Saturday lunchtime we walked….and walked….uphill….until we reached the main road beyond the numerous Lifestyle Resorts that take up much of this area. We found a bus straight away to take us into the town of Puerto Plata with the other passengers seeming a bit surprised to see tourists using the local transport. The driver dropped us off with vague instructions on how to get to the market – a five minute walk away – and left us in the middle of a busy street teeming with people and motorbikes. We were unsure whether we were in a safe area or not so looked around to get our bearings and decided to head down towards the ocean. As we wandered around we were approached a few times by people wanting to be our local / paid guides but we managed to keep them at bay….. We finally reached the central plaza – got some more drinking vouchers from the enclosed bank ATM – and carried on towards the ocean. The ATM was guarded by a security guy with a pump action shotgun – hmmmmm…. obviously not quite so safe then??? The streets were pretty quiet now, apparently all the people were congregating elsewhere for a drive through of some presidential candidates for the next election.
The beach here is pretty nice looking and is framed by a boardwalk which appears to be very popular with the locals just chilling out. We admired the fire station and some old houses before heading back towards the centre of town. We didn’t fancy visiting the jewellery shops, the gift shops, nor the cigar factory….. so carried on whilst fending off more potential tour guides.
We did manage to get some good information though which is that there is a cable car up the mountain – so we headed in that general direction. We ended up in a market selling fruit and veg – so we picked up some fresh produce – and carried on. We were getting tired as well as hot and bothered and had still failed to find the cable car. We were then approached by a couple of moto-taxis…. These are motorbikes that do a taxi service. Of course, they are pretty dangerous…. but we thought hey, when in Rome and all that! So we took one each – and I told my driver not to lose Richard as he had the money not me LOL – and we weaved in and out of traffic, trucks, down main roads and eventually ended up at the cable car entrance. We really enjoyed it although pleased to have arrived at our destination unscathed!
The drivers were keen to pose for pictures and kept calling us ‘momma’ and ‘poppa’ – allegedly a friendly term for older people. Not sure I want to be that old!!!!
We paid our entrance fees, grabbed some water, and then waited for the cable car. One coming down the mountain was a pretty impressive sight.
We all piled in….about 20 of us…..with only two other tourists, the rest being Dominicans…. Then we started on the journey – wow the scenery – and enjoyed looking down on to the town.
When we ended up at the top we realised that we were in the clouds – refreshingly cool and stunning.
There is a statue of Jesus Christ on the mountain top which is just like the one standing over Rio de Janeiro – wasn’t expecting that.
We wandered around – down paths and over bridges – enjoyed the spectacular views and the abundance of trees and flowers before heading to the restaurant and had some snacks – well, we ordered snacks, but they were huge! After this late lunch we admired the views again – got a local guy to take some artistic shots of us with Jesus – and then waited for our return trip down the mountain….
We certainly went down quicker than we went up LOL.
Anyway we decided that was enough excitement for one day so got a proper minibus taxi this time back to the marina. We didn’t fancy any dinner so had a quiet night on board having enjoyed the spectacular sunset.
Sunday morning after a lazy start we decided to hit the local beach….. Most of the resorts here have private beaches – and Ocean World has its own too, but not for marina residents and we really didn’t fancy paying and entrance fee to sit in a manufactured environment and watch dolphins in captivity – so we knew this was going to be a ‘local day’. We went bobbing and people were waving and talking to us….. We even tried out our new Puerto Rican hats too – baseball caps are all well and good but we do not get enough shade with them on our backs. Fancy eh???
We had a fantastic bobbing time and were amazed to realise that we had started a trend when the locals started bobbing with huge bottles of rum and were shouting “Salut, Salut” at us all the time… Oh yes, and Presidente comes in three sizes here – regular, grande and jumbo. Please note that we were drinking regular ones, although do own up to a number of grande and jumbo bottles currently chilling in the fridge….
We went back to Morphie and got cleaned up before heading out towards the local Mexican restaurant that we fancied trying. On the way we checked out the fancy artwork on one of the villa walls – looks like riding dolphins might be a bit dangerous too – check out the boy’s arm LOL.
Oh yes, remember Bob the dummy that lived in the garage in Wisconsin??? Well, he is clearly moonlighting because he was modelling outside the restaurant here in the DR!! We had fantastic food – nothing fancy – but was really very very good…
We then wandered back to the Ocean World complex and decided to have a pontoonie on the Terrace. Well, Sunday night is party night! The DJ was playing music and videos and the locals were having a great time – we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves watching them dancing. Wow these people can move….. It ended up a pretty late night….
Monday morning and we were going to do laundry – but the laundry was shut. Oh well….. And it is really quiet from Ocean World next door – no loud pink panther music or applause – and we realised that the performing seals get the day off on Mondays too LOL. So we ended up getting the complimentary shopping bus to the surprisingly well-stocked local supermarket to get more supplies…… Back on board we had brunch – did some passage planning – and then went to the small pool. This is open to marina guests only on Mondays to Fridays and has a swim up bar, although it is shut….. But that didn’t stop us buying a bucket of beers from the Terrace café and taking them with us…. Had a lovely time in the pool….it was our own private oasis for the afternoon. Monday night was another quiet one on board.
Tuesday morning and we were going out for the day on an organised trip, rather than rent another car. The truck picked us up on time at 9.00 am and we headed off with some other tourists – US predominantly apart from one French Canadian couple and another couple from Liverpool. First stop was a local village – and to visit Pappo and Momma at their family plantation home. We enjoyed walking through their gardens admiring the coffee, chocolate, bananas, pineapples, avocados, herbs and spices etc all growing in abundance. The flowers here were spectacular too….. We visited their traditionally-built wooden house – and we were surprised that they still cooked on open hearths using wood as fuel – with an outhouse for washing and another for the bathroom. They had very little but it was absolutely spotlessly clean – very humbling to think of all the ‘essentials’ we can’t live without at home or onboard. They have to buy drinking water too….. They let us try their fruit, they made us hot chocolate and coffee from their own produce which was delicious…. so I bought some chocolate to use myself on board, now that I have the special recipe! We said our farewells having had our first beer of the day from the all-inclusive bar tended by Juan the driver.
Next stop was a village school….. This caters for poor village kids and in one class they have three different age groups. They only attend four hours a day as the classroom is used for another group in the afternoon for four hours and then another group in the evenings….. Clearly the population is larger than they can cope with and we were pleased to see the foundations of a new school being built by the current President as part of a big infrastructure project – 800 schools planned so that every child can get an education..
We donated some clothes and some maps to the school and ended up with our pictures being taken with the principal who was very happy with our donations…..
Schooling here in the DR is not mandatory but the wearing of uniform is – and often there is only one uniform per family that all the children share and many of them don’t have shoes either and have to walk miles to school. It is a simple but tough life for these kids. We were delighted that they were being taught English, Spanish, French, History, Geography and Maths even at this early age and potentially can be their doorway out of poverty. This was also our first exposure to illegal Haitian children who were attending the school as this gave them access to free food, and their learning curve was even sharper as Spanish is not their mother tongue.
On our way through the lush countryside we came across a very poor Haitian village and the local stores seem to have little provisions in them….
After the school we drove through more lush countryside and went swimming in a local river – was very refreshing despite being a little chilly!!!!
After our swim we moved on to a local restaurant run by the Outback company where we had very tasty (unlimited) chicken and rice with beans. We also got to see some Salty crocodiles which do actually live on a brackish river near the border with Haiti. I think it freaked out some of the tourists knowing that they had just been playing in the river LOL – wasn’t going to tell them that there were only specific areas these crocodiles lived and this wasn’t one of them!
After lunch we carried on driving through the countryside and ended up in a sugar cane area – so Juan stopped the truck and wielding his machete chopped us some sugar cane to try. Very tasty!
Then we arrived at the beach – having to walk over a very crotchety elevated pathway made out of palms – to go body boarding in the surf and between that, bobbing, and a back and neck massage, we were pretty chilled……
And that was the end of our day – what an amazing adventure – so thank you to Eddy our tour guide, comedian and singer plus Juan our driver, bar-tender and machete wielder – for a wonderful fun and informative day. We returned to Morphie and had a lazy evening on board.
This morning – Wednesday – and we have checked that the weather still holds for our passage tomorrow to Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Yes, it does. So I’m in the marina laundry while Richard is on board doing engine checks etc…. The rest of the day will be preparing Morphie for sea and organising the formal and rigorous check-out process here in the marina so that we can leave at the time we want to….
We have really enjoyed ourselves here in the Dominican Republic – we have had an amazing adventure and way beyond our expectations. Richard even said it was a place he could envisage living – not something he says every day! We are sad to say farewell but excited about the next stage of our travels this season.
Bye for now