While Cutter Loose remains anchored in Boqueron, a rental car is just the ticket for sightseeing and completing travel-related tasks. The nearest car rental agency is located in Mayaguez Mall, about 8 miles to the north. After hitching a ride in a pickup truck from Boqueron to the nearby town of Cabo Rojo, a publico (van) provides transportation from Cabo Rojo to Mayaguez Mall. At $2 per person, the fare is quite affordable.
Route 2 is the primary north-south commercial corridor in Mayaguez, the third-largest city in Puerto Rico. Driving Route 2 is similar to being in the U.S. This six-lane highway is lined with commercial strip development interspersed with traffic signals about every quarter mile. Since the signals are not synchronized, Route 2 frequently becomes gridlocked with traffic. This is where the fun begins.
Going with the flow of Puerto Rican traffic requires a mental adjustment from the cruising lifestyle. Red lights and stop signs are interpreted by Puerto Rican drivers as mere suggestions…not hard and fast rules. Vehicles entering an intersection at a stop sign inch their way into the flow of traffic, playing chicken with vehicles that have the right of way. During periods of peak congestion, vehicles sometimes block an intersection after the signal has turned red. Surprisingly, there is no road rage. What we refer to as aggressive driving is accepted behavior here in Puerto Rico. Most vehicles are road warriors…riddled with numerous dents and dings.
The U.S. Customs office is located in Mayaguez, as are grocery stores and banks. For last- minute provisioning, there is one final visit to Sam’s Club. After all, grocery stores in the out islands of the Bahamas are few and far between. Puerto Rico is an outstanding place to restock for the long journey ahead.
A few blocks from the Customs office is Massa Artisan Bakery, an oasis in the desert of Mayaguez’s industrial waterfront.
Route 2 eventually leads to the Camuy River Cave Park near the town of Arecibo on the north coast of Puerto Rico. Here, a subterranean river has carved its way through limestone, creating vast caverns. From the visitor center, a tram provides access through the tropical forest to the entrance to cave’s entrance.
From here, a lighted walkway reveals all manner of stalactites and stalagmites with resting bats. In two areas, the cavern is lit by natural light from huge sinkholes that have opened up to the earth’s surface above.
This extensive network of caves and underground waterways extends for ten miles, but only a small part of the overall network is open to the public. The Camuy River cave system was discovered in 1958, but there is evidence that the caves were explored by the native Taino Indians (Puerto Rico’s first in habitants) hundreds of years ago.
From Arecibo, Route 10 bisects Puerto Rico as it heads towards the seaport city of Ponce on the south coast. This highway becomes a narrow, winding road in the interior rainforest mountains of the Cordillera (spine) of Puerto Rico.
Ponce is Puerto Rico’s second largest city. The core of the downtown has retained much of its original architecture, including the Parque de Bombas. This former fire station is now a tourist attraction.
From Ponce, it is an easy one-hour drive to Boqueron paralleling the south coast on Route 2. In our experience, this is one of the better stretches of highway in Puerto Rico, apart from toll roads. Because it is further away from the major population centers, the south coast remains relatively undeveloped and the highway is in good condition and free of traffic congestion.
Over one thousand miles have passed beneath the keel of Cutter Loose since we began our journey in early December. At this juncture, we have reached the midway point of our winter cruise. After nine days of waiting in Boqueron, wind and sea conditions are expected to subside for a brief period this weekend. This is our opportunity to depart Puerto Rico and continue on with our journey. On Saturday, March 7th, Cutter Loose will cross the Mona Passage bound for the north coast of the Dominican Republic.