Tuesday, May 31, 2016: Loíza, Río Grande, and Fajardo, Puerto Rico
I started my first full day in Puerto Rico having coffee with a nice elderly couple on their porch, and finished it eating mofongo for the first time and kayaking through a bioluminescent bay.
Summary of the Below Verbosity
- Loíza: Where I stayed for the week
- Río Grande: The next town over from Loíza. I had coffee at a stranger’s house here
- Fajardo: Coastal town in the northeast; launching point for kayaking through the Luguna Grande bioluminescent bay
- Kasavista: The food here was bomb and it’s the best reviewed restaurant in Fajardo. It’s located right aross the street from where the various bio-bay tour companies push their kayaks into the water. They have a nice selection of seafood and mofongo (fried plantain) along with other local dishes. I got the Big Seven mofongo meal, which contains seven different seafoods. The staff here worked as a very functional and collaborative team: The owner poured water, the bus boy took orders,and I don’t say this to diminish the efforts of the waiter, who was great and gave very informative explanations of every dish
Stuff in the Woods
- Laguna Grande Bio-Bay (with Yokahú Tours): The world has five bioluminscent bays, and three are in Puerto Rico. Microorganisms inhabiting the bays light up when agitated – there is a biological explanation here I’m not equipped to give – so that on a dark night, the water around your kayak and paddle will shimmer and glow. Laguna Grande, located in northeastern Puerto Rico, is a reasonable trip from San Juan. A bunch of different companies launch right in Fajardo, and you travel through a nature reserve via bioluminescent canal to get to the lagoon. We picked Yokahú for availability and price reasons, and they did a good job ushering us through safely and explaining everything without being overbearing. Unfortunately, the light was only at ten percent strength on this visit due to – again, a biological explanation beyond my level of proficiency – something like an invasive, never-before-seen seaweed species and some jellyfish, both of which are depleting the pyrodiniums bahamenses. El Niño has played some role in weaker bioluminesence in recent years
I woke up Tuesday and I needed to work. First, I needed some coffee. Gallons of beer and liquor were purchased at Walmart the previous day; a $1,000 couch needed to be replaced; but either coffee or coffee filters were deemed a non-critical expense that would not be shared by the group. Those gallons left both rental apartments fast asleep by the time I began my day, so I had the SUV to myself to go out in search of coffee. One friend found his way into the living room just before I left and asked what I was doing, and he came along for the ride even though he doesn’t like coffee.
Loíza is light on dining establishments; a Google search revealed one possible café with no reviews a short drive into nearby Río Grande. I aimed for it. The car reached the supposed address, but there were no businesses in site. A large banner for a beer company hung over the railing of what could have been a bar, but whether it was a bar, someone’s house, or something else, it wasn’t a café and it wasn’t open. I pulled onto a sidestreet and got out of the car to look around. An old couple was tidying their driveway and yard. I tried my hand at asking for directions in Spanish.
“Hello ma’am, do you know where is (whatever nonexistent coffee shop’s name is)?”
“What are you looking for?”
“A café. It is called (name).”
“You want coffee? I have coffee.”
“No, I’m looking for (name) café.”
“I have coffee. Come.”
With that, she and her husband invited my friend and I onto their porch. He continued sweeping the driveway very slowly and she went to the kitchen to get two cups of coffee, served what I think is Puerto Rican style – short, with sugar and milk added. She sat with us while we drank. The couple has several children living on the mainland, including a daughter in Michigan. She did take umbrage when I asked if she had been in Loíza her whole life – the distinction between Río Grandeños and Loiceños is apparently a meaningful one in this area. We returned to less contentious conversation topics. My friend and I offered to help with some chores in exchange for the coffee before we left, but we were rebuffed soundly.
Adequately caffeinated, I returned to Aquatika to work for the remainder of the day. When nighttime came, we drove to Fajardo to eat at Kasavista, which had great mofongo, and took in the stunning Laguna Grande Bio-Bay with Yokahú Tours.