Starting with an easy pickup near our place in Old San Juan, Raymond brought us steadily upward in the van, until we were almost above the treeline in the beautiful Toro Negro rainforest. Along the way, Raymond told us stories about some of the residents of the area, how they live in a place with limited resources, and how they utilize the land.
At the base camp, Raymond and Reynard provided day packs, along with rappelling harnesses and zip lining attachments. A brief hike through a cleared, but still demanding trail, brought us to our first beautiful site: the base of a small waterfall, whose basin, surrounded by sharp rocks, is extremely deep. A leap of faith, guided by Raymond, has each of us dropping pencil-like into the deep pool, carefully avoiding the surrounding sharp edges. Refreshing, delicious river-water cools us from our hike.
From this point on, Raymond and Reynard guide us through running waters, rainforest trails, boulders and sheer rock faces, all with careful instructions and utmost concern for our safety. Raymond and Reynard share their knowledge of the indigenous plants, flowers, trees and wildlife. Our particular interest in the Coqui frog (the official mascot of Puerto Rico) was fed by the guides’ knowledge of the 17 different varieties of this amphibian, and remarkably, Reynard was able to find and gently display one of the Coqui varieties to us, explaining its life cycle and answering our questions. This thrilled our 13 year old in particular, as he wanted very badly to see one of the tiny creatures with his own eyes, discouraged by others who told him that he would only hear them, but never see them. Reynard is the Coqui whisperer though, and it was wonderful to see his joy in being able to share his love of the Coqui with our frog-loving boy.
The day continued with an thrilling belay up a waterfall, several exciting zip lines and rappelling down a100 foot foot cliff into yet another gorgeous waterfall.
With their knowledge, concern for our safety, and evident pride in their birthplace, both Raymond and Reynard impressed us with their abilities, and also displayed a sense of humor and willingness to joke with us that fit perfectly with the members of our family. After the adventure, a rustic meal made by a local family was the perfect end to our day, with Raymond and Reynard sitting down with us to eat like they were part of the family, sharing stories and their vast knowledge of Puerto Rico. A final treat was that both of our boys had dreams of sugar cane dancing in their heads, and Raymond was able to find some growing nearby to share with them, which was the sweet icing on a perfect day of adventure led by these charming and capable ambassadors of the Toro Negro rainforest.
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