on February 17, 2007
A full day excursion to discover the Dominican countryside. The trucks are open air but covered with a canopy to protect one from the sun or possibly rain. We sat on long benches facing each—seat belts and hand holds are provided and we used them as the roads in the Dominican are way below North American standards. Many times on the roads, the driver would cross over to the opposite site to avoid a large pothole. There are no lines on the road, horns are frequently used, and stop signs and lights seemed to be a suggestion, not a law.Our first stop was a sugar plantation, its location heralded by a sign riddled with bullet holes. Our guide explained the process of cultivating the sugar cane and the history and manufacturing of sugar cane products. While a guard patrolled with his gun, our driver used his machete to cut all of us a piece of sugar cane to chew or suck on. Once we left the plantation we drove up into the mountains and on a narrow winding road found Maria’s house. We were told that she and her family were able to survive quite nicely by growing everything they need right on her piece of land and they were quite happy with their lot in life. Her house consisted of four rooms on a concrete slab with no air conditioning and plenty of small holes in the roof. On her land, she grew vegetables and fruits and cocoa and had a few chickens and parrots. A fruit platter and a few sips of coffee and cocoa were ready for our enjoyment. There was a bright pink building with a “Bavarro Runners” sign--clean stalls with flush toilets! Our guide and Maria’s nephew cornered two of their chickens and we all watched a 30 second cock fight—no one got hurt, but we were told how betting on the outcome and spurs on the chickens enhanced the experience. For purchase there were coffee beans, ground coffee, vanilla, Mamajuana (the local alcoholic brew reputed to be an aphrodisiac) and cigars.From Maria’s house, we drove down from the mountains to a ranch on the coast where we mounted our horses for a 15-minute walk alongside the crashing surf on magnificent Macao Beach. As well as feasting on a delicious barbecue lunch, we had time to swim in the ocean or a small pool. (There were showers for rinsing off.) Our bus had boogie boards for our use. Our bus also had a cooler with Pepsi, rum, beer and water and we were frequently offered refreshments. The number of bathrooms along the way seemed to be in inverse relation to the number of beverages we were enjoying.There were showers and bathrooms and once everyone was ready, we all got back on the bus for a very long bathroom less ride back to our hotel. There was a brief stop at a cave, but alas there was not a bathroom there.
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