Category Archives: Travel

The New Old La Mesa, Ca

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The New Old La Mesa, Ca

I was born and raised in a small town outside of San Diego County, called La Mesa. La Mesa, California, also known as “The Jewel of the Hills” was established in 1912.  Throughout much growth, both in population and industry, La Mesa’s sophisticated yet quaint image has risen over the years. La Mesa is now best-known for its seasonal festivities, as well as for its historical downtown area on La Mesa Blvd. more commonly referred to by the locals as “The Village.” I moved from La Mesa to Puerto Rico about three years ago and always experience a major shock when I return back to my hometown. I can barely keep up with all the changes! I am an old soul and normally struggle with accepting change when there are alterations and new establishments around our town, but this visit found me in a completely different state of mind of acceptance. I was completely overwhelmed by how many new restaurants, bars and shops were lining La Mesa Blvd but there was not one place that didn’t feel like it belonged. The city has been doing an amazing job at what is being allowed to be opened in town and restricting establishments that don’t mesh with the quaint town vibe. Everything felt like it remained true to the original historical design of town as well as integrating just the right amount of newness to draw the right kind of attention.

I am learning to accept the beauty that can come with change. Now when I return to my hometown of La Mesa I look forward to seeing what has altered along the boulevard and what remains the same. There’s very little that could alter my love for this adorable little town that I will always call my original home. This list of restaurants that I have provided below is primarily establishments that are set along The Village Blvd. If I left something out or have placed something on the list that no longer exists please comment below and let me know. Even though I live in Puerto Rico now I love keeping informed about what happens back in my family neighborhood. You can be guided to the websites belonging to every single one of the places listed below simply by clicking on the name. Enjoy!

List of New Establishments in La Mesa Village

 

Newbie’s Still Holding Ground

Some Good Ole Classics

A Few of My Favorites That I Grew Up With Still Standing Strong (a wee bit off the Blvd)

 

My last visit home was filled with fun, family and lots and lots of food. I added a restaurant review about my visit to the new Farmer’s Table La Mesa and you can read it here in my Restaurant Reviews Page . I can’t wait to see what changes will be in store for me on my next visit back to La Mesa!

 

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Rincon Rabbit Hole

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Rincon Rabbit Hole

It took me an embarrassing amount of time to finish this blog post. It’s so much more difficult to write about the Rincon Rabbit Hole while you’re currently spiraling through it yourself. It happens to the best of us here about twice a year. We live where you vacation. No Es Facil. It’s not easy living here in paradise, but someone has got to do it. Unless you have had the experience of living full time on an island in a seasonal tourist town it might sound like we are being cocky or rude with that phrase, but that is not the case at all. It truly is not easy living in paradise, there is much to distract you and draw you towards the debaucherous dark side.

Beach BBQs, bonfires, parties in abandoned buildings, fire dancing, mini music festivals, island adventures, surf contests, sweaty surfer boys and bikini clad babes every where you look. No real rules of the road so please proceed with caution. Bring your cold brew with you or a cooler for the car bar. Nobody knows what day of the week is it because every day is Sunday Funday. No shoes-no-shirt clothing optional type of town. We are Lords of the Flies governing ourselves with sometimes disastrous results. This is the Land of  The Lost Boys claiming Neverland as our very own. Bienvenido a Rincon.

Some of the town residents chase the Summer and live here in this sleepy little surf town only six months out of the year and the remainder of us take a deep breath of relief as the population swiftly declines leaving the year round residents behind. We form amazing bonds with brothers from other mothers and soul sisters that challenge us look at ourselves and our lives differently. Star aligned soul mates that will either return to us in six months with stories to tell or will fade from our lives never to be seen or heard from again but always to be remembered for the memories and moments shared on this sacred island paradise. March and April is dedicated to non stop Going Away Parties and drunken half assed goodbyes. I have the added excuse of March being my birthday month, so I am extra guilty of tossing all my regular routines and self restrictions out the window to romp around with the rest of my island clan like a wild wolf woman on the hunt.

I give in to it and slide down the Rincon Rabbit Hole willingly.  Bands, bonfires, and debauchery that you absolutely can’t miss out on, followed swiftly by “I’m never drinking again” “why on Earth did I do that” and “it never happened if we never speak of it”. We thrive off of an interesting small town bubbled balance of best kept secrets and grapevine gossip. Tourist population dwindles and the two months of Going Away parties slowly blurs into the year round American “locals” trickling out of hibernation and reclaiming their bars and beaches in a more mellow fashion. Paces slow down, businesses alter their hours of availability and responsibilities dwindle down to the bare minimum for some. You climb out of the Rincon Rabbit Hole, take stock of your injuries, brush yourself off and like a flip has been switched, island life is low key again.

It can be a vicious cycle if you are not prepared for it, but a beautiful one if you have learned to trust yourself and your surroundings and go with the island flow. It’s not easy living in paradise, but someone’s got to do it. Only the strong survive.

 

 

If you are ever visiting Puerto Rico and find yourself gravitating towards the Best Coast, pardon, I mean the West Coast 😉 then please look me up! I run several vacation rentals and provide a full concierge service to anyone in need of a little guidance while visiting Rincon. I have a groovy crew of adventurous souls and we love sharing our passions for this beautiful island! Follow the links below to be guided to my Instagram and Facebook and see what kind of island shenanigans I get into!

Personal Instagram: GypsySugarCloud

Airbnb Instagram: BeachGoddessAirbnb

Follow on Facebook: Surf Town Beach Casitas 

Adventure with Cloud and stay at her Surf Town Beach Casitas

 

 

Restaurant Review: Copas in Aguadilla, PR

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Restaurant Review: Copas in Aguadilla, PR

I don’t have my own vehicle and I don’t eat pasta very much anymore, but my friends and I were hunting for fun places outside of Rincon to enjoy so we thought we would give Copas a try. They had been advertising a Whiskey Tasting & Bossa Nova on Facebook so I couldn’t think of a better night to go. Copas had been on my Puerto Rico Restaurants Bucket List for quite some time now so I was very excited to finally visit. My buddy was in desperate need of a fun and relaxing evening and I was really pleased to be able to take him to a new spot instead of our Rincon Regular haunts.

As we approached the establishment there was an air of nothingness all around us. No noise, no people, tons of cars and blacked out windows. It’s always a sign of good things to come when the windows are blacked out, in my opinion. I love the sense of mystery. It’s going to be empty, Crystal said. Or we will open the door and get hit with a wave of food smells and noise, I replied hopefully. I cracked the door and peeked inside to hear….nothing. I peered around the corner and saw that I was in a small dimly lit dining room with a bar featuring a bottle lined wall at the far end. There were only two tables with couples at them and nothing that looked like a whiskey tasting or a Bossa Nova band. We were running an hour late so I didn’t let myself get disappointed because I came with no expectations and was more interested in checking out a new spot that I had never been to. A waiter came to seat us and we learned that in fact we were not too late to join, if we would please just follow him right along this way Ma’am’s and Sir. From the outside the restaurant looked small, I had no idea where he was taking us but I was incredibly intrigued when I turned the first corner and saw a gondola sitting in the middle of the room, umbrella lighting fixtures dangling from the ceiling, and silhouettes of Italian architecture along the walls. I still heard no music and show no people other than the two couples when we had first entered but I followed along the corridors curiously. How big IS this place?! I lost count of how many corners we turned down, but I gasped out loud when we finally made one last turn and I saw the dining room. I stood still for half a step with my mouth gaping open resisting the urge to whip my iphone out and photograph everything. We were standing in a room that looked like a creepy cool Italian dollhouse! The entire room was done up to look like an Italian city courtyard complete with tiny little houses, doorways, windows, scones, awnings, twinkle lights and more. Am I stoned or did I eat the cookie and fall down the rabbit hole? Maybe a little of both.

The whiskey tasting event was posted to start at 7pm but when we arrived around 8pm people were seating and waiting for missing members to arrive so we didn’t miss out on anything (thank you heavens for “island time” mentality). Our tasting host for the evening, Robert, and the rest of the staff were incredibly friendly and had laid back and fun vibes. Robert has been hosting wine tastings for a little while at Copas and the events were so successful that he turned it into a regular weekly event. I’m not sure if he had ever hosted a whiskey tasting before but he did a great job with the selections for the evening. Mi español no es bueno pero necesito practicar (my Spanish is not good but I need to practice), so I was very pleased that Robert’s English was good enough to fluctuate between English and Spanish enough for me to understand everything that was being said throughout the evening. We arrived hungry and knew the whiskey would hit us quick so we ordered a bunch of appetizers and a couple main dishes to pair with our tastings. My two friends and & shared a Caprese Salad, Risotto Balls, and two pasta dishes. Everything was beautifully displayed and the portions were generous. Our pastas contained clams and mussels, which I am not a fan of, but nothing about the dish tasted fishy at all so I was able to enjoy it. I am not sure if they make their pasta from scratch or not but I Am In LOVE! Nice thin, flat noodles that soaked up the sauces so beautifully that I ate more than my fill and had me regretting my sexy little skin tight dress decision.

Robert had six single malt whiskeys waiting for us all to sample with a warning that we would all be feeling very relaxed and silly half way through the tasting. My friends and & gave each other Bring-It-On smirks and took a quick “Pre Whiskey” picture for laughs later. I have no idea why I was so confident in my abilities to handle a whiskey tasting on a semi empty tummy but Robert predicted the evening perfectly. While some connoisseurs might enjoy all the background information about their tastings, I much preferred Robert’s casual flow and easy banter. I tried really hard to keep track of our tastings and I have listed them below.

  1. The Glenrothes 1879: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey
  2. Aberlour 12: Double Cask Matured Scotch Whiskey
  3. The Glenlivet: Founder’s Reserve 1824
  4. The Glenrothes 2001: Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey

Here’s where things begin to get a little foggy. Robert warned us this would happen.

5 & 6. I’m trying SO hard to remember the last two but I’ve got nothing guys sorry. Next time I will bring a little notebook and keep proper track of notes tasted and my favorite selections.

I had absolutely no room for dessert, but plenty of room for more whiskey so we wandered back through the Italian maze rooms to check out the Bossa Nova band in the main bar/dining room. Crystal & I made a scene of posing ourselves along the gondala and having our pictures taken before we meandered back to the first dining room we originally entered to hear the band, Spirale d’Bossa, perform.

 

The members of Spirale d’Bossa were not only beautiful but incredibly talented. We recognized the saxophone player from Rincon where he performs regularly, he is a big bearded man with eyes of an angel and lungs of the north wind. The vocalist, Alexandria, had me swooning the moment she lifted one beautifully tattooed hand up to her vintage microphone, and I was a complete goner by the time her voice added to the sax music. I tried my hardest to not post myself directly in front of her like a groupie and sucked back a little too much whiskey to calm my nerves when she came over to introduce herself. My buddy David’s laughter filled the room, Crystal had all the male servers clustered around her hanging on her every word as she chattered away non stop, and my belly and heart were incredibly full. Just as I had the thought, “I wish my father were here right now he would love everything about this moment”, the band began playing one of our favorite Sade songs and I took it as a sign. I don’t drunk dial often, but when I do, its always to call my father and share my immediate moments with him and to tell him how much I love him while trying to not slur my words. I held the phone right up to the stage and let him have a listen for a few moments and then stepped to the side to give him a super quick recap of our evening.

By the end of the evening Robert had been inspired by my request for tequila tastings and my complaint of not being able to find many Mezcals on the island and has now planned for a Cinco de Mayo Mezcal & Tequila tasting. I gave a little shriek of delight when he told me of his plan and immediately started sending my friends invites to join me. I can’t wait to share this place with not only my papa, but with all of my Airbnb guests and local friends as well. I have listed their next scheduled events as well as all the links to the Facebook pages below so you can give them a follow and be notified of later tastings and other fun events that they host such as comedy shows and movie nights!

Copas Restaurant in Aguadilla, PR

April 8 – Viva Espana

April 9 – Noche de Vino y Cine Memoria

April 21 – Wine Tasting: Hungary

April 28 – Cata de Vinos: Hungary

April 29 – Carlos Ramirez y Su Stand Up

May 5 – Desgutacion de Tequila

 

Spirale d’Bossa

 

Are you visiting, traveling or living in Puerto Rico? Come stay with me and play with me in Rincon! I am not your average Airbnb Hostess and time spent in my spaces are unlike any experience you have enjoyed before while traveling. Follow my island adventures on Facebook or Instagram and check my calendar for availability!

Airbnb: Surf Town Beach Casita

Facebook: Surf Town Beach Goddess Casita

Instagram: @beachgoddessairbnb

GD Garner Art Show in Rincon, Puerto Rico

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GD Garner Art Show in Rincon, Puerto Rico

I live in a small seasonal surf town in Puerto Rico called Rincon where people come and go as frequently as the tide. If you’re lucky and can make fast friends and take life as it comes you will meet some truly amazing people during your time spent here. My current group of friends include two American men who were itching for some off hours island adventures and linked up with me and some friends to explore on our weekends off. (Check out my post about the Abandoned Prison that we discovered down in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico!). I thought my buddy was just another average Joe that passes through the tiny tourist town that I live in, until he asked me to assist him in holding an Art Show he was having in town and I began doing the necessary research to promote his work. His intention was to host an art show of his work and to donate 100% of the proceeds to ARF (the Animal Rescue Foundation). I have a background in marketing and assisting with an art gallery so this project to help a friend and a good cause within my town was right up my alley. I read up and found out that my good ole buddy was known to some as GD Garner and he is quite talented. I had always noticed that he carried around a set of pens with a notebook and would sketch doodles on menus everywhere we went, but had simply enjoyed observing and had never inquired any further.

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GD Garner spent 5 years on a global expedition to all seven continents engaging indigenous cultures in search of the essence of life. His work chronicles those experiences and fuses them with his fervent imagination and exploitation of vibrant color. His work has been featured on the red carpet of numerous Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and Sundance events as well as appearing on network, cable and public television shows, major feature films and the walls of countless A list celebrities homes.

Photo Aug 16, 11 38 39 PM

When GD told me of his plans to hold a Silent Auction & Fundraiser here in town, I was honestly a little apprehensive at first, but instantly agreeable to helping in any way a friend needed. Rincon is a small seasonal surf town, I had no idea how people would react to an art show of his caliber or how we would hold up to his expectations. Everyone’s intentions aside, nothing went as planned. Like any event, there were bumps along the way, but things smoothed out the way they tend to around here and the night ended up being more than a great success. All the art was sold incredibly fast and we were able to send ARF a nice bundle to provide for the fur kids in needs here in Puerto Rico. The band performing that night kept drawing my concentration away from my tasks that evening, they were fabulous! Horns and funky beats galore! I had never heard The Almas Band perform before that evening and I have been greatly looking forward to hearing them perform again ever since.

Check out the highlights video that I created using Luis Marin’s photographs from the evening! You can contact Luis Marin Creative for photoshoots and events. The music played in the video is called Booty Swing by Parov Stellar.

Lost In The Rainforest

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Lost In The Rainforest

Bosque de Guajataca

Natural disasters and wilderness survivals are my favorite genre of movie and book. Disaster and tragedy both tantalizes and terrifies me. It’s exciting to watch or read about from a distance when you’re home safe and have the “that could never happen to me” mindset. I was raised with a TomBoy mentality by my military mind set father to enjoy everything from camping, hiking, fishing, and just about everything else the great outdoors can provide. Having paid attention to most that people have taught me about wilderness survival, I wasn’t cocky in anyway, but I truly didn’t think that being lost in the forest was something that would ever happen to me. Consider me forever humbled. 

Two days ago I was rescued from the Guajataca Forest in Puerto Rico after 8 hours lost in the rain forest.  The Guajataca Forest (or Bosque de Guajataca in Spanish) comprises 2357 cuerdas (which is about 2289 acres) of hilly terrain with elevations ranging from 500 to 1000 feet above sea level. My partner, Jibby & I, who live here on the island, were taking a visiting friend, Becca, for a hike to the Cuevo del Viento (Cave of the Wind) and had decided to try a new hiking trail instead of the Interpretative Trail that we were used to taking. We all carried plenty of water, two flashlights a piece, each had our cell phones, and were also hiking with my 12lb Pomeranian, Osita. Although tiny in size, Osita is not your average prissy city dog. She is highly active for her 14 years of age, well traveled, incredibly intelligent, and a service dog who is completely in tune with me and my physical impairments and will respond accordingly based upon my current state of health. I have an auto immune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis that causes me to use a cane at times due to the constant chronic pain and nerve firings from the slow progression of bone fusion developing between my joints, and narcolepsy which kicks in and puts me to sleep anytime my mind or body is overwhelmed with pain or stress. I am normally very good about carrying my own weight, but on this day Jibby and Becca were already assisting me a great deal on the trails even before we realized that we were lost and potentially in a bit of danger. 

The very first mistake that I made was not determining where the trail we had decided to start at actually lead us to or the distance we would possibly be taking before we set off from the car. I am normally incredibly well prepared and organized, but on this particular day my brain was extra befuddled and I mistook trail head #9 for #19 which I knew would connect us to the caves. We began the hike at 1:00pm and by 2:30pm I realized that we were traveling farther and farther from our intended destination and the paths were looking more and more unsued so I suggested we begin finding our way back before we lost light. We had to decide to back track completely and go all the way back the way we came, or push on following the direction that the GPS was telling us our vehicle was. The path we had just completed was so steep and windingly treacherous that we decided to follow the GPS instead and go slightly off trail. This might have been our second mistake. In hindsight, it would have been easier to simply suck it up and take the steep switchback trail from back the way we had come, but we all kept thinking  “but we are so close, the GPS says were SO Close! Why go all the way back?”

The trails took us over Fast. Within 30minutes we realized we were traveling what felt like a long distance that actually left us doing circles and not making any headway towards the car. I was not panicked, but the reality of the situation hit me hard and I adjusted my energy accordingly to pull out reserve strength for my body and remain calm so I could think rationally. We were losing day light in a tropical rain storm, my dogs paws were now swollen and she was getting leg cramps so we began taking turns carrying her, what little physically strength and energy I had began with was fading fast, Becca had a flight to catch at 3:00am, and we were lost in a rain forest. Ok, Now I panicked, just a little.

Rain Forest Puerto Rico

Rain Forest Puerto Rico

From here on my memory of our experience gets scattered and I had to hear Jibby and Becca retell me about what happened later after we were all home safe. I recall us all being together down low in a valley and I had the thought that I wanted to just get higher and see if I could see a trail anywhere and to see if I could get cell service. I do not recall making the decision to leave my dog behind with my companions, strap my cane to my backpack and begin climbing the rocky cave cliff side, but apparently that is what I did next. I remember hearing my friends screaming my name but I couldn’t figure out why, or why we were even separated, or why I was so determined to keep moving up and forward. Later, I recalled that during my solitary ascent, most of the trees and things that I would try to grab onto to pull myself up or stabilize myself would crumble and disintegrate and I kept falling back down the cliff side and banging myself up more and more. In addition to the forest crumbling around me, I was having a rapid series of narcolepsy attacks which kept causing me to pass out and come to finding myself laying among the moldy leaves with spiders crawling across my line of vision. My brain was mush, my body was fighting for survival by making one horrible decision after another, stumbling blindly as thorny vines ripped up my bare legs. It was the sight of my own blood that kicked my brain back into gear, I remember that clearly. Everything snapped back into focus, I heard my name being called repeatedly, I heard Osita yelp and whimper for me, and I pulled my phone out to check if I had a signal to get us help. I have a friend in town who I knew I could rely upon to think smart and act fast so I called Carla and when then dropped a pin to my location. Then things got cloudy again and I probably made some more bad decisions….

Hearing Jibby retell of hearing my blood curling screams from below and then silence after as I kept falling and them not being able to find me or reach me was terrifyingly heartbreaking. Once I relocated Jibby & Becca and we were all together again, we made our third mistake. Even though I had contacted help and dropped a pin to our location we all still had the mind set that we could still make it out of the rain forest and find the car before dark, so we continued to follow the GPS and I continued to drop Carla bread crumb pins via text when I was able to get service. Carla’s continued warning to stop moving and remain in one location so that the search party could locate us didn’t kick in until almost an hour later when she texted the words, “try not to move so much okay.” I didn’t realize that my brain had clouded again until her words cleared the fog. I looked back at my pins and realized they were all over the place, why the hell was I moving, I knew better than that, I was a Girl Scout for goodness sake (which was repeating like a broken record inside my head for hours). We finally stopped making mistakes at this point and got everything right from this point forward. I sent out a final pin to Carla, promised to stay still, and passed the communication responsibility to Jibby because I knew I could trust my partner to handle the rest of our rescue properly and I had absolutely no strength left. By 6:30pm, as darkness set in, the night noises got deafeningly loud and Sargent Cortez messaged Jibby with instructions to keep our flashlights on and respond to the vocal shouts when we heard them so that the search teams could locate us. I will never forget how fast the search team responded, even though it took them almost three hours to actually locate us because of how high up on the mountain side we were, we began shouting back and forth with the searchers almost immediately. The relief we felt just knowing that help was out there and working hard to get to us was almost enough to jump start my tears, but even then I held them in.

Press Play on the YouTube Video below to hear the night noises we were surrounded by!

We all found places to sit as we waited to be found. My dog remained curled up in my backpack nestled close to me, I massaged her tiny legs when the cramps would come and tried not to think about the snake I saw slithering along the rock we were resting by. I could feel Jibby’s concern about my condition and apparently they even tried to give me a dose of my medicine while I was incoherent which I refused. Jibby kept reminding us to take tiny sips of water and keep our lights up. Becca revealed that she had a battery charger pack in her backpack and a few other helpful items we were unaware of and we all fell into a delirious bout of laughter as we held hands to transfer strength and energy for a moment, recap our stupidity, and apologize for things said during our fearful moments. I found a few videos on my phone later and Jibby told me that when we first heard the search party I tried to put on a brave face and make light of our situation by making a Blair Witch type of video so that we could remember this forever and hopefully laugh about it later. None of us were ever worried about the possibility of not being found and making it out. Pain, discomfort, and the potential of a missed flight was our only real concern. One positive thing that can be said about being lost in a Puerto Rican rain forest as opposed to anywhere else, is we had no predators to worry about and the weather was actually kind of beautiful despite a little rain fall. By 9:43pm we saw the lights of one of the search parties through the trees and for the next half hour I apparently repeatedly asked Jibby for confirmation that they were actually there. I kept hearing “Yes Baby, they’re really here, we’re going home, drink some water” but I still wasn’t sure if it was really happening or not.

The Search & Rescue members involved in locating us and getting us safely off the mountain side and back down the trails were all amazing. I keep trying to come up with a word other than “amazing” and I simply can not, there are no words. Reflecting back now I can recall they smelled like clean clothes and every one of them had huge smiles and beautiful eyes. I remember feeling their energy. I could feel their happiness that the search was finally over, relief that we weren’t injured more seriously, and pride that they had done their job so well and swiftly. I could feel all of that coming off of them in a heavy wave, and it was their energy wave combined with Jibby being so near making me feel safe, that gave me the final burst of strength to lift my dog into my backpack one last time and begin the descent on my wobbly legs. I don’t recall leaving the rain forest with the search party or the hour hike we still had to make to get back out to the road but I do recall being mortified when I stepped out of the darkness and into a street completely filled with rescue lights, ambulances, cop cars and about three dozen search and rescue members. My manners kicked in immediately and I could hear myself repeating how sorry I was, thanking everyone, and checking on Becca while silently I was sobbing in my head for Jibby to just get me home, get me clean and hold me. 

Home safe and wounds cleaned, we all got relieved earfuls about wilderness safety from all who cared about us. We fully understood exactly what mistakes we had made and how to not repeat the same mistakes ever again. I will admit, living here on the island has taught me a lot of good things about letting go when the universe demands it and going with the flow, but I “let go” to the point where I have begun to get a little to comfortable with simply thinking, “No worries, we’ll figure it out as we go along…”. Balance is a beautiful thing and I am learning more from every mistake and success life brings my way. All of a sudden all those geeky wilderness survival books that I took for granted seem like a super interesting read! I found a website that I have become addicted to reading through every little detail of that has a wealth of information about any and all types of wilderness survival, check it out and share it with anyone enjoying the great outdoors!

Wilderness Survival Database Website 

Search & Rescue

Search & Rescue

Gozalandia Waterfalls Gets A Makeover

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Jungle Stairway to Waterfall

April 2014

Jungle Stairs to Waterfall

May 2016

Let me start off by saying that this has become one of my least favorite places to visit. Don’t get me wrong, I am forever grateful for where I live and I love a good waterfall just as much as the next explorer. Unfortunately, Gozalandia Waterfalls is one of the top five tourist destinations for travelers visiting the island, and being an Airbnb Hostess and Tour Guide based on the west coast of the island means that is one of the first places that people want to know about and see.
When I first arrived on the island over two years ago the waterfalls were just starting to become more of a local hangout spot and less of a tourist attraction. It is quite normal to hear booming music and squeals of laughter and play before you can even see that falls. Local Puerto Ricans spend their weekends and days off partying and BBQing with all the amenities that you would expect to find on a beach bumming Sunday Funday. As you descend the pathway down to the falls you hit a section where you become visible to everyone below, and people stop and stare if you are American. Other than staring, which is actually normal on the island, no one will make you feel unwelcome in anyway, the opposite in fact, someone will most likely offer you a cold Medalla fresh from the stream. I think they are watching you descend because they are half waiting for you to slip and fall so they can have a good show and laugh.

During the past two years I have noticed a significant amount of improvements made at the falls, but today especially I noticed so many differences I broke away from the group to wander around and take comparative shots from my very first visit. Since I had no interest in seeing the waterfalls for a umpteenth time, I instead used my time to make note of the changes and pay respect to the people doing all the improvements. Lots has been done to make both the driving entrance and the entrance, steps, and pathways around the waterfalls safer and more accessible. New paved pathways have been laid, concrete stairways, well mounted and sanded wood railings, and lots of warning signage is now posted clearly. My favorite of all the upgrades is that there is now a “lifeguard” of some sorts standing at the base of the lower waterfall giving signals with his whistle for jumpers safety, but that’s just the MamaBear in me.

The Gozalandia Waterfalls are definitely a must see while visiting Puerto Rico. I began this blog post still feeling a little grumpy about “wasting a day” going to a place I have visited many times before and I ended it remembering exactly why I love every little thing about this island so very much. Shame on me for taking any of these moments, experiences, and sights for granted for even a moment! I have added some videos of Osita leading us down to the waterfall and a link to a map to help you find the falls on your own. Enjoy!

New Jungle Stairs

New Jungle Stairs

Atención Attention

Atención

New Paved Jungle Stairs

Going Down!

 

Jungle Stairs

Follow Osita…

Jungle Safety First

Safety First

 

 

 

 

 

Waterfall Jungle Pond Restaurant

Waterfall Jungle Pond Restaurant

 

 

You can see the rest of the days YouTube Videos here at Gypsy Sugar Cloud. Subscribe to my channel for more island shenanigans videos with my adventurous Pomeranian Osita!

 

Isla Adventure Squad: Abandoned Prison (Monte Pirata Bike Park)

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Isla Adventure Squad: Abandoned Prison (Monte Pirata Bike Park)

We heard rumors of an abandoned prison down in Cabo Rojo and for as much as I love hunting down abandoned locations I had reservations about going to a prison. Once I learned that the location is now a hiking and biking trail I was a little more willing to check it out. Upon arrival though, you can still feel what it was. There is darkness, even on the sunniest of island days, there. All I will be doing in this post is sharing a few images that I took and the location where you can hunt down this location yourself. I did energy protection casts before we arrived and I was so in awe of what I was seeing through my lens to be disturbed, but as soon as I came home to the photos and began the research all of my senses vibrated and told me to back off. I choose not to delve any deeper than enjoying the images I took along this adventure. You are welcome to track down the location yourself as I have provided a map and directions and trail information at the very bottom. Happy hunting!

Main Chapel Entrance

Main Chapel Entrance

Inside the main chapel...reminded me of Alice in Wonderland

Inside the main chapel…reminded me of Alice in Wonderland

Prisoner Assembly Diagrams

Translation: Connections basic oxy-acetylene welding process

Prisoner Assembly Diagrams

Prisoner Assembly Diagrams

 

 

 

 

 

Front Entrance Prison Door

Front Entrance 1908

Burnt Prison Hallway

Burnt Hallway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruins

Nature has taken over The Yard

Nature has taken over The Yard

Gypsy Cloud, Girl in Window Sill

Hi! That’s Me, Gypsy Cloud! Thanks for reading my blog!

Here are just a couple of the street art pieces that we discovered while exploring. You can find the rest of the photos that I took during my adventure here on my Shutterfly Account! Please do not use any of my photos without contacting me first, I have no problem sharing, just ask!

Prison Yard Graffiti

Prison Yard Graffiti

Prison Yard Graffiti

Prison Yard Graffiti

Prison Yard Graffiti

Prison Yard Graffiti

I have added a link to the Monte Pirata Hiking and Biking Trail where you can find trail information and maps for those who want to check out these awesome hiking/biking trails. I will admit, despite the abandoned correctional prison’s intimidating energy, but the grounds are so taken over by nature it is truly an astounding sight to see. I have a feeling the darkness might call to me to explore these grounds a little further someday….

Isla Adventure Squad: Bumble Bee Tuna Factory

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Isla Adventure Squad: Bumble Bee Tuna Factory

For those of you just joining me, I am American born and have been living in Puerto Rico for the past two years. Recently, I have packed up with a couple other adventurous souls and we have began a routine of weekly land pirate treasure hunts. I was given access to the old Bumble Bee Tuna Factory which is now being used as a base camp for a company charting and recycling underwater telecommunications cables and housing a deep sea marine research facility. The factory sits next door to the old Starkiss Tuna Packing Plant, which is even more decrepit and creepy looking, which means even more enticing! Puerto Rico used to supply a large amount of the canned tuna for the U.S. until saving the dolphins became and issue and the three major packing plants were all shut down around 1990.

The photographs that follow are images that I took while wandering around in awe like a starry eyed land pirate collecting greasy, rusty treasures.

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Photos:

  • View from below of the conveyor belts that once packed Bumble Bee Tuna cans
  • The Boneyard where I collected scrap metal for art projects. The telecommunications recycling company has also done an amazing job of salvaging almost every item needed to make themselves an functional office space from the items found in here.
  • A company once interested in turning the warehouse into a cheese making facility left behind lots of expensive equipment that other businesses are currently in the process of bidding on
  • Meet Joshua & David, my trusty fellow island adventurers! Joshua is a marine biologist who works for David on the diving and research end of the companies business. Both of these fellas were a wealth of knowledge and so much fun to gallivant through this dark and cavernous factory with!
  • Behind this fence is the neighboring Starkiss plant, stay tuned because I have gotten permission to explore that location also once we can acquire some keys!
  • The bathrooms and locker rooms look as if the factory workers just up and left only weeks ago. The entire plant was abandoned of its workers back in 1990, but there is still an oddly creepy, occupied feeling here.
  • These cement block/stands once held tuna packing tubs. They will soon be used for deep sea marine experimentation tanks. You can see small spaces at the base of each cement block where all the wiring to keep the tanks running will be laid, with a decline at the back end with drainage in the event that any mishaps should arise. This space could not have been designed more perfectly for Joshua’s needs.
  • Samples of the old telecommunication cables that are being charted and brought back to shore for recycling
  • Standing up along the conveyor belt line. We were even able to hand pull the main cable and slowly chug the belt along!
  • My days land pirate booty! Square war nails, old gears and grates for assemblage art projects

I came home greasy, sore from lugging scrap metal, and still wide eyed from all I had seen and gotten to experience that day. We all had such a great time exploring we made plans to take an Isla Adventure Squad expedition once a week! Next stop we will be hunting down an abandoned prison down along the South West side of the island, near Cabo Rojo….Stay Tuned!

 

Do you know of other abandoned locations and cool things to hunt down in Puerto Rico? Comment below!

I Am Not My Disease

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I Am Not My Disease

I have Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), but I am not my disease. Please do not treat me different, I am still am irregular girl.

It’s alright, I can tell you want to ask, I get it quite often. Go ahead and get nosy, I do not mind. Your questions means you care. Let’s take a walk, its uncomfortable for me to remain in one position to long.

Yes, I have arthritis. I was diagnosed with an inflammatory auto immune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis (pronounced ank-kih-low-sing spon-dill-eye-tiss) a year ago on my 30th birthday.

Yes, I am young. No, you can not always see it but I can always feel it. I use a cane at times to keep my balance when my legs don’t cooperate. Yes, I do look healthy, why thank you kindly. I altered my entire wardrobe to accommodate my daily discomfort. This is my favorite skirt, it hides my swollen legs, and it makes me feel pretty.

Every move I make is taken with gentle care and excessive planning. I’m not obsessive compulsive, See The Spoon Theory. Ok, and I might be a little OC, but I only use my powers for good. I am not unreliable, but my body is. No, it is not contagious. Yes, You can touch me, but do it gently because I am fragile. I bruise easily and I can feel the vibrations of your voice on my skin. Sound waves ripple across my nerve endings constantly but you wouldn’t know anymore, I’ve finally stopped flinching every time I hear a new noise.

Pardon, I need to have a seat, my knees and feet are beginning to swell and stiffen from walking. Please, sit with me, and do not treat me any differently, I beg of you. I am still the same vivacious woman you met 10min ago, I just can’t walk anymore right now. Yes it hurts. All the time. Yes, my smile is genuine, is yours? I am happy. Life is beautiful why wouldn’t I be? You see, I have AS, but I am not my disease.

My joints ache, my bones get stuck, my nerve endings are fried. I enjoy long stretches, slow walks, warm blankets, hot bubble baths, and I’m a sucker for a good massage. No, it is not curable. Yes, it is manageable. No, I do not use the prescriptions that line my medicine cabinet. Do you know where I can dispose of them safely? Yes, I use herbal powders, holistic remedies, progressive muscle and autogenic relaxation techniques. My mind is stronger than my body.

I took a year off of life. I didn’t give up, simply took a long rest. I over came a great number of hurdles with very little support. No I am not bitter. I do not keep score, but I can not forget. I do not hold grudges, but I wish you had been there, I could have really used your help. Pardon, I need to stand a bit, my hips are swelling from sitting. No, don’t get up. And don’t treat me differently. Let me finish my story while I still have the energy. Let’s speed this up a bit.

I took the term fresh start to the extreme. I said goodbye to everything I knew and everyone I loved. I quit my job and moved to an island with my doctor’s blessing. I changed my way of thinking first, my surroundings second, and my diet third. I’m not too proud to admit it, you were right, it was food and stress (well yes, and an auto immune disease causing severe inflammation and bone fusion, but, you know, mostly food and stress). With every subtle change that I made I felt lighter, stronger, happier.

I am 31 years old now. I recreated life as i knew it. I live a simplistic lifestyle that revolves around taking care of my body and mind first. I made a home and a career for myself on the island and visit the Mainland for the ones I love and left behind. My body is weary but my heart is happy. Our minds are incredibly powerful. Every single aspect in our lives is a determining factor of our health. I am living proof. My cane is getting dusty. Yes, I am still in pain and I do not sleep the greatest at night but my days are full. I do to much to make up for lost time to come because I do not know how this disease will progress through the years. My body has taught me more about life in these past two years than any schooling or role model that influenced me. I am constantly craving more knowledge from my growing community of compassionate souls. How do You cope with what ails you? What tricks do you use to trick your mind and calm your inner soul? I would love to know….

 

 

 

 

AirBnb: The Psychologist and The Accountant

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As a young girl I was raised hanging out at hotels and parties with my mother the Catering Director. I loved the process of planning, organizing, and executing a successful party. In my early twenties I applied my skills to a few of my own parties and transitioned into Wedding Planning. I noticed the party planning taking a serious draining toll on my energy and drive but I also recognized that I couldn’t let it go because I Loved working with the people. I had an appreciation for the tiniest of details and an ability to make anyone feel comfortable and welcome. I had a secret dreams to open my own Bed&Breakfast that never manifested, life happened and I moved on. I never purged the dream though, every trip I took became a secret hostess fantasy. My journals and sketch books were filled with dream houses, breakfast menus, fake guest itineraries and mock-up brochures. Somewhere along the journey through my twenties I forgot to continue dreaming. I thought hopes and dreams were for frivolous people who had no “career driven goals”. Back then I was not aware that hopes, dreams and career driven goals Could be one and the same.

Surprisingly I did not become aware of AirBnb until late last year (Nov 2014)  while living here in Rincon, Puerto Rico. I was approached by someone who knew a little bit of my background and asked to assist in running AirBnb room rentals to travelers out of an apartment. I experienced my first life Ah Ha (So This Is What The Universe Was Telling Me To Wait For) moment when I began my AirBnb Hostess journey. I was handed the opportunity of a lifetime, an arrangement that allowed me to live out my fantasies without the risk and investment I was concerned with in the past. I ran AirBnb rentals for others for enough months to allow me to learn the ropes and work out the kinks before I ventured out on my own…..

A week ago I took over a friend’s apartment, and in the middle of transitioning our belongings I got a little Mainland Impatient (I’ll admit, the rum soaked coconut Piratas made me do it!) and prematurely posted my extra room just before I went to bed. I should have known better, especially out here on this isla loca! I woke up the next morning with 3 bookings, one of which was showing up Pronto. I looked from my computer screen around at the boxes, 2 thin beach towels I was using, and linens that the last tenant was kind enough to leave me with, back down to my computer screen clock. <> Start laundry loads, line dry linens, set Private Room up for guests, clean bathroom, personal paraphernalia put away, tiny decorative touches utilizing what I could find around the apartment, sweep, mop, prep fresh fruit, and collapse into a perspiring lady like puddle of wilted gypsy.

So it’s officially official! Last night I hosted my first guests here in my new spot! Rebeca (the Accountant) y Roberto (the psychologist) were a delightful first start. We discovered an instant bond in our appreciation for environmental activist groups and things available to be a part of and experience here in Puerto Rico. When I learned that the Sierra Club has a PR chapter I booted up my computer and signed up right then and there. With more than two million members and supporters, The Sierra Club is now the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization.  Their efforts range from protecting millions of acres of wilderness to helping pass the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act.  You can become a Member or a Wilderness Guardian by signing up on their website here: Sierra Club Home Page

Use this link for the Sierra Club-Puerto Rico Chapter

For more travel websites, location information, and less gypsy ramblings check out my

Travel Links Page

In our conversations I learned that Rebeca has been creating an extensive medicinal herbal farm on her property. I shared my past experiences with my ex-roommate and talked about the herbs and roots that he would collect an teach me about for my own medical purposes. I expressed a desire to find or create a book that listed Only herbs native to Puerto Rico….and Rebeca pulled one out. My jaw hit the floor and an embarrassing squeal of delight slipped past my lips. I sent up silent Thanks to these amazing people involved in this perfectly amazing interaction that was unfolding before my eyes and rejuvenating my passions all over again! The AirBnb Experience is not so much unlike utilizing an online dating service. During the booking process everyone involved is interviewing each other for the best possible fit and selecting strangers to live with for a short amount of time.  By the time the travel day arrives and you finally meet in person you already feel a connection. The biggest difficulty that I have being an AirBnb Hostess is forgetting that these people did not come into town Just to visit Me. The guests that come into my home are virtual strangers who will leave and go about their lives and adventures. We exchange as much information as we chose during our short time together, pictures, stories, tidbits of knowledge, book titles, travel websites, etc, and then we all go about our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of bad AirBnb experiences, but I trust my instincts and am usually rewarding for doing so. Roberto y Rebeca left me with fresh handpicked mangos, fresh hand steeped Tamarindo juice, a homemade pesto that they learned to make during a class taken from Maria Benedetti, and a renewed sense of purpose. I do not know if I will ever see them again, but I’m ok with that. I have our memories, and the taste of her Pesto still on my lips.

Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico

Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico

Maria Benidetti’s Earth and Spirit: Medicinal Plants and Healing Lore from Puerto Rico is available for purchase on Amazon in both Spanish and English. Click the book title to follow the link.

If you have any interest in being my guest during your visit to Puerto Rico follow my AirBnb link to see available listings and dates. I take great pride in making people feel welcome during their stay with me and come away feeling like they experienced the best that Rincon, PR has to offer.

Surf Town Beach Goddess Casita