“Where are you going?”, says the parking lot attendant.  We’d just ridden down the hill to the ferry terminal, trying to beat time.  The night before was a late one.  After a drenching day in the mountains and rainforest, there had been many cigars, much swimming, and much rum.  Much rum.

“To the Culebra ferry”

It’s a bleary, stuffy, morning and the hazy sun promises overbearing heat.

“Go! Go! Go! What are you doing standing here?!”

Stray dogs in the terminal.   The sun too jarring.  U.S. agents checking for who knows what.  Board the boat, and push off to sea, watching Fajardo fade away.

Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Ten minutes on, the ferry is heaving and rolling.  It’s too early to be doing this shit.   The breakfast of black hotel coffee has become regrettable.  Churn.  Attendants walk the aisles with barf bags for the imminently ill.  But the real smasher is the dramamine.  It helps seasickness (much needed on this morning) surely, but the things it does to the mind are warped.  Thoughts become soggy, everything is distant.  You speak, but don’t connect your mind to the words.  Despite your outward lucidity, you can’t seem to keep track of the present.  How is this stuff legal to sell over the counter?

Ferry landing at Culebra

We arrive, and after a much needed stop at an empanada stand, we hop a colectivo and ride to Playa Flamenco.  The island is barren, sun-parched – the sky is huge in the way it is always huge on small islands.  The driver has a beer.

Playa Flamenco

Playa Flamenco is a secluded cove.  Other than a few makeshift facilities and a few food stands, the beach is wild.  And stunning.  Seawater cannot get any clearer than the seawater here.  The smell of grilling wafts by occasionally.  The food is delicious.

Some distance away are a couple of armored tanks, leftover from the days when the U.S. military used this shore as a firing range and training ground.  Rusted hulks half buried in the sand, every last inch of them covered in painting.

Tank at Playa Flamenco

You could disappear on this island for a longtime. To camp for a couple of months here would be a dream.

But we had to catch the last ferry back.

In the town, teenagers dive off the pier, swimming as the sunset begins.  The departing ferries are a zoo.  The end of the President’s Day weekend – hoards of high-schoolers singing along to Spanish rock savoring every last minute of the holiday.     Loudly.  One of those  “Shut the hell up!” moments.  But you can’t say it, because you’re kind of there too.  Your insides softly lamenting the passage of time while still trying to wrench out all the last juice.

No matter.  That night we ate, and swam, and smoked, and drank, and talked outside for hours.  The next morning we left Puerto Rico for the barren and cold north.


About ventilateblog MUSIC Classically trained cellist. Attended Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University - degree in Music Composition, and three years of recording arts and audio electrical engineering. Multiple works for chamber groups and orchestra have been produced and performed. Singer-songwriter with rock and folk roots.. Electronica. Today, it's about mashing together all these things into improbable hybrids. Also, a longtime educator of music. PHOTOGRAPHY Unpredictable and in the moment is what I love. Streets, architecture, and people. Ruined places. History. Frozen moments. Great love for imagines wrought by beautiful mystery of film and vintage cheapy cameras. WRITING The vague, ephemeral. The historical - the ghosts behind the veil of time. Delving deeply into the intricacies of our physical and cultural world. Relaying memory and longing. And sometimes the absurd. Life runs deep. Life

Posted on March 12, 2012, in puerto rico, travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Thank you for this piece. I was on Culebra for the first time one year ago today. I miss it so much it brings me a tear or two. When it’s cold and blustery here in Kansas, it seems like a faraway world; a distant memory that I think I experienced. I’m pretty sure I did; I have pictures, and some grains of sand still stuck in my camera….but was I there? I still smell the Coppertone Sport; still taste the Bud heavy in those cool ten ounce cans, and the lobster and tostones at Susie’s; still feel the hot sand on Playa Zoni; can still hear those damn roosters going strong at all hours next to Posada La Hamaca; and I still think about my beautiful, wonderful girlfriend and how much she was destressed from her crazy workaday life here, and how gorgeous and happy she looked there on the beach. Oh, to be back….

  2. The first place I went on Culebra was Flamenco. I camped, met amazing people (my taxi guy BOUGHT me beer, first trip there, second trip there, repeat). I moved. After living here ten years, the sight of Flamenco, coming over the hill…it still wows me. Thanks for such a great post on Culebra, along with some brilliant photos.

    • You live there??? I hate you lol….kidding! I have made it my early retirement goal. Definitely where I want to be.

  3. Thanks for reading. If I ever see, feel, and taste Playa Flamenco again, I will be blessed. I plan on it, one day.

  4. Thanks for making me “home” sick. Culebra has been a part of our family life for eight years now. We go every year in February without fail with other families. The kids sleep outside each night under the stars and scurry for cover at 4 am when the inevitable rain burst happens. You definitely caught the vibe for the place and if you stay for longer next time, you’ll find out how friendly the Culebrense are.

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