Dominican Republica: Paradise Found

Dominican Republica: Paradise Found

ATV RideMaking Dominican CoffeeDominican cook

 

Charlotte revved the throttle of the atv as we roared up the rocky hillside, pushing into the Samana mountain range.  Day three of the Dominican adventure and we were deep into the lush countryside heading towards the coffee fields.

The sky over head was clear, the sun shone bright above us. Each turn brought a new view.  In the wilderness, surrounded by lush greens, the blue beach peeped out between the valleys in the far off distance. Then all at once, we were bumping along the rocky countryside, holding onto the sides of the atv desperately. The road was dotted with cheerfully painted houses, bright pinks, yellows and blues. Dominican children met us along the way, waving merrily yelling “Hola, hola!”

I had arrived on my first trip to the Dominican three days prior with my long time friend Erin, her boyfriend Morgan, and our friend  Charlotte.  Erin’s family owns a home in Las Terrenas, a small fisherman village in the Samana Pennisula, a two hour trip from the capital city of Santo Domingo.  Instead of an all-inclusive resort, our vacation plans included a beach front abode with home cooked meals, in house exercise classes taught by Erin’s fitness instructor mother, and insider knowledge and guidance from our local hosts. It would truly be a locals vacation, an immersion into the culture of the Dominican rather than the luxury resort images that trips to the Caribbean often conjure up.

Walking along the deserted beach the first day, we couldn’t have asked for a more serene trip. During our breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and pineapple juice at a nearby hotel’s restaurant, the town seemed void of any other foreigners. Dominican women walked along the road, laughing and talking loudly. Men zoomed by on motorcycles. A herd of cattle cooled in the shade of a tidal pool along the beaches edge.

Surfing was the activity I had come for so we headed to Playa Bonita, the wave beach.  We rented boards from an Argentinian who gave us simple instructions in broken English. The water was cool, but mild, and the waves crashed softly against the sand. We waded in the shallow water, letting the salty sea eat at our skin. Once I found my balance atop the board, I waited for the pull of the wave behind me. Sitting on the board, the sun beating down on my body, life in the Caribbean was perfect.

An atv quad expedition is key to the Dominican experience. Renting the all terrain vehicles for the day was inexpensive and let us conquer the rugged Dominican landscape. Leaving Las Terrenas behind, the trip to the coffee fields brought us deep into the wilderness. Our guides, Erin’s parents neighbors, who are French transplants to the DR, led us to a home where the coffee beans are harvested and laid out on a large paved floors to dry in the sun. The beans are then ground, water is boiled, poured over the ground beans and pushed through a simple sieve. Rich, sweet, and bright, it is coffee than can beat any corner shop Americans have grown dependent on.

Back on the quads, we powered through the rocky trail,  and passed a shack where the bark from rubber trees is pressed into latex, stopping to buy some jewelry from the locals. Thirty minutes later, we reached the town of Limone. There we stopped to have a Dominican style lunch. The table quickly filled with rotisserie chicken, stewed goat, rice with pigeon peas, crispy potatoes, and fried cakes spiced with anise seed. Tall glasses of cool, fresh squeeze pineapple juice quenched our throats after the long drive. Talk turned to life as an expatriate in the Dominican. French, English, German, and Spanish filled the table as we all discussed our experiences traveling to this country. The Dominican is home to many expats, mostly French, who have created quite a community of cafes, restaurants, and shops in the towns.

After lunch we left our French guides and carried onwards to the beach. Along the gravel road, we hired a motoconcho, a motorcyle taxi, to lead the way. Through the town of Limone we passed teenagers dancing, families eating, and men and women walking around. Motorcycles and atvs zoomed all around us. Past the town and our atvs slopped downward, and then suddenly we were driving over a short, muddy bridge. As we drew close, the sun set a yellowy haze over the beach. We had arrived at paradise, a totally secluded, alcove of a beach with bright white sands, gushing waves, and rocky cliffs. We jumped into the water, playing with the waves and then napped under the sun, letting the exhaustion of the day overtake us. Spring days are long in the Dominican and  it was still sunny when we awoke. Our motoconcho driver sliced open fresh coconuts he found nearby and we all shared a snack before heading back to town. The younger coconuts had soft meat that slid down our throats, but its bitter milk was not as palatable. The older coconuts had sweet milk, refreshing and clean, with crunchy, fibrous meat. A great snack to get us started on our drive back to the fishermen village.

With days spent in vigorous activities, evenings at our abode were spent living a simple life. Dinners of grilled fish bought from the local fishermen complimented salads of potatoes, green beans and onions, couscous, and wine. Eating to the soundtrack of the waves crashing along the beach; easy dinner conversation shared between friends. A few nights we mustered up energy and ventured into town for salsa dancing and cocktails with the locals. Several venues had live music and even to the most ardent two left footer dancing in the Caribbean is done with ease.

At my urging, we devoted a second day to surfing, sharing the waves with some German tourists who seemed as novice at the water sport as we did. Wave after wave, I pulled the board back against the tide, hoping to catch a good wave and jump up, getting at least my knees up on the board. The strength of the water was exhausting, the waves beating upon me, but it was exhilarating to swim in the cool Dominican sea. Finally I managed to catch a few good waves, enough to satisfy my surfing interests, at least for a time.

With Erin’s parents as guides, we enjoyed a day hiking to the waterfall at Limone. Rolling green hills started the trail, and large pastures of chickens and horses met us along the way. A steep, rocky decline brought us to the base of the lowest waterfall.  As we walked deeper into the bushland, it seemed we were conquering a rain forest. The trees became more dense, the air filled with moisture, sounds of birds and wildlife filled the air. Sunbeams shot through the trees, shining golden rays through the emerald topography. In the far distance we could hear the cascading waters as we descended down steep, rock steps built into the hillside. The waterfall was breathtaking. Standing at its base, spritzed in water, a calmness overcame us.

WaterfallLobster lunch at Playa Coson

Our last day in Las Terrenas and we rented atvs again and rode to Playa Coson. This secluded beach is only accessible by a two hour walk along the beach from Playa Bonita or by the small dirt rode we zoomed through town on the atvs. At the end of the road we found white sands and palms trees, the picture picture beach. A small shack is set up on one end, ready to feed the large number of people who have gathered to the beach for grilled lobster, fish and chicken. We ordered our lobster quickly, securing enough lobster for our group, and sat down at the picnic table at the beach to soak up the sun and sip on pineapple juice and rum. The lobster arrived glistening in the sun, covered in butter, earthy and charred. With a big plate of rice, red beans, french fries, and shredded salad, it was the perfect meal to end the perfect vacation. Basking in the sun, time stood still, and nothing could be better than life in the Dominican.

Our flight the next day seemed surreal. The worry and anxiety that was the reality of flight connections and checking baggage seemed such a contrast to the easy, simple life we had led in the Dominican. I knew the feelings of calm and serenity we had found in the Caribbean would fade, I just had hoped it wouldn’t happen as suddenly as our transfer in Fort Lauderdale. But alas real life comes stumbling back abruptly at times and you run with it as you must. For Paradise is easily found, and in the Dominican Republic it is never very far away.

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    That looked like a lobster feast! Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2

    Mary Louise Penaz said,

    Thank you so much for sending me a link to your blog. I absolutely love what you are doing here. I will definately frequent it often.

    Warmest Regards,
    Mary Louise

  3. 4

    Pink Foodie said,

    The lobster looks amazing. My mouth is watering. After reading your post, I will have to add Dominican Republic to my list of places to visit. I really enjoy your style of writing. Great post!!

  4. 5

    Jes said,

    Your pictures illustrate and compliment the writing so well!

  5. 6

    sujana said,

    Thank you so much for sending me a link to your blog.


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