Monday, March 06, 2006

oldest cathedral in the New World
Breakfast at Bettys
Santa Domingo March 2006
We are off to Santa Domingo to catch a flight back to Florida. There are closer airports in Puerto Plata and Santiago which we could have used, but the best deal to Florida for us was with Spirit to Fort Lauderdale. We had wanted to visit the capital anyway, so we decided it made sense to fly out of Santa Domingo.
Getting to Santa Domingo is very easy. The bus leaves Luperon every day around 130 pm and takes you directly there, but with many stops picking up and dropping off passengers. The route across the island goes through the mountains and is very pretty. We arrived in Santa Domingo about 5 pm and had plenty of time and light to find our way to Betty’s hostel.
Many of the boaters in Luperon had recommended Betty’s place. Although the rooms are set up for groups, when Betty doesn’t have one booked, she rents the rooms out to couples. Our room(s) had 10 single beds and one private bath, just for us. The rooms are incredibly clean, beautifully decorated with Betty’s art and very secure. Betty provides a wonderful breakfast too!! The hostel is right in the colonial district, and the music and partying do go on until midnight, but we didn’t mind.
We arrived Saturday afternoon, spent all day Sunday and Monday touring the historic buildings, churches, enjoying people watching in the many outdoor cafes. We even were able to see another canival parade, similar to La Vega but much larger and more controlled. We did a lot of walking, a little shopping and really enjoyed our time there.
Tuesday, noon, our cab took us to the airport and we were off to Florida to pick up our car (left there last fall), visit Bev’s parents and then drive home to the cold north. What we do for family!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Exploring the caves in Isabella
View from Mira Mar
Carnival in La Vega
Carnival in La Vega
Carnival in La Vega
Carnival in La Vega

El Castille & Carnival February 2006

After a quiet week, last week, we have been really busy doing land trips around Luperon. Sunday, we went with Ester and Derek (Unity) in their van, to El Castille and Isabella, the first community established by Christoper Columbus in 1492. This area is just 20 miles west of here on the north coast. It is so beautiful there. Gorgeous sand beaches, towering coral cliffs and green mountains. Derek and Ester have bought a lot there, backing onto the coral cliffs and next door there are caves to explore, and we did. After driving around the beach, touring the replicated Church, and the museum we went into the mountains to a wonderful small resort, Mirmar. There you can swim in their pool, or just relax before dinner enjoying the incredible vista. The meal was excellent too, no peas and rice this time and although expensive by DR standards (1500 pesos $45US) a comparable meal in the US or Canada would have cost three or four times as much.

Monday, Feb 27th is Independence Day in the DR, and its Carnival time. One of the largest in the country is in La Vega, south of Santiago. We hired 2 vans, filled them with 26 sailors and we were off. We had seen most of the scenery on the way to Santiago, but the mountains and flowers continue to impress. The tour books describe La Vega as a place to miss, having nothing interesting to see unless it is Carnival. Then about 70,000 mostly local people invade the streets. We arrived around noon, and were surprised how few people were there, and how much preparation had been done, stages, elevated seating, etc. So we knew we were in the right place. we weren't sure what time things got going, the parade in Luperon started at 9am. We had heard noon, 2pm etc. By 2pm there were certainly more people walking the main area, about ten blocks long, 2 blocks wide, but still no real action, but the bars were open and the street vendors were selling everything from hats, trinkets, all different types of food and "bashers" These bashers look like fabric covered nerf footballs on a tether. One of the customs of Carnival, is that the performers whack people on their butts to drive out the evil spirits. Anyone on the street is fair game, and they use 2 arms, winding up like a baseball swing on unsuspecting people. So you definitely stand on the sidewalk, back to a fence, protecting your rear end. They are very aggressive on young male DR's and less so on "el touristas". But one of the hits Bev took hurt!
By 4pm the parade had started and it was like no other parade we had ever seen. The costumes were huge, very intricate, colourful, tons of sequens, and beautiful. Most of the participants were male, but some women were in costume. The spectators ran along with the parade, getting wacked and having fun, plus all along the parade route were these side tented areas, where people we sitting/drinking and parade weeded their way in and out of these VIP areas. It appeared like mass confusion, fabulous costumes, wacking, people running, but everyone was having a good time. It seemed to go on foreeer, we have no idea the number of parade participants, again because of the irratic parade route. It was still going on at 7pm when we had set our group's departure time. But we had all enjoyed a full day, it was getting dark and all of us were ready to return to our boats. We arrived back in Luperon by 10 pm, it had started to rain, but it was only a short dinghy ride back to RAFT.