News for August 2003

Gua-gua in Samaná

We were concerned that we were missing out on other things on the island, so we decided to leave Las Terrenas for an area called Las Galeras. We took a van ride, and again got severely ripped off (by local standards. By US standards we paid about 15 bucks to get shuttled all the way to Las Galeras by a really crabby driver). To see exactly where we are, or were, use the the following map(s): map 1 | map 2

So, after a rather nauseating drive (Roman has no stomach for jack-rabbit starts in extremely hot weather), we arrived at Las Galeras, and were promptly accosted by a guy named Ambiori, who seemed to be an all around con-man/tour guide. He walked us to our hotel, but only after offering us a ride to the area’s best beach (Playa Rincon) on his boat tomorrow. After we ate at our hotel, we walked down to the beach at Las Galeras. Man, were we extremely disappointed! The water was fine, but was rather shallow, with lots of sea grass. Visibility underwater (for snorkeling) was close to zero. Swimming out far was impossible. Additionally, there were more waves. Totally bummed, we left the beach & walked around town, only to meet a totally different vibe from that of Las Terrenas. Here, the locals had their haunts, and the tourists had theirs. Not so in Las Terrenas – local and tourist cultures meld with each other, people smile very often, and I was starting to miss it. I guess it was the closest thing to home, apart from being home. The following day we took up Ambiori’s offer of a boat ride to Playa Rincon (rated by Conde-Nast Traveller as one of the top 10 beaches in the Caribbean). At $10 per head, the boat ride was a total rip, but we met a Slovenian couple named Roc and Simone, who happened to both be lawyers. Whoa. It’s one thing to meet a lawyer from Slovenia, but to meet two? ¡Dios Mio!

Playa Rincon was somewhat disappointing. OK, so there’s 5 kilometers or more of beach that you can walk. It’s pretty isolated. You could take your clothes off and run around in the water for a while before anyone noticed, if anyone noticed. But we didn’t do anything like that, not us. 😉 Overall, I think Conde-Nast Traveller clearly has their head up their collective ass. The beach is really nothing impressive. And the fact that it’s impossible to reach save by the 15 minute boat trip or the 45 minute car ride made it even more annoying. To boot, we had opportunist swindlers like Ambiori to deal with every step of the way. Nevertheless, we spend the day at Playa Rincon, returned to the hotel in the afternoon, and dined at the hotel again. This time, we happened to meet 2 women from Texas. What a trip that was! I hadn’t heard American English spoken in a week, and it was quite enjoyable to hear, actually. We found out from them that Survivor was actually being filmed at a beach by Las Galeras. Funny stuff. We decided that night that is was back to Las Terrenas for us.

Morning came and found us rearing to go. We waved goodbye to Ambiori and caught a gua-gua (public transport) to Samaná, a town which is famous for whale watching when the season is right (December-March). The gua-gua, which happened to be a van, started out with 3 our 4 people in it, and filled up gradually along the way. You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that they fit in this van – I had an older woman crushed up against me, my arm was draped around the seat behind her, there was another woman with a baby, older men, younger men, and our 2 huge backpacks, we must have had 15 people in there at one point. The cool thing was that everytime someone came on the van, they greeted everyone with a “¡Saludos!” What a great way to interact with your fellow human, especially if you’re going to put your head in their armpit for 45 minutes. Then, it started to rain, and we had to close the windows of the van, which had no air-conditioning. Figure it out…

We arrived at Samaná (I won’t describe the bathroom at the public market there), and caught another gua-gua to El Limon, en route to Las Terrenas. This one happened to be an open-backed truck, like a Chevy S-10 pickup. We piled in the back with our stuff, and headed into the mountains. A short way into the ride, it started to drizzle, which was quite enjoyable. It really cooled me off. Then, it started to rain cats and dogs! The driver stopped the gua-gua, pulled out a blue tarp, and handed it to us. We unfolded it, and there we were – me, Saralé, and three local guys, one of them with a bucket of dead fish, holding on to a holey blue tarp for dear life as our gua-gua hit the mountain roads at 50 mph in the pouring rain. Believe it or not, I had a smile on my face the whole time, because it was really, really fun. I would do it again, and again. Finally it stopped, we made it to El Limon, caught another gua-gua to Las Terrenas, and here we are! It feels good to be back home again.

Saralé is giving me that look that says “You’ve been writing that email for an hour now, can we go?” I’d best get going…

Much love,

Las Terrenas
Republica Dominicana

Posted: August 5th, 2003
Categories: blog, culture, travel
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