Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guests Take Their Leave

Deniz and Zeynep had to catch their plane at San Juan, departing 7:30 am on the 3rd, so decided to take the ferry a day before and stay the night at the Airport hotel. They had bought their ferry ticket in Fajardo, which cost them a mere $2 a piece, after checking the two airlines which provide regular service to and from Culebra. All he planes were sold out, considering the popularity of Culebra for the holidays.

Their ticket was for the 1:00 o’clock ferry, so they got ready around 11:00 am, and we took the dinghy to shore, and walked through the town to the ferry docks, which turned out to be quite a distance, when carrying luggage (since they are experienced sailors, they brought collapsible bags without rollers).
We sat at a dirty table overlooking the ferry docks, sipping our beer and munching on the pizza slices Al found at the nearby small bakery, and began watching the people who started a line-up to get on the ferry. As well, there was a line-up of almost fifty cars, which we first presumed to be waiting to take the ferry customers having arrived at Culebra, which did not make much sense, because there was nobody disembarking at that time. When asked, we learned that the cars were waiting to get fuel, from the only gas station with one pump. Poor guys, they were waiting patiently in the glaring sun! Then Zeynep pointed to a pedestrian couple waiting in line between two cars, their jug at hand, who turned out to be our friend Tony, and his wife Suzanne from Canada! Al went to talk to them, and learned that they were getting ready to sail to St Thomas, USVI in the next few days and needed fuel. That was a sight to see. Only us Canadians would do such a thing and stand in a line of vehicles. I spotted earlier a guy with three jerry-jugs in hand, sneaking in to the pump station to jump the que.
While we were watching the crowd lining up for the ferry, I started to get restless, and Al suggested joining them, and taking turns in waiting beside the luggage. Deniz categorically refused to wait in line for an hour or more, and we kept on sitting at the table. I did not understand how he could be so cool, when the line had started to form a snake coiling around itself, with people carrying/pushing multiple baggage, baby strollers, coolers, what have you; kind of orderly but quite noisy. I could not imagine how all that people was going to fit onto the boat, which was not that big, but had three levels of covered seating. The dock master started to allow passengers inside, but very slowly. Since there was no assigned seating, small groups of people were let in, to give them time to settle. Half an hour before departure time, Deniz finally decided to get up and join the crowd. We waited until they settled at the third level, and waved them good-by. Al took some pictures while the ferry got underway, and we returned to the boat, which seemed deserted.

We had arranged our cab driver Pichy at Fajardo to wait at the ferry station to drive them to San Juan. Al urged Pichy to show Deniz’ name on a piece of paper, to attract his attention, and he agreed. But it is hard to gauge if the Puerto Ricans understand everything we say, especially on the telephone. Al unconsciously changes his speaking style, and assumes a deep accent, which is quite funny to listen. We hoped that Pichy would be there, and would not charge more than his promise.

We were anxious to hear about their arrival, and heard from them as soon as they settled in their hotel. Deniz asked if we had been watching the departure of the ferry, and if we had seen its return to the harbour. Well we had watched a little, but we had not seen the detour. You know, Deniz and Zeynep had so many problems at every step of their trip, and the same detour had happened in their first plane ride, that they must have said, “Here we go again, the ferry had mechanical problem like the plane, and we are stuck in Culebra”. However, the thing was captain’s important documents were left at the harbour, so they continued immediately afterwards. The fast ferry ride was not too bad, a bit bumpy maybe, but nothing like coming in, and much shorter, a mere hour and a half. But Deniz had a lot to complain about Pichy. He said Pichy’s van was full of people, with a little space left for the two of them. He let them go somewhere on the way, and when Deniz raised the issue of payment, which he thought should be reduced, Pichy showed surprise, and declared that they were his family, catching a ride, and what was his problem, didn’t he took them where they wanted? No argument there I suppose.

Our relationship with Pichy started when we needed to move around in Fajardo for shopping. He is a young tall guy with a constant smile, sporting a heavy gold chain coming down to his belly, with a huge cross attached. The first time we engaged him, we needed to go to several places, so he took us to all of them, and came back to pick us up after several hours, to allow us to shop etc., for $20.00 dollars. That time he made us wait about an hour to return to Isleta, and excused himself that he had been stuck in traffic, but he had a young woman sitting at the front seat, with whom I taught he argued all the way in Spanish. We thought she was his girlfriend, but we did not say anything. After that, whenever we had to go somewhere, whether it was one trip or more, the price was always the same. The only time he charged more was when we had to go to Ceiba, to change our propane tanks. We explained to him what we needed, which could only be done by Suarez Gaz, somewhere near Ceiba according to the reports from fellow mariners at Isleta, and he said “Yes, yes”. So we started on a country road, passed Ceiba and more, and I asked Pichy if he knew where we were going. “Yes, yes”. Then he stopped when he saw a pickup truck with Suarez written all over, to ask for directions. The guy genially showed that it was around the corner. That was our Pichy, but he was very friendly whenever we saw him standing by his van, waiting for customers, he would come by and shake Al’s hand. With all his faults, I think he served his purpose, but Deniz might differ.

The next afternoon after their scheduled arrival in Ottawa, we tried several times to contact their home to check if they had arrived safely. No luck until quite late that night. We spoke with their son Mehmet, and learned that they missed their connection, and were booked for a later flight, and that they were on their way home. We were uneasy until we heard from them, and we did; bless their hearts. Oof, that part of the story had a happy ending.

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