About Us

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Indiana, United States
Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings. Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.

Monday, December 30, 2013

More Ferry problems for Vieques....

This is copied from Trip Advisor and was posted by a friend of mine:

Things are going from bad to worse. 600 passengers many of them tourists with reservations were turned away at the dock this morning with vague explanations. The private ferry company s ( that covers many of the runs for the government) contract expires in a few days. The Ports authority division that operates the ferry, ATM, has already gone thru their 2014 budget and then some 14 million in the hole with no idea where it went! PR it self is in a budgetary crisis and will be hard pressed to do anything.

They will be unable to pay for another contract for the private ferry and will be forced to operate a schedule with only one or two boats that actually run.

DO NOT RUIN YOUR vacation to save a few a bucks, FLY


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Free TV....

It's been years since we've paid for TV. I remember when we built our house, some 20 years ago and because there was no cable TV service available we were left with only one option, a satellite dish. The price, back then, for a new direct TV dish was $900. I just about puked at the thought. I ended up digging enough ginseng that fall to pay the $900 for the dish and so begun our 15 year marriage to direct TV and their subsequent siphoning off of some  $12,000. It's amazing to think that we spent that much money with them.  My how things have changed.

The last couple of years we've been using Netflix, but that too is about to end. There's just not enough programing available and even though it's a fraction ($8 a month), of what we used to pay DirectTV, we can put the funds to a better use somewhere else.

That brings me to our newest find for TV viewing, along with some other favorites.

Tube Plus has hundreds of TV programming and movies, all for free. There's a few pop-ups to navigate through. Most launch in the background so it's easy to close the windows.  This has by far the most TV and movies we've found yet for free and is currently our main site.

If your into documentaries, like us, then the best site we've found is Top Documentary Films . Hundreds of documentaries in just about every genre thinkable.  Great nuggets to found on this site.

Crackle is site that has a decent selection of movies and television programming. The only hang-up is they make you sit through some commercials. Not nearly what you'll have on broadcast, but enough to be annoying.  We use it every once in a while.

Just a few places to get free TV.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Colores Del Mar....

 Just a mere 4 weeks ago we were staring out at the Atlantic, sipping our morning coffee and watching the horses, all from the kitchen deck of Colores Del Mar. I remember watching the white horse in the above video. It was a quiet morning and his whinnying, in the morning sun,  seemed a declaration of just how beautiful it all was.

  The falling snow out my window this morning only intensifies our pining for the warm winter trades of Vieques. Mr. Crab has crossed our minds a few times, especially when enduring single digit temperatures  of the last few  weeks. Lorrie would ask me "So, just what do you imagine Mr. Crab is doing right about now?"  I would just smile and reply "Enjoying the warmth."

 Did you know, that for centuries the trade winds have been used by captains of sailing ships to cross the world's oceans, and enabled European empire expansion into the Americas and trade routes to become established across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, however, this is not where the term "trade" originates. The term is derived from a Middle English word meaning "steady" or "consistent".

Ah, but I digress. This post is an attempt to convey our impressions from our recent stay at Colores Del Mar. So to that end,  first, and what is sometimes most important, cost. We paid $1200 a week for our stay, $2400 for our two weeks. There was a $500 deposit that was handed back to me when we met the owners on our departure. Our cost included the use of a two wheel drive SUV, which performed perfectly.  I washed the car and make sure it had a full tank of gas, just like the way it was when we arrived.  That is a very, very good price,  for a whole house and vehicle.

The house sits on a large property, maybe an acre, I'm not quite sure. It's landscaped, but the landscaping is relatively young and new. The property has slope to it and consequently we didn't spend much time walking the grounds, although there was a banana tree with a ripe bunch of bananas that we took advantage of many mornings. I had no idea how easily bananas fall off the plant when they're ripe, also just how darn good they are when that fresh. We did enjoy watching the humming birds that frequented the flowers and the egrets that would land to feed on the grassy slope. The property is all fenced with a gated entrance. We noticed more mosquito's than in other locations, no big deal, but worth noting.

The house is a one bedroom and  was designed to be a "couples retreat".  The bedroom is very large and has two wicker chairs, a desk and a flat screen TV. The bed is a king and had plenty of pillows. There are two overhead ceiling fans and a bedside fan. The bedroom is the only room in the house to have air conditioning. There's great air flow in the bedroom. Lots of wood in the bedroom. It has wood plank floors, something we don't see often in Vieques. It has a wood framed roof with the beams  and beaded roof sheathing exposed. Real craftsmanship. The only criticism of the bedroom would be that the TV is way too far from the bed, which is really the only place to view it. Not an issue for us because we usually don't watch television, but given the size of the TV it's way too far away for comfortable viewing.  There's a huge closet and two dressers in the bedroom.

The kitchen is the other main room downstairs. When you enter the house this is the room you come into. It's a large kitchen with everything one would ever need, more so than most houses we've been in.  The cabinetry is beautiful. Full size refrigerator, stove, microwave and a small dinning table with chairs. Great airflow in this room. Sliding doors lead out to a small deck that overlooks the property with a gorgeous vista of the Atlantic.  The other end of the kitchen has a doorway into the bath. It's a large bathroom with a double head shower. Blue and white tile countertop with a decorative porcelain sink.  Perfect functioning space with the added benefit of being tastefully put together.

Like I mentioned earlier the kitchen sliding doors lead out to a small wooden deck. The deck has a adjustable canvas canopy and two patio chairs. There's a gas grill out there also, with a full propane cylinder (something other rental houses sometimes either forget about or just leave up to the rental to take car of).  We never used the gas grill, but sat out on the deck many times, at least until the bugs began to bother us.

That's pretty much the downstairs. If you noticed there's just one thing missing. Some sort of inside living room/space. Unless you were cooking, eating, showering or sleeping there's no other space inside. There are the wicker chairs in the bedroom and the chairs at the little kitchen table, but no space to relax inside. If you used the house as a landing pad you might not ever notice this. We spent two weeks at Colores Del Mar and in that space of time you notice it. May be an issue for longer term renters.

Outside on one end of the deck is a staircase that leads to the rooftop deck and Jacuzzi room. The views from the rooftop deck are  blow your socks off/kick-ass. There are two patio chairs and two loungers, plus a table or two and a couple of potted plants. It's all tiled and has in wall lighting.  It's a great space. Separating the roof top deck from the Jacuzzi room is a double set of sliding doors. The Jacuzzi room is constructed much like the bedroom. Wood flooring and roof framing. There's a wet bar and half bathroom also. We sat in the Jacuzzi a few times. Couple times at night. You can see all the lights from the big island from sitting in the tub, plus you can watch any cruise ships. We are not fans of chlorinated water on our skin, so for us it really wasn't too big a deal. The only thing missing from upstairs is an inside space to lounge because once the bugs start outside your looking for relief.  Your only option is to sit in the tub. Probably not a big deal to many but if you spend two weeks your gonna notice it.

I cannot over emphasize just how much effort has been put into all the details of this rental.  Tiny little things that showed enormous thought, care and effort. From the extra beach towels to the wet bar in the upstairs Jacuzzi room, which by the way,  had it's own little frig  even an ice bucket.  There are two or three sets of snorkeling gear that looked brand new, umbrella, cabana. Very little if anything has been missed other than the aforementioned inside living space. 


I think I would be remiss if I didn't speak honestly about our entire experience at Colores Del Mar. Part of what has prompted me to do this is what I have learned about a couple who rented Colores Del Mar after our stay, that and the fact that I have been in contact with another couple who experienced exactly what we did.  First, everything I have wrote above about the house is true, it is exactly as advertised and is a very good deal price wise.

Here's the issue. The owner was drunk when he picked us up. I overlooked this due to extenuating circumstances that I knew they were dealing with.  I've since learned that this is not an isolated incident. The tour of the house lasted nearly 2 hours and bordered on OCD. I overlooked this for the same reasons, but have since learned that this also is not a one time event.  I think there's a certain amount of trust that needs to exist between renters and owners, you have to trust me with your property, I have to trust you to my privacy, as you also have keys to the house.  In a small way our privacy was violated, not a big deal as we dealt with it, but it happened. If your going to enter the bedroom and make changes you really should first clear it with the renters.  I am torn in writing this because I really like the owners, I just don't understand some of the things one of them did.  Maybe I should have been more open about how I felt, I dunno. In my heart I truly feel they are very good loving people, but I feel it's important enough to mention here, that way future renters will be forewarned. I feel bad because I wasn't as honest as I should have been in our review on HomeAway, I've since removed that review.  I mean no ill will towards anyone.

and there it is.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Puzzling 'Blackout' at Puerto Rico's Famous Bioluminescent Bay

Jenny Xie, The Atlantic Cities
Nov 22, 2013

A Puzzling 'Blackout' at Puerto Rico's Famous Bioluminescent Bay
Bioluminescence, the neon-blueish glow produced by microscopic plankton when they sense movement, is one of the most magnificent natural phenomena. Unsurprisingly, the world's few remaining bioluminescent bays have become top tourist destinations. Kayak and boat tours allow visitors to streak the water and observe the magic glow.
But in Puerto Rico, one of these bio-bays has gone dark. And no one knows why.

The bioluminescent Grand Lagoon in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Herminio Rodriguez)
Near the Grand Lagoon in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, the glow hasn't been seen since November 11. According to the AP, tour operators have had to cancel excursions and reimburse visitors. "We've never seen anything like that," Fajardo Mayor Anibal Melendez told reporters.
Earlier this week, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Carmen Guerrero and a team of scientists traveled to the lagoon to collect data and try to figure out what's causing the darkness. They think many factors could be at play, including storms generating big waves and the clearing of mangroves to make way for larger boats in the area.
Another factor is runoff from the construction of a nearby water and sewer plant. The plant, expected to be completed in 2016, is actually designed to protect the lagoon from sewage discharge. Officials involved say that since the goal of the project is conservation, it's been inspected to comply with environmental standards. As a precaution, however, the government has suspended the plant construction for two weeks while the scientists examine water samples.
Any of those disruptions could be at fault, since the plankton depend on a delicate balance of nutrients, vitamins, and water temperature and quality. However, Miguel Sastre, a biology professor at the University of Puerto Rico, is most concerned about the construction runoff, since the timing coincides with the darkened bay. Sastre told the AP that Fajardo's bio-bay had previously gone dark in 2003 for reasons unknown, but the glow returned a few months later.
Hopefully Fajardo will bounce back once again. But the deterioration of Puerto Rico's bio-bays has been a consistent concern. The government has also been exploring ways to protect Mosquito Bay in Vieques, considered one of the brightest in the world. They want to prevent light pollution and improve road access so that sediment doesn't get in the water.

One of the biggest and perhaps most obvious challenges is figuring out how bio-bays and humans should co-exist. Earlier this year, Secretary Guerrero said there are no limits on visitors. Imposing tourist restrictions would be tricky, as the thousands of visitors who come for the glowing lagoons are a key component of the local economy.
According to news agency EFE, 11 boat and kayak tour companies operate in the Fajardo area, and bio-bay tourism contributes to 700 jobs in the area.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Please keep the cabin clean....

Back home now, got in late last night, something like 1:30am. Weather was horrible. A pelting rain and gusty winds made driving on the interstate treacherous. Awoke this morning with the travel hangover, plus it's one of those Paynes Gray days outside, no more Vieques sunshine. We did bring back some warm weather with us. It's 60 degrees. Warm enough for me to brave the elements and check on the property. With all the wind we had last night I was worried there might be some damage.

It is a strange feeling to go from wearing flip flops and shorts to blue jeans and muck boots:

Big change obviously, as is always the case when we get back home. Your a little depressed because first, the weather is no where near what you've just experienced for the last two weeks, and secondly  you know that tomorrow it's back to the grind.

Around a point of woods and I could see just how many leaves I was going to have to get swept up.

This perfectly clean when I left two weeks ago.
This lane was all cleaned off too. Keeping the leaves off this lane allows the moss to grow thick on this path. You can  also see the standing water, we really did get a lot of rain overnight.  It was about this time, when I was looking at how drab everything was,  that I noticed something in front of me. You can just barely see it in the picture above. Right dead center of the lane. I walked closer and burst out laughing, totally snapping me out of my melancholy.

Do you recognize this sign? Have the Refuge personnel  been on my property while I was away? Here's a closer look:
What a hoot! I couldn't stop laughing. That is a T post, much like what was on La Plata. The sign is nearly a carbon copy, plus it's laminated with a plywood backer just like the original.  I know a couple guys who have WAY TOO MUCH time on their hands, and they didn't just stop with one. Noooo, there was another one zip tied to the little beach tree right outside the cabin.
 This took some effort. They had to take the picture,  create the sign. Laminate the sign. Gather all this and pack it back to the lane and then set it up.
After seeing the signs I had to go get Lorrie and show her. On my way back  to get her I saw the backside of the first sign:
 Thankfully they drew the line at ordering concrete and setting steel. This made my day and also made me realize just what a great bunch of guys I work with.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The naked truth....

Ah yes, it's Orchid Beach 'au naturale'  number three. We got to La Plata early, had to wait on the rain  to stop. Not long after we set up we noticed another couple, we heard the car doors. They hit the beach deliberately and on a mission. They had chairs, coolers and were trailed by two dogs, but that didn't stop them from walking all the way over to the gallery. I mentioned to Lorrie that they were up to something, cause no one sets up camp over there. Sure enough it didn't take long to see, I mean REALLY see, what was going on. 

Off came the cloths and they hit the water wearing nothing but a mask and snorkel.   We were curious how they would act once more people showed up. Within a couple hours two more couples came onto the beach. Which brings up another observation. Lorrie and I have noticed how many times people walk onto the beach and just freeze, not sure what to do or where to go.  We call it the "beach coma". The naked ones, across the way, were in no way comatose. They were in and out of the water. He was parading up and down the beach in front of the gallery.  It did limit traffic over that way. No one else was going over to the gallery.

Then it happened. Lorrie saw it first, I never heard them at all. Lorrie tells me, "Look who just showed up."

I ask this officer  if I could take his picture. There were three of them, all on horseback. We knew that more officers on horseback had been added to combat the recent crime wave, but we had yet to see them in action. We really like seeing the police on horseback. For one it just fits better. Last Feb we had a guy on an ATV drive right by us on the beach when we were on La Chiva. That was kind of annoying. These guys on horseback are unobtrusive. The officers were all very nice too, real gentlemen. They were making their way down the beach when it looked like they caught sight of  what was happening across the way. They headed all the way down to the east end and  then one of them went into the water, still on horseback,  headed towards the nudists. I grabbed the binocs and watched assholes and elbows trying to get cloths back on. It was funny.

The officers didn't go all the way over to the gallery, I guess the couple getting some cloths on was enough. They left as quietly as they came, great way to move around without anyone knowing it. No car doors to be heard from them.

After about 20 minutes things were back to normal. What I mean is, the cloths came right back off.  Lorrie, I and most everyone else decided to stay on our side of the beach.

It was a beautiful day on La Plata. The water was the clearest we've seen it in two weeks.  We watched a couple storms pass by out at sea.

Cabana held up just fine in some fairly strong winds all day
We didn't  close out the beach today, still had to wash the car, inside and out, pack.  Left the beach today about 4pm and right as we were leaving this rainbow forms. It looked like it was originating right over the two nudist, by the gallery.

For some reason this old song came to mind:

Left the refuge and went to the car wash, the car was a mess. After that I suggested to Lorrie that we should stop by Mamasongas and check out the upstairs, maybe grab a burger. Lorrie agreed so that's where we headed.  Being still  early the place wasn't very busy. We got a table in the corner with plenty of shade.

There's a nice view of the street and peeks of the Atlantic.

Looking around  I could tell it would be a really fun place to spend a late night with friends.

Here's another shot of Lorrie at our corner table by a tree that overhangs.

That tree had a surprise for me when I sat back down. Lorrie noticed it first. There was this huge iguana climbing up a branch right behind my head.

Let me tell you this was one huge reptile, it was also the closest Lorrie and I had ever been to one. He didn't seem too bothered by us at all.

Lorrie and I ordered two burgers with fries. We had ice tea to drink. We would have ordered more but I didn't realize that they only took cash. We had $40 with us. The bill for the burgers was $27. Great meal and a really good price. As a matter of fact most of the entrees we saw were $10-$15.  Good food, good service and good atmosphere.  I like this place.

Back to the house to begin packing and picking things up. Been a great trip, can't wait to be back again (in 9 weeks).

Ended the day with a beautiful sunset.

I'll be uploading a video review of Colores Del Mar when we get home. The Internet connection
  is just not really fast enough here to get it done.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Long shadows...

Last few days have been spent on La Plata. It has reminded us of when we first came to Vieques. Yesterday we had the beach to ourselves all day long and as a matter of fact there were very few cars in the turnouts to La Chiva, like maybe 5 total. Totally different than last year. I guess this changes just like the sand near the gallery.

Met up with a  friend who is in the final stages of finishing a house right near the ferry. We got to see it last year when they had just begun. The transformation is unreal and the views out of the living/kitchen area are gonna be something. This is one we're gonna have to try out. I have a particular affinity for fine craftsmanship, it is evident throughout the place. I noticed that the roof beams in the master bedroom had been chamfered, a beautiful touch that shows attention to detail. It should be coming onto the rental market soon, very soon.

Like I said, we've just been enjoying ourselves, hanging out on La Plata. In the evening when things start turning that beautiful gold color, we always take a walk. It's a very special time. On last nights walk I took a video cam along. Nothing special, just a walk along the beach with long shadows:


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Playing on Playa Grande...

Last couple nights here at Colores Del Mar have been very quiet. Our midnight howler has moved on. Extremely peaceful in this house and the views of the Atlantic and the big Island are mesmerizing.

We decided to go to Playa Grande yesterday. I looked on google maps and the walk to purple beach is going to be as far as the trek we took to jumping rock. Both of us just wanted a nice place to hang out.

We drove all the way to the three crescent beaches, something we realized after we had made the hike last week. Also, we made the drive in a 2x4. The road was in better shape than the one that goes out to La Plata, it's becoming very rutted and is getting some seriously deep holes. No need to set up a shelter because of all the palms. We picked out one we liked and called it home for the day.

Playa Grande is so much different than the eastern refuge beaches. Not only is the sand much coarser but the sea is wild on this part of the coast and has a very strong undertow. I would not want to let younger children in the water along this stretch as the it will suck you right out. Neither Lorrie nor I got much past chest deep. For one thing it's difficult to find a spot where you can get into the water because the reef/rock runs right up to the waters edge.  It's  a beautiful place though:

This next picture is looking back towards our palm, hard to see but it's the blue dot, just left of center:

The coast just looks tropical here, especially with the hills rising in the background. Very private, we basically had the place to ourselves the whole day. Only a couple people showed up, but they didn't stay long. These are just not swimming beaches, but that doesn't mean you can't have some fun:

As you can see from the video, these rocks have to be taken seriously. The water I was in was only waist deep.  I couldn't imagine being out further and then getting thrown into the shore rocks, ouch! The little pool we found and the end of the video worked out best, we had a buffer to tame the waves down a tad.

After all that fun it was time for a concerted cleanup effort. I know I go on and on about this but it's terrible (just check out this google image search.) There was so much trash out  on this beach it was sickening. Such a beautiful place filling up with garbage. Extra large trash bag in hand, (that's something else I'm going to change in the future.  Here I am espousing the harmful results of ocean plastic and what am I using to pick up the plastic, a plastic bag.) Anyway I covered a small area and filled my bag to the point it wouldn't take anymore and still allow me to carry it, plus I had to get it into the vehicle yet. These are the largest lawn trash bags we can find in Vieqeus and it was full.

Worst yet, there was a lot more trash right in front of me, but I had to leave it. There are not trash cans, nor pickup, out this far. So your gonna have to haul your garbage back towards the entrance of Playa Grande. There are trash cans there.

Above is what I had to leave. Maybe someone else can take off from where I left. There's a glass bottle in the above photo. I leave those, although I do take off the plastic caps if they have one. This was just walking along the beach and not going up into the vegetation at all. I'm sure there's much more just in a little. What's in the picture above is a good representation of what I find. Clear plastic water bottles are by far the most common, then comes plastic caps in all colors, next it's  a three way tie between plastic lighters, flip flops and random Styrofoam. The floating plastic bags are easier to find when the ocean is bringing in seaweed, you can find them among it. Otherwise they get buried in sand and are difficult to dig out. Fishing line and rope are the last common denominators.

While I was busy doing my cleanup I came across this little palm trying it's best to get established. I could see one of  those motivational posters with this palm and the word Tenacity under it.

Not sure where we are headed tomorrow. Lorrie is mentioning La Plata,  I think she's having withdraw symptoms. Have to say I feel a tinge of it myself.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Hanging out....

Nothing extraordinary about the last two days, what I mean is there was no major pilgrimage to another secret island spot. We drove out to La Plata and hung out. Yoga in the morning, swim over to the gallery, a little curating where needed, then back to the cabana to enjoy what was  perfect days.

The sand is back over near the gallery, crazy I know. Didn't even take a week for it to change.

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. Unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.~ Shunryu Suzuki

Met a couple from the east coast of the U.S.  and they told us it had been 10 years since they had been to Vieques. I commented that a lot has probably changed since then. They said not really, except that there a lot less trash. They said it was piled up on the roads when they were here before and they noticed how much better everything looked. They concluded that there must be a change going on with the local people regarding the care of Vieques. This was great to hear and made me think that I might be taking a myopic viewpoint on how the refuge is changing. I  guess they are trying and making progress, so I'll accept the signage and look rather at what they're trying to accomplish, helping as best as I can.  And to that point,  I did manage to gather all those plastic bottles around the point out towards Ensenada Honda.  We also made our way around towards Escondida and cleaned it up. There's one monstrous wad of blue rope that I've been looking at for a couple years now that I managed to gather into a pile, but it was too much for me to try and move by myself.

I found another one of those strange seeds that I could never learn the name of or even what it was. The first one I found looked like a plastic hamburger or something. Extremely hard and even felt like plastic, actually looked man made.

 I found out what it is called. Hamburger seed, how about that!

Here's some info from Wikipedia:

Mucuna is a genus of around 100 accepted species of climbing vines and shrubs of the family Fabaceae, found worldwide in the woodlands of tropical areas.
The leaves are 3-palmate, alternate or spiraled, and the flowers are pea-like but larger, with distinctive curved petals, and occurring in racemes. Like other legumes, Mucuna plants bear pods. They are generally bat-pollinated and produce seeds that are buoyant sea-beans. These have a characteristic three-layered appearance, appearing like the eyes of a large mammal in some species and like a hamburger in others (most notably M. sloanei) and giving rise to common names like deer-eye beans, ox-eye beans or hamburger seed.

Speaking of seeds, the nickernuts pods are all green and spiny now. I learned about them a few years ago when we saw a couple women collecting the seeds along the beach at La Plata. I ask what they where planning to do with them. They told me that the string them into necklaces. If I remember right we usually collect the seeds in Feb.  Here's a picture of some of the pods that are now on La Plata:

and here's some info on nickernuts:

Nickernuts or nickar nuts are smooth, shiny seeds from tropical leguminous shrubs, particularly Caesalpinia bonduc and C. major,[1] both known by the common name warri tree. C. bonduc produces gray nickernuts, and C. major produces yellow. Accordingly, these species are locally known in the Caribbean as "grey nickers" and "yellow nickers".
The word nicker probably derives from the Dutch word "knikker", meaning clay marble.[2]
In the Caribbean, nickernuts are used to play mancala games such as oware. The nickernut is marble-like and good for other uses, such as for jewellery; it is also sometimes ground up to make a medicinal tea.[1]
The seeds are often found on the beach, and are also known as sea pearls[3] or eaglestones.[4]
Caesalpinia and Merremia seeds sometimes drift long distances. In 1693 James Wallace referred to them being often found in Orkney: "After Storms of Westerly Wind amongst the Sea-weed, they find commonly in places expos'd to the Western-Ocean these Phaseoli . . . . [F]rom the West-Indies, where they commonly grow, they may be thrown in on Ireland, the Western parts of Scotland and Orkney".[5] In 1751 Erich Pontoppidan described one found on the coast of Norway: "It is of the size of a chestnut, obicular, yet flat, or as it were compressed on both sides. Its colour is a dark brown yet in the middle, at the junction of the shells, it is varied with a circle of shining-black, and close by that another of a lively red, which have a very pretty effect".[6] They were known as 'sea beans' in Scandinavia, where one has been found fossilised in a Swedish bog,[7] and 'Molucca beans' in the Hebrides, where a visitor to Islay in 1772 wrote of them as seeds of "Dolichos wrens, Guilamdina Bonduc, G. Bonducetta, and mimosa scandens . . . natives of Jamaica".[8] The 1797 Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica said that they were used only for "the making of snuff-boxes out of them";[9] however, there is a long tradition of using them as amulets for good luck,[2] banishment of ill luck[10] or to ease childbirth.[11]

Found this strange looking yellow fruit on a vine. Don't have any idea what it is:

Update ------------------------------------------------------

I have since learned, from the help of an anonymous commenter here on the blog, that this is called Cundeamor or bitter melon. After doing a little digging I came upon this article about some research in to bitter melon:

Bitter melon juice may be efficacious against pancreatic cancer, according to the results of in vitro and animal studies conducted at the University of Colorado.1
Although no clinical trials in patients with cancer have been conducted, bitter melon (Momordica charantia), which is commonly consumed in parts of Asia and Africa, has previously been shown to have activity against breast, prostate, and colon cancer cells.
In the University of Colorado studies, four pancreatic cell lines were treated with juice obtained from bitter melons purchased in a local store. A single 24-hour treatment reduced the viability of the various cell lines by 54% to 98% after 72 hours, suggesting significant, broad spectrum anti-cancer activity.
Two cell lines were tested to determine if treatment with bitter melon juice increased apoptotic cell death compared with untreated cells. Apoptosis increased from 12% to 32% in one cell line and from 11% to 34% in the other cell line.
Western blot analysis showed that bitter melon juice activated two regulators of apoptosis, caspase-3 and caspase-9, and upregulated several proapoptotic molecules in both cell lines; overall the bitter melon juice also had variable effects on several antiapoptotic molecules.
Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is activated when cell energy is restricted, was more active in treated cells than in untreated cells, suggesting that bitter melon juice was starving them of energy.
To study the effects in vivo, the researchers next grafted human pancreatic cells from a single line to athymic nude mice and administered bitter melon juice orally for 6 weeks, with apparently positive results: at the end of the study period, xenograft volume and weight were both significantly lower in treated mice than in controls. The mice that received bitter melon juice had no weight loss and there were no apparent harmful effects on the pancreas or liver.
Apoptosis is regulated by a balance between proapoptotic and antiapoptotic molecules. Compared with tumor cells from untreated mice, tumor cells from mice given bitter melon juice showed an increase in proapoptotic proteins and a decrease in antiapoptotic proteins, supporting the results found in vitro.
The researchers' interest in the effect of bitter melon juice on pancreatic cancer was sparked by the observation that the juice has mild hypoglycemic effects and has been used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes, a disease that increases the risk for pancreatic cancer (Related: Relationship of Type 2 Diabetes and Cancer Risk). They speculated that, even in the absence of diabetes, bitter melon juice might have favorable effects on pancreatic tumors.
“Three years ago researchers showed the effect of bitter melon extract on breast cancer cells only in a Petri dish,” said Rajesh Agarwal, PhD, co-program leader of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Colorado University Cancer Center and professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Denver, CO.
“This study goes much, much further. We used the juice—people especially in Asian countries are already consuming it in quantity. We show that it affects the glucose metabolism pathway to restrict energy and kill pancreatic cancer cells.”

full article here Chemotherapy Advisor

Portia trees are in bloom along the beach, but I think they bloom all the time because I remember seeing this one blooming in Feb.

Lazy days just hanging out watching the shadows get long and everything turn that golden color.

Thinking about either going to Playa Grande tomorrow or hiking east of Playa Voltia to what I believe is/was called Purple beach, which rumor has is supposed to be open sometime in 2015.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Playa Voltios....

Being tired from our trek to Jumping Rock we hung around Colores Del Mar today. Lorrie was able to sun up on the roof deck while I uploaded video. I finally ended up using the YouTube video uploader cause my MovieMaker software just kept crapping out on me.  I think I'll continue to use it in the future.

It was a beautiful day and I got to sit in the kitchen here and what the ferries and boats head toward the main island. Watched rain drift across Puerto Rico. I was so quiet here at the house today. Very relaxing.

Along about 3pm I ask Lorrie if she wanted to head down to Voltios beach to close out the day. We have never been on that stretch and it's only about 3 minutes from the house, actually it would be an easy walk, but we did enough of that yesterday.

Voltios beach gets it name from the electrical cable running from the substation out in the water on it's way to Culebra, I would guess. Here's a google earth shot of it. I have the electric cable marked with a yellow arrow. We hung out at the yellow X:

Lorrie decided to walk the beach, I was content to just sit in a chair and drink a couple beers. (Told you she was tougher than me).  The Atlantic side had the typical wave action we had seen before in Feb.

And now that she was taking her walk it was time for a cold beer and to chill-ax. We only had two beers left from a case of this Carib Lager that we had bought. I kinda like the stuff. Beer in hand I was ready to bring the day to a close.

There was just one problem. I couldn't find the bottle opener, I guess she didn't pack it. Yes I know what your thinking, I could have packed it. Lorrie takes care of that kind of stuff and she's damn good at it too. All was not lost though, I had my leatherman packed. 3 minutes from the house or 3 hours a boy scout is always prepared.

Ahh..all was good in the world again.

One beer later I could see Lorrie on her way back and by the look of the way she was holding her right hand I could tell she had some kind of treasure. Did I mention that during our trek to jumping rock she was picking up sea glass and shells and depositing them in my backpack, a lot of times without me know it!

Hopefully there were no more hermit crabs hiding in her cache.  We closed the beach down, it was a beautiful evening.

Jumping rock....

Scratch that one off the bucket list....

Note: there are a lot of pictures with this post and three videos, might take a bit to load.

Wow..what a day. I've yet to figure out just how far Lorrie and I walked, but I believe it was somewhere between 8-10 miles. We got a late start having  slept in, not because we were up late partying or something, no not at all. I think we hit the sack around 9:30 last night.  Then, as has been the case for the last 4 nights, this psycho dog begins his non-stop howl/bark-a-thon till somewhere around 4am.  Don't dogs ever get sore throats or anything? We've yet to find a way to silence his bark. We've tried ear plugs (I brought some with me.. just in case something like this would happen). We've got a fan running in the room on HIGH. I've got the windows shut and the A.C. on  (something we eschew when we're in the Caribbean). None of it works. But enough of that....

It was 10:30 when we arrived at Playa Grande. We packed light (one drink each, couple granola bars each, first aid kit, camera, T-shirt in case of rain, knife) ,  knowing we had at least a 4 mile hike (one way) ahead of us. I had sketched out a map of the coastline to help guide us.

Oh...wait...I've  gotten ahead of myself. The way we found out about Jumping Rock was from our property manager Allen. He told me about how kewl it was and that you could jump off this huge bolder that cantilevered out over the ocean an then let the waves push back up underneath it. He described it as  a monstrously sized chunk of granite and that visiting it was one of those magic moments. He said that if his health wasn't so poor he would take us there himself.  He also said one could hike to it from Playa Grande but you would need some serious surf boots/diving boots and some real stamina.  Lorrie and I bought the boots from BlackBeards. Allen kinda pointed out the general area of the boulder on one of the handout Vieqeus maps. I did some searching on Google Earth and located this huge boulder on the far western coastline, out from Playa Grande. As large as this boulder looked from overhead, it just had to be it.

This next picture gives you and idea of just how far we traveled today. As the crow flies it's just under 3 miles across from the right X to the left X. Following the coastline I'm saying it's at least 30% further and that would put it at 4 miles one way, 8 round trip:

This was only our second visit to Playa Grande. Our first time  there had been  a gate at the very end of the beach and it was closed, this time it was open.  So we drove as far as we could until the road got a little hairy. We opted to turn around and pull in  at the last turnout to the beach. That put us about where the right X is.  From that point we started hiking. If you look close you can see my cabana sticks still strapped to the top of the car. :-) 

Below was our starting point:

Our first obstacle was the set of rocks in below picture. I knew this would be no problem as I had climbed over them on our first visit to Playa Grande. 

It was great to feel like we were actually on our way.  Exciting because we didn't really know what to expect. This was all just based on a short conversation with Allen.

These beaches are gorgeous. I had forgotten just how beautiful they are and there wasn't a soul around. As a matter of fact we never saw another person all day long.

Everything seemed to be going just fine until we ran into this spot.

 I tried everything to find a way to get around this. We couldn't climb over it, too steep. We couldn't walk around it at the water line, cause it was too deep. We couldn't swim because we had the camera and some other items that just couldn't get wet. I tried climbing up the side of the embankment. Impossible. When I got to the top it was some of the thickest, nastiest, thorny vegetation you've every seen. Impenetrable. So there we were. About 45 mins into our Jumping Rock trek, dead in the water. (no pun intended).

Rather than give up completely we opted to walk back to the car, drive as far as we dared on the road, then start hiking from there and just see where it would leads us. I had remembered from looking at the google maps that there was a two-track road that ran in the general direction of where we were heading, but I had no idea if we would be able to get to  the waterline.  

When we began again it was just before 12 noon. The road we walked on was gravel in some places, dirt in others. The more we walked, the more I realized I could have driven further but having only a 2x4 this time I didn't want to take a chance. It got really "jungley" looking as we made our way along the road.

 After about 45 minutes we came out on a beach. I was sure it was one of the 3 crescent shapes beaches I had marked on the map. I marked those beaches in orange on the one below:

Hot and a little sweaty we opted to take a break under a palm. I grabbed a coconut for us to drink. Here's a short video clip of it:

 Before we left this spot we blazed the trail, so to speak, with a bamboo stick and a big wad of green fishing net. Just a precaution because this might end up being hard to find.  Pushed on to the next point and saw nothing of the Jumping Rock, only more rocky beach edge.

 Once we left the beach areas I began watching the tideline. The waters were relatively calm now, but should the tide come in and the wave pick up I could see where this could be a little treacherous. We hit numerous black sand beaches, I can't tell you how many we saw.  That palm tree was inviting but I kept pushing on. I knew it was after 1pm and was already doing the math in my head on how long we could keep heading this direction without turning back.

Every time we would round another  point I would be disappointed (and a bit more worried) because there was no sign of the Jumping Rock.  We found this little pool of water to hang out in and cool down. There was the huge cactus hanging over the edge:

Although we were getting really tired it was at the same time exhilarating to see so much wild beach. I knew how far we were now getting from the truck and the sun was beginning to edge west of center.

I think it was at this point in the below picture,  that I ask Lorrie if she thought we were pushing the envelope and if she wanted to head back.  From the look of what was now in front of us  we were gonna have to take off our backpacks and hold them over our heads, plus there was still no sign of Jumping rock. She said that she trusted my judgment and would do whatever I thought best.

I turned around and looked at just how far we had come. I was weighing the investment we had in time and energy and if it was worth continuing.  The picture below is looking back. I knew that within an hour we would have to turn around if we were going to have enough daylight to make it back.  I decided to press on and didn't dare look at the time.

Another point, no jumping rock.

You reach a point in hikes like this where you get into this meditative gait. No talking, just pushing along the coast, taking it all in. My wife is an amazing woman, more than able to keep up with me.  Around another point and I finally saw it! But shit...it was still so far away. That's it in the far distance below.

This next picture was taken from the next point. Doesn't look like it's hardly got any closer at all. It's still way off in the distance.

At this point there was no turning back our goal was finally in site. Ended up being 2pm when we finally made it. We had begun our search for Jumping rock at 10:30am.

 Jumping Rock is mammoth and  the larger part of it is indeed hanging out over the water. I explained to Lorrie that we had, at most, 20 minutes to explore it, then we really needed to head back. It was great to get the backpacks off and just enjoy it all. I took some video of us playing in the waves as they would crash underneath the rock. There are numerous little causeways that run under it.  My video is not very good, I was more into enjoying the moment than filming. I didn't really capture the beauty of it all.  Didn't matter, we had made it.

Was it a life changing moment? Nah. Was it beautiful? You bet and it is a special memory that can't be measured. And no, I didn't jump off of Jumping Rock. I wanted to but given that it was just my wife and I, it didn't seem prudent. Lorrie also ask that I not do it.  Jumping off of Jumping Rock IS now on the bucket list though (just don't tell Lorrie.)

20 minutes went by in a flash and Lorrie wanted to explore more but I insisted that we really needed to start back. We scarfed down two Kashi bars and headed back. We were now out of water, so the trip back was going to depend on coconut water alone.

At the half way point, after we were past most of the rocks I stopped and took some video. It was good to see those three crescent beaches again.

Not much farther and we saw our green fishing net. All we had now was a 45 minute walk back on the road. We were all smiles:

If you decide to give jumping rock a try, they way we did, good surf shoes are a MUST. Give yourself 2.5 hours one way, 5 hours round trip. We made it back to the truck @ 4:30pm, a very full day.