The last week of French C’s holidays in the Caribbean and we decided to go biking to Los Piñones. We had already started exploring the area on our way to Fajardo and Culebra last week but as we didn’t have enough time then, we thought that it was a good idea to make use of one of the few bike paths in San Juan. O prepared the bikes yesterday – we hadn’t even uncovered them since the move and there were a few damages (quite a few things were already reported as damaged in the move and we are getting a reimbursement of $1400 from the movers!). He fixed my brakes, but unfortunately I couldn’t try them properly as there was no air at all in the tyres…
This morning C and I walked with the bikes to Walgreens to look for a bicycle pump – nope, they didn’t have any (tells you something about how common it is to use a bike in this town!). So, we had to pay $0.75 for air at the petrol station, and fortunately two guys standing by the road could help us – silly us couldn’t get the air to fill the bike tyres… I hate seeming too much like a girl – I have done it tons of times but maybe it was the Puertorican pump? 😉
We started cycling, a bit nervous as the Puertorican drivers are not very used to cyclists on the road and of course there are no bike paths… However, the streets of Condado and Ocean Park – the first part of the way, are not too busy late in the morning. I was just thinking that we really should buy some bike helmets when a guy on a bike comes straight out from a side road, and heads straight at me AGAINST the direction of the street*!!! I pulled the brakes and it seems that O had tightened my front brake too hard so my bike got up on the front wheel and I fell onto the pavement! I was more shocked and angry than hurt, and I yelled at the guy “why are you so stupid to go against the traffic?” and he tells me that I should brake with both my brakes – I did!
Well, I wasn’t too hurt, even if my right leg**, my arm and the palms of my hands are quite sore. And no, I didn’t hit my head!*** But I wasn’t too keen on continuing the bike excursion but I took a deep breath and we biked on – this time trying to keep to the pavements and passing every side road very very slowly… In Sweden I hated when people biked on the pavements, but that’s because we have special paths for cyclists!
After crossing Isla Verde, still on the pavements, we finally arrived to the … BIKE PATH to Los Piñones! First you pass el balneario de Carolina, the public beach with lots of parking space and cheerful red fences towards the road, then you arrive to Los Piñones by the Punta Cangrejos (the Crab bridge) where the bike path continues along the sea passing ramshackle beach huts which serve as bars and restaurants.
Los Piñones has a fascinating history, most of its inhabitants are descendants of freed slaves brought by the Spanish colonialists from Africa to work on the sugarcane plantations. Apparently, when these slaves were freed, they were given the right to settle in this area where they have lived for over 100 years (slavery was officially abolished in Puerto Rico in 1873). However, they don’t have the formal propery rights and a few years ago the authorities tried to reclaim the land to develop it for tourism (to build hideous condos and hotels like in Condado and Isla Verde – see the second photo below). Fortunately the protests worked and the plans were withdrawn.
“The beaches belong to the people”
It was a hot day, and we started to get hungry so we stopped at one of the first restaurants; The Reef, especially as it was mentioned in the guide book (LP, of course!). We settled on the wooden deck overlooking the bay with San Juan in the background, the airplanes coming in for landing or taking off above (the San Juan airport is very close) and trying to cool down with a few cold drinks. After a simple lunch we continued on the bike path, which at one point turns into a wooden boardwalk alongside the beach – it is beautiful and very peaceful.
During the weekends Los Piñones gets packed with sanjuaneros who are looking for a great beach during the day and to party during the night, but during the week the bars and restaurants have a deserted feeling with a few locals and even fewer tourists. It is a perfect place for cycling and discovering another part of the San Juan metro area. However, it might be a good idea to drive to the end of Isla Verde and unload the bikes at the beginning of the bike path if you don’t want the stress of cycling in the quite busy main street of Isla Verde! And watch out, the bike path is full of broken beer bottles – it was a miracle that we didn’t get a flat tyre…
We returned to Condado without any more incidents, and it felt good to have done some good old bike exercise! I wish that there were more bike paths in San Juan, or at least that it was easier to reach the few that exist. Check out the not-so-professional bikes below 😉 and our cool caps from Brussels (pink) and NATO-SFOR in Bosnia (blue).
Tomorrow we are heading to the San Sebastián street festival in Old San Juan to check out Ricky Martin who is supposed to appear… will keep you posted!
*) I had just pointed out to the cyclist B on Sunday that I have seen so many cyclists(almost the majority) riding on the wrong side of the road here in Puerto Rico – on Sunday we saw 4 cyclists doing just that!
**) Why oh why, is it always my right leg? First time was when I was 10 jumping from one wet and slippery wooden bench to another, at 18 I slipped on the tiled steps in the bathroom, and last year I slipped in O’s stone staircase and tumbled down head first – always the same leg, which now actually has a few dents in the bone!
***) My mother was hit by a car last Christmas when cycling and broke her leg in two places, she wore a helmet but it didn’t really help her as she didn’t hit her head… I have had quite a few bike accidents myself and you should never say never, but no, no head injuries