Written by Ishtar on 14 Dec, 2001
We are now wanting to head to Ponce and are getting onto Route 2. As we leave the Dorado area, we are trying to find the most direct route there. We go past many hospitals and diagnostic services (for your information, Puerto Rico's #…Read More
We are now wanting to head to Ponce and are getting onto Route 2. As we leave the Dorado area, we are trying to find the most direct route there. We go past many hospitals and diagnostic services (for your information, Puerto Rico's # 1 source of revenue is drug manufacturing), car dealers, vacant lots for development or sale. Road is elevated at one point and you can see the poverty mixed in with industry. There is an American University here as well. We are supposed to cut to Rte 165 south and unfortunately we take the first ramp instead of the second, which leads us back towards San Juan. We miss Rte 165 completely as it never shows up as an intersection on 2. The next road going south is 160 which turns into 159 which goes south. Also at some point, the road becomes 143 and the voyage from hell starts at about here.
This itinerary is not for the faint at heart as we unknowingly are engaged in going over the roughest and highest terrain in Puerto Rico known as the Cordillera Central , which is a mountain chain that goes straight across the center of the island much like a spinal chord. Now understand that once you are on this road going up, it is very difficult to do a U because the road is barely sufficient at times for one car. If you are looking for stomach churning vistas, then I’ll tell you how to get here: On your map, you need to pass Vega Alta after which the intersection for Route 160 appears. Go South on 160 and proceed; actually I drove for part of the way here, and we get to see some quaint villages, in really rural areas. One of the interesting things we found was a kind of post office box terminal, for lack of a better word, where the village’s mailboxes are all in one spot for them to come and get their mail. As you go higher in the mountains, you see these, but with less frequency.
You will pass the towns of Morovis and Orocovis. You are still on 143 and will stay on there for the duration of the ascent and descent which will take a couple of hours. We reached an altitude of almost 4,000 feet and there are frequent curves on the passenger side (ME) where there are no guard rails, and the view is blood curdling . Chuck was joking as he knew I was less than ecstatic but at one point, I spotted a wonderful grapefruit tree and an orange tree right next it, and asked him to stop. When I stepped out of the car, the fragrance of the grapefruits struck me, and I wanted one or two to take back. So, I found a roadside stick and started hitting them with very little result. So I went over to the oranges, with similar luck. Guess who came to the rescue? I think the mountain air does something to these fruits.
We had hoped to reach the foothills before sundown, but we were not that lucky. Our target was not even Ponce at this point, but the town of Villalba which is on the other side of this mountain range. We stopped to ask for directions and when people tell you things are not far, take it with a grain of salt. It was pitch black when we landed in Villalba and I was ready to just find a place to settle down for the night. Well there are no hotels here according to a man on the street, who wanted to sell us a house (?!). Next large town is Juana Diaz where we find a phone and a place to eat. Here’s that info:
Carre. 14, Calle Comercio # 16
Juana Diaz 787-837-5858
This restaurant is centrally located and is quite large, well lit and appears spotlessly clean. While I’m glad to be alive, I’m not terribly hungry so I order
arroz frito pequeño (small fried rice) for $1.65 and a Tropicana drink which is large enough for us to share. Chinese food is very popular in Puerto Rico; the menu here is heavy on shrimp dishes,-for instance camaron con broccoli at $6.50. Sopa Wanton is $2.25. (there is only one size for soup). They take some license here to accommodate the native taste: Papas fritas and Pollo Frito; (french fries, fried chicken in a Chinese restaurant? They also serve ensalada de lechuga y tomate , lettuce & tomato salad. Tostones (plantains) and Mofongo (mixture of plantains/ground meat and spices) are also on the menu. If you want sweet'n'sour chicken, you'd order pollo agridulce . Nothing on the menu exceeds $6.50. Service is fast and if you find yourself following this voyage, do stop here as it’s worth it.
We finally arrive in Ponce Via Highway 52 and go toward the beach to check out what is happening, and it's pretty dead. Head to town center, and although all is well lit, our first impression is that Ponce is a ghost town despite all the hoopla about the cultural aspect of the town.
We check the first hotel we called, the Belgica , which is something of a hotel/parador. The man at the desk is very courteous and shows us a typical room. He claims that this hotel is the oldest in town. They do have charming balconies. We go upstairs to see the room, and albeit clean, we know immediately we are not going to stay here. There is no restaurant on the premises, no ice, no water. There were also no phones in the room which was pivotal for us, as we need to check our business email. He recommends we go and see the Melia which is across the street on the same side as the Parque de Bombas (firehouse). It takes us a few turns to find this and the one way streets are not helping us. As we drive, we see many structures abandoned, boarded up, or in total disarray. Finally find the hotel the entrance for which is on calle Cristina, which is a side street; by the way, this hotel has no affiliation with the international Melia chain; it has been privately owned since 1901.
Written by Ishtar on 12 Dec, 2001
The first generation, Salvador de Vives came from Venezuela with his wife, children and slaves in 1821. After working for the Spanish government, he purchased 450 acres of land in the hills which was close to the Canas River and its waterfall.…Read More
The first generation, Salvador de Vives came from Venezuela with his wife, children and slaves in 1821. After working for the Spanish government, he purchased 450 acres of land in the hills which was close to the Canas River and its waterfall. He called his property Buena Vista (BV, hereafter) as he was taken by the natural beauty of the land. At the time, BV operated as a cash crop facility using horse powered machinery. He was unable to grow sugar cane here as the terrain was too hilly. He eventually added corn, coffee and cotton to his crop list.
By the middle of the 1850's, Ponce flourished as its sugar industry became renown. It traded with the important cities of Europe and the US. A quarter of its population was made up of slaves working in the various haciendas. Carlos Vives expanded the business by acquiring rights to use the water from the Canas River as long as it would be returned to the river in pure form. He thus built an ingenious canal system which you can see when you take the tour. This canal brought the water to his hydraulic operated machinery which literally made the wheels turn to unhusk coffee pods, crush corn into flour, and provide the power to put his reaction turbines into motion.
The slaves, however, were the key to his success. We saw the building which housed all 57 of them, women in the upper floor and men in the lower. In addition to planting and harvesting crops, they also built many of the structures on the plantation, which have since been restored by the Puerto Rico Conservation Society . When they were freed in 1873, many of the slaves stayed nearby and worked at BV as wage laborers.
Carlos' son, Salvador, continued the family business in the 1870's. As coffee began to transform the local economy, he added a coffee depulping machine and husking as well as polishing. The original water wheel was used once again to run this new machinery. The wheel that you see now in the hacienda has been refurbished and repainted in a bold red color. By the end of the century, the US invaded Puerto Rico, followed by a devastating hurricane which annihilated more than half of Puerto Rico's coffee crop. With the market collapsing, the Hacienda was producing less than 25% of its normal capacity.
At the turn of the century, the de Vives family diversified once again with orange trees and continued until the PR government took most of the land and redistributed small lots to local farmers
The popular DonQ rum brand belongs to the Seralles family.
Written by Roving Rosario on 10 Sep, 2000
If like most people you arrive in Puerto Rico through San Juan please do yourself a favor and take the drive around the Island. Although the highway is the fastest way to do this, it is not always the best. There are the…Read More
If like most people you arrive in Puerto Rico through San Juan please do yourself a favor and take the drive around the Island. Although the highway is the fastest way to do this, it is not always the best. There are the old roads that wind and twist dangerously through the mountains. So many small towns to discover so little time. Close