island time: part one

021913_01Culebra is an island of 1,800 people off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. It feels like a little-known tropical wonderland.

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The official beer is Medalla (pronounced “meh-DIE-yah”), and most beers are only available in smaller, 10 oz. cans. The top three drinks, however, aren’t beer: rum & piñas, margaritas, and piña coladas. There’s a lot of coconut to go around.

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Hans was instrumental in organizing the trip — about 16 of us rented two houses on the island, and four other friends visited during the week as well.

• We saw all sorts of animals: poisonous lionfish while snorkeling, many iguanas, skinks, geckos, flying roaches, large spiders, small tarantulas, packs of stray dogs, lots of stray cats, snakes, hermit crabs & land crabs, colorful fish, termites, jungle fowl (wild chickens and roosters), hummingbirds, parrots (in San Juan), and more. Plant-wise, there’s lots of cacti, huge coconut palms everywhere, agave, many invasive mesquite trees, and lots of grasses, among other plants. Everything seems to love the tropical climate.

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A labor union’s truck blaring a speech during a protest in San Juan, back on the main island.

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Brava beach is only accessible via a hike through the maritime jungle, so more than likely you’ll have the place to yourself when you arrive. The beach is bound on either side by mountains, and it tends to have some of the larger waves on the island. I had never been around so many coconut palms before — and I found out that it’s super handy to travel with a machete in the group for a quick drink & snack in the heat.

021913_06Johnny G.

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The power happened to inexplicably go out on the entire island three times during the course of a week. Luckily dominos don’t require electricity, but headlamps, LED candles, and many margaritas help.

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While the weather is so perfect you can leave your doors and windows open year around, stray cats kept sneaking into our kitchen. The stray dogs mainly keep to the streets where the old oil drums hold families’ trash for pickup.

To be continued…