel so small, insignificant, and very much at the mercy of nature all week long, this bridge turned the tables completely, dwarfing the mountains and throwing nature at the mercy of humankind.

Cool sand sculpture
Once we got into Ponce, we had the whole afternoon and half the night to enjoy the city before heading to the airport at midnight (hooray for budget flights!). We wandered the central street market, browsed the shops, and had dinner at a fancy restaurant for our last meal together.

The city contrasted sharply to the jungles that surround it. Although it's fairly old and retains the classic Latin American style of architecture and layout, it's a very different world from the lives led by those who live in the mountains. 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Like all travel, it was immensely eye-opening to the ways other people live, and a fantastic opportunity to visit one of the few biodiversity hotspots left in the world today. I hope to return to the Caribbean islands and Latin America someday soon and see what else there to see!

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