This blog post will be unlike any other post you have read before as the title alone should draw you in, and release your inner curiosity. Keep reading along for all the suspense that is sure.
This journey takes place April 2016 in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island territory of the United States. Puerto Rico is mostly known for its capital San Juan, their beautiful women, cool blue waters, El Yunque rainforest, Old San Juan, Cuevo del Indio, Castillo San Felipe, Castillo San Cristobal, and the Isla Verde strip.
|BIG PUN Mural 💽
When I travel, I often travel with my cousin Andrew, an avid photographer/videographer. We document our trips using GoPro technology, DJI Phantom drone footage, and the latest iPHONE capabilities. Andrew will be featured in this post as well as future ones. Puerto Rico was our second trip off the mainland together and we’ve tried to keep the momentum going ever since.
|Just landed in PR 🐸
Andrew is a VERY big fan of AirBNB, so we booked a wonderful suite in Condado, San Juan. The view from our suite was amazing and allowed us to launch the drone to make an awesome opening scene for our PR vlog. The location of our AirBNB was superCLUTCH, since the beach and restaurants were on the Isla Verde strip, a five minute walk away.
|AirBNB Day/Night VIEWS
Because Condado and Isla Verde were great locations to be in and near to, we only rented a vehicle to get us to and from the airport, our trip to El Yunque rainforest, and Cuevo del Indio. For our visit to Old San Juan, Castillo San Felipe, and Castillo San Cristobal we rented bicycles.
Our stay in Puerto Rico lasted five days and on Day 1 we walked Isla Verde, Day 2 we visited Cuevo del Indio, Day 3 we toured El Yunque rainforest, Day 4 was Castillo San Felipe and Castillo San Cristobal, and Day 5 was the return voyage home.
Day 1: Isla Verde is simply a strip that has the best hotel and resorts in San Juan Puerto Rico. Isla Verde also gives access to the beach, great upscale restaurants and shopping centers such as Gucci and Rolex.
Day 2: We drove approximately an hour or so from Condado to Cuevo del Indio in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. The site of Cuevo del Indio is national park with prehistoric caves and rock structures. Here, Disney’s filmed senes for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strangers Tide. The caves were amazing but the terrain could be very dangerous because of the slippery rocks and sharp cliffs. At this site, you must respect nature because there are no barriers or rope to save you from any slippage or falls.
There was a private beach on Cuevo del Indio, but in order to get there we needed to climb the sharp cliffs of the cave while also passing through thorny bushes. Drew and I were curious about the private beach so we trekked our way down the cliffs.
I believe that water is the most dangerous element on the planet. Water has shaped our planet and many others, and it will continue to do so until the end of time. Water is also the reason we exist as water is 60% of the human body. Water can be quick as in a flood, or slow, and over time, water can dig huge canyons (like the Grand Canyon). Water and the immense power it wields is a central character in what comes next in this story.
After we set up shop on the private beach, we noticed a rocky surface above the ocean. The surface was wide and long enough to walk in circles without reaching the edge. Drew and I walked the surface, watching the waves crash like a test dummy at a Ford car factory. One wave crashed moving us off our feet slightly, nothing irregular from any wave on any beach. The second wave crashed, knocking us off our feet completely onto the rocky surface. As we were knocked off our feet, I lost sight of Drew. I clawed and clawed searching for something to grab a hold of. The surface was already slippery and there were no crevices or edges to grab onto. The wave was so powerful it knocked us off our feet and dragged us into a sinkhole. When I fell into the sinkhole, I knew I was in serious danger.
Ladies and Gentleman, I CAN NOT SWIM! In the sinkhole, I held on tight to my RayBan sunglasses that I had bought the day before my trip; I did not want to lose it. LOL! You would think I wouldn’t care less about a pair of sunglasses at that moment. I must reiterate the strength of the wave because it swept us off of our feet, pushed us into the sinkhole, then it continuously pushed me above and under water. The wave finally decided to bring me under, and I realized I was sinking deeper and deeper because the sunlight vanished. I WAS DROWNING!
As it became darker, underwater, it seemed like I wouldn’t get above the water again, but the same wave still in its cycle brought me above water where I was able to spot Drew on land. He called out to me so I waved frantically knowing that if I yelled or screamed for help, water may enter my lungs increasing my chances of death. As I waved, I was brought underwater again, but this time my feet rubbed up against a pointy surface. My feet rested on the pointy surface for a mere second then the wave knocked me off. Soon after, my feet landed on another pointy surface and it could’ve possibly been the one from before but I do not know. I thought that I bought myself time when my feet landed on the pointy surface but the wave knocked me off once again. After I was knocked off the pointy surface where I thought I gained some footing, I lost all hope because I didn’t think I would ever get out of the water.
The minute I lost hope, the wave still crashing and still in cycle pushed me up against a large rock in which I could I wrap my arms around it. As I wrapped my arms around the rock, I was breathing a sigh of relief. I looked up from the rock, still in the water, as a stranger reached down to pull me out. I didn’t move fast enough and the stranger urged me to climb up out of the water faster because the wave was coming back, stronger and faster. I climbed up out of the water to see my legs and feet cut up, my hands shredded and my legs shaking uncontrollably. My body was in shock, but mind was intact so I was not surprised to see my legs shaking uncontrollably. It was such a relief to finally be out of the water, alive but not well.
During this ordeal, I lost all concept of time. I have no idea how short or how long I battled with the sea. I can say strongly and happily that I am a Christian man, but even in that moment, I did not pray. Everything happened so fast, but I can say my faith is what kept me calm throughout. All I thought about was my mother, and how she would deal with her son dying thousands of miles away from home. All those thoughts raced through my mind, which made me think that maybe your life really does flash in front your eyes before death.
I was angry at Drew for a second because he never came back in the water to save me. It is a common thought, that someone who can swim should not necessarily jump in to save a non-swimmer because the non-swimmer may cause both people to drown. I also removed my anger because I believe he was in shock; mentally he couldn’t register what was happening. I also removed my anger when I realized the wave through him up against a rock and that was the reason for his three-inch deep gash on his shin. In order to get back to the car, to get to our Airbnb, we had to climb back up and down the cliffs. We barely could walk, I was in agony, and it took an hour to return to the car when the original trek to the private beach took 20 minutes.
As we got back to the car, the locals were able to assist us with some bandages and first aid kits. When we arrived back at our Airbnb, Andrew noticed that the reason behind my inability to walk was not just cut on my legs and feet, but the mark of a Sea Urchin. I can not remember my encounter with the Sea Urchin because while in the water, my feet never touched anything other than the pointy surface which lasted a few seconds. Sea urchins expel poisonous needles as a way of defense and I was the unlucky candidate that day.
|Battle Scars 🆘
We didn’t go to the hospital, like we probably should have, until our last day in Puerto Rico. Drew bled profusely for 3 days as he self-medicated. When we did decide to go to the hospital, I was given antibiotics and a shot.
Day 3: What would this day hold? Injuries and all, we ventured to the world famous, El Yunque Rain Forest and National Park.
Our first stop in the park was Yokahu Tower. The elevation is 1575 feet. The journey up the tower is an easy substitute for any workout on the StairMaster. The view from the top of tower is immaculate, as the forest reaches as far as your eyes can see.
After leaving the tower, we trekked a trail to the waterfall deep inside the rainforest. We gingerly walked for about half an hour to the waterfall. The walk was hard, as the needles of the sea urchin dug deeper into both my toes and feet. The waterfall was a sight to see; it was nature in all its splendor. I was in pain, and I thought taking a step into the waterfall’s pool would be refreshing. It was super cold, awfully rocky, and because of the Sea Urchin needles in my feet, I was unable to keep my balance. I quickly got out of the pool of the waterfall as the minerals left my wounds burning.
As we exited El Yunque, we passed by the site of a local zip lining so we had to try it. I had always wanted to ride a zip line through a forest or jungle. I am not a big fan of heights but I certainly love any chance at seeing am awesome views. iZip lining was a fun experience, I just wished it could’ve lasted longer.
Day 4: We still were not completely out of the woods in terms of our injuries. Andrew was still bleeding, and should’ve got stitches. My hands are scarred, fingers riddled with scratches, and one of my foot gashed with cuts from being thrown against rocks as I almost drowned two days earlier. However, we fought on, and continued with our itinerary.
We rented bikes and rode all through Old San Juan. The self-guided bicycle tour was very refreshing as the cool island breeze surrounded us. Old San Juan is an old town founded by the Spaniards who first settled there. Old San Juan is a site of two large forts (Castillo San Felipe del Morro & Castillo San Cristobal), or castles at the locals call it. These forts were built to defend the island during war time in the late 1500s and early 1600s.
Castillo San Felipe del Morro & Castillo San Cristobal are national parks on the island of Puerto Rico. The castles showcase many historic exhibits of war on the island as well as the occupation of the island from the Spanish to American control. At these sites, we were able to see old canons, muskets, and soldiers quarters. Castillo San Felipe del Morro & Castillo San Cristobal is the perfect place for hide and seek.
Our last stop on our self-guided tour was the Walkway of Presidents. As we rode past the Walkway of Presidents, we saw statues of almost every U.S. President in history. It was such a pleasure to see history, to see the statue of the first African-American President glistening in the sun.
Day 5: I headed back home to New York, battle tested on my last day. I came up victorious against the ocean, by the grace of God. This brush of death is a moment I will never forget.
I am certainly looking forward to going back to Puerto Rico. I will take things a little bit more easier. I recommended PR to others, and I am sure they will share the same delights as I did.