BootsnAll Travel Network

An OH-MY-GOD moment

August 1st, 2006

It was an “OH!MY!GOD!!” moment the first time I saw Shacks Beach, even in the dark. The white tops of the gentle night wave shimmered in the faint light of a waxing crescent moon. I stood on our little deck staring out at the ocean for minutes, unable to move, transfixed by how beautiful it was. This was just the first oh-my-god moment; there would be many more over the next 10 days.

Except for Rincon, which deservedly gets mentioned for it’s world-class surfing, the west coast of Puerto Rico frequently gets by-passed in the guidebooks and travel magazines. But it’s beautiful here with miles of mostly unspoiled, sometimes hard-to-get-to beaches.

We’re heading back to see what it’s like in high summer, part of our “research” to see if it’s feasible to move there.  As I write this, most of the U.S. is in the grip of a serious, deadly heatwave with temperatures in the upper Midwest in the high 90s to over 100. The 85 degrees in and 16 mph breezes in western Puerto Rico are going to be a break.


We’re off

August 5th, 2006

Tomorrow morning we’re off the Northwest coast of Puerto Rico – the Porta del Sol area.

 We can’t wait. New posts coming as soon as we find a wi-fi site or Internet cafe on the west side.

 Til then…

Tags: ,

A fine pair we are

August 7th, 2006


5:00 am

In the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International AirportThat sounds so-o impressive K-BC INTERNATIONAL Airport. It’s not.K-BC is pretty much a little regional airport. At one time there were direct flights to Toronto – hence the “international” in the name – but those stopped more than 10 years ago.

A fine pair of travelers we are! The first leg of our journey and we queue up in the wrong airline queue. This was made obvious when two other travelers walked right up to the counter we were waiting for and checked it. Doesn’t take us long to figure things out.

After going through the screening process, we were sitting in the “holding pen” between the only two gates in this airport. The woman who first “cut” in front of us in the queue walked by and said, “Just so you know, the gate is over here.” I’m not sure if she was being serious and helpful or sarcastic, making a joke at the expense of the “rookies,” but we took it as a joke and laughed anyway.


Lobster tales

August 13th, 2006

Two fisherman came in from a diving trip with a couple of spiny lobsters for sale. Ten dollar each, which was probably to much. But oh, my god. Dinner last night was the freshest lobster I’ve ever eaten.


To fix it, first cut the tail shell lengthwise on both the top and the bottom. Our guide told us never to use a knife, only kitchen shears. No kitchen shears available but part of the fun of travel is “making do.” All we had was a little pair of sewing scissors. We weren’t sure they would work, but what the heck.


Turns out the spiny lobster’s armor plating is really pretty brittle. Even our little sewing scissors cut it relatively easily.


From there use a knife to cut along the joint where the body and the tail meet because the tail meat actually extends up into the body. Once the body and the tail are separated, cut through the tail meat where you cut the tail shell, separating the two halves of the tail. From there it’s easy to see and remove the digestive tract. The tail haves are ready for the grill.


With the grill set for low heat, put the tails on the grill meat side up, shell side down. Spoon melted butter on the meat and sprinkle with parsley flakes. Occasionally baste with more butter as the tails cook. They are done when the tops are gently browned. Squeeze fresh lemon juice on them as you remove them from the grill. Serve with more drawn (melted) butter and lemon. A salad, fresh bread toasted on the grill and cold beer complete an incredible fresh lobster dinner.


Do all this with someone you love, on a little deck overlooking the ocean as the sun sets and it is an unforgettable evening.

Tags: , , ,

Lookin’ at you from Blue Hole off Shacks Beach

August 13th, 2006

Here's lookin' at ya Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

Tags: , , ,

Arañitas con pulpo and mofongo con pollo

August 7th, 2006

The view from El Alambique

3:00 pm

Isla Verde, San Juan, Puerto Rico

We’re here. Eight months and six thousand miles but the wait was worth it.

Tags: , ,

Into Blue Hole

August 9th, 2006

Into Blue Hole

Off Shacks Beach there is a place known as Blue Hole.

From the deck of the rental houses along the beach the “highway” through the reef to get to it is visible, obvious. From the ground or in the water, you have to take your cues from the reef itself.

Start on the beach east of all the rental units on a little ledge of rock (not reef). In the water you snorkel out northwest, keeping clear sand below you and reef on both sides. A hundred-and-fifty to two hundred meters out, you run into a reef wall. At low tide there is less than a meter of water over the reef here. Swim over the 2 meters or so of reef and…

You go over the edge into Blue Hole. The reef wall becomes a cliff and the ocean bottom drops away 10 meters or more below you. The water is a deep, uniquely ocean blue. When it’s clear, you can practically count the grains of sand on the bottom.

But the reef’s edges are where the interesting things happen. Fish – scores of them – feed along the reef. Blue tang, bluehead wrass, yellowtail damsel fish. Fan coral wave in the current. Two giant brain coral dominate one corner of the Hole (this is your brain on drugs; this is your brain on the reef)

To experienced divers/snorkelers/travelers this is redundant, but I’ll say it anyway – the reef is a living thing, a living being. DON’T TOUCH IT. Don’t hang on it, don’t stand on it, don’t kick it with a fin. Watch it and all the vibrant, beautiful life that lives on it and near it, but please, please don’t touch the reef. Off my soapbox now.


Tags: , , ,

Seal of approval

August 7th, 2006

6:00 am
In the Kalamazoo-Battle Creek International Airport

The TSA guards allowed us to keep our shoes on as we passed through the security check point.

Something about my shoes set of some unseen sensor and they made my remove my shoes. After passing my shoes throught the X-ray machine, they still weren’t convinced my shoes were not a threat to “friendly skies.” My shoes were pulled aside for “further testing.” A magnetic wand was passed over them; they were wiped with some cloth that that was then put in some machine to read the residue of all the places these nearly new shoes have traveled.

At last convinced my shoes were not lethal, the TSA guard handed them back with a quick flash of a smile and a perfuntory “have a good trip.” My shoes now proudly display a sticker that says “Q.C. Passed.”

Tags: , ,

Kite surfing at Shacks Beach, Puerto Rico

August 8th, 2006

Kite surfing at Shacks Beach, northwest Puerto Rico

Shacks Beach, where we’re staying on the island’s northwest corner, has a reputation as one of the finest kite surfing beaches in the Caribbean/Atlantic. Today it lived up to that reputation with winds out tof the east at 18-22 mph. A couple of kite surfers took full advantage of the wind and spent a good part of the afternoon grabbing big air out on the ocean.

 It was great for kite surfing but lousy for snorkeling. Those winds really roughed up the ocean and churned up the bottom, making visibility pretty bad. The east wind also pushed some pretty stong east-to-west currents. So we didn’t make it out to Blue Hole today. Maybe manana.

Tags: ,

Colors of Puerto Rico

August 13th, 2006

First sun

Today is one of those magic days. The view out my front door is alive with all the colors of the tropics.

It started even before sunrise in the soft platnum grey light of dawn. The sun rises around the point just out of sight but catches the tips of the trees and the boats moored just off shore.

Late afternoon now. The sun is out and there’s hardly a cloud in the sky.

 The green of grass is more yellow than the darker dreen of the coconut palm leaves beyond. The dark palms form a frame for the lighter, bluer green of the ocean where the bottom is sand. Where the ocean floor is reef, the green darkens to olive and then to brown. Beyond the reef the deep ocean water is deep, almost cobalt blue, but flecked with the white wave caps.

 The horizon is a sharp knife cut where the ocean blue meets the paler, hot, washed-out blue of the mid-afternoon sky. A different, brighter blue slashes across the sky as a kite surfer makes his way in and out, to and from the beach. One soon becomes two as another kite surfer, this one with a huge yellow, white and black sail takes off from the beach. Now another, this time orange and grey and black. And still another, blue and orange and yellow. Cutting back and forth. Grabbing “big air,” their black wet suits silhoutted against the sky.

 Three kite sails

Tags: , ,