Our guide, Juan, said you can spot tourists in PR because they take pictures of the lizards. When Puerto Ricans are in the States, they take pictures of squirrels.
9:05 AM: We met other guests in the lobby piled into a van with our tour guide, Juan Pedro (no lie; that was his name). As he drove us on the hour-long trip to the rainforest, he shared with us a wealth of knowledge about Puerto Rico. He continued to teach us about bird and plant life in the rainforest, which consisted of a good balance of driving, stopping, and walking.
El Yunque is a part of the National Forest Reserve system, but it is unique in that it is the system’s only rainforest. The moment I stepped out of the van the plush green, the heavily humid but cool air, and the sound of birds overwhelmed my senses. I turned to Frank and said, “I want to live here.” Later, I grew excited when our guide Juan told us that the park service allowed camping in the rainforest. He finished the sentence by saying that no campers survive more than one night, not because of some rainforest monster, but because it is a rainforest, therefore everything the camper brings into the forest gets wet and stays wet. We were lucky; it was sunny the whole time we were there.
There’s a lot I’d like to write about. For example, blooming impatiens lined the road that wound to the top of the mountain, growing wild. Juan showed us how the seed pod bursts at the slightest touch of a human, bird, or lizard, scattering seeds in all directions, thus the name of this South African plant. Also, the Puerto Rican parrot was almost extinct in the early 1970s because of deforestation. There are only some three hundred PR parrots breeding in captivity today.
7:30 AM: We crossed the street and ate breakfast at Mi Casita, a place I found last night on my way to Walgreens to pick up some snack food. We were pleased with the quality of the food and the low prices: both of us ate a good breakfast (French toast, eggs, potatoes, and ham) for under $10.