Rainforest, rum distillery, Old San Juan

This post used to contain pictures, but due to new storage limitations from WordPress, I had to fix the problem and decided to create a new blog that works as an archive for all the posts from my two years in California. This full post can be found here.

Today was s a busy day. I got a lot of fun things done. My day started with a trip to El Yunque, the rainforest on the east side of this island. I walked to another hotel where the tourbus would pick me up. It only took 20 minutes and with the GPS it wasn’t that hard.

The big van stopped at three more hotels to pick up guests and then about 35 minutes to the rainforest. It was rainy and not too warm. I wasn’t freezing, but I had a few goosebumps most of the day. And because of the cold, I didn’t go into the waterfall pool, otherwise I totally would have done it!

We saw a lot of waterfalls, dense rainforest, a tree frog, lizards, bamboo, and more. It was definitely a cool experience to be in a real rainforest. We didn’t hike much at all. Just mostly drove around to vistas, some walking and climbing, but nothing too hard. It was an easy day. But I was extremely tired when I got back to the hostel, so I actually took an hour nap before going to my next stop for the day.

Juan Diego Juan Diego waterfall pools.Juan Diego Juan Diego waterfalls pools.Sierra palm tree Sierra palm treeEl Yunque El Yunque Yokahu Tower Yokahu Tower built in the 60’s for an amazing view over the forest.Yokahu Tower On top of Yokahu Tower.Yokahu Tower Yokahu Tower Yokahu Tower Yokahu Tower La Coca Falls La Coca Falls.La Coca Falls

I drove there in the heavy traffic, but I was in a better mood today and didn’t get too angry when I drove the wrong way a few times. I got there and directly managed to catch a tour. $13 for the tour, and a complimentary glass and drink was included and so was a lot of rum tasting. So worth it! Not worth driving though. I had a few sips of rum and a virgin pina colada afterward. First on the tour we drove around the area in a train and the guide pointed out the distillery and all the other buildings. Then we went to the visitor center where we first watched a historic movie about the Bacardi company. Then into a room where an old distillery was built. We could smell different types of rum and learned the process of making rum. It was interesting, but too much fact for me to remember now. I do remember though that it started in 1862 in Cuba, and then moved mainly to USA, and then back to the Caribbean when alcohol was banned. It opened up on Puerto Rico in the mid 20th century and the San Juan Bacardi distillery is today the world’s biggest. I also remember that it was the founders wife who suggested the bat logo because the first building they used were full of bats.

The next room was a bar where a bartender taught us how to mix the three basic rum drinks and the history around them. The first one, rum and coke, was back in the days called a Cuba Libre (=for a free Cuba) because the military cheered that way. It is just rum (preferably not a white rum), coke and lime. The second one, daiquiri, was invented when a lot of people ordered the same drink all the time, but there was no name for it, so one guy named it after the city he was in (or something like that). The drink is also very easy to mix, two teaspoons of sugar, white rum, ice, and lime juice. And then there are a lot of variations with flavors and stuff. The third drink was mojito and I definitely learned something about that drink today. You are not supposed to use the muddle on the mint leaves, only on the lime. So first, two teaspoons of sugar on ~5 slices of lime, muddle it, then pour white rum (don’t remember the amounts) and lime juice over, take a handful of mint leaves and clap your hands once or twice with the leaves in between and then put them in the drink. Some ice on that and it is done. The last thing we did was to try Bacardi 8, 8 years aged rum. It was strong, but actually not too bad. I only took half the sample, since I was driving (I usually have a zero alcohol and driving policy, but I thought if there was one time to break it, it would be at the tour of the world’s biggest rum distillery. Then in the shop I tried a tiny sip on Bacardi Coconut, and Rock Coconut which was a fusion between melon and coconut. Both were good, but strong. It is hard alcohol. And then at the bar where the tour started I got a pina colada with no rum and had it as a smoothie in the car while I was driving to Old San Juan.

Casa Bacardi That artsy thing (where you bought the tickets, and where the bar was) is supposed to look like a flying bat. It is very much designed.Casa Bacardi Casa Bacardi

Old San Juan was cute, I liked it. It is very close to the hostel and there were a lot of souvenir shops, which is what I was looking for. I bought my bracelet and the magnet and I actually couldn’t resist buying a shot glass too. I wasn’t planning on it, but when I saw it, I just couldn’t resist, handmade with an iguana on it.

Old San JuanCalle Fortaleza in Old San Juan.

On my way out of there I had to drive through the busiest street of Old San Juan, but I survived and it wasn’t too bad.

I got back, hung out with my roommates for a while (they are leaving tomorrow morning unfortunately), we ate pizza, and talked about everything. They are really cool!

Now, I am finishing this up, and will probably go to sleep directly after. This humid heat is making me exhausted all the time. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, which is hard for me to believe. I will spend it on a beach called Mar Chiquita, then return the car and watch the last 9 episodes of the Swedish Christmas Calendar I haven’t watched yet. I will probably stream “Kalle Anka” (Donald Duck, the Swedish Christmas TV tradition) as well. I don’t feel too sad about spending another Christmas away from home actually. It is a nice holiday, but not too important to me any longer. I guess it will be when I have my own family in the future though.

San Juan International HostelThis is what the main room in the hostel looks like.

Road to Hana

This post used to contain pictures, but due to new storage limitations from WordPress, I had to fix the problem and decided to create a new blog that works as an archive for all the posts from my two years in California. This full post can be found here.

Wow! What a day!! I take back every bad thought I had about Maui yesterday. I am so glad we came to this hostel on a Monday around noon so we could sign up for this tour, it was amazing!! We saw lava rocks, turquoise water, black sand beach, red sand beach, bamboo forest, waterfalls, whales and swam in a freshwater cave. I will explain everything better under these headlines.

Road to HanaB was the Keanae Peninsula as well.

HANA HIGHWAY

This road was seriously ridiculous! You can compare it to Pacific Coast Highway 1 in California between Los Angeles and San Francisco. But this was crazier! It was sick! I just read online that it is 60 miles of scenic coastal road. It is extremely curvy and has around 620 curves and 59 bridges! I don’t get carsick but I was close today. I was very grateful that I didn’t have to drive that road and could enjoy the beautiful view. Bamboo were growing next to the road, palm trees, banana trees, beautiful red flowers. Big mountains on one side and the blue ocean on the other. It was amazing! On the way back we saw a lot of cats on the road. Someone in the van said that there are at least on cat per person on Maui. I should probably move there.Road to Hana Road to HanaSeven Sacred PoolsThe Seven Sacred Pools are part of Haleakala State Park, but we only stopped with the can for a few seconds to look at it.

KAENAE PENINSULA

Our first stop was for banana bread at a famous place called Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread. And it was delicious, just out of the oven and so moist! I and Caroline shared a loaf and that was a perfect breakfast since the pancake batter were out when we wanted to eat breakfast. One minute away from that place was such a beautiful peninsula with a lot of lava rocks and turquoise water. The contrast was so amazingly beautiful!! And the waves were big and white clouds of water splashed everywhere all the time. It was breathtaking!

Keanae Peninsula Keanae Peninsula

WAI’ANAPANAPA STATE PARK

The second stop was also completely taken out of a photoshopped picture of paradise. There were two parts of this stop and the first one for our van (two vans with like 12 people in each) was the black sand beach! I’ve never seen that and I was impressed by how black it actually was! The colors at this place was as beautiful and I just couldn’t believe what I saw. The black sand and lava rocks, the same awesome turquoise water and the green vegetation on the black lava rocks. I think the pictures speak for themselves! But as you all know, it is always more beautiful in real life and this place was truly amazing!

Wai'anapanapa State Park, Black Sand Beach Wai'anapanapa State Park Wai'anapanapa State Park

The second part of the stop was the Wai’anapanapa cave. I knew about it and had mentally prepared me for the experience. Because I knew I would regret it so bad if I chickened out. The cave is a freshwater cave you can swim through. I thought we were gonna have to swim underwater and that was what freaked me out a little bit. Swimming under water in a cave… Not exactly something safe. But apparently the water levels have been really low the last couple of months so that wasn’t  necessary. Puuh! BUT, it was still scary when our guide (who btw looked like the boy’s first grade teacher) told us that once we jumped through the little hole in the cave, there was no going back. Shit! I don’t like that sentence. But I actually wasn’t afraid and I didn’t have any second thoughts at all. I knew I wanted to do it and so many other people have done it so why not me? I felt a bit like Tris in the Divergent book when she at the Dauntless initiation had to jump off a roof into a black hole in the ground. I actually went first in the black hole in the cave.

Anyway, so here’s how the cave worked. First we had to jump down in to the pool. The water was cool, not too cold, maybe a little bit colder than the ocean in San Diego. The jump wasn’t high, it was like 1.5m maybe? Probably not even that. When we all were in the crystal clear water the guide and a guy went before me into a small tunnel. When I came in the second “room” of the cave the guide was pointing her flashlight at a tiny, tiny hole. It was a little jump of a few decimeters and below it was another room with a lower level of water and it was pitch dark in there. Since the second “room” were so small we had to go through the hole right away and I volunteered to go first. Crazy me! But I felt brave. In there I have to admit that I panicked a little. I was all alone in a black water cave, I had no idea how big it was, how low the ceiling was, what else could have been there in the dark with me. It wasn’t real bad, but it was scary. So I clung to the wall like a curled up baby and hung there until everyone was in the third “room”. My fingers hurt really bad after holding on to the lava rocks but I didn’t want to tramp water in there, it was scary. When we all were in there the guide swam first into an even smaller tunnel where I was afraid of hitting my head in the ceiling. I couldn’t see anything and I tried touching the wall all the time with my hand, but I had to swim at the same time. It wasn’t a very long tunnel, maybe 4m? And then we were done with the water. One last part before we could be out in the sun again. We had to climb out of that cave! And that was the scary part for real. The black cave was scary fun, I knew there weren’t any dangers there. But climbing up on a wet and sharp lava rock wall was scary. I tried going after the guide (she had the flashlight on the wall, but it didn’t reach all the way down to the water where we were) but I seriously couldn’t find anywhere to grasp. So I got back in the water and let another girl go ahead of me. And then I tried again. And, oh my god, I was so afraid of losing my grip and fall backwards and hit my head in the wall and probably die. I didn’t, but I was really scared and I scraped the front of my lower leg a little bit. When I got up and was safe my heart was trying to pound itself out of my chest and I was shaking. Not because of the cold water, but because of the adrenaline kick I had! That experience was the best thing ever. Such a rush and I felt so alive!! The rest of  the way up to the paved road was very slippery so the danger wasn’t over, but I climbed like a monkey, holding on to roots and did it. WOW!

Wai'anapanapa State Park CAVEThat’s me jumping in the cool freshwater. It was a little bit less than 2m deep.

There is a legend behind this cave and they say that a Hawaiian princess ran away from her cruel husband and hid in that cave. Her servant used a feather Kahili (a symbol of royalty) to fan the princess and the reflection in the water made the husband notice them and he killed the princess, coloring the cave all red. At certain times during the year the cave fills up with tiny red shrimp and some say it is a reminder of the blood of that princess.

Just when we got in the van to leave we spotted whales breaching pretty close to the beach so we watched them for a little while. They were way closer than the ones in San Diego. And on Friday I will see them even closer, like right next to the boat.

Whales!

BRADDAH HUTTS BBQ GRILL ISLAND STYLE

The third stop was lunch. Right when I was about to order they ran out of fish tacos and that was a real bummer, I’ve heard those are really good. So I took the BBQ chicken instead and that was probably the best barbecued chicken I’ve ever had. So amazing!!

HALEAKALA STATE PARK / PIPIWAI TRAIL (WAIMOKU FALLS)

Our fourth stop was the Haleakala State Park, where the big volcano crater is. But we went to another part of the park to do a hike in a bamboo forest and look at waterfalls. It was a pretty easy hike, two miles to the big waterfall and two miles back. It took us around 2 hours in total. In the beginning I was really afraid that my calves were gonna hurt and they did when we went up. But then it flattened out and the trail was actually like a real road with planks laid out. It was perfect. In the beginning of the hike there was a huuuge banyan tree! Those trees are so cool, with their trunks going in all directions and growing how they like.

Haleakala State Park, Pipiwai Trail, Banyan tree

The bamboo forest later on was pretty awesome! They were so high, so it was dark in there. We saw pools and tiny waterfalls on the way and it was just a very nice hike. At the end of the hike was Waimoku Falls which was a skinny but tall waterfall. It has a drop of about 400 feet (I don’t know how much that is in meters and I’m too tired to look it up, but it was pretty tall). The flow wasn’t that good, I think it was a while ago it rained here. Our guide said that the trail normally was all muddy but today it was really dry. It was like a giant wall there with a tiny pool where the water collected. It was dripping all along the wall and it was the same colors ad before. Black rock and green lush. It was really beautiful!

Haleakala State Park, Pipiwai Trail Haleakala State Park, Pipiwai Trail Tiny Caroline among the bamboo!Haleakala State Park, Pipiwai Trail, Waimoku FallsWaimoku falls at the end of Pipiwai Trail.

KAIHALULU RED SAND BEACH

The last stop was a red sand beach and it was also super cool! Now I’ve seen white, black (pink on Crete in Greece) and red beaches. On Big Island we will see a green one! It wasn’t just the color of the sand that was cool, it was a lot of lava rocks right outside the beach making like a pool in the small bay. The walls around the beach were massive. It probably would have been even more beautiful there if the sun would have been a little higher in the sky. It was just about to set behind the mountain.

Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach

When we started our journey I learned why I thought Maui was so boring. There are a lot of sugar cane fields here and this part of the island has flat ground and therefore a lot of fields. It looks really boring. My roommates by the way, are nice. Except Caroline, I have a 22 year old Canadian girl and an older woman from New York. She talks a lot but she is nice. AND, I forgot to write something yesterday. When we were at the mall a guy came up to us and asked us if we were from Sweden. He said we looked really Swedish with our blond hair and blue eyes. Haha!

I think that was all today. It was an eventful day. I’m tired but had such an awesome time! When we got back to the hostel at 8:30pm the list for tomorrow’s tour was already full, but we wrote our name on the waiting list and are either hoping for dropouts or an extra car so we can go to Lahaina and snorkel with turtles at Black Rock! Otherwise we will take the bus to Lahaina. Black Rock is further away so we will probably just hang out at the old Hawaiian capital and then eat at hard Rock Café.