Friday, April 1, 2011

En el Yunque

On the north-eastern corner of Puerto Rico lies El Yunque, a national park and rain forest. Exactly what constitutes a rain forest I'm not completely sure about. But there is something about mountain ranges trapping rain clouds from the sea and capturing moisture enough to make it rain several times a day. Mostly short, heavy rain falls that last 5 minutes or less.

The visitor's Center is great and if you ever go to Puerto Rico, you should definitively save a day for El Yunque. It has many hiking trails ranging from paved paths to steep mountain ravines, several outlook places where you can see all the way down to the turquoise ocean, and lots of crystal clear streams cascading down the mountains. It's home to the endangered Puerto Rican parrot and many other species of flora and fauna.
The density of vegetation is immense and I really got the impression of a self-contained eco system while there. Every surface area is covered with growth and even though I actually saw very few birds I heard them all the time. I did see a hummingbird, but never had a chance to take a picture.

I'm not really into orchids, but they are plentiful in Puerto Rico and I like what they had done on the columns of the visitor's Center:

Right outside I saw the Breadfruit tree again:

It really is a good looking tree, even if I haven't heard of anyone eating it, I will have to try it next time. It was a staple for the native population.

Outside the Center I saw this flower - its' name eludes me now - but it has an exclusive relationship with one of the Puerto Rican hummingbird species, who's long bill is the pollinator for this plant species.

They also had plenty of the stunning red ginger.

By the waterfall these "tree ferns" were growing.

After getting our maps we drove up the mountain to look for a suitable hiking trail, preferably next to a waterfall.

The rock was in the sun, but on the other side of the trail was this deep darkness that probably gets very little sunlight.

We thought we had found a good trail, but it proved very steep and difficult and our littlest explorer soon got very tired and fed up with the whole project. After reaching some kind of summit - you can't really see because it's so dense everywhere - we climbed back to the waterfall again. We waited patiently under a rock outcrop for a short rainfall to pass and then we bathed our feet in the cold water and had our snacks.
Soon the sun came back:

I didn't think this looked like a fern at all.

But it was!

Another fernleaf unfolded itself beautifully red.

Every area is covered in growth:

and I was fascinated by the contrast of light and dark.

Our shade loving garden Impatience grew along the roadsides:

Eventually a longer rain shower made us pack up and get in the car, and you could see the clouds rolling down the slopes.

But on the way out of the park we stopped at a scenic view point, overlooking
the coast and the ocean.

El Yunque is truly beautiful even if it's not as rich as some of the Central American rain forests.

Next I will tell about my hummingbird friends on the Island of Culebra.

No comments:

Post a Comment