In Puerto Rico: Jayuya and the Toro Negro State Forest
Posted May 01 2010 12:00am
Photos and text by Sally Kneidel, PhD
Driving from the coast to the town of Jayuya in La Cordillera Central is not easy. Although the mountain roads of Puerto Rico are paved, most are extremely narrow and curvy.
On our drive from Playa Lucia , we arrived in Jayuya after dark, and tooled around the town looking for something to eat. Although the town has several restaurants, they were all closed. Open only on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We were forced to resort to the grocery store and a pizza kiosk on wheels.
But dinner was fun anyway. We made pina coladas and ate the tasty pizza on the balcony of our hotel, Posada Jayuya (787.828.7250; calls from the U.S. to Puerto Rico are not international calls).
La Piedra Escrita , an ancient Taino site The next day, we went first to La Piedra Escrita on the outskirts of Jayuya. La Piedra Escrita is one of Puerto Rico's most honored remainders of the indigenous Taino culture. It's a boulder 32 ft high and 13 ft wide, in the middle of a river - Rio Saliente.
La Piedra Escrita
On the rock are 52 petroglyphs carved by indigenous groups between 600 and 1200 A.D. The boulder creates a natural pool in the river. Alan and Matt jumped off the boulder and swam.
The long boardwalk down to La Piedra Escrita in el Rio Saliente
Sadie and Matt groovin' on the boardwalk.
Toro Negro State Forest The next day we took off for a major hike in El Bosque Estatal de Toro Negro (Toro Negro State Forest ), one of the highest and most extensive forests on the island, in the Central Mountains (La Cordillera Central). We drove about an hour south of Jayuya to get there, along La Ruta Panamerica . When we arrived, we took a simple map from the ranger station but it wasn't a lot of help.
Matt and Sadie hiking (above)
The first part of the hike was fantastic - we walked along Quebrada Dona Juana (a mountain stream).
Sadie and Matt in the stream
Following the trail along the stream, we came to great swimming hole along a little trail called Charco La Confesora , and the guys had to stop to jump in. Matt was very pleased.
As was Alan (below).
Alan takes to the swimming hole,
above and below.
After the swim, we followed Trail 5 uphill for hours, immersed in a thick tropical jungle of banana trees, sierra palms, tree ferns, flamboyan trees, and elephant ears, on a muddy, steep, and scantily-marked trail. Visibility was minimal through the dense foliage. Toro Negro Forest is the real thing.
Finally, we realized we'd missed our turn onto Trail 9. And we seemed to be lost. Dismay began to set in. Having a fresh head cold, I was already exhausted.
The wildlife We saw lots of birds: Black-throated Blue Warblers, Northern Parulas, Green Mangos, Cape May Warblers, Belted Kingfishers, and more. And several other interesting creatures along the way...like this lizard Alan photographed. Was it a dwarf gecko? Not sure.
the lizard Alan found in Toro Negro
I spotted the eggs of a Coqui Frog, in the photo below. They'd been deposited on a leaf on the ground
Alan found a giant predatory centipede, Scolopendra. (Photo of Puerto Rican Scolopendra species by Alan Kneidel )
Would we ever get out? Just after we decided we really were lost, we stumbled upon a paved road! We walked downhill on the road for about 5 miles, and found the spot where we'd left our car.
Our forest hike had been beautiful, if somewhat daunting.
Jayuya again Back we went to Jayuya, once again to find no restaurants open. We ate pizza on the balcony of the hotel again, and then took a swim in the hotel pool, decorated with this mermaid, below.
Jayuya was a friendly place after all Except for the restaurant factor, Jayuya was a friendly enough place. No one was rude or hostile except for a couple of older folks who had been around during the 1950 Jayuya Uprising against the U.S. Most folks were warm and helpful.
On to dry forest and mangroves ....Alan's research home The next morning we took off for our last stop - Alan's hometown of Playa Santa in the dry forest, with its coastal mangroves - and what turned out to be the most beautiful beach of all.