I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico almost three years ago, and the city has left an indelible impression on me . It is rich in history, its resorts are beautiful and the natural world is bounteous. I still go back in time and think of the bright, bold colors that stood out so brilliantly on the walls. San Juan has an old world charm that is quite unique. There are so many memories that tantalize my mind- ceiling fans spinning on a hot afternoon in a restaurant where husband and wife dished out fried plantain with boiled tapioca roots; window shutters as unique and varied as the people of this beautiful island. It reminded me of Spain, Italy, South America, and India all put together on a fine mosaic. The roads are paved, cobble stoned and narrow. There is an intense cacophony of people and traffic. So you will be drawn into the local flavor of the city either by chance or by choice.
There are numerous things to do in Puerto Rico, but my mind races back to the kayaking trip at the bio bay. Tightly clasped to my heart and floating around in my mind’s eye, this heavenly experience cannot be rendered to words or photographs. It is magical to say the least. This was one of those accidental bucket list tick marks. Prior to arriving at Fajardo, bio-luminescence was a word non-existent in my vocabulary, but when I did learn, there was no stopping the chicken in me. Chicken because of my fear for the anything deeper than 2ft. of water.
The kayaks faced the ocean and bobbed up and down with each passing wave. My pulse was like the ebb and flow of the tide that evening. I am surprised that I didn’t pee in my pants or faint when we first set out towards the ocean. The stronger party on team had to sit behind to steer and since I had no balls to face the ocean head on, I decided to sit in the back. To the rest of the world, I, Sharoon, the puny, scrawny one seemed like the stronger one since I stepped forward to sit in the back. Vinod tried to reassure me; the instructor dissuaded me, but I just wouldn’t hear it. In the end, I gave in and sat in front of the kayak. I would have closed my eyes if I could.
I am glad a million times over that I didn’t sit at the back. It was excruciatingly painful to steer the kayak on choppy waters. I had no muscle or metal to be sitting at the back. In my head, we were still kayaking in to the ocean and so the heart-rate kept jumping up. But as we made progress, I realized we were paddling away from the ginormous waves (slight exaggeration here for added effect). We were headed instead towards a quaint lagoon. By this time, the sun was beginning to set and the golden hue of the setting sun began to descend on everything. I was happy in both mind and body. The lagoon was wide as we entered it and both of us pretty much were in sync. Two paddles back, two paddles forward; we had it covered. Then it slowly began to get dark as the vegetation began to thicken and the path began to narrow. Our group had twelve kayak-ers trying to keep it straight. Maneuvering on a two lane, narrow waterway is not a task easily accomplished. Good kayaking etiquette will tell you that you are not supposed to bump into fellow kayak-ers.
But who is to say what fledgling kayak-ers are capable of. Some fledglings were extremely unpredictable like balloons that just would fatooosh into the air. There were sudden squeals and screams because someone went off track and poked their eye or whatever else into the overgrowth. Then some wandered off path and bumped into on coming traffic and went around in circles until the guide stepped into rescue both parties. It truly was a comedy of manners.
All of this was accomplished in absolute, black hole like darkness. The only thing to help guide the way was a tiny light hooked on the back of the person in the kayak in front of us. Through all this fracas, everyone forgot to observe the magic that began to unfold beneath us. I was struck dumb! Even as I type this three years later, I am unable to do justice to that mystical experience. The trees, the water, the kayak, the paddle, and anything that came in touch with these invisible organisms (dinoflagellates) created a glow of neon blue. For one night I lived among stars.
It was once known as the El Diablo because the Spanish explorers thought it was the work of the devil. Each time the water was disturbed, these creatures emitted the neon blue light making everything that came in contact with it glow. They stuck to fish, and each time a fish swam by, it was luminescent. So multiply this with over a million creatures in the water; add to that the ripples that were formed and then visualize a lagoon radiating warm blue light. For someone watching from above, it would have seemed like a galaxy just exploded on earth.
We sat there in silence for about 15 min. dangling our feet and hands in water. I remember lifting my hands out of water and watching it shimmer like there were a hundred stars embedded on it. Nestled in a lagoon on a dark night, sitting on a kayak and listening to nothing but the silence and being transported to a world unlike anything I’ve known was…does anyone have a word for it?
As we flew over the ocean that night, I remember looking out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of that galaxy on earth.