Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dominican Republic - May 7

Today we drove through the city. I’m still amazed at the volume and chaos of the traffic. We drove to the east side of the city – which was much different than the Colonial District. It looks much more modern with tall buildings and common businesses (even saw a Burger King). Pretty much like a typical city.

We stopped and saw Cesar’s condo. I didn’t want to go in because he had a tenant living there. But it sits up on a hillside with a great view of the ocean a short distance away.

There’s a night club nearby that Cesar talked about, Guacara Taina Disco, so we decided to go check it out. It was the middle of the afternoon, so we knew it wouldn’t be open. We got there and there was a crew working on the grounds and cleaning up from the previous night’s events. I could see the entrance through the gate. It looked pretty cool. It just went down a few steps, and there was what looked like a small patio and bar carved out of the rock wall. Cesar disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a woman who worked there carrying a bunch of keys. She opened the gate for us and motioned for us to follow. I learned later that she somehow got the impression that we were leading a large tour group of about 40 people and we wanted to see the inside to see if we wanted to bring them there. Anyway, I didn’t think it was necessary since I could pretty much see it from there, but we followed her down the steps anyway. When we got to the bottom, she unlocked a door and we followed her through. We walked into this giant cavern. Turns out the little grotto I saw was only the ticket booth. This place was HUGE! It still looked like what it was, a giant cave, complete with stalactites. I felt like I was entering “the bat cave.” There was a concrete floor and hand rails where needed, but other than that, the walls and ceilings were untouched. We walked across the cavern and down a short series of steps into an even larger room. I was dumbfounded. There was a really long bar with many small round tables. Another large cavern to the right held a full stage with concert lights and a dance floor. This place could easily hold a few hundred people. And each weekend it does!

From there we drove across town to see the Columbus Lighthouse Monument (Faro a Colon). It doesn’t look like the usual lighthouse. It’s a huge monument built in honor of Christopher Columbus. It looks more like a modern pyramid from Central America. At night it projects a beam of light into the sky in the shape of a cross. Anyway, we didn’t know this until we got there, but it’s also where the ashes of Christopher Columbus are kept (they were moved there from Spain). It’s a pretty amazing monument. In 1972, the Pope visited the city and they have the "pope-mobile" on display outside. It's under a tent, and it's roped off, but now it's serving as a den for a litter of puppies.

We drove east from the lighthouse to Tres Ojos. It’s a park that has three with three lakes below ground level. It was truly amazing. We walked down the steps to see a cavern with an underground lake. We could see fish and turtles in the lake. We hiked to the next two lakes, and at the last one we had to take a small ferry. It was just a small platform on pontoons that was pulled across a short distance to the other side of the water. They dropped us off on the other side and we walked through the cave. It was pretty cool to think that we were so far underground. But it was large enough to not feel claustrophobic. It was pretty dark in spots and you had to stop and let your eyes adjust. It wasn’t lit at all, but it was close enough to the entrance that you could see okay. When we came out on the other side, we saw the third lake. Other than a few bats and a huge centipede on the way out, we didn’t see much animal life.

We went to a neighboring town, Boca Chica, for lunch. It’s a small tourist town lost of shopping. We were led to a parking spot and then to one of the restaurants on the beach. As soon as we sat down, the vendors were all over us. They were like seagulls! There had to be at least 6 people standing around us trying to get us to buy souvenirs, manicure, pedicure or massages or fish and other fresh critters from the sea. We really just wanted to be left alone and enjoy our lunch and the view. Cesar ended up having a conversation with our host who chased away the vendors for fear of losing his customers. He was pretty good at chasing them away for the most part. We ordered lunch and Presidenté (of course). We were finally settled and enjoyed the mesmerizing aquamarine color of the water and light breeze. Lunch was great. I had bistec (steak) and tostones (fried plantains). Paul had paea and Cesar had fish. Just as we were served, a group of young “spring breakers” sat at a table next to us, there were maybe ten of them in the group, and I’d guess that they had already begun drinking the afternoon away. As if on cue, the seagulls flocked to their tables. A few wandered to our table but we just shook our heads “no” and waved them to the other table (in fairness, they were actually buying things). It was pretty amusing to sit and watch the whole thing.

After lunch we shopped a little- didn’t buy anything. Went back to restaurant to use the restrooms before the drive back and ended up ordering just one more Presidenté (I can’t tell you how refreshing that is on a really hot day). We watched a group of women playing dominos. While we cooled off in the shade. After a while they invited us to play with them. None of them spoke any English. Who knew that the international language wasn’t love after all, but dominos? Our “one for the road” turned into several more as we enjoyed the game.

We decided to stop at the “Super Mercado” on the way back to pick up some bottled water and a few things (including a couple pounds of Café Molido). The store was huge and was a combination grocery, clothing, house wares, electronics and furniture store. Cesar was outside as we went through the checkout. I used my card, and was at a total loss when the cashier clearly wanted something from me but I couldn’t understand. Finally I got the message that she was asking for my ID. I felt silly for not getting that. The bagger was pushing the cart for me to the door, even though I tried to let him know it was okay, I could carry my few bags. When we got just outside we found ourselves surrounded by 4 or 5 men who were arguing about something with the store employee. I didn’t know what the hell was going on, so I just started pulling my bags out of the cart and walk away. Cesar saw the feeding frenzy and came over to clear it all up. Turns out, the men were all cab drivers and they were arguing over who was going to get our business. Thank got that Cesar was there. Otherwise, who knows where we would have ended up! We headed back to the hotel, and I was so tired that I was in bed by 10. It was another busy day.

View the entire photo album for this day...

No comments: