Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Close to home, cheap and fun - we decided to go kayaking today! It was gorgeous weather and not a cloud in sight. We packed our towels, a packet of Nerds and Alpen - and headed for Conrad Hotel in Condado (just a 3 minute drive from home).
The Condado Lagoon (Laguna del Condado) is a perfect place to spend a sunny afternoon, there are kayak and paddle boat rentals and they're not too expensive either (tip: mention you're a local and they might just give you half price off :-)

Alpen fell off once - but she's now learnt how to swim! The poor thing got the fright of her life because she's never been in water that deep before, but we think she's got the hang of it now and will take her to the beach more often to show her that the beach is a part of our every day life.

The lagoon itself is beautiful - fed by the Atlantic Ocean and it doesnt have any waves, which makes it perfect for the man-powered water sports. On one side lies Miramar (our home!) and the other side follows onto Old San Juan.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Convention Center, San Juan

The other day we took Alpen for a walk down to the brand new convention center. Puerto Rico is pretty proud of it, since its the biggest and newest convention center in the Carribbean - and has a casino and Sheraton attached to it. It is pretty impressive - as you can see from the pics it has fountains and a little bar - Puerto Rico certainly havent spared a penny here!
Unfortunately I just missed out on the Hotel and Tourism expo - but the bridal one is coming up soon!

The photos of the hotels and ocean is where I always go for a quick swim when its late or when we're short on time. Its beautiful and very clear water - remarkable for being so close to the hotel zone. You can hire paddles and kayaks too for cheap, which we've yet to do!

Truck registration

After doing some research into registering the truck - and our month of being allowed Washington plates is slowely drawing to an end, we decided to go through an agency called "Licence and Co." to register the truck. There is a couple of DTOP's (DMV, Vicroads etc) in San Juan but seeing the queues there means literally an entire day spent to register the truck.

Instead, we decided to pay a few extra dollars to get Licence and Co. to do the registration for us. We needed to get an inspection (REALLY easy to pass, all they checked were the emissions), pay your $11 for it, and this can be done at almost any petrol station, no appointment needed. We then went to Licence and Co. - we were lucky to have one just down the road from us, next to Blockbuster, and give them the paperwork and they get the truck registered for us. They're a pretty good little agency, they help you with changing over your licences too.

Just had to include this pic, we were at a traffic light stop earlier and thought that its only in Puerto Rico that they'd get away with putting a street light in front of a traffic light!!!?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Road tripping...

Today were going to do something a bit different and visit one of the coffee haciendas in the mountains of Puerto Rico. A coffee hacienda is a basically a coffee plantation, but the ones here offer tours, bird watching, hiking - even accomodation! We thought it would be a great thing to do whilst Geoff's knee isnt the best, and something that we could take Alpen along to, too.

This was the first time we'd ventured away from the coastal roads and went inland - and I could say for certain that the forests here are as beautiful as the beaches. They are just unspoilt, a lot more rugged and therefore also not a tourist in sight - exactly what we wanted! We began along a "highway" - which was apparently a two lane road... maybe for motorcycles! We did about 6 hours worth of twisty, winding roads with beautiful lush jungle, tropical flowers, rainforests and cute little villages. We just had to stop at one of the many open air bars at the top of the mountains which had a beautiful view overlooking a valley... a great, filling meal for $5 - beer for $1 and we were back on our way. By this time we were having so much fun on these tiny roads and beautiful views that we thought, we'll do the coffee places on another day and just continue exploring, taking every opportunity to stop off for pictures, take a paddle in the waterfalls or say hello to a local that were fascinated by Geoff's truck and my blonde hair (haha, can you imagine that someone asked me, "Where are you from?", I replied "Australia" and he said "Really? Your english is perfect!".... what do you say to that?)

Monday, January 18, 2010


Yesterday we decided to explore east of San Juan, since we got a little break in the weather. We drove down to to Fajardo, which is where the ferry terminal is. From here boats and ferries leave to go to Isla Culebra, Vieques and Virgin Islands.

The town of Fajardo itself was a bit of a ghost town, with most shops and restaurants being closed completely and hardly a person in sight. However, the government is investing $2 M into the terminal of Fajardo to spruce it up - I guess they havent started it quite yet. All the houses here were very old and delapitated, but it was fun to walk around and see this different style of housing and how these local people live.

We were exploring when it started raining again, so we thought we'd get a bite to eat at a tiny seafood shack on the water - fresh, fried fish, empanadillas, pickled vegetables and tostones (fried plantain). I think the combination of being starving hungry and just amazing fresh food tasted like the best meal I've had in a while! We tried to wait out the rain, but it just coming down, so we ended our day short - but not without stopping at Popeye's for a fresh fruit smoothie - highly recommendable to anyone visiting the area. It was mixed fruit blended with fresh fruit chopped up and mixed in with whipped cream on top - needless to say no dinner for us tonight :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010


With all the rain we've been having this week, we took the first opportunity we got with a break in the weather to take Alpen (and ourselves!) out for some exercise. Someone had told us about a dog park in Condado (the next suburb to us) so we thought we'd check it out.

It was muddy, and at first Alpen didnt understand the concept of the obstacle course, but she learnt quickly and just 10 minutes later she was hopping all over the place !

Friday, January 15, 2010


On Wednesday, we got the shock of our life when we went upstairs only to find about 3cm of water covering our entire top floor - including our nice new bed :-(
We went outside to find a broken pipe and most probably a blocked drainage hole - which didnt help by the fact we were having torrential rains. I ripped the curtains off the rods and started blocking the top of the staircase - we didnt want downstairs being ruined as well. I started bucketing water off the balcony whilst Geoff went out with the truck to try and buy a tarp to cover the open area on the balcony. It took his 40 minutes to go just 2 blocks because all the highways were closed the roads were absolutely chaotic - seems like we werent the only ones with the flooding problem!

After a couple of hours of shovelling water, we felt it was ok to go to sleep - only to be woken at 5:30am with water almost coming in through our bedroom doors again - another hour of shovelling water and thank goodness that was the last of it...for us anyway.. there are many parts of San Juan that are swamped and are still under flood warnings until Saturday.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Yesterday we decided to get out of the city and head into the country - all the way onto the otherside of the island. We've been interested in booking a vacation rental on the beach on Rincon to host our wedding, but we wanted to see it first.
We took the express way there, over the northern part of Puerto Rico, which proved to be interesting. We didnt know that we needed cash for the tollways, so we were stuck at one of the gates, with a lineup of cars behind us beeping their horns and trying to get our message across to an attendant who didnt speak a word of english.
Geoff had to get out of the car, go to the police station and was told that he should come back in the next 5 days to pay the .75c that we didnt have with us at the time. It seemed kinda funny to go all the way back for .75c, but I guess it was lucky that thats all that happened. (We ended up taking the expressway back home, instead of the scenic route and paid then).

We made it to Rincon, and it alreay felt a lot better being out of city and the highrises and being surrounded by lush green forest. All along the roads there were little stands selling fresh fruit and veggies, mavi juice (drink made from mavi bark - its very sweet and fizzy and is similar to root beer) and hot food. The house ended up being gorgeous, so we booked right away and headed to the beach for a swim and a play with Alpen. Geoff ran with her up and down the beach several times whilst I went for a swim - the water is so warm here!

As you can imagine we all crashed hard that night after a long day of sunshine, beach and warmth. I cant wait to go back to the west side!

Friday, January 8, 2010

My first hand at a green thumb

After we bought a bottle of mojito from Don Q, we thought we'd pop into the supermarket to get some mint and club soda... never thought that it was be this hard to find mint!!! The only stuff they has was in a massive box at $8!
So I thought, well how hard can it really be to grow mint? Its technically a weed (so I've been told), so it should grow like one too - we picked up a little seedling for just $2, I got some pots on sale after Christmas for $1, and we nursed it - and now its out of control already!
We have mint to open a mojito bar...

The other two plants are jalapeno and bananas peppers.. the jalapenos are growing quite well too, but we've yet to see any peppers..

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Parque Nacional Isla De Cabras

Yesterday - being Three Kings Day - meant that the entire island was shut down - not a single store was open.. this holiday is bigger than Christmas and New Years put together!
We decided to take the truck for a spin and head out to Parque Nacional Isla De Cabras, which is located directly across the bay from Fort El Morro in Viejo San Juan.

This National Park is not accessible by public transport, and is heavily dominated by locals (as opposed to tourists which overrun the forts). Puerto Ricans are very proud people - evident by the way they dress, the items they purchase and where they choose to spend their time. They are also very family-oriented, yesterday being a perfect example of that.

We were almost the only white people there (including our little white puppy!), but there were many large families having their BBQ's, playing hispanic music and genuinely just enjoying eachothers company and having fun in their surrounding environment. This was Alpens first time outside at the beach, so we let her have a little run around and of course lots of sniffles. She loved the soft grass and the rocky areas - but was so scared of the water! She didnt want her little paws getting wet and always ran away when a wave came.
It was such a beautiful afternoon too - warm and very stormy, but without the rain. The sky was black and threatened to break open any minute - but that little bit of sunshine kept us going and after a few hours, we went home - tired, happy and an exhausted little puppy in our back seat.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Something we've noticed that here in the heat and humidity bananas ripen about 10 X quicker than back home! Even after buying a banana rack (which helps to slow down the ripening process), our bananas still go from yellow to brown overnight.
The skin goes awfully thin too, and the start to peel themselves!

"Silver Truck"

After 2 and half weeks of waiting, endless phone calls that werent returned, endless emails that werent returned, rude customer service, constantly being hung up on and not called back, being put on hold for long periods of time, false advertising ('door to door' service all of a sudden became port to port only) among many other things by broker Total Car Shipping - finally brought Geoff's Silver Truck to us at San Juan! Of course with all these mishaps, we expected the worst and the car was not delivered to us in the same condition than we dropped it off - the center console was ripped off, the ashtray was broken, the passenger outside mirror was cracked and there was a rock chip in the windscreen. We've lodged a complaint form and staff at Seastar took photos, we'll just have to wait and see what comes out of it!

Our time spent at the port in Puerto Nuevo was an experience too. We got bumped from one window to the next, got told that we still had to pay the fees (Thanks Total Car Shipping for passing on the information to Seastar that the fees and charges had been paid for in total, in advance), and ended up in a tiny room where staff didnt speak any english.
We began trying to indicate what we wanted when a lady behind us got up to help translate for us. She (and her family) ended up helping us for the following 4 hours - we needed to go to another part of Puerto Nuevo to pay the taxes, which wasnt actually as painful as we thought. It was a small room again, but the lined moved pretty quickly and we were served in spanish without too many misunderstandings. We ended up having lunch with our new found family at Wendy's before getting a lift with them back to the original office where we could show the forms (once again) and finally collect the truck!

Our first trip - which we've been dreaming about for the last 3 weeks, was to Costco. We've been breaking our backs carrying groceries and goods via public transport so it was exciting to finally have a vehicle and just load up. As you can see from our photos, it was a big shop, but we dont need to head out to Costco anytime soon now.

Monday, January 4, 2010


Just thought I'd add in that we take a ferry to get to K-Mart!

Friday, January 1, 2010

All our photos...

Started a photobucket to share all the photos, warning there are many duplicates with differences only being in exposure, focal point etc. Just an image dump for people who want to see more than the 4 or 5 that are on the blog or facebook or for the people who dont have facebook and want to see more:


We've been searching the last few days on the internet to see what sort of dogs are available here in Puerto Rico - they LOVE their chihuahuas and pitbulls...both of which breeds Geoff and I dont care for.
Then, on Clasificados Online (the online trading post for Puerto Rico), we came across this lonely 2-month old German Shepherd... well one thing led to another and although we dont have the car yet, the owners were nice enough to take the three of us home - so we have a new addition to our family now! this is going to be a big learning curve for me as well - I've never had a dog before and especially a puppy...of course little Alpen peed the moment she walked through the door! So, the new rug has been rolled up and put away until she is house trained.