Rincón, Puerto Rico
I arrived safely (and without issue) in San Juan around noon. There was no immigration control after I deplaned, and the first order of business was getting from Luis Muõoz Marin International Airport to Rincón (100 miles to the west).
Originally I was thinking about finding someone on my flight from Newark into San Juan to share a ride with over to the other coast, but I didn't really see anyone that I felt comfortable approaching or riding with. I ended up finding a rental car billboard near baggage claim, then calling around and gaging prices. I settled on Hertz ($85 for one day with insurance and drop off on the opposite side of the island).
Isla Del Encanto
Driving in Puerto Rico is crazy. Now mind you, I've seen some nutty traffic in developing nations before, but it's traditionally been from the backseat of a taxi or motorbike. Most roads off the expressway are built to accommodate 1.5 cars—oncoming traffic is always interesting. If you don't have a sharp, attentive eye, you're liable to get sideswiped, run off the road, or worse. This place is not for the faint of heart (and I'm sure it will get worse from here on out).
Even when I took my unintentional detour south towards Ponce, it's hard not to smile and laugh. It honestly felt like the scene in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair when Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo are driving around an island town with Latin music playing—a total blast.
…you know what would have been some helpful Spanish to learn before I started driving? North, south, east, and west. Yeah, I learned east and west the hard way (este and oeste respectively, by the way).
Puerto Rico is much more tropical than I would have imagined. This place is mountainous with jungle everywhere. It's what I would imagine Costa Rica looks like. But even more surprising the fusion on Latin America and North America here.
A Crisis of Identity
It's really very odd. It's like you're in Mexico here, but not. From an infrastructure standpoint, this is a recipe for how you can turn any warm U.S. state into Puerto Rico:
- remove sales tax (most of the time) and reduce supermarket prices by 15%
- stop building, but if you must, build everything out of concrete
- turn all signs into Spanish
- reduce two-way road size by 25%
- let sit for 20 years, stir occasionally with a tropical depression
Sprinkle in some feral dogs and… voila! Puerto Rico!