Day 26: Bio Bay Infinity and the Astronomers
Wilfredo picked me up on my way to Esperanza. He had a cup full of rum in his right hand and drove with his left. Wilfredo was swerving all over the road. I buckled up.
At one point, the car in front of us stopped to let horses pass and Wilfredo kept accelerating.
“Woah! Woah! Cuidado!” I yelled.
Wilfredo slammed the brakes and pointed his finger at my nose.
“I was a taxi driver in New York City for forty years. Don’t give me no advice on how to drive,” he said with his eyes crossed.
I got out of the car in Esperanza and waited for a van that would take me (and a bunch of other tourists) to kayak in Vieques’ infamous bioluminescent bay. The bay gets its luminescence from micro-organisms that glow neon green when the water is disturbed. Baiscally, they look like underwater fireflies … a lot of underwater fireflies.
Early Spanish explorers claimed the glowing water was the work of the devil. They were afraid of the bay and never built anything near it, helping preserve the unique ecosystem. Today, Vieques is blessed with the largest and brightest bioluminescent bay in the world.
I was drinking a beer at a bar called Bananas when the tour van pulled up. I climbed in. The other people on the tour were mainly lovey-dovey couples. I was the only person that would be kayaking alone. Better for me I thought.
We drove though the dark jungle until we reached the bay. I heard the kayaks flapping in the water, but couldn’t see them. Everything was pitch black. It was a New Moon that night and the stars were so bright I could see the Milky Way.
I sat in my kayak and paddled out to the middle of the bay with the rest of the group. Little specs of light sparked up each time I dipped my paddle in the water. At first I thought it was the reflection of the stars, but then I realized I had never seen stars reflected in water.
Once we reached the middle of the bay, the tour guide gave us a briefing, tied our kayaks together and told us to jump in the water.
It was warm and salty. So salty I barely had to swim.
I got away from the group and floated peacefully on my back for a while. Every time I moved the small creatures lit up like fluorescent confetti around my body. There, in the bay, with the star-dotted sky above, I felt like I was floating in space, buoyant in a cloud of stardust … literally … a full-strength acid trip without the drugs.
The whole thing made me laugh. I swam back to the group and kept watching the glowing water. All of the sudden, a soft female voice came out of the darkness.
“How do you like it?” she asked.
“It’s great. I … I didn’t know things like this existed,” I said without knowing which direction to talk.
“Is this your first time here?” she said.
“Yeah, I’ve been in Vieques for almost a month and now I wish I came here earlier.”
“A month? Are you on vacation?”
“Kind of. I’m house sitting, but I’m also getting a lot of work done.”
I swam around and talked for a bit with the mystery voice. All I could see was the water glowing around her. Whoever she was, she seemed nice.
We got back in the kayaks and paddled to shore. I quickly dried off and peed in a bush. When I turned around I heard the mystery voice again and followed it to a Puerto Rican girl who was standing by a pick-up truck. She was with a girlfriend and an Asian guy. Her name was Federica and her friends were Jesenia and Chien.
I learned the girls were University of Puerto Rico students and they met Chien at the hotel they were staying at.
The three of them said they were going stargazing after the event and invited me to come along. I agreed and mentioned the house I was staying at had a good view of the sky. Jesenia had telescope in the trunk of their car. She seemed excited, but a little creeped out by my invitation. Federica talked her out of the paranoia and the four us headed towards the house.
When we arrived, I gave them the grand tour, swings and solar panels included. They were the second visitors I had in a month. I offered them rum, but they refused. They didn’t seem like drinkers.
Jesenia started assembling the telescope and we all chatted. We had the standard get-to-know-you conversations full of small, polite questions that greased up the pan for the meat and potatoes.
But then, something went wrong. Jesenia was scrambling all over for a missing screw. She checked the floor, her bag and the car. She couldn’t find it.
“Can we build the telescope without the screw?” Federica asked.
“No, it’s the main one. It holds everything together. I can’t believe I don’t have it,” Jesenia said.
At that same moment, a blanket of clouds rolled over the house and the stars were no longer visible.
“No telescope and no stars,” Jesenia said. “I guess this isn’t happening tonight.”
The three of them looked tired and seemed like they wanted to leave.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” I said.
“It’s alright,” Federica said. “At least we got to see the house.”
“You like it?”
“Yeah, this place is really nice.”
“Well, maybe you can come back sometime,” I said.
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“If it’s nice, I was planning on going to Navio beach,” I said.
“We were going to go to the beach too. Maybe we’ll see you there,” Federica said.
“Sounds good to me.”
They packed up the telescope and drove down the mountain. It was quiet again. I took a swig of rum and went to bed.
© Diego Cupolo 2011