After my farewell visit to my beloved Old San Juan, and my teeny tiny plane ride, I spent two nights on Vieques.
Hardly the most famous of all isles, Vieques came onto my radar because it is home to one of (if not THE) best bioluminescent bay in the world. Seeing the photos, and doing some research, I didn’t want to leave the Caribbean without experiencing this phenomenon. (More about this in my next post).
Vieques itself, part of Puerto Rico, is a small island, home to 10,000 or so people, many of whom as US expats who protect the place from too much development. I think they’ve been pretty successful so far, although a W Hotel opened up last spring on Vieques’ north coast. Vieques has a chequered history: for decades, the US military used the place for target practice and there are a couple of sections of the island that are still “Exclusion zones” where you can’t go and play.
I must say that, now that I’ve seen a fair few Caribbean islands, Vieques must be one of the quirkiest places in the region. For example, no-one seems to be doing much forward planning. There are not enough rental cars to go around on the island. Normally I can just arrange a rental car through my hotel on the day I need it. But there’s little chance of this on Vieques, especially on the busy Easter weekend. Even though the W Hotel doubled the number of rooms on the island, no-one has doubled the number of cars and you are left to scrounge around across different rental agencies (or, if you are more organised than me, pre-book).
But that’s not all. It’s probably a good thing that there are no more cars on the island, because there isn’t enough petrol to go around. The two petrol stations on the island are owned by the same person, who arranges for petrol to be shipped twice a week. During high season for tourists, there are no more deliveries than usual. Whilst I could have scrounged around and found a car in the end, once I heard stories of people queuing for 3 hours to buy petrol, I figured “No way”. It was just easier, and about the same cost, to get cabs (which also seen scarce).
To add to this oddity, the capital of Esperanza (which comprises a waterfront of bars, souvenir places, restaurants, a couple of hotels and convenience stores) plays host to a parade of show-offs at night. Young studs trot through bareback on some of the wild horses that roam the island, while one group parks their car, flicks on their speakers and a microphone and purports to entertain the crowd in an off-key, lunatic type of style before they move on and you remember what it’s like to be able to hear yourself think.
I am not sure how (oh, OK I am: it was sheer laziness) but I ended up booking myself into a “Green Resort” in the form of Hix Island House without realising I’d done so. Buildings and interiors of bare cement. No TV, no phone, no air conditioning, no windows.
Oh yes, you read that right: no windows. The design concept is that guests are cooled by the breeze. The downside is that it’s an open invitation to the local mozzies, the birds (who took the opportunity to relieve themselves on my bathroom sink) and noise from other rooms.
As I wrapped my bed in the mosquito net provided (hint: tuck it under the mattress so you don’t get caught up in it during the night), my upstairs neighbours spent their evening until 1am talking and stomping around. Now, they were not unreasonably loud, but seemed not to appreciate how much their activities would echo around the joint. I responded with pleas of “Go to sleep” which they eventually did, but then rose at 6am and began chopping lord knows what in their kitchen. Arrrrghhhh!
I think I appreciate the place more in retrospect, as I read a lot went into the design, blah blah. But give me air conditioning and glass windows any day.