Showing posts with label america. Show all posts
Showing posts with label america. Show all posts

July 15, 2011

They Call Me Mister Tibes

Hurricane Eloisa cut a swath of destruction through Puerto Rico in 1975. The remains of an ancient community were uncovered in Tibes in the flooding that followed. Fragments of bones and ceramics revealed that the area was first inhabited soon after the birth of Jesus by the Igneri tribe. They abandoned it six hundred years after for reasons that remain a mystery to this day. A different tribe, the Taino, arrived in more recent times to resettle in the area. A model of the ancient dwellings has been created at the Tibes Indigenous Ceremonial Center so that visitors can get an insight into the lives of the early indigenous people of Puerto Rico.

The large grounds contain structures that show it acted as a guide to the stars, which was important for an agrarian society in determining the dates of the solstice and equinox. A cemetery containing almost 200 human bodies lies within the most important archaeological site in the Antilles. Sports fields, where a soccer style game called batey was played, were also found. Legend has it that after a Christian missionary was captured by the tribe, they decided to play ball to decide his fate. The winning team would get to kill him.


“The nature of man is always the same; it is their habits that separate them.” ~ Confucius 

January 10, 2010

New York, New York

Buffeted by heavy winds, the plane tilted from one side to another before making a hard landing on the tarmac of Newark Airport. I picked up my luggage, saw the attractive woman who had occupied the seat beside me on the flight run into the arms of her boyfriend, and then hopped on a bus to midtown Manhattan. I had a one day layover in the Big Apple before heading off to London, so I had to make the most of my limited time in the city so great that they named it twice.

With a systematic naming scheme for streets and avenues, Manhattan was easy to navigate for a newcomer. I walked to many of the famous sites in New York City, such as Times Square, Empire State Building, Grand Central Terminal, the Waldorf Astoria hotel, Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the Public Library, the theater district, and Macy's, the world’s largest store. As it was wintertime, the ice rink in front of Rockefeller Center was filled with skaters. I got a proper sense of the scale of the world’s unofficial capital city from atop the Empire State Building, before rendezvousing with a lady I had traveled together with in Morocco at the New York Times building. We had lunch in the Hell’s Kitchen area of town, and then I collected my belongings and headed off to the airport.


“A city is the pulsating product of the human hand and mind, reflecting man's history, his struggle for freedom, creativity, genius-and his selfishness and errors.” -  Charles Abrams

December 13, 2008


The third longest underground river in the world runs through Puerto Rico. The Rio Camuy is covered by an intricate system of caves. Currently the public is not allowed into the caves to see the subterranean spectacle, but other wonders await within the Parque de las Cavernas del Rio Camuy. There are two massive sinkholes in the area. The larger one, Tres Pueblos Sinkhole, is 400 feet deep and 650 feet in diameter. A trolley takes tourists around the sinkhole, stopping in each quadrant for a different view of the gaping void and the river below. Early inhabitants of Puerto Rico used the site as a garbage dump, since they could just toss rubbish into the basin and it disappeared from sight. Now the Rio Camuy Caves Park is a protected area.

The Spiral Sinkhole is smaller and more accessible by foot. A staircase has been built that allows visitors to descend the 200 steps into a lost world. The flora and fauna differs vastly from the world above. A glimpse into a foreboding cavern is available from near the bottom of the sinkhole. Hundreds of bats can be seen, heard, and smelt, hanging from the roof of the cave.

“I am much mistaken, however, if he has not fine strata in his nature. He is capable of rising to heights as well as of sinking to depths.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of The Lost World

December 03, 2008

The Arecibo Observatory

Amidst the dense jungle around Arecibo, a gigantic structure faces skyward. Puerto Rico is home to the world's largest radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory. It peers into space, seeking answers to man's questions about the cosmos. Falling under the auspices of Cornell University, the celestial observer has been seen in films such as GoldenEye and Contact. A thousand feet in diameter, the awe inspiring instrument is used by scientists from all over the world for research purposes. The dish does not move, only the receiver. The antenna can be positioned in any angle as it slide along a cable far above the spherical reflector. SETI@Home relies on observational data provided by the Arecibo Observatory in its search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

In operation from 1963, the telescope can be used during the day or night. Its visitor center is only open during the day though. It has a small science museum, a theatre, and an observation deck from which the public can view the giant device. The film that describes a day in the life of the observatory is an interesting watch for the scientifically inclined. Only professionals are allowed to walk on the on the tiled surface of the reflective dish. Special footwear, resembling snowshoes, are required to traverse its near 40,000 aluminum panels.

September 07, 2008

Puerto Rico - Isla del Encanto

I went on a weeklong vacation to the island of Puerto Rico with my parents. Situated in the Caribbean, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is a semi-autonomous territory of the United States of America. Its capital and largest city is San Juan. Originally, this city was known as Puerto Rico ("rich port") and the island was San Juan (named after John the Baptist), but the nomenclature was swapped somewhere in its history, perhaps due to a cartographic error. Almost rectangular in shape, the coastline of the small island is dotted with beaches while the interior is composed of dense jungles and hilly terrain.

 Renting a car is the best way to see all that Puerto Rico  has to offer. The driving skills of the Puerto Ricans match their grasp of the English language, making it relatively easy to both communicate and commute across the island. We used the oceanfront community of Condado in San Juan as our base, and made road trips across Puerto Rico. Our itenarary was packed:

Day 1 - Arrive in San Juan
Day 2 - Northwestern Puerto Rico - Arecibo Observatory and Rio Camuy
Day 3 - Northeastern Puerto Rico - El Yunque, Loquillo, and Palmas del Mar
Day 4 - Old San Juan
Day 5 - Southeastern Purto Rico - Rincon and San German 
Day 6 - Southern Puerto Rico - Ponce and Tibes
Day 7 - Depart San Juan 

As the local license plates boast, Puerto Rico is "La Isla Del Encanto" - the Island of Enchantment.