Génesis, my host, is taking a course to become a tourist guide. Her teacher teaches at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. He was taking the engineering students on a trip to Camuy caves and a secret beautiful beach, on my day seven. Géne was going with them to practice her guide skills. She said I could go, provided at least one student did not show up, which I would know in the morning of day seven. Also, I would have to pay only for the entry fees at the cave and my lunch. My back up plan was to reach Fajardo at least by 9:00 am, and take the first ferry to Culebra. There are extremely few ferries this season and weekends are crowded. I did not have a solid plan, basically.
I left home at 7:00 am with Géne in her car. If all the students show up, I take a cab and either go home, or leave for Culebra directly. I had left the snorkeling equipment at home but I had everything else needed for a beach. We waiting for the students till 9:00 am. Géne’s teacher was cool. He welcomed me very well and gave me his card. People here have not much care for time. They lounge around. When they apologized to me I told them that I was used to it. Indians follow Indian Standard Time too. Géne also told her teacher that I was traveling alone. He was so impressed that he decided that I could go with them. His name is Hiram and he caters to only Spanish-speaking and local people. He wants them to be aware of Puerto Rico and the importance of the beauty around.
We set off and I was introduced as the exotic one from India. Everyone spoke in Spanish and the whole commentary, jokes, songs, was in Spanish. Géne was extremely sweet and she translated to me everything. It was fun. A lot of students from the university talked to me in broken English and asked me a lot of questions throughout the trip They were all lovely. We saw a lot of mountains, sugarcane plantations, and got a lot of knowledge from Hiram about nature and the ecosystem. We reached Camuy and owing to summer vacation, there were many kids from summer camp. We had to leave for lunch as the waiting was really long.
At lunch, the only vegetarian options were boiled sweet potato, boiled unripe plantain, some other boiled tuber. Everything else had meat – pork rice, blood sausages, beef gravy, pork gravy, etc. I had the vegetarian stuff which choked my throat after a point. I also had some pork rice without pork, and then flan with coconut shavings. It was good. We then left for Camuy again. Also, I did not have to pay even for the entry fees ($6), or my lunch and snacks.
Trust me, the system at Camuy cave is out of place. We had to again wait for another 40 minutes. I talked to the students in the meanwhile. Then we got in and it was quite an experience. I saw Guaba, or whip spider. I also noticed some other phenomena in the cave. It was magnificent. I am told that there are many more and beautiful caves in Puerto Rico that even the locals do not know about. We then had a sweetmeat made of guava, and orange juice. Orange is called china (cheena) in Puerto Rico only. The story goes that they arrived in “from China” boxes first and they thought China is the name of the fruit.
After we came out it was too late to go to the beach (I knew it). I was highly disappointed. But Géne took me and another guy from the university to Ocean Park. We chilled there a lot. The guy talked in Spanish because he did not know English very well. I could get what he was saying and replied in English and he understood that. It was amazing. We had beers and when it was dark, we went into the water. After that we went home.
I cooked chickpeas Indian style (chhole). There was some random curry powder in the house which I had used. Géne loved it so much that she ate more than she should have and got me to write down the recipe. I had told Géne about shell-painting. She had a lot of shells and we started painting on them, drinking cider and smoking.
That night as I was packing my stuff Fey came to my room and licked me and jumped all over me. She would not leave my room and made sad sounds. She put her head under my bed and stayed like that for a long time. In the morning, as I was ready to leave, I went to hug Fey and Panda. Panda was under the table and she did not want to come out. That’s what she does when she thinks people are going to go away for a long time.
Géne took me to Loíza, which is dominated by African culture. I almost cried. This place is beautiful – the shacks selling frittos, the very amazing beach, the souvenir shop, no buildings. Also, they have bomba dance performances here at night. I of course missed it. Bomba is where the dancer makes the music, and not the other way round. Also, drink pina colada from street-side vendors here. I will guarantee you that it will be the best pina colada you will ever have in your life.
I went to the souvenir shop and bought nice shot glasses for my friends, a candle holder, bracelets, hammock for myself. I gifted a beautiful ashtray to Géne. Then she dropped me at the airport. We hugged, kissed, as I promised that I would be back for more of Puerto Rico. Despite all of these, I have not been to and done some of the best things in Puerto Rico.