Connecting the towns of Quebradillas and Isabela is the historic Guajataca Tunnel. Established in 1911, the tunnel's main purpose was to provide a pathway for the transport of sugarcane products and machineries. Aside from the trip down memory lane to Puerto Rico's sugarcane era, the Guatajaca Tunnel is also adjacent to the Guajataca beach – a rather magnificent view of white sand beach, clear pristine water, rough waves and cool breeze. The Guatajaca Tunnel has since been closed for transportation in 1953 and has been opened for visits from tourists and locals instead.
I stood among small groups of people, mostly twos and threes, with my suitcase and kitbag, watching the revolving letters on the black-and-white train-board tell me that my train to Plymouth would leave in 20 minutes.
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My father had driven me to the station from where we lived near Oxford and we stood around awkwardly at the station entrance. Peter had come too, to watch his little brother go. We made awkward conversation for a while: there didn’t seem much to say, so I said goodbye to both of them.
They said Good luck’, and I hefted my kitbag and my Globetrotter suitcase and walked into the concourse. The train had the old-fashioned carriages; compartments that seated 12 – two rows of six facing each other – with wood panels inside and badly-sprung seats under green check covers. I sat looking backwards during the journey, next to the window in a carriage of quiet, disparate people, watching the stations slide by like sad dreams in the weak winter sun: Didcot, Chippenham, Bath, Bristol, Taunton, Exeter St Davids, Dawlish.
I remembered our family holiday in a caravan in Dawlish in the summer, where I met Debbie: Debbie from Dawlish, the first girl I ever properly asked out. I took her to the funfair and I learnt how to kiss, properly. She smelled of toffee.