And back “home” to our resort and clear waters that we’ve been separated from for the past few days. It will be a hard trip to top in the future, without a doubt. So much activity, so much beauty, so much. I am not sure that I have the space, or that anyone reading has the time for a post that entails everything, but I’ll abbreviate to the best of my abilities and include as many pictures as I can. We started in PC, and headed counter clockwise. Here’s our trip:
Day 1: We were jostled up after four hours of sleep to embark on the first day, at 5am. The van we rented was roomy, like a mini bus. I read most of the time, but most people took advantage of the smooth roads (that were short lived) and napped on the way to Samaná. We arrived in time for a quick brunch and then took off on horseback for the waterfalls. Easily the most incredible waterfalls I have ever seen. We swam beneath the water and found a small cave, and some people were jumping off from different ledges. Wild times. Each of us had our own horse, and own guide throughout the trip. Since most of us were giggly gringas, the entire trip consisted of them flirting with us, and our broken Spanish that loosely translated to, “never in a million years Crazy.” My guide went on about how since he’s brown and I’m white we’d make beautiful children. I told him my other five boyfriends would not be okay with that.
Once at the hotel, we snagged some dinner and camped out near the marina at a bar for the super bowl. Our professor, Dennis Hidalgo, is an awesome, but interesting man. He’s always off meeting connections and making friends, and we’ve had some great opportunities because of it. Anyways, in his quest for friends he is always disappearing. Multiple times during each day someone would ask “where’s Dennis?”, “have you seen Dennis?”, “did we lose Dennis again?” Well, we lost him for about an hour during the super bowl, but ended up getting our first ice-cream, our first sugar-cane, and a history lesson of both as a result. Wonderful end to day 1.
Day 2: Up early and off to the beach. As many people know, I can do a beach sunrise. So blessed with this opportunity growing up, I wasn’t quite as excited as everyone else. While it was a beautiful beach without a doubt, I wasn’t as anxious to get in the water and didn’t share the enthusiasm of everyone else. While I was using a friends camera, the zoom stopped functioning. This compiled, I turned into kind of an anxious mess and did not get what I should have out of the experience. For better or worse, that was our morning and another long car ride brought us back to the place we had brunch yesterday, and we had some papaya juice to start the day.
Next up, whale watching! Literally, we watched whales. None of that whale searching, this was whale sighting. Everything from a mama and her calf, to a full size humpback breaching out of the water, we saw it all. I did get the opportunity in Hawaii, but they were even closer here. Who gets more than one chance to see 10.000lb humpback whales leap into the air? This lucky girl. The sun-filled cruise may have been the best part though, I had one of the best naps ever on the way home. Drooled on the boat, the whole deal. Heavenly sleeps :) We left for Puerto Plata afterward, and received a wonderfully warm welcome from the owners of the hotel. A beautiful and colorful dinner, and an evening balcony nap in a hammock, yeah this is school.
Day 3: Breakfast was as wonderful as dinner. Today we toured a fortress, and learned a bit about the strategic significance of the Samana peninsula. It was another lovely sunny day. Some lovely waves were on the coast, and we went to a Jewish cultural center afterward. Many of us had no idea that the DR played such a role in harboring refugees during the holocaust. Next stop was the Mirabal house. The Mirabal sisters were three incredible revolutionaries that were active in the 1950s during Trujillo’s violant, tyrant rein, and they died during the cause. It is so fascinating and powerful, and I highly recommend reading a little bit about it (or watching the movie In The Time of the Butterflies). There was one surviving sister however, and we had the honor of running into her in a garden. It was one of the most rewarding and humbling experiences and all of us were beaming as we listened to her short words of wisdom. This night was spent in Santiago, and I stayed back from dinner with my sick roomie. Word was, they dove headfirst into a hilarious tourist trap of singing pirate waiters.
Four. Another morning I spent on a balcony. This time I woke up early to just sit some, on a third floor balcony overlooking Santiago city streets. Lovely. Discovered a guava jam this morning, so I had happy toast. We then visited a cultural center, which was essentially a school for the arts. All of us scientist students became a bit nostalgic for artistic pastimes, and we vowed to pay more attention to our art in the future. The best part was when we arrived at Rancho Wendy. Pronounced, Raaaanchow Wennnnndeeee. Southern Twang. We made that up.
This small little farm house, that may be the only place to stay in Bonao. It’s a very homey little cottage, and we were treated with some incredible meals there. After arriving, they took us on a hike that culminated with some small waterfalls. Here we tried cacao, the chocolate is made from the seeds, but their coating is a very sweet kind of slimy fruit. Once we got to the waterfalls, my inner adventurer took over. Naturally, Richard (fellow daredevil) and I scaled some of the rocks right away aiming for the highest point. While it was anticlimactic, we did get to jump off a nerve-racking ledge and it was too fun. No worries mom, I’m still alive, but I had so much fun climbing around there. The night ended with a bonfire, s’mores, and always-fascinating life lessons from Hidalgo. Just another day in the life :)
Cinco. A lovely breakfast at Rancho Wendy’s, and we headed off to visit a monument and a cave. The monument was an enormous construction that honors Christopher Columbus, built in ’92 on the 500th anniversary. Personally, it was hard for me to understand how such an impoverished nation spent such huge sums of money to physically commemorate the man who trampled over their country from the start. Our prof says it is mostly due to the fact that the elite are the ones that pay the tribute, and they are not the ones being oppressed or facing the modern-day consequences of his colonialism.
But the day gets better! We travel down some sad excuses for streets, to a house. Or rather shack, that was a friend of a friend of our professor. Another great meal. This family that we met was living in some evidently poor conditions, yet made us all lunch and were some of the most enthusiastic people we’d met yet. They also had baby animals everywhere, so that was a plus. Still getting better, they take us to a cave that’s behind their house. One that the Taino indians have been traced to, we explored all kinds of underground creations that were secretly located behind this house. That may have been my favorite part. New fascination for caves? I think yes.
Anyways, we headed back to Punta Cana that night. The car rides were pleasant, I did a lot of reading, and we had some obvious bonding moments as we struggled to keep our dinner over some of the roads we drove through. It was good. Love love love the kindle I brought, and I continue to marvel at the learning experiences we’re getting here, not only is it obviously greater than staying in Blacksburg, but I feel like I’m learning more than I would there, in such a positive manner. Happy February all, stay happy.
(i think you can click to enlarge again, here’s a bunch, hopefully in order- maybe scrambled)