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12 Hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico Part 1: Welcome to the Jungle

Sunscreen: check. Bathing suit: check. Eager-beaver attitude: check. Our first port was calling our name, and I, for one, was ready to hit the beach and take in a year’s supply of Vitamin D in the form of Caribbean afternoon sunshine. As we packed our day bags with our necessary gear, a husky Italian voice comes over the P.A. system. He introduced himself as the captain, and I detected a hint of an apologetic tone. We were anchored a mile or so off the island of Turks and Caicos. From there, we’d to tender, or take small passenger vessels, to the shore to explore the beaches of Grand Turk. “Unnnnnforrrtunately,” said il capitano, “the winds are quiiiite strrrong, and the sea is too choppy to safely rrrun our tenders to the shore.”

Cue hearts sinking all over the ship.

But our man of the sea had a plan. A grand one. We’d weigh anchor and set sail for our next destination: San Juan, Puerto Rico. If we left now and sailed through the night, we’d get six extra hours in the U.S. commonwealth’s capital and have more than enough time really get to know the city.

Cue applause all over the ship.

Skybuckets coast high above the rainforest canopy of La Marquesa National Park.
Skybuckets coast high above the rainforest canopy of La Marquesa National Park.

The next morning, we awoke to still waters in the San Juan harbor. With the additional time here, new excursions were added to the morning itinerary. And because all these excursions were free (included) on the Regent Seven Seas Navigator, our family decided to move our La Marquesa National Park Canopy tour to 9am, freeing up our afternoon to do an in-depth exploration of the town.

Andy, Jackie, Rick, and I (and a pterodactyl) are ready for our Puerto Rico zipline adventure.
Andy, Jackie, Rick, and I (and a pterodactyl) are ready for our Puerto Rico zipline adventure.
Rick is an old pro at ziplining and is all smiles.
Rick is an old pro at ziplining and is all smiles.

While Rick, Andy, and Jackie had done this kind of treetop adventure before in Costa Rica, I was the neophyte, wide-eyed and nervous about sliding from one trunk to the next on what looked like black garden hoses. Already feeling awkward with a harness wedgie, a cracked helmet, and tattered gloves that were one size too small, I listened intently to our native Puerto Rican instructor as she explained what to do in her thick, boriqua-accented English. Let the guides clip you in, sit down, hand behind the clasp, don’t grip the tube too early or you’ll stall your momentum, slide your hand back if you swivel, press down on the tube when they tell you or you’ll slam into the tree. Oh, God, I’m going to end up with a concussion.

Andy, The Brave, shows us how it's done.
Andy, The Brave, shows us how it’s done.

I gave myself a pep talk as I inched my way onto the rickety wooden platform. Fifteen people in my group went before me, none got injured, and I convinced myself that I’d be OK. Slow deep breaths, no looking down. Lickety split, my guide clipped me in, ordered me to sit down and go. I’m good at doing what I’m told. There’s only one way to get across this jungle chasm, so here I goooooooo…

Jackie makes it look so easy.
Jackie makes it look so easy.
I love this ziplining thing, and I can't wait to do it again!
I love this ziplining thing, and I can’t wait to do it again!

The high-pitched whirring of metal on rubber tubing penetrates my ear drums and is quickly replaced by the cacophony of a tropical bird chorus, the rustling of thousands of rainforest trees, and my own voice screaming “Wooooo-hoooooo!” My senses are on high alert, and I feel alive, brave, and exhilarated. Within seconds, another guide catches me at the next wooden landing, and all I can think is “Again! Again! Again!”

 

More adventures lie ahead in San Juan.  Stay tuned for the next post to learn about the rest of our experiences in Puerto Rico’s capital.

3 thoughts on “12 Hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico Part 1: Welcome to the Jungle

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