This morning I’m in Vieques, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. I can’t believe my luck at having found this place. After 3 days of walking, hustling, busses, and the grimy streets of Puerto Rico, this little island is the tropical paradise that I thought didn’t exist anymore. Yet here it is, full of vibrant colors, sounds, plants, people and animals.
This morning for example, when the sun woke me up, I opened the window to let the sea breeze in and found a little lizard staring back at me. In L.A. when the sun wakes me up, it’s a terrible nuisance, but out here, it was like some awesome force telling me to get out of bed and enjoy the time I have in the island.
I went down to the office for coffee and had a slice of papaya with some yogurt, and a boiled egg for breakfast. I’m staying at the Seagate, which is a working horse and chicken farm. Right now I’m sitting on the balcony outside my room, enjoying the breeze and thinking that this is probably the best setting I’ve ever had to sit down and write.
I don’t know what I’m going to do with this fine day, but it won’t be wasted. Right now the idea is to go fishing, but depending on the cost, I may just go wandering around the island.
I met a fellow yesterday on the ferry over to the island. At first I was a little put off by how he just came and sat at my table, but after talking for a while, I found out his brother is a very very famous baseball player….somebody I’ve arched round the bases many times. He also treated me to some drinks and even got me a ride up to my hotel after arriving on dry land. Then after I checked in, got my bags stowed and was ready to go out for the night, he came and picked us up.
Driving entirely too fast on dark, winding jungle roads, blasting salsa music and talking about fishing, drinking, girls, wives and all the troubles that come with them, we finally arrived at our destination. It was another side of this tiny island, really quiet compared to the ferry landing and completely charming. A small dusty road, lined. I either side with the types of little beach bars and shacks I dreamed of. Music blasting on every corner, and people dancing heartily, natives mixing with tourists and rum mixing with lime and ice for refreshment.
I even had a fat Puerto Rican cigar, dark brown and thick as two of my fingers. Took about 45 minutes to get through it, but it was wonderful. I had it while sitting sipping drinks on a wooden bench,(Thats Jonesy over there too) to my left was the sea, and to my right was a group of beautiful Puerto Rican women who would pay a tourist no mind. They were there to dance, and while my pocho salsa dance moves would suffice for a family wedding, or dancing with friends, here I was out of my league. My new friend however, had all the moves. It was awesome to see him dancing the night away with just about every girl in the place, while I had Medalla beers and more rum mixed with whatever. At one point, I turned to my left and glanced at the water, to see three devil fish (manta ray) cruising slowly along in the shallow surf.
The bar had an interesting nationalist feel to it. This island has suffered much at the hands of the US Navy, setting up shop in her natural bays and the locals carry that history around with them. Behind the bar you saw drawings made with slogans or messages about kicking the US out of their waters. There has been a lot of testing on the island, and a bomb was even dropped on a local once, sparking the ire of the whole community, and making fishermen charge destroyers in tiny little fishing boats. Incredible story that deserves a lot more than a blog post, really incredible art and rebellious nature to this whole affair.
I’ve made up my mind about one thing though, next time I come down here, and I will, I will come straight to Vieques. Puerto Rico is not without its charm, but this island really did deliver something I thought was out of reach for me. I thought I’d have to be surrounded by tourists to see beaches this beautiful. I thought I would have to pay too much, and feel bad for having spent all the money, but this place is completely affordable and in some cases mind blowingly inexpensive.
To top it all off, on the ferry over, we noticed a whole bunch of people carrying instruments of all shapes and sizes. Big cases for horns, keyboards, drums, almost anything you could think of. In line for the ferry I asked a lady what it was they were all going to, and she let me know about the Vieques cultural festival. By some stroke of beautiful luck, it happens to be going down this weekend, not even 200 yards from the farm where we’re staying.
Tonight, I just had to sit down and write here, because I don’t know when I’ll ever feel is inspired by my surroundings alone, again. Looking out at the bay, sailboats cruising along, sun glistening off the bright azure waters, and now that I’ve got a little writing out of the way I can hear some music firing up at the fort down the road. I think I’ll wander down there and have a chichaito from my bottle to get started.