May 16, 2013

A Puerto Rican Sojourn: Photo-Narrative

I haven't embarked upon many spontaneous trips in my life - and so when I found myself on a plane to Puerto Rico a mere few hours after having decided to visit it, I was brimming with anticipation, wondering what awaited us.

Landing in PR's capital, San Juan, the heat and humidity and the blue skies greeted me like long lost friends - and as we neared the sea, I could smell it in the air long before even glimpsing it. Every time I return to the sea, it makes me realise how much I miss it - and how much peace I derive from the simple action of sitting on the shore and watching the waves endlessly roll in. 

The universe of blue at Culebra
Honestly speaking, apart from vaguely knowing that it falls under American administration and consisted of a collection of islands, I didn't know much about Puerto Rican geography or culture; whatever I subsequently witnessed and felt was an intriguing experience, trying to decode its langurous American/Hispanic vibe while absorbing the wordlessly stunning beaches or the smiles that festooned everyone's faces or the quirky ice-cream colored houses.

Sunset at Castillo de San Marcos

Tree-view at Old San Juan
We began our journey in San Juan and whose older quarters I instantly fell in love with; as we drove through the winding sea-flanked lane, I was enchanted by the colorful, historical buildings that lined the place. Following the sunset which we witnessed at Castillo de San Marcos, walking past earnest joggers and people flying butterfly-shaped kites, it was time to explore San Juan in nocturnal mode. Beneath the clear, star-spotted sky, we climbed steeply inclined cobbled pathways and encountered assorted stories around each corner. Boys played basketball in a beach-side court, people sat outside cafes and sipped drinks while a patient puppy crouched beneath tables, and a mannequin in an exquisitely embroidered white lace wedding dress smiled at the sprawling tree across. When I looked up once, an old lady smiled at me from one of the balconies studding a mustard-colored building.

Brilliantly hued wall at Luquillo

Swim-perfect beach at Fajardo

We bid farewell to San Juan the following day and drove down to Fajardo, a 30 min drive away and home to Puerto Rico's renowned Bio Bay, which contains bio-luminescent bacteria. After having idled in a swimming-pool blue lagoon, we then went on a kayak tour to the Bio-bay. If I wasn't so preoccupied in attempting to master kayak paddling;) (first time, people, first time!) I would have better appreciated the eerie, surrealness of the moment: as we traversed the mangrove channel and cut the swirling currents, branches interlocked above us while cries of nocturnal birds and creatures rent the humid, salty air. And then, the guide suddenly asked us to trail our hands through the water. It took me a minute but I then sensed it: it was as if stars had fallen from the skies into the water and we were trailing star-dust! It was undoubtedly the most memorable moment in the journey. 

Tangle of green
 From jade-colored waters to the luxuriant rain-forest, one morning, we climbed up a hill and found herself in the middle of a village in the rain-forest; behind us, clouds plumed the densely-forested peaks while in front of us, the sea quietly reclined, like a misty painting in progress. As we climbed up a path cutting through the forest, trying to access the myriad gradations of green, all I could hear was a library of sounds: birds chirping, water falling and creatures scuttling through the undergrowth. And yet, within ten minutes, though, we found ourselves at the sea once again, where birds swooped in and down through the water, fish gleaming pewter in their beaks - and the sky turned flamingo pink behind a curtain of palms, just like we saw in the post-cards.

Post-card perfect palms

Our last day concluded with a ferry trip from Fajardo to one of the nearby islands; there are several such as Vieques and Culebra and we opted to visit the latter. At Culebra, we found ourselves taxiing down to one of its most popular beaches, Playa de Flamenco - and one look at its incredibly hued waters and we could see why the beach was simply crawling with visitors, swimming or playing or simply soaking in the sheer gorgeousness of it all. The pictures below will attest to the purity of the sea-waters and the intensity of its blue and green hues.

All good holidays and times have come to an end - and so, while sitting in the ferry returning to Fajardo and musing upon the pink-flecked waters, I would hear exuberant cries every ten minutes from the stern of the deck. After a couple of episodes of these joyful shouts, I stood up and peered at the merrily sounding bunch. "What's happening? Are they celebrating something?" I asked a boy wearing an over-sized shirt, diamond studs and immaculately groomed eyebrows (from what I observed, it seems to be quite a trend amongst young Puerto Rican men). He shrugged and smiled. "They are just happy," he said. And indeed, there was much to be happy about: they had spent a wonderful day frolicking in the clear waters and picnicking and were now enjoying a theatrical sunset en voyage to a fun-filled Saturday evening. And there could not be a better way to say adios to Puerto Rico with these cheerful voices in our heads...


You can find more images and impressions of my PR trip over at my new blog, Photo Kahanis...

Do you like taking spontaneous trips? What is the best one you've ever been on? I would love to hear your experiences:)