While researching what/where exactly Shack’s Beach was, I came across some old blog posts by a couple from Michigan who’d made the trip down to this exact same area about 5 or 6 years ago. They had several informative blog posts about the beach, the Blue Hole, eating Mofongo, and falling in love with a little bar in the middle of nowhere near the beach, called Ola Lola’s. But there were only a few entries about their trip, then a gap. One of the last posts said that they were moving their blog to a new home, because they had bought Ola Lola’s from the original owner and were going to move from Michigan to start a new life on the beach in Puerto Rico.
So that right there is enough to make them heroes, right? Well, they kept on blogging about owning a bar, and also becoming a part of the community down here by Playa Shacks. The blog showed what a great place this part of the world is, and the Flickr account was full of amazing photos of Kite Surfing, Horses, Dives and Snorkeling trips. Just the sort of thing you hope to find when trying to decide to visit a place for the first time. Without really doing it on purpose, the work of this couple at Ola Lola’s had done what every Chamber of Commerce hopes for, enticed some people to come from far away and spend some time in their community.
So when we pulled in on Saturday night, we drove right past Ola Lola’s on the way to the house. After a long day of travelling, we needed some food and some drinks. Where better to start? Now, the only concern with kinda having cyber stalked somebody without knowing a lot about them personally is what they’re going to be like in person. When we got there, the bartender came out and said hello, and the first thing out of Beth’s mouth was, “You’re our hero.” Well, far from being freaked out, a big warm smile spread across his face, and he said “Well, I’ve never been anybody’s hero before, my name’s John.” as he extended his hand. I introduced myself and explained how we’d found this place, and their blog, and he was genuinely pleased. He asked where we were staying, and I told him, “The pink house with the pool.” “Oh sure, Ted and Sherry’s place. That’s great.”
Soon his wife Elaine came by and he explained how we’d come to find them, and she too was genuinely welcoming to us. She took our orders and learned all of our names, including the boys. It was as if, in 10 minutes, we’d been welcomed in as a part of the community. Even though we’d travelled 7 hours to get there, the fact that we’d taken the time to learn about this place and them was enough for them to return to favor and find out a little about us. There’s nothing to make you feel better at the end of a long day of travel than the friendliness of strangers like that.
We spent that first night, having a great meal, and wonderful drinks and John gave us all kinds of information about things to see, where to eat, even where to get the fresh fish and how to expect to buy it. That first night, he even asked me if I might be interested in a discovery dive, about a 40 minute dive to introduce you to SCUBA that you don’t need to be certified for. I wasn’t really up for it then, but he said he had a guy if I did get interested.
We were back at the bar again on Monday night, and there was no need for introductions this time, they’d remembered all of our names. This time, I’d spent 2 days in the snorkeling in the beautiful waters off Shack’s Beach not believing all the beauty that was down there. So this time, when John brought up the discovery dive, I said I might be interested, and he walked me to the bar and introduced me to Darryl. With a couple of drinks in me and the need to make an immediate decision about if I wanted to do this, I agreed. We’d do a dive on Thursday at noon. John mentioned then that he thought I might be going with his son Jason as well, who was due in the next day.
The dive story will follow here later, but when I came out of the water with Jason, there was John waiting to hear all about it. He was almost as excited as the two of us that we’d seen a manatee on our very first dive. From there on out when he saw me, I was introduced as the guy who’d seen the manatee. Something that was incredibly rare around these parts.
Our last night here, we spent at Ola Lola’s again. It was just a good capper to a last good day of what was a great vacation. We got hugs from Elaine and hearty handshakes from John and were encouraged to not be strangers. I have no idea if I’ll ever see them again, but I know for sure that there are very few people who would be considered strangers to them.