Puerto Rico: Day 5, Gozalandia Waterfalls & Mayagüez

There are many similarities one can draw from the "West Indies" that Puerto Rico itself carries-on in tradition and/or in appearance. The Spanish language et al, the equatorial weather effects, trashy, littered lots, bombed-out cement buildings and starving, begging wholly-intact ferrel dogs and cats. That being said these negatives are not nearly as present as in many other Central American countries I have visited (which is honestly quite extensive).  

Nonetheless, mostly due to political graft and the natural disaster of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, where 28,000 people were displaced from housing, many homes, apartments and compounds have been completely abandoned and left to rot. Most cats serve an important service of controlling rodents, but we have seen, much to my heartbreak, at least one starving dog. The San Juan Tele has many humane animal service ads and I hope as the country continues to spiral up economically, so does the animal control.  

On a more positive note, most islanders maintain a clean look, recycle and dislike smoking.  In fact, we have seen eco-friendly tourist attractions, wind turbine generators and many designated wildlife refuges, both on the island and zoned in the ocean.

In an effort to explore inland and not beach-it everyday, today's journey was to the Gozalandia Waterfalls. Just northwest of San Sabastián there is a very easy trail (especially for Colorado Hikers) to some freshwater grottos. Driving there is a winding, lovely, Vietnamese-like, bamboo draped, river- and hill-scape. With careful attention to directions, you finally come to a half-groomed parking lot. Two men greeted us, the most scraggly, long-bearded, friendly natives we have seen. They ask for a $5 parking fee and then guide you to the first pool, picking up tossed litter along the way. (This is actually the most intentionally discarded litter we have seen, likely due to evening, unaccompanied skinny-dipping.) 

We found two waterfalls collectively called El Charco de la Leche (the pool of milk), the lower is the most visited and only 1/4 mile walk over easy terrain and the higher was another 1/4 mile, rough terrain uphill. But, if physically sound, the latter is the place to go. The higher pool hosts a Tarzan-style rope swing! Two quintessential ~30 foot waterfalls, complete with speckled, cascading sunlight and mossy rocks to grace this jungle environment. We were fortunate enough to have the locale to ourselves for almost an hour. Totally worth the energy expenditure and our morning donuts.

En route, we stopped in Mayagüez, the third largest city on the island, a youthful university/wharf bay with a botanical research park and traditional zoo. Deep in el centro is another neoclassical old town with a dominating catholic church and colón with a ridiculously long name: CatedralNuestra Señora de la Candelaria. We did have to stop once for directions to get to the heart, but this was our breakfast destination and was well-worth the man-card draw, Ricomini Bakery, the Original. The cream-filled delights were heavenly. There are franchises with less geographical headache, but oh my....yum! I have also found that either due to the dark roast or our Colorado acclimatization, the PR coffee is strong, enjoyable and light on the buzz-factor. As they say, Life is Good.