Journal: Feb 25 – San Juan, PR
The rooster at the ranch must think 2 a.m. is the time to wake up. When dusk is rubbing its eyes, it’s time to rise like the feathered beast that ruled the ranch. He crows heartily hoping the rest of the barnyard wakes up to keep him company. I drift in and out of sleep until 7 a.m. When I watch the sun peek in through the halfway open blinds and sheer curtains of my room.
The rooster begins his second round of wake-up calls. The horses begin to stir and snicker gentle waiting for their morning feed. My room looks out onto the ranch’s yard where there is a hammock and picnic table. I’m tempted to sleep away the morning in the hammock, but I know I can’t miss my ferry at 11 a.m.
No one else is awake at the ranch so I make my way to the ferry to buy my ticket. The rest of the city is also sleeping. The road is quiet as I walk the rolling streets to the dock. Dogs bark at me as I walk by. Some asking me to come play, others telling me that I’m not welcome. A chicken with her three baby chicks makes their way across the road. I laugh as one chick lags behind in what seemed to be in either defiance or oblivion. She rejoins the group after her mother scolds her in clucks.
I talk in broken Spanglish to the security guard at the ferry when he tells me that I can’t purchase a ticket until 10 o’clock. Wandering the streets of Isabella in search of some food seems to be the answer. I find some souvenirs for loved ones and catch a glimpse of the beautiful harbor before reaching an organic cafe with the best coffee I’ve had in days.
I order a smoked salmon bagel and watch as other tourists fill the barstools next to me. Three noticeably drained and exhausted tourists sit down and drink Bloody Marys. They stayed up all night to watch the sun rise and illuminate the sails of the crisp sailboats in the harbor. “I’m still wearing slippers!” the woman explains placing her feet on the bartop.
After breakfast, the streets start to wake up. A group of wild horses stands in an intersection. The male stands on one side of the road next to me, while the mare and her two babies stand on the other sidewalk scavenging for food. The male doesn’t even bat his long eyelashes at me as I pass within feet of him. I was tempted to reach out and stroked his mangled, seaspray-crusted mane.
Main island bound
Back at the ferry, a small line has started to form for tickets. In line, I talk to a couple from Ohio who spent the week in Vieques snorkeling. The ferry sways in a familiar rhythm once we depart. I take out my journal to write. Other backpackers cluster around me. A group of young soccer players surrounds us. They talk excitedly and sing along to a radio playing.
As the ferry rocks me into a state of calm and recollection, I brainstorm of what other things I can do today. Many locals lay intertwined on the ferry’s blue, leather bench. A man leans on the armrest and wraps his arm around his wife who is molded into his side.
Only 84 hours until homeward bound.
After departing from the ferry, I made my way back to San Juan from Isla Verde. I navigated Expressway 3 and 26 like, what it felt like, a thousand times before. I parked the Rio for the last leg of my trip.
Isla Verde was a dream. The beach was crowded with tourists staying at beachfront hotels. The ocean was a stark comparison: crystal clear and inviting. Jet skis made waves just beyond the swimming buoys where’d they break on swimmers’ backs.
I braved the sun today with minimal sunblock. My two highly coveted bottles of sunblock (nearly stolen at multiple hostels) were running low. The cloudy skies overheard I prayed would spare my fair complexion.
Clusters of families comprised of all ages surrounded me on the beach. A local family of all adults shared two beach chairs and one umbrella between the six of them. They drank cheap beer from the cooler. Between the laps of cool, frothy foam, they dared each other to run out into the monstrous tidal waves created by the jet skis. Many tried and were pummeled over running back to the beach chair spitting salty water and sand from their mouths.
A South American family of a mom, dad and two little girls sprawled out their matching striped towels on the other side of me. The daughters took turns whining as their mother smeared sunscreen on their already reddening cheeks. Mom smiled adoring at her daughters with large spots of white cream on the bridges of their noses and cheekbones. The sister galloped into the ocean’s wake spraying each other with salty droplets. Dad returned later with ice cream for the entire family to enjoy under the fading afternoon sun.
I spent the afternoon in a continuous cycle of beach bumming. I’d splash my way to neck-deep water where I salsaed with the tide that was coming in. After feeling fatigued from jumping the ocean waves I’d sashay my way back to my towel held down by my sandals and sunscreen. I’d flop down on the towel and rotate like a rotisserie chicken until the droplets of moisture evaporated and I could feel the sun’s rays brown me. Once I became toasty, I’d dash out into the water again restarting the cycle.
I maneuvered the Rio to one last stop before filling it with gas and returning it home. I went to Platos for dinner and indulged in the Mahi Mahi with coconut and passion fruit sauce. On the side, they served mashed, a combination of mashed root vegetables. Best meal thus far, besides mofongo maybe.
Evening, written by moonlight
A taxi jetted me back to Mango Mansion for the final days of my vacation. Now I write under the light of the moon sitting on the beach just blocks away from my doorstep. I’ve camped myself by the gnarly, intertwined roots of a Puerto Rican tree, which is shaded by two palm trees. The ocean roars ahead of me, bouncing over sand and the occasional rocky break in the shoreline. The San Juan skyline glows behind me.
To the right, a family shines flashlights onto the sand searching for some sea creature which calls the dark its home. On the opposite side of me, lovers intertwined with each other talk in hushed whispered and make me miss him.