Lookout For Cabo Rojo Lookout Tree Fort

If you’re driving south from Cabo Rojo to the southwest corner of Puerto Rico, also known as Cabo Rojo, which is a bit odd, be on the lookout for the tree fort to end all tree forts. I’m just sure that you, as you read this, are surely on the verge of driving this route, so I’m glad I can offer this great advice at such a timely juncture in your life. Hey man, it’s what I do.

If it looks grand, it`s only because it is.
If it looks grand, it`s only because it is.

It’s easy to spot, being conveniently located just across the street from the area’s tourist information office. The office is connected to what looks like a half-baked mechanic’s shop, and the signage isn’t very good, but luckily, the flat landscape has this 40-foot tall lookout point across from it, so if you can’t spot it, you may be wearing blinders. I know I was, at least metaphorically, but I had the fortunate grace of a chauffeur to point it out, pull over and force my gaze upward and outward.

And it really is the tree fort to end all tree forts, because it’s not built “in” a tree, so much as “out of” trees. Can’t even guess where the lumber came from, because it’s made of big, straight wood, the likes of which the island’s trees are unlikely to provide. It works for me though. I’m all about exploration and climbing the stairs to see the sites was just what I felt like doing once I saw it.

Cabo Rojo is an interesting place. It’s been a site of many battles over the lucrative salt flats, still in use today (as evidenced by huge mounds of sand and free samples of the salt at the tourist center), but it’s a better view than that still.

The water in the inland flats is in hues of brilliant blue and green from the satu-salty waters, and red from the rich iron in the hills, with pure white sand at the edge. I’m a connoisseur of Kool-Aid, so it shouldn’t surprise me that water can come in so many colors, but I don’t drink seawater, so it was still a bit different.

Once you’ve ascended the stairs, you can enjoy the view, or look out through a no-cost tourist-style binocular thingy (the sort that normally costs a quarter or two for a few minutes of looking around). Of course, there isn’t much to see you can’t see with the naked eye, but it’s a nice bonus just the same.

What you can see is the Cabo Rojo lighthouse in the not-too-distant distance and that’s an attraction all it’s own… as such, I’ll cover it all on its own in a later article, but it’s a worthwhile destination all by itself.

The stairs up to the Cabo Rojo Lookout Point Above - The stairs up are not too steep, and the view from the summit is truly worth the half-minute it takes to leisurely walk up to the top.
The stairs up to the Cabo Rojo Lookout Point
Above – The stairs up are not too steep, and the view from the summit is truly worth the half-minute it takes to leisurely walk up to the top.
Above - This picture is not doctored or altered in any way, this is really what it looks like... That means it was literally something to write home about.
Above – This picture is not doctored or altered in any way, this is really what it looks like… That means it was literally something to write home about.
Above - In case you wanted a better shot of the lookout fort, this is it in glorious, medium resolution.
Above – In case you wanted a better shot of the lookout fort, this is it in glorious, medium resolution.

 

Ruined Lighthouse Stands as a Beacon for Shipwrecks

When traveling through the southern parts of Puerto Rico, you should take Highway-2 out a little bit further to the town of Gúanica, where you’ll be delighted by the dullness of the dry forest, the remote disappointment of Fort Caprón and, time permitting, the ruins of the lighthouse on Highway 333, which stands today as a beacon for centuries of ruined ships run regrettably aground.

The abandoned lighthouse near Guanica, Puerto Rico.
The abandoned lighthouse near Guanica, Puerto Rico.

The ruined lighthouse lies halfway between the town and the glorious Copamarina Hotel, which we’re hoping to review in the next couple weeks, right around KM marker 4. You can’t miss it, it’s off to your left as you drive out towards the end of the road, and it stands in ruins, even today, as a beacon for ships likely lost over centuries past, during which years I’m sure not too many ships were lost for the lighthouse having been abandoned.

It’s in bad shape, sure, but they’ve already raised money to restore it to some sort of its original glory, which is silly once you see how wrecked and ruined it is, and how much more than a coat of paint and a fresh roof it needs.

If it was up to me, I’d rebuild it today, move right in and charge the tourists a ton to come see it, for what painfully little it’s worth.

If you go out there, it’s technically closed to the public, but it’s a single chain with nobody watching, so you can waltz right in and give yourself a full tour. No biggy, nobody’s watching, just have your fun, as I did.

The coolest thing about it though is that, when it comes to visiting ruins in the United States, this place is about as wrecked as you’ll find. Watch your step, of course, because I can’t even imagine who you’d sue if you got hurt since you’re outside the “real” United States, but still “technically” inside the United States, you’ve got the best of both worlds. The ruins don’t have a 12-foot fence around it, and it’s still ruined.

With all that said, please to enjoy some number of my pictures from the lighthouse, as shown below. Click on any of them to see a larger, high-resolution version of the picture. In advance of your gratitude, I assure you, you’re welcome.

Click any picture to enlarge…
guanica-lighthouse1 Ruined Lighthouse in the Caribbean Forgotten lighthouse beacon by the sea
Click any picture to enlarge…

 

Photoshop Outperforms Rogaine™ for Bald Brother

Brother Patrick (aka Noisy Yappyman, aka “the nap ruiner”, AKA Handsome Devil) has long suffered from alopecia. No, it’s not chemo- or radiation therapy, nor is he afflicted with cancer or the myriad other ailments that cause hair loss. What he suffers from is no more than hair absentia, but he needs suffer no longer.

Seen here sporting his new do after just a few minutes of treatment.
Seen here sporting his new do after just a few minutes of treatment.

I’ve said before brother Patrick (aka Candy Goblin, aka Rabble Rouserpants, aka Sugar Freak) wears his tanned and shiny head with remarkable appeal. From parents who compliment it to stranger-type fellow playgroundeers who can’t help but rub it as if for Buddha-esque good luck, it’s his idiom and everyone knows him by it*, but sometimes you need a little more.

When he was younger he tried medical treatments including pills, lotions and steroids (as you can clearly see by his tremendous bulk and bulging muscles). Where herbal supplements and medical science have fallen short, Adobe Photoshop has triumphantly shined through.

Let’s face it, in our professional journalistic lives most people know us exclusively by our publishing personas. If we slap a thick mop of natural hair atop his shiny 1-ball,** who’s going to be any the wiser that it’s not his natural do?

Alopecia is Greek for “No Hair” but Calamata is Greek for Olive, so take it with a grain of salt or available salt lick. No wonder we call their religion “mythology”, I’ve seen better science out of a phrenologist, and frankly, that would probably serve him better. We’re not ancient Grecians and we don’t live in mud huts, instead we turn to Adobe to give him a full head of gorgeous hair in mere minutes, blended to match his own with natural fibers.

Just like Patrick (aka Monkey Howlerious, aka Fracas Raucous, aka Mini-master Kleen) anyone suffering from thinning, receding or totally missing hair now has an easy alternative as successful as your own editing skills. Another alternative is to just use ten-year-old photos from back in your prime, like everyone does on dating websites, but if you’re under ten years old, this is your one true alternative.

* A parent recently asked if “the kid in the yellow shirt” was with us. The parent-types looked around confused and said “Patrick? Yes, he’s with us. So strange you call him the ‘kid in the yellow shirt’ when everyone else just calls him ‘the bald kid’. What an interesting politically correct side stepping.

** Dominic’s would be a cue ball but Patrick’s has a bit more sun, so I guess the 1-ball is the best guess, yes?

 

Butcher Ponce de Leon Still Revered in Slaughto Rico

I’m new to the history game, having only recently learned that things happened before I was born. As an American, I prefer the narrow view, believing instead that everything important throughout all of history happened since I was born, specifically to me. This respect for Ponce de Leon, however, defies my limited comprehension. I thought he was kind of a bad guy, but just goes to show what I know.

A bronze statue that has yet to be stolen for salvage metal, specifically of former governer Juan Ponce de Leon.
A bronze statue that has yet to be stolen for salvage metal, specifically of former governer Juan Ponce de Leon.

Columbus didn’t just discover Puerto Rico, he invented it. From what I can find, sure there were people there, but it didn’t really exist until Christopher Columbus put it on the map. It was his own map, but still, he put it there. Today, there are statues of these guys all over the island.

Call me kooky-nuts, but if the governor comes in, subjugates the locals, forces them to till fields and mine gold until the hills, plains and people are depleted, maybe he isn’t such a good guy.

Stockholm is in Sweden, but I fear the namesake syndrome may be ever-present on the island.

If somebody treated your lands and these people, would you honor him with statues like this? Sure, many of the residents of Puerto Rico are of Spanish descent, but almost everyone here has native blood, which is maybe something they forget, or maybe something they deny. Feels to me like a tribal organization erecting a statue to General Custer. Not unimaginable, but a bit weird.

When we first saw the statue, we didn’t know who he was, so we called him what he looked like. He’s a sword guy. Unsurprisingly, that’s pretty much his legacy. Natives who worked in slavery were given tokens to prove they had done their share, and if anyone was found without it, they were killed on the spot.

Even if you are a Puerto Rican of Spanish descent, he’s not so venerable when you consider that once the gold was all mined and shipped back to Spain, the island still wasn’t treated with even an ounce of respect, and was more or less relegated to the bottom rungs of the wealthy imperial society. At least we know where the wealth came from.

But what do I know? All I know is that I’m free enough to call a sword guy a sword guy, and that’s what I see, and that’s what he was. The butcher remembered, how perfectly local.

Above - Bigger than other pictures we usually run, but this is our experience of the savage sword guy.
Above – Bigger than other pictures we usually run, but this is our experience of the savage sword guy.

 

Saunter Ponies-Up Fun, Regardless of Naysaying

Think back, if you’re able, to a time when you were outweighed by a load of groceries. Sure, it was a simpler time, a time when even the littlest things made you happy. I know this because I am myself so unafflicted by the confines of gravity, and the things of greatest minutia indeed delight me in spades. In this case, specifically, it’s a pony.

Little horse, little saddle, but big, big fun.
Little horse, little saddle, but big, big fun.

Our whole staff was afforded the uncommon luxury of being allowed to ride atop the smallest of horse – the pony – for the low price of just $2 each. They wanted to charge us an extra $4 to take pictures, but flashing the old press credentials got us around that business straight away.

Ponies are great because they are horses in every respect, save for the respect reserved for those of great stature. Myself, likewise height encumbered, understands the pain of not being tall as well as any, so it was an ideal yin-yang in the humano-equine sense.

It was funny that the ride was only $2 unless you wanted to take a couple pictures on the ride, then suddenly the ride leaps over the fence of inexpense to $6. As I said earlier, we flashed our press credentials and got the needless 66% of the cost waived, and I say luckily because now you get to enjoy the pictures and enjoy them you must. It’s your duty as a person who thinks other people’s kids are cute, but not in a creepy way.

Okay, it’s not the most interesting story, I can admit as much, but it was pretty exciting for me, and these rides exist all over the almost-civilized world if you just keep your eyes peeled and accept the time it takes, you too can enjoy the fun of putting your own child on a wee horse for a reasonable price.

And isn’t that what it’s all really about?*

Above - Even Dominic's bear got to ride along on the pony, and it didn't even cost extra!
Above – Even Dominic’s bear got to ride along on the pony, and it didn’t even cost extra!
Above - Thanks to the small size of the pony, it makes me look outright big.
Above – Thanks to the small size of the pony, it makes me look outright big.

* No, apparently it isn’t.

 

Fort Caprón Perfect for Everything Except a Visit

We’ve traveled far, wide, deep and always shallow, so when we were looking for fun things to do in the humble, seaside town of Gúanica, Puerto Rico, we dug in our research heels as best we were able to find things worth writing up. As it turns out, Fort Caprón should be omitted from this list in every case.

This is the magnanimous fort as seen from the town of Gúanica.
This is the magnanimous fort as seen from the town of Gúanica.

It’s a great place or so I was told. It’s located high atop the hill overlooking the town that’s home to a chicken feed plant and not much else, and it’s right in the heart of the unforgettable UN-designated preservation area known as the “Gúanica Dry Forest”… Don’t mistake that to mean you or anyone else should pay it a visit.

Finding the place is hard enough, and my chauffeur, whose command of Spanish is admittedly cursory, had to stop to ask directions. He’s a grown man, so that’s humiliating enough without the language barrier, but the worst is yet to come.

After what felt like literally minutes of winding up and around through the protected forest roads, we finally came to the place to park, conveniently located across the lot from the tourist information center. It was there that our worst suspicions were confirmed.

To get from the parking area to the abandoned Spanish-American War era fort, you must park your air conditioned carriage and hike 3-miles over broken terrain in 100-degree weather. Once there — and there isn’t much to convince you that you must actually go there — you have to hike your sorry self back out the same distance.

If you’re traveling Puerto Rico with children this is a definite mustn’t see attraction, unless everyone in your caravan feels up to the 6-mile round-trip hike, especially in consideration of the Death Valley climate conditions.

We did manage to snap a shot from Gúanica that makes it look darn-near approachable and another from the balcony of our rental home, but don’t kid yourself any more than I’m a kid and I know it, this place is restricted to the most elite of hot-weather hikers, and that’s a fact.

Above - It may not look like much at this distance, but this is an actual shot taken from my very own bedroom balcony that shows the very fort I just can't seem to ever get to see.
Above – It may not look like much at this distance, but this is an actual shot taken from my very own bedroom balcony that shows the very fort I just can’t seem to ever get to see.

 

Roadside Zoo Offers… Wait, Roadside?

As you drive the Puerto Rican countryside, it’s not uncommon to see a truck parked off the highway with a huge “Exotic Birds” sign, but the offering is almost zoo-like in variety. They boast chickens, ducks, rabbits, kittens, puppies, pigeons, ponies, land crabs of assorted colors, and even the big draw, exotic birds… but it’s on the side of the road, so um, what gives?

Here you can see Dominic getting a finger-cleaning from what I`m sure is a perfectly healthy puppy.
Here you can see Dominic getting a finger-cleaning from what I`m sure is a perfectly healthy puppy.

I know I’m new here, but this is a little weird. The birds, rabbits, kittens and puppies I understand, but chickens and crabs? That’s a little odd even for me, and I’m verily the young prince of odd.

And while we’re at it, when did the roadside bird guy start offering $2 pony rides… and what the heck is a roadside bird guy anyway?

Chickens? Are you seriously selling chickens?

As it turns out, many of our neighbors have, yes, not kidding here, chickens. Not for eggs or meat, but as a traditional sort of pet. It’s no tradition I’ve ever known, but apparently if you live in the dry scrublands to the south-by-southwest of Puerto Rico, your traditional pet of choice is a chicken.

And why not? They’re handsome, clucky, and only wake you up before dawn with their cock-a-doodle-doing, and by “before dawn” I mean all night long… yes, that’s a charming pet right there. In all fairness, the neighborhood dogs aren’t on a much better schedule, what with all their nocturnal yapping.

The puppies are cute, as Dominic quickly discovered, they love to lick Cheeto fingers, but ducks are simply fowl. And land crabs can’t make for much of a pet. If you’ve ever tried cuddling up to a snappy exoskeletal snuggly of this variety, you know all you’re going to get for being Irish is pinched.

While it doesn’t make for much of a zoo, it is worth popping in for a visit, even if you don’t have young ones in tow. At the very least it’s an exercise in cultural exploration if not just cultural tolerance. I don’t even want to talk about the cockfights, but that’s good because I’m young enough that I’m not allowed to go, and I’m sure it’s for the best, because, though legal, I’m not sure that’s any sort of thing I’m ready to see.

pet crabs for sale
Above – I know it’s a bit odd, but crabs in red, white, tan and blue are all available for sale at this roadside exotic bird emporium… They aren’t even birds, people, even I know that!

exotic birds in simple cages
Above – Maybe it’s just me or my terrible command of Spanish, but to the best I can tell, this Polly most certainly does not want a cracker… she wants to be let out of her dime-sized cage.

 

McRestaurant McAlmost McReminds McMe of McHome

If you’ve ever traveled, whether it was across town or across the world, the one thing you wanted more than unlimited outgoing calls from your room was something familiar that reminded you of home. In my case I could think of nothing better or more familiar than passage of those golden arches through which kids come out happy and cows come out hamburger.

See, I told you it was not a myth, this is real McBurgering right here, and supremely so.
See, I told you it was not a myth, this is real McBurgering right here, and supremely so.

Sick of a full day’s worth of airplane snacks and the local flavor afforded to us (at tremendous cost) at the hotel restaurant, we headed out to find something remotely palatable and what we found was exactly that… remotely palatable.

But it’s the little things that make the travel so unique. Instead of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, they call it a Quarter Pounder con Queso. And, more importantly, although we call it a Big Mac, they call it a McBurger Supreme.

Oh “the Caribbean,” how perfectly odd thou art!

mcburger-supreme2Left – I can’t imagine what an Auto-Mac is, but I’m just sure I’d love it, whatever it is… perhaps a device that feeds the fries of France (or Freedom, if you’re a holdout) into my mouth without hesitation, or a driving-lane by which the beef-tellers simply read my mind. In any case, I’m all about it.

It doesn’t much matter, since we don’t eat Big Mac’s home or abroad, but the oddness persevered to no end. They wouldn’t give us refills gratis, but rather required us to purchase whole, additional drinks, even though we asked (in English) that our meals be Super-Sized (to no avail).

I tell you, this foreign place is straight up wacky!

We did get to take a stroll so very “not-so-quick” the chaperones grew weary, wary and a bit wiry to boot of in the McPlayland. It’s so strange because they aren’t covered or closed off in glass rooms like they are back home. Instead they are open to the very air that breathes life into this place, the same air that never dips below about 75 degrees.

Still, warm weather and all, we’d have just as soon paid about 15% less for the same twice-recongealed chicken bits back home without the distraction of the swelter to shorten the parental attention leash of our fun-having.

When traveling with kids understand that your desire to do that which is different may not be shared by your junior-folk-in-tow, who just want an ounce of whatever is familiar… Not to say we didn’t have a great time, because we did, but still, it’s not like you can just jump continents and expect the same level of comfort from your bestest juniors. We like routines and familiarity even when we’re all up on that vacation business.

Above - Though Dominic may appear to be levitating, as if on some sort of cola and burger induced euphoria, he's actually just sitting on the lip of the slide. Still, pretty awesome any which ways you may bother to slice it.
Above – Though Dominic may appear to be levitating, as if on some sort of cola and burger induced euphoria, he’s actually just sitting on the lip of the slide. Still, pretty awesome any which ways you may bother to slice it.
Above - It took us literally days to figure out that "Desayuno" means breakfast, but now that we've got it figgered out, our lives are sure to improve by McMiles a McPlenty, for McSure... oh and McDonalds was to Mcbusy to write back to us with press info, so they didn't participate in these articles beyond permitting us by default to pay them to give us lukewarm food with suspiciously plasticine cheese... but whatever.
Above – It took us literally days to figure out that “Desayuno” means breakfast, but now that we’ve got it figgered out, our lives are sure to improve by McMiles a McPlenty, for McSure… oh and McDonalds was to Mcbusy to write back to us with press info, so they didn’t participate in these articles beyond permitting us by default to pay them to give us lukewarm food with suspiciously plasticine cheese… but whatever.

 

Passports Pointless por Puerto Rico

In my culture we have many customs but, if you ask people who are not from my culture, you’ll find that their experience of American customs is very different. Thing’s like body cavities, racial profiling and all kinds of assorted awkwardyness. What’s odd though is I flew more than half a day, but never crossed these “customs” clowns.

This is our guidebooks, as well as how we pronounce Puerto Rico.
This is our guidebooks, as well as how we pronounce Puerto Rico.

I believe they exist, these “customs agents,” even though I haven’t experienced them myself. It’s a lot like global warming, which I believe in, even though my experiences are less than scientific.

I assume a “customs agent” is somebody who makes sure my habits and customs are inline and appropriate to whatever it is they should be… but that doesn’t explain why nobody asked for my passport, to see my travel papers, or even interview me as to the nature and purpose of my trip.

Sure, we went through the rigmarole with the TSA and NSA, but they were just making sure I didn’t have explosives tucked in the liner of my diaper. There haven’t been any attacks on airlines since that one, bad day, but still, let’s harass the sphincter unto clenching for even the likes of small children. Don’t get mad at me people, these are your tax dollars at work.

I’ve flown before, but never this long, and never even that I remember, nevertheless, I can assert that I’ve never experienced a lack of customs agents like this before. We took three planes over a period of almost 17-hours, and yet we never saw a single person who wanted to search our bags for anything more than sharp plastic, of which I’m happy to report we had painfully little.

Unused diapers are not sharp, though soiled ones can be deadly.

It turns out that when you travel to Po-We-Go from the United States you can do so without a passport, visa or anything more than your own driver’s license, eticket confirmation number, and the certainty of knowing that your bags did not leave your control between the time you packed them and the time you boarded the plane.

Now let’s just hope our bags show up along with us. Three planes, two transfers and two dates on the calendar equal a bad situation for keeping possession of your luggage, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed, and maybe my toes as well on that return trip home.

Above - How we pronounce Puerto Rico... as Po-We-Go.
Above – How we pronounce Puerto Rico… as Po-We-Go.

 

Travelocity Successfully Books Longest Route Possible

Over the course of the past day I’ve enjoyed many firsts. My first trip to the airport, first nightmare through security screening, and even my first flight on an airplane. Thanks to Travelocity, I not only saved a bundle, but also got to experience my second flight and my third flight as well. Who knew saving money could be so sucky?

As you can see, sleeping becomes the only option to while the half-day away.
As you can see, sleeping becomes the only option to while the half-day away.

I love flying on a plane as much as the next guy and I know this for a fact because the next guy to either side of me happened to be my brothers and they told me so, but transferring at midnight in Vegas, then at 9:00am in Charlotte, that sort of flying isn’t even for the birds.

We could have made it there in two-hops, instead of three, and on the same airline too, but somehow taking up space on two flights was cheaper than doing the same distance on just one. Oh roaming gnome of Travelocity, now I know why you always travel alone.

Convenience costs money, and if you don’t have an unlimited supply of it, they’ve really got you by the shorthairs. Unlucky for me, I just had a haircut the day before, so I had more shorthairs to hold onto than I had in a long time. Hassle, however, seems in ample supply.

I’m not sure who to discredit. Travelocity is just the booking agent, they don’t set the fares or anything like that. My travel liaison was restricted by our limited budget, plus he’s the guy who reads me bedtime stories, so I can’t really hold him to task. Ideally I’d like to blame the airlines for their whimsical, seemingly random method of coming up with schedules, routes, fares and generally poor service.

At the end of the day (which came and went in the course of our flight), I’m going to stick with blaming the airlines. Sure, they got the only short straw in the business of post-9/11 changes, but their customer service, attention to detail and sweeping poor morale around the industry really leaves little for the sympathetic traveler to embrace.

Besides, all those hours together and none of them offered to read me a single bedtime story. Heck, they didn’t even have first flight certificates to hand out for our momentous occasions.

asleep at the airport Above - During our layover in Las Vegas, I had the uncommon opportunity to disprove its name as "the city that never sleeps."
asleep at the airport
Above – During our layover in Las Vegas, I had the uncommon opportunity to disprove its name as “the city that never sleeps.”
Above - We had more siblings than rest, as you can see from this puppy pile of slumbering brothers.
Above – We had more siblings than rest, as you can see from this puppy pile of slumbering brothers.