Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Change of Scenery and Air

When I was still in Belgium, Mark suggested a trip to the mountains in the interior of the Dominican Republic, once I returned to Luperon. He and the dogs had been suffering from the heat for months. The week after my arrival filled up quickly with re-settling Irie in the harbour, cleaning up, running errands, and the usual social encounters. When the weather turned hot and humid again after hurricane Ike passed through, our company was ready for a break. I had had one of those recently, but I was ready for a change of scenery again.

Together with Steve (from the sailboat “La Vie Dansante”) and his then girlfriend Davi, we rented a jeep big enough for the four of us, our luggage and the two dogs. Once everything got stuffed inside, we started our little vacation of one week. That Sunday, we followed some tricky dirt roads to the small fishing village of Punta Rusia, along the North Coast. We joined the many locals into the shallow bay. Finally some clean, blue and refreshing water! After a cheap and filling lunch, we continued on towards the border with Haiti for our first night off the boat in Hotel Bonanza ($15 for the cheapest room).

Dagabon is famous for its Haitian market every Monday and Friday morning. Mark and I left the dogs in our room and joined Steve and Davi outside for an early start. Two grim faces welcomed us… A light problem had appeared. Davi had seen our room keys sticking outside our door the previous night and had put them in their room, together with the car keys and their room keys. Now, they stood on the other side of that room, staring at a locked door. The hotel did not have spare keys, a weird habit we found to be common sense everywhere in the Dominican Republic. So, we had to wait for the locksmith before we could go anywhere or do anything. When the door was forced, of course the room wasn’t safe anymore. Kali and Darwin took over the protection of everybody’s stuff in our room.

The Haitian market was an interesting sight. Busy, loud, hectic. One chaotic mess of black Haitians, some more aggressive than others, trying to sell their goods, and tan Dominicans, trying to get the best bargain. Davi, Steve, Mark, and I were the only white people to be seen. Clothes, shoes, kitchen ware, vegetables, fruit and useless gadgets were stacked into piles along the narrow alleyways. Plastic tarps hung just low enough for us tall westerners, so we had to bend our heads constantly. An array of pushy vendors on foot completed the cacophony.

All of a sudden, we spotted the Dominican-Haitian border. Hopping over was easy, since nobody checked any formalities on market day. As a result, a horde of Haitians with all kinds of wares went back and forth between the two countries. Our little group peeked into Haiti and passed some UN troops. From the moment we crossed the border, we felt the air change. People looked funny at us, the only language to be heard was Creole, the muddy streets were dirty and for some reason we felt less safe. Whether it was prejudice, the stories about all the kidnappings, or just the change in scenery and people, we don’t really know. Fact was that after five minutes in this new country, we decided to head back to the other side. Once there, a sigh of relief could be heard and we continued our shopping. Before getting in the car, Davi and Steve showed us the back of their shorts. Somebody had cut the pockets to steal wallets or money. Luckily, earlier that morning, we decided to keep our wallets in our front pockets. Nevertheless, two pairs of good shorts got ruined and we were more than ready to leave. Border towns are never a good place to stick around for too long.

Later that morning, we made the long drive to Jarabacoa, in the middle, mountainous part of the country. The temperature dropped immediately and finally we enjoyed breathing and doing stuff again. It took us the rest of the day to find a decent place to spend the night, and the next morning to make a deal on a beautiful house in the mountains with a gorgeous view. Davi, Steve, Kali, Darwin and the two of us moved into the classy place for fours nights. The first day, a huge storm came through, messing up the electrical system. We also ran out of propane gas, the showers only had cold water, and the grill was broken, but other than that, all went smoothly. Some of the problems also got fixed over the next couple of days.

The four of us cooked gourmet meals in the kitchen, relaxed on the roomy porch, enjoyed many cocktails, gazed at the splendid views and saw some of the sights. Three interesting waterfalls can be found in Jarabacoa’s surroundings. One of them requires a long walk steep down hill and –obviously- a strenuous one back up. The second one is the most popular one and to see it, we just followed paths and suspension bridges over the river. Because of all the recent rain, the colour of the water was brown everywhere. The last waterfall, Salto Baiguete, is a bit off the beaten track and became our most favourite one. There was no charge and the path to get to the bottom was easy and well maintained. Once down by the river, we observed a few local teenagers enjoy themselves. We walked around in the sandy pool at the bottom. The water was too cold for a swim, but at least it was an option at this fall. Davi and I put some natural mud on our faces. After cleaning the mess back off, our faces were unbelievably smooth. A miracle!

On our last day, our friends convinced us to join them for a white water rafting trip. Mark and I have done this before and really enjoy it each time, but it is an expensive activity. Davi used her bargaining talent, and the price became right enough for us to go again. Everybody loved it. Rafting, on challenging rivers, is one of the most fun experiences in my opinion. This time, the previous rainstorms were in our favour, since the water ran very fast (we barely had to paddle), and we floated from one exciting rapid into the next one, getting soaked over and over again. Awesome!

Our vacation had been a success and soon enough we all returned to our sweaty (boat) life in Luperon Harbour for the last month and a half of hurricane season.

1 comment:

aerialsoul said...

as always, it feels like i'm reading through someones dusty travel journals full of changes in scenery, adventurous detours, and daily excitement. Keep on Living -- but we still miss you guys!