What goes to Culebra…

Posted March 10th, 2008 under Life, Puerto Rico, Trips & Tours by MicheleP.

(this is an old entry that never got published…well, until now:) )

We decided to take my dad & Lynn on an adventure and well, we definately got some adventure :)

We have heard that the island of Culebra is a must see place when visiting Puerto Rico so we asked T to keep the girls (which would turn out to be the BEST decision of the day) and took off for a day trip to Culebra.

There are 2 ways to get to Culebra from the city of  Fajardo: Water via a small ferry and air via a (much smaller) airplane. The ferry takes 1.5 hours (give or take) and the plane takes 12 minutes. Everyone told us the air was a much better way to go (more reliable and obviously faster) so we called around and found a carrier that had 4 seats available for the trip over but didn’t have anything available for the return trip. No big deal – we figured we’d go early, spend the day and then take the ferry back. It seemed like a reasonable plan to us – and the airline people told us it was feasible – so off we went. (yeah, anyone who has actually been to Culebra knows how this one will end)

Arriving at the airport – really more of an airstrip – we quickly realized what was meant by “small plane”. When someone rides shotgun with the pilot, it’s a small plane. There was one door to get in and the seats were like bench seats in an old station wagon - they folded up and over for the people in the next “row” to get to their seat. Here’s a picture of us in flight (no clue who that is in front of us – and yes, this was taken from the back row of the plane).

[photopress:Flight_to_Culebra.gif,full,pp_empty]

The flight really wasn’t that bad. About 10 minutes in, I remember thinking if it’s only 12 minutes I wonder when he is going to start his decent because we have to be getting close – in fact, I think I can see Culebra RIGHT. IN. FRONT. OF. US.

[photopress:Culebra_from_the_air.gif,full,pp_empty]

And then I got my answer. The decent was the landing. Straight through two cliffs – straight down to the runway. It was one of those moments that seeemed to last forever – where you actually do think about those end of life things… your will, your children, whether you REALLY believe ‘Once saved always saved’. I don’t think anyone took a breath until we hit the runway and then there were collective sighs of relief – one that the ride was over and two that we had planned to take the ferry back.

Once at the airport, we decided to rent a jeep – well, there really wan’t much choice – all that they rented were jeeps and after just a few minutes on the roads we discovered why. Before we hit the beaches, we decided to stop by the ferry terminal to get tickets for the return ferry trip. No one was at the office selling tickets and a couple of locals told us they would be there an hour before the ferry left so be sure to come back then. And so we took off for the beach.

Flamenco Beach. I’ve been to a lot of beaches and hands down – this was the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. Crystal blue water, bright white sand – just amazing. And crazy me, I didn’t take a single picture – it was raining off an on all day so I just kept waiting for the sun to come out and stay…it never did and so the picture never happened either.

After a few hours and realizing that the rainclouds were there to stay, we decided to get back in the jeep, drive into town and see about some lunch. We found a great little eatery right on the water – no frills kind of place (well, you really won’t find any frills on the whole island). We had a great lunch and decided to head back early to the ferry terminal to get a good place in line for tickets.

The afternoon ferry was scheduled to leave at 5. Tickets went on sale at 4. We got there around 3:30 and there were about 15 people or so in front of us in line. Someone arrived at 4 and they began selling tickets…1,2,3,4…

And then they closed the door.

NO MORE TICKETS

What??? They sold to 4 people and were now sold out? This made no sense – everyone was upset and asking what was happening – and then the truth comes out. The rest of the tickets had already been purchased – as round trip return tickets by people who took the ferry over. Small little detail that we learned a bit too late.

Did I mention that this was the last boat of the day?

The good news is that we were not alone – there were easily 60-70 other people in the same boat as us. The ferry captain came out and told us they were trying to get another run to accomodate everyone but it would be a while – at least a 3 hour wait until the boat could return. It could have been much worse though. Being stranded on a beautiful Caribbean island isn’t the worst thing in the world!

And so we waited…

[photopress:Waiting_for_Culebra_Ferry.gif,full,pp_empty]

And waited, and waited and finally at about 9 that night we left Culebra and headed back to Fajardo.

It would be a great story if it ended there…but of course it doesn’t – this is Puerto Rico!!!

If you recall, we took a flight over…and so our car was at the airport, not at the ferry terminal. The ferry was making an unusual late night run and so important things…like TAXI SERVICE…weren’t really prepared for another ferry landing. We got off the ferry quickly – knowing that any taxis would be few and far between. There was a man standing at the end of the dock…he looked at me…I looked at him and we both said, “Taxi?”

Now, he and I both knew he wasn’t really a taxi driver. He was just a local that saw an opportunity to make some quick cash - but that was not something that anyone was concerned about right then. He had a car, we needed a ride – it was a match made in heaven. We (well, Scott did, my ability to communicate ended at “Taxi?”) told him that our car was at the airport and he said okay and took us there.

The airport in Fajardo closes at sunset. I knew this. I think Scott knew this but neither one of us said anything outloud. I think we were both just silently hoping that there was a way to retrieve the car from the airport. Our driver pulled up to the airport and sure enough there was a big gate closed all around it. He gets out of the car (I’m thinking, does he know how to pick locks??) and just pulls on the padlock and opens the gate. Nice security! We get into the airport area and he begins to yell for the guard (who is nowhere to be seen).

“Guardia!!! Guardia!!! Guardia!!!” He says he knows she is there.  A few more “Guardia!! Guardia!! Guardia!!” followed by a lot of whistles and after a few more minutes she appeared. He explained that we needed to get our car out and she went over to the lot with us and there was our car just waiting for our return. We loaded up, all let out a collective sigh of relief and headed out of the lot.

Yeah…Not so fast.

While we could get into the lot…it seemed we could not get OUT of the lot. The whole gate entrance to the parking lot was electronic – and had been turned off. The arm simply would not raise up and the guard didn’t have any keys to unlock anything. It was looking more and more like a dead end.

However, someone noticed that the arm going into the parking lot would raise slightly higher and maybe we could squeeze under it and so we tried – and we literally did just that – we inched our way under the arm hoping with every movement that it wouldn’t break off. It didn’t and we were finally on our way without any restrictions.

We did finally make it home sometime after 1 AM, one more adventure under our belts – and hey, this one even came with free airport parking :)

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    [...] Our guests told us they were game for an adventure and thus we decided to give Culebra another shot (and yes, we did provide full disclosure as to what transpired on our last trip to Culebra). We planned out the day – go on a Monday to avoid large crowds, we would take the ferry over AND back this time, and we packed no shortage of food, water and sunscreen. [...]

    Pingback by Stories of My Life » Family Fun - Culebra (take 2) — April 23, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

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