This is not a heavy piece about the United States Navy, although much could be said about its former presence on Vieques. To be fair, I’ve listened to both sides of the argument, and I’m troubled by what I’ve heard. Vieques has a 30% higher rate of cancer and other related illnesses than the rest of Puerto Rico. One must question whether or not the US Military’s 60+ years of occupation was somehow a culprit in this statistic.
Like I said, I’m not going to join the debate.
I want to tell you instead about my exciting exploration of the abandoned bunkers. It’s a popular activity for visitors to the island, and it’s free. It’s almost like you’re on an Indian Jones adventure just trying to find them. I had directions. I had a map. And still, I got entirely lost. Eventually I found my way, and I’ll try to help you navigate your way there too.
The bunkers that I checked out were on the western side of the island, where weapons and ammunition were stored. When you travel west down Rt. 200 past the celebrated Ceiba tree and Mosquito Pier, you’ll notice several roads on the left hand side. Take your pick and just keep driving. You’ll probably think you’re lost and that you took a wrong turn, but I assure you, keep driving!
The bunkers are well camouflaged by design, but especially after an extended time of jungle growth and inactivity. Many face away from the main roads and instead face smaller service roads. This design helps minimize potential damage in case of a possible explosion. These bunkers would explode upwards rather than outwards. They’re also barrel shaped and blend in perfectly with the hills, making them difficult to spot by both land and air recognizance.
The roads are narrow in the first place, so be prepared to drive slowly and navigate the obstacle course of overgrown prickers and foliage creeping onto the roadways. You’re embarking on a pretty cool adventure, so embrace the opportunity to explore an important component of Vieques’ past. Rental scooters are rampant on the island now, and you’d be able to easily navigate the roads on one of those.
The first thing that struck me when I parked the Jeep was the silence. It was actually a bit creepy, with no other other souls around except the ghosts of the military. I felt dwarfed standing next to the bunkers. Some are locked up tight. Many others have their doors wide open and beckon to be entered.
Explore at your own risk and by all means, watch your step. Cell phone coverage here is virtually non-existent.
A few of the bunkers that I peeked into were empty. I entered one and shouted “hello”, and smiled like a kid when the echo reverberated throughout the concrete bunker.
Other bunkers contained a lot of leftover and discarded military equipment, from soda machines to computers and satellites. The postal service also used this spot as a dumping ground, and you’ll find old mailboxes and keys, postage meters, even discarded mail. There’s even an old couch that one of the islanders undoubtedly left instead of taking it to the dump.
I think there’s a real opportunity to repurpose these bunkers. Yes, they’re a bit off the beaten path, but it’s disappointing to see them being used as mere dumping grounds.
So if you find you’ve got some time in your schedule and are feeling adventurous, I’d definitely check out the bunkers. It’s a fun, free of charge afternoon activity and I think both adults and kids alike will enjoy the experience. I mean, c’mon now, don’t you want to feel like a real life Indiana Jones?