Tuesday, 17 March 2015

On the South Coast

The trade winds blew me along quite merrily along the South Coast which is drier and somewhat flatter. As I have already got too much sun, I donned my only long sleeved jersey, the bright yellow one I am wearing in my portrait at the right.

In Guayama, I stopped to buy a banana from a street vendor. When he saw that I only wanted one, he refused to take my money in return! I was a bit embarrassed. We chatted in Spanglish and mime as neither of us had much mastery of the other's language. I think he wanted to know if I was afraid of being hit by a car. I tried to convey my philosophy on the matter which that if you worry too much about having an accident, you don't get to live life to its fullest.  He seemed to get my point and gave me a second banana!

Having stated the above, I find myself sounding a mite hypocritical as I am a world-class worrier. My defense in the matter is that I am rarely worried about traffic. Also, while I do worry about some things, I do go out and do them. As well, one can have an ideal and still fall short of it. Douglas Adams wrote after finding himself going gorilla watching with a dozen porters worth of stuff: "I believe in traveling light. I also believe in shopping early for Christmas and giving up smoking."

Shortly before entering Aguirre, I saw what looked like green parrot with a length of vegetation fly overhead. Subsequently, I have read that the endemic and endangered Puerto Rican parrot doesn't live in that neck of the woods but that other species of parrot have escaped to form small colonies.

I made a side trip to a nature reserve next to the old town of Aguirre. This had been a thriving sugar refining and exporting centre until the bottom dropped out of the market in about 1960. There was evidence of an old railway complete with a small cranes at the edge of fields to lift the sugar cane onto railway cars. The old section of the town was full of older wooden buildings with high peaked roofs, as opposed to the newer flat roofed concrete houses. The old houses looked sad and dingy. On the edge of this was a coastal ecosystem reserve something or other. There is a herd of manatee in the waters offshore and a mangrove swamp to visit. However, the only company I saw were a trio of feral dogs.

Puerto Rico has a lot of stray/feral dogs. They are fairly sorry-looking lot, especially the bitches. Thankfully, they are generally pretty leery of people. The dogs that bark are usually pets!

I stopped for lunch pollo asado y yucca at the edge of Salinas at a roadside stand. Before me in the line was a Puerto Rican National Guardswoman who was apparently about to bring lunch back to her buddies. A mongrel lurked in the shade of a lamppost nearby watching casually in the hopes that something would come its way. Sure enough, one of my table mates eventually threw it a bone.

As I was leaving Salinas, I came across Bertos Bicycle Shop. It was a very low-key establishment run out of Bertos garage. I stopped to see if he had a proper inner tube as the Walmart bought one was slightly too small. Despite the language barrier, we managed and I got a proper replacement. If I am any judge of bike shops, then I think Bertos caters to the local population's everyday bikes. Puerto Rico has a significant population of low-end, going around the pueblo cyclists. These tend to be male. One sign of this was a ordinary refrigerator with a hand written sign giving the prices of the soft drinks therein. To me this suggested that the locals would hang around and chat as per the Puerto Rican custom. Bertos wanted to know what I was up to, so I pulled out a small map sketched out my travels and planned travel in broad strokes. He was interested. He also admired Leonardo.

Between Santa Isabel and Ponce, there was a long stretch of fairly straight road with bushes on either side and a depressing amount of road kill. Iguanas, dogs and mongooses were all present. Possibly the dogs were killed trying feed on the road kill iguanas. I saw one live dog looking as if it was about to eat a freshly killed iguana.

Ponce is named after the famous/infamous conquistador Ponce de León. The City has drawn the emblem of the "Lion" from his name to use as a civic symbol. Currently there are a dozen or so lion statues at two corners of the main plaza each painted differently by various local artists. (This sort of thing goes on a lot across the world. I wonder if it is a named art form?)

Today, I rode out of town a short distance to the Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tides. This archeological site was discovered in 1975 after flooding from a tropical storm revealed the site. It consists of a series of ceremonial plazas edged with stones. The culture has been dated to the period of about 600 to 1200 AD. It seems to have been one of the more elaborate cultures in the Caribbean though nothing is known about it outside of the archeological remains.

I have spent the rest of the putzing around the city centre. Ponce has kept much of its Spanish colonial architecture.

One weird bit is the Parque de Bombas which sounds rather alarming to English speakers until it is remembered that Bombas refers to fire trucks. It is an eccentric red and black stripped building and houses a small museum to volunteer firefighters and a tourist information office.

Next to it is one of the most surprising things I have seen in this trip: a bike repair estacion. There is a pump for tires and a selection of bike tools attached to metal cables. I didn't see anyone use it, but I must inform Vélo-Québec that Ponce has one upped them! (Outside Vélo-Québec's office in Montreal, they have pump which gets much use.)

Part of me regrets that I didn't take two full weeks off for this jaunt as there are some places I might have gone but for a lack of time. Such is life.

1 comment:

Susan Gwyn said...

I think they have bike repair tools tied to a post or something outside the graduate students' building (the pub that Stephen and Jonathan frequent(ed) at U Vic).