A Trial Walk
It is muggy for a winter day. Before I can tackle the Pannoimica, I decide to walk across Puerto Rico from North to South.
The beach in Vega Baja on the north coast is inviting. I forego the opportunity for a real swim and simply immerse myself in the chilly Atlantic. I start wobbling up the mountain. It’s a week day and cars rush down the mountain toward me. There is no shoulder on this narrow curvy road. I am often forced to walk in the concrete drainage ditch along the side of the road. In the rainy season torrents of water flood this channel as mountain streams overflow gushing down the center of this pencil thin byway.
The towns Orocovis, Morovis, Cuamo and finally a lonely beach west of the city of Ponce will mark my path
During the first day little homes, or squatters shacks, perched precariously over cliffs made of centuries old volcanic lava appear every half mile. Occasionally dogs bark, rooster’s crow, or a lonely neighbor hollers to me something pleasant in Spanish. Young men, seemingly frozen to old milk crates, sit and look mysteriously at this gringo rapidly shaking his hips to help propel him up the steep grade.
Occasionally, I think I whiff the unmistakable aroma of marijuana. It is none of my business and after all I am alone so I keep walking
The torrent came up quickly. Instantly I am cold. A short while later my feet began to blister. Water sloshed in my now worn down running shoes. I reached for a water proof rain jacket in my light weight back pack. Now a bit warmer, I wished I had packed long pants. My running shorts did little to keep mud microscopic road side debris and the suddenly appearing mosquitoes from knicking and chipping on my bare legs.
I was now outside of Morovis and wishing for some warmth and companionship when a large van pulled up beside me. A Puerto Rican man and woman whom I knew rolled down the windows and offered me a very welcome ride to the top of the endless mountain. Remotivated, I only accepted a drink of cold water and a piece of rain forest bred banana. Mildred and Edgar Vega kept a close watch on my for the next two days kindly chauffeuring me to restaurants after sundown where we enjoyed tasty home cooking, Puerto Rican mountain style.
Somewhere high on a cliff side a large discolored iron pot bubbling aromatic liquid caught my eye. Stopping to investigate I learn that this is a small coffee plantation. It is only then that I notice the coffee bushes which dot the mountain side.
Refreshed by three cups of a dark murky local brew, laden with heaps of freshly refined sugar from the dwindling plantations down at sea level I push on until the sun reaches high into the clouds and the majestically disappears over the horizon.
Cuamo and an Ocean
I get an early start. It is just as well. In addition the high humidity and stifling sun, the road now loops punishing up and over the spine of Puerto Rico. When momentarily I feel sorry for myself I remember that Cuamo is the site of a brutal annual 5 Kilometer road race which draws some of finest mountain runners in the world. Thinking of these warriors and of course convincing myself that my three day wobble puts me in a league close to them I crest the center of P.R. and head rapidly downhill to the awaiting Caribbean Sea.
The salt water gags me momentarily as I immerse myself in the cool but tame current. I float for a while relishing my accomplishment.
[This walk actually occurred in 1996]