A Place You’ve Traveled To – Dominican Republic
This past December, we took a cruise to the Southern Caribbean, and one of the places we visited was the Dominican Republic. Overall, the island is not necessarily the safest for tourists, as there is a lot of poverty and desperate people (however, if you grow sugar, coffee, tobacco or tropical fruit there and have the connections to export it, chances are you’re doing ok comparatively). That said, if you’re on a cruise ship and landing at the port of Samana, you need to have an activity planned or basically you’re just going to walk around while people try and sell you stuff. We decided that that was the port we wanted to have an adventure at, while Nutella’s parents took Curly with them on an excursion to a beach. We were free!
We had booked a day-long (9-4) tour with an American-expatriate now living in the DR. He had set up his own little business doing such excursions and had made several great connections with the locals in a mutually supportive venture. After we arrived and met up with our tour group, we all piled into an open-air bus and took a very rocky trip to get to the horses, which was our next mode of transportation. We all hopped up onto our horses and began our trek to see the ‘real’ Dominican Republic.
After an hour ride through the lush environment, we made it to our first stop. A local man and our tour guide had us sample many different fruits- coconut, papaya, grapefruit, orange, pineapple. Then sweet ‘johnny cake’ bread with coconut jelly. He let us tour a kitchen and see how the stove worked. The visit ended with delicious local coffee, black with raw sugar (it didn’t even need milk).
We got back on the horses for another 30 min ride to a beach. The beach we arrived at felt untouched.
There were picnic tables set up nearby and some locals were having a barbeque for us. We ate chicken, rice & pigeon peas, raw coleslaw, potato & carrot salad and mahi mahi. They poured rum straight into a coconut for us and dropped in a straw. Life is really good when you’re sipping from a coconut on a remote beach.
After our meal and more cofee, we walked on the beach for a bit before we got back on bus to visit a plantation. There were so many wonderful things growing- bananas, pineapple, plaintains, coffee, cacao, avocado, oranges, paprika, mangoes, peppercorn, sweet peppers, cilantro, yams, clove, sugar cane, starfruit and cherries. We were given an education on local farming and told about a drink with supposedly medicinal powers called ‘mama juana’, a mixture of rum, wine, honey, and certain leaves. We all took a shot which knocked us upside the head. And then we had MORE coffee, this time with hot chocolate mixed in. Locals were selling things and we personally bought coffee (a large stash since it was so good), a carved wooden turtle, mounds of unsweetened chocolate and cinnamon sticks. Then we began our hike to a waterfall.
Just as we began our walk, a swarm of local teen girls “assisted” us by taking our arms during the slippery and/or steep areas…whether you wanted them to or not. It was quite strange, but it’s their livelihood. We gave them a couple dollars each at the end. We arrived at the waterfall and had a lovely, albeit cold swim. A few of us, myself included, swam underneath and behind it.
Then it was back on bus to drive to the port. One of the passengers had brought school supplies and candy to give to the kids, and we threw candy to the children we saw at every house we passed on the ride back. They were all delighted, although it was hard to see them living in such squalor.
So yeah…that was a place we traveled to, and had such an incredible experience we’ll never forget it.