Puerto Rico: Day 6, Bioluminescent Bay
The food in PR is not particularly great, compared to Belizean flavors this island lags. They mostly love their fried foods. Empanadillas, donuts and cheese balls dipped in French dressing. It's a little disappointing to have a wide range of fresh fish choices with only a dilute tomato broth, tasteless onions and pale bell pimentos (peppers). When on an island, my feeling is to eat fresh fish. I must disclaim that the BBQ pork and chicken is quite tasty not sure why this doesn't translate into the seafood.
From our mountain pools we enjoyed yesterday, we detoured through Rincón, my husband being a California surfer boy, this was a mandatory travel benchmark. The town has actually resisted much American gringo colonization (unlike the greater San Juan beach towns). We were actually pretty damn hungry and stopped in the centró colón but it was well past 2pm and the only place open was a pizza joint with retired old guys chatting it up out front. Brushing my apprehensions aside we went in. It actually didn't look too bad (dirty). To be honest, the pizza was good and homemade. Obviously Cisco Foods has not vanilla-boxed this side of the island...yet.
The next day we decided to lounge by the pool. It was mid-week and we had the hotel almost to ourselves. Well, except for the iguanas that now came out of hiding, one actually went into the kid-pool with beach entrance. Lots of sunning reptiles. We caught up with work on the wifi, for which is only limited because most buildings are made of concrete. An interesting fact, the word hurricane comes from the Boriken word (aka Taíno, original natives) juracán, so prevalent are the ocean storms in this area. While Hugo did it's damage, it was actually the 1918 earthquake that leveled much of the historical sites across the island. We had beautiful weather with only slight rain in the late afternoons.
For a late lunch we decided to explore Joyuda, best known for their fresh seafood restaurants. We ate at The Bohío (bohío is also a Taíno word for thatched hut), the food was non-descript per island seafare but swimming just below our deck were a protected fish locals call Tarpe. These fish are huge mangrove/coast fish. To my kids delight, the servers brought out the leftovers of a fried chillo fish (over here they serve red snapper whole, head, eyes and bones) and tossed it over to the meat-eating scavengers. One fish gulped it down whole while the others frenzied for any remains. For which there were none.
Our "linner" was planned in anticipation for our evening activities: Bioluminescent Bay Swimming! They call him Ishmael, he is a marine biologist and works with the local university on water life conservation studies. Aleli Tours were chill peeps and professional as much as island time allows. Again, we were lucky, we came during a new moon phase, so ambient light was mostly that from neighboring villages. The darker, the better. Ishmael was mildly concerned about reflective cloud light, but felt there was a recent blooming of dinoflagellates, a Protozoa that releases luciferin which reacts with oxygen to create light. He was right! Additional light-up creatures include the Pallolo worm ("boyfriend" in Chilean) that excretes a luminescence when attracting a mate and a small, innocuous jellyfish that spark like Christmas tree bulbs when displaced.
I must say that this was one of my most favorite tourist expeditions I have ever done. We donned our suits and masks and went night swimming. Never have I forced my children to do something that scares them so much, but on this night, I pulled them into the receptively warm water. It's God's living art and they sparkle like gemstones when lovingly displaced (or by motorboats, kayak paddles, etc). They are one celled organisms and movement does not harm them. The water was the warmest we've been in since arrival due to it being a shallow, muddy bay, 10' deep and salty due to high evaporation rates. Words fail to express the sheer wonder and enjoyment experienced during this 2 hour tour.