This weekend O and I discussed what we will miss from our life in Puerto Rico, and O said that he feels that he is not enjoying the life here as much as he’d like. Don’t get him wrong (I did at first before he explained), he really likes Puerto Rico but feels that he is too stressed with work to enjoy Caribbean life to the fullest! However, after a morning walk on the beach yesterday he felt more relaxed and happy about life! And I reminded him that his team-building exercise on Friday was probably a once in a lifetime experience!
You see, he took his whole team (~10 persons) to El Yunque on Friday! Nothing very organised – “just a walk in the rainforest”… But bear in mind that most Puerto Ricans are not used to walking, and the majority of the colleagues had never actually walked in El Yunque, only driven around and gone to the view tower (next to the road). However, people came to work well prepared; dressed in combat pants and sturdy shoes*, while O wore jeans and sneakers as he knows that the trails in the rainforest are paved!!
O’s idea for the excursion was to let the Puerto Ricans discover their own island, and to be proud in what they have, instead of comparing all the time to the US. I thought that it was a really nice initiative and isn’t it usually the case that you need an outsider to come and show you what you have just around the corner? According to O it was a great success and everybody really seemed to enjoy the afternoon hike! And for himself, when will he ever again be able to take his office team to a improvised walk in the rainforest? Not once we are back in Europe, that’s for sure! Just one of the many perks of living in the Caribbean…
I have visited El Yunque twice, the first time was in November last year with my second cousin E – it was a guided tour organised for hotel guests in San Juan, and since we didn’t have a car it was a good option. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour, with the very knowledgeable guide Hector who spoke non-stop during the whole day about everything ranging from history, geography, culture, nature, language etc – all with a local perspective of course. Almost all of the visitors that we have had over the last year have gone on the same tour and enjoyed it.
Last month, O and I took our Belgian visitors to El Yunque and we spent a great afternoon walking the Big Tree Trail to the La Mina waterfalls and back. The rainforest is very well organised, with paved trails and informative signs along the trails with information about the eco-system, flora and fauna. We didn’t have time to go to the visitor’s centre but it is also very interesting if you want to learn more about the rainforest. There are no big animals in El Yunque, and even though you will hear the coquí (the tiny frog which is the national symbol of Puerto Rico) it is very difficult to actually see them**. However, we saw signs warning for mongooses (you would think it is mongeese in plural just like moose should be meese but nope!), which is the principal rabies carrier on the island – and no, they are not birds but cat-like carnivores! We didn’t see any mongooses though and I haven’t even noticed any mosquitoes, so no need to put on insect repellent like E and I did the first time! Below are some examples of wildlife that we did see:
*) which in itself is impressive since most Puerto Rican women usually wear very high heels!
**) The coquí can be heard all over the island, even in built-up areas such as Condado in San Juan. We have had friends thinking that the sound is a recording / a noise to repell mosquitoes – but no, it really is the frog! It almost sounds like it says “coquí, coquí”, hence the name! I will really miss this sound, I hear it every night when falling asleep (on the 9th floor!)…