Day 3: We are set to go to the Foothills of El Yunque. We booked an ATV tour with a company who used to be known as Hacienda Carabali but nowadays, they call themselves, Carabali Rainforest Park. If you are not into ATV-ing but still want to explore, they also offer horseback riding tours.
It was in the middle of the week and it wasn’t quite summer yet so we were the only ones on the tour. It’s like hiring our own guide! Manny, who was the guide assigned to us, was amazing! He was born in Jersey and goes back and forth from Puerto Rico to the Garden State every winter.
One thing I was anticipating on this ATV-ride is the need for speed – and they delivered! Although ATVs do not go as fast as cars or motorcycles, going up and down steep hills and going through puddles at a faster speed than a bicycle is definitely exhilarating!
This view showcases the ocean and you can actually see the Wyndham Rio Mar here.
After about an hour ride, we stopped and rested at the Mameyes River. This place reminded of the rivers I have seen along Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire.
Since it was still early in the day, we decided to check out other places. In our quest to find a beach with clear water and white sands, we ended up at the Seven Seas Beach in the town of Fajardo. It is a public beach and there’s a parking lot conveniently located next to it, which we paid a flat fee of five bucks. You can easily miss it because the signs are not so obvious. When it comes to the water, this one is a little better than the waters of Rio Grande. It still ain’t all that. It is not well maintained. There were no shower rooms or bathrooms where you can change your clothes.
Although, this isn’t one of the prettiest beach I have seen in my entire life, it surely is one of my unforgettable places. Let me tell you a story. When I travel and visit unfamiliar places, my guard is always up. I am always cautious and I do not trust anybody even though they seem nice. As someone who grew up from a third world country, this was instilled in me. I can still be friendly but I do everything with caution.
As we headed back to our car, getting ready to leave the place and call it a day, a very unfortunate incident happened, which could have been avoided. We locked ourselves out of the car and left the keys in the trunk. Luckily, we have our cellphones, wallets, IDs and some cash with us. If you have traveled with me before, you probably know that I do my homework before every trip. A few days before we set foot to our trip, I called up my credit card companies and AAA if I will be covered for car rental insurance and roadside assistance in Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, I did not get a clear answer on this and the policies of the car rental place was not so clear either. It was already late in the afternoon and people were starting to leave. I took a chance and called up AAA. To my surprise, the operator said I was covered and they will send assistance within 40 minutes. I have had AAA since the moment I received my drivers license. I have only used it once and that was when I had a problem with my batteries. Oh and I also love that I was able to get free maps from them during the pre-GPS days.
We hung around the parking lot fearing that we might miss the Mr. AAA. 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 50 minutes have passed. No sign of the AAA truck. We had put on a bet on every car that passed by. I bet that the person will be coming in on a van, he guessed they will be coming in on a car.
It was almost dusk and there was only a couple of cars left on the lot. The parking attendant, who can barely speaks English, is about to leave for the day. I can feel fear and panic slowly creeping inside me. For the little Spanish words we know, we tried to communicate with him and explained our situation. We pleaded to let the AAA vehicle in. A smartphone app translator could have been perfect for this situation but alas, reception was poor.
An hour has passed and still no sign of the AAA. A black car had pulled over by the parking lot entrance and talked to the attendant. It looked like it was the attendant’s ride. The nice lady who was driving the car talked to us. She knew more English than the attendant. She took out a wire hanger and explained to us that her husband – the attendant – would want to try to unlock the car. Though the offer was very tempting, we did not agree because we have no idea how he is going to get it done. The attendant and his wife understood our situation and decided to stay until AAA arrives. This reminded me that these are angels, roaming the earth, disguised as people. This reminded me that not all people are genuinely bad. I barely knew this man and woman and they barely knew us and yet, there they were, keeping an eye on us as if we all have been friends for a long time. There is still good in humanity.
Several more minutes have passed the AAA truck finally came. Neither of us won the bet, by the way, but that’s the least of our concerns now. The AAA guy was able to open the car in no time. In less than five minutes, we were ready to get out of Fajardo. But not without thanking and hugging the attendant and his wife. I wish my camera was with me during the whole ordeal but it was locked in the car. Everyone was ready to go home, that it did not occur to me to take a souvenir photo of our guardian angels. I hope our paths will cross again some day. I will never forget them.
Lesson of the day: do not entrust car keys to someone who is forgetful. Bigger lesson of the day: people who do good still exist, not expecting anything in return.