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December 3, 2004
Well, the party season is up, the holidays are officially launched and Vieques is now back on the menu with wonderful surf and endless sunlight to beat any winter woe. The scene was mostly dead since Ivan hit the scene. The massive hurricane did change many of its beaches, slurping away sand like there was no tomorrow, but thankfully Thanksgiving weekend came along and whipped up our beloved Margaritaville into one big frolic.
If youre one of those who witnessed the belligerent shopping hordes in Plaza Las Américas during Black Friday, you know that you owe it to yourself to get as far away from the consumerist masses as possible and regain your soulful sanity. Well, luckily for you, there is still a modicum of wild frontiers for you to explore, and some of them lie on the western lands of Vieques.
After the U.S. Navys recent departure, the east and west lands of Puerto Ricos Isla Nena (The Girl Island) dropped down its forbidding fences and started welcoming curious and rugged civilians. But not before the Vieques Wildlife Reserve put up huge signs about the areas flora and fauna to remind everyone to take back whatever they brought in. Smart move when you realize the devastation the rank and file can have on these delicate shores.
First up, decide whether to go via air or sea. If you can spare it, fly. Flights from San Juan are usually $50 one way, $20 from Fajardo. If youre on a budget, hunker down and enjoy the masses a while longer on the Vieques Ferry, which leaves from Fajardo. Then pick from the many inns and lodgings available in either of the islands main people hubs, Esperanza and Isabel Segunda. There are so many its impossible to list them all. Check out Vieques Events (www.vieques-events.com) for listings and start calling. Dont forget to rent yourself a very necessary 4 x 4. Youll need it to navigate the tricky and bumpy dirt roads.
Now for the kayaks. Yes, the best way to explore Vieques wild wild west is paddling away into the horizon. You can either rent them from Aqua Frenzy, Blue Caribe or Golden Heron Kayaks. All of them also offer tours all over the island. But heres to those who want to swing it solo.
Strap on your canoes and paddles to your "all-terrain" vehicle; pack what can get wet and head west on Route #200. Past the airport, youll see the Mosquito Pier, a long, T-shaped pier that is excellent for night fishing and a hoot for experienced night divers.
Around the bend youll see the royal 300-year-old Ceiba Tree to your right. Stop by to breathe in the motherly love, please. This way youll start getting into the wild mode by tapping into your inner core. Lean against its impressive wall, place your hand behind your back, facing the tree, and place your other hand on your navel to make a connection. Now breathe. Let go of that darned holiday stress.
Once youve chilled, hop on back in your vehicle and keep going. Follow the signs for Green Beach/Laguna Kiani. Pass by the Magazines area, where the old bunkers rest. Nothing to see here; just keep looking toward the shore, toward the mangroves teeming with wildlife.
Stop by the Laguna Kiani to enjoy its placid vibe and walk through the wooden trails inside the mangrove that surrounds it. Check out the pictures of the surrounding fauna to get yourself acquainted. A word to the wise. Do not stay after 4 p.m. The bloodsucking bugs are certain to drive you wild.
Keep trucking and follow the signs to Green Beach. There are several nooks for parking your car. Lock your car, leave everything out of sight, just in case a sneaky bushman feels like playing you a trick. Now glide on your kayak out into the horizon, heading south, past all the boats and toward the great beyond: Punta Boca Quebrada, a.k.a. La Iglesia. Keep paddling; take breaks to look up at the amazingly blue sky above, fearlessly floating where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. Dont forget to say hello to the audacious flying fish showing off their bi-worldly prowess.
Glance to your left and take in the impressive sight of Monte Pirata, Vieques tallest mountain, whose head is often in the billowy clouds. Look to the right and youll see Maunabo and Yabucoas peaks on the main island.
Now look straight ahead and set your sights on the next small bay straight ahead (as afar as I know it is still nameless ), about an hours paddle. Here youll start making out the organic shapes on the yellow-white cliffs, looking like carved statues. One of them looks like a Moai, the statues on Easter Island, and another like a shrouded woman. I am sure you can find many more shapes in those mystical shores. The rocks on the ground are smooth and have this wonderful lime covering them, giving the place its fairytale sparkle.
Now put on your snorkeling gear and plunge into the wild frontier: the amazing reefs of western Vieques. Closer to shore you will find these curious little fish with a golden stripe that come up to your mask and swim nervously around you, as well as your usual striped lot, blue "Dories" and yellow and purple wee ones.
Deeper into the reef youll start seeing lively bluestripe grunts, hovering schoolmasters, swarms of whimsical silversides, elusive trumpetfish and plenty of red orange branching sponges and purple and green fan corals. Here the brain corals are alive and thriving, huge masses hovering over the caves. (Look but dont touch on that one.) If you see the shy sea horse, consider yourself blessed. The idea is to look closely and attentively. God knows what youll find. We even had an encounter with the wise stare of an endangered, young hawksbill sea turtle (carey de concha). Do stay away from the nasty-looking barracudas and dont panic if you see the often-mellow nurse sharks hanging around the reef.
On your way back, paddle while skimming the shore, reveling in the changing, magical colors of the reef and the incredible hues of the Caribbeans water untainted by human trash.
Now leisurely row your way back, already touched by natures bliss. Now, isnt that better? Head back into town and hit one of Esperanzas eateries by the Malecón. Enjoy your escape from the holiday woes and simply enjoy the present moment, the simple joy of being.
Blue Caribe Kayaks
Golden Heron Kayaks
Brenda A. Mari is an editor/reporter for The San Juan Star, an accomplished web copywriter and a fan of everything unusual. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org