31 October 2016
31.08.2016 85 °F
We say goodbye to the Ceiba Country Inn and point our tiny rental car toward the west coast and Rincon known for its good surfing. In an attempt to find something to do enroute I find the Arecibo Observatory that is the largest radio telescope in the world. Or it used to be before China opened an even larger one. It was a 2 hour and 15 minute drive from hell to get to this place. Even my Lonely Planet book mentioned it was only a nine mile drive off the main road but it would feel like 90.
But it actually turned out to be worth it and pretty interesting. The huge telescope has been the setting for several movies to include Contact and James Bond’s Goldeneye. The guided portion includes a short movie on the making of the observatory and a talk by one of the guides. She informs us that Pierce Brosnan was unable to do the stunts on the catwalk over the reflector due to his suddenly realized fear of heights.
This radio telescope is different because it is the only one with researchers concentrating on three aspects of science; radio astronomy, atmospheric science and radar astronomy. It took over three years to build in the 50’s and currently goes strong 24 hours a day. The biggest damage to the dish comes from falling branches, leaves and the maintenance workers have to wear a special pair of shoes to ensure they don’t damage the panels. The whole dish is made up of hundreds of connected panels.
Puerto Rico was chosen as the site because it was being built with DOD funds and thus it was still in the United States, the crater in the limestone was already there so money would be saved on construction and it was as close as they could get to the equator.
After the tour there are some interactive exhibits and pieces of Mars, the Moon and asteroids you can have a look at. Luckily they also have a small food stand selling chicken strips and fries because the drive on to Rincon was another two hours.
By the time we pulled in to Travelling Palms Villa we were ready for a drink. Clemente and his dog Gidgie were ready to provide just that in his tiki bar by the pool. By far these were our nicest digs so far. I found it on VRBO and rented the large apartment but we happen to have the whole house to ourselves for two nights.
He gives us some nice dinner recommendations and off we go to Villa Cofresi for sunset and cocktails. They are famous for El Pirate or a special concoction of alcohol within a coconut. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great for sunset watching even though we had a front row seat over the ocean. For dinner I try the asopoa with lobster which is a stew popular for helping hangovers.