As the seas and winds were not in our favor over the next few days to continue our trip, we hired Jose, the taxi driver, to take us to the capital, Santo Domingo, about 4 1/2 hours one way from here, on the southern coast. We wanted to sight see along the way, especially in Santiago and then spend the night in Santo Domingo.
After negotiation, we settled on a price that seemed to be a better deal than a tour, and it would be a hassle to get a tour from here. However, after the trip was over, when it came time to pay, we don’t know whether it was the language difficulty or what, but we paid more than we expected....Of course, we paid for his hotel room & meals along with ours also, which we expected. We also paid for a couple of tour guides at specific cultural sights - didn’t think about that. Ah well, we will make up the difference somewhere else.
We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and Jose is a very nice individual and an attentive guide. There is no way we could have rented a car or taken the regular bus and figured out how to get from A to B and what to see on our own. We also would have been CRAZED.
The long drive traveling over the smaller mountains and across valleys was very interesting. Leaving the beaches, we passed orange groves, rice fields, sugar cane fields, banana trees everywhere, mango trees and other crops here and there. We also passed coffee and cocoa fields up the hillsides. Cows wandered about, seemingly at will, as did horses, donkeys and chickens.
|A 'fancy' roadside stand|
|Homes in the DR|
|More Dominica homes in the countryside|
I was surprised to learn that, although the DR is south of the Tropic of Cancer - true tropics, the trade winds, the ocean & the high elevations combine in some areas to produce frost. Jose says the river freezes over in the winter. We, however, sweated throughout the day, especially once in the City.
A little history - Christopher Columbus discovered Hispaniola in 1492 in one of his four trips to this new world & lived in Santo Domingo for many years prior to his death. His remains are buried here in the fabulous Cathedral of Santo Domingo. We enjoyed walking about this old Spanish colonial capital, the “Zona Colonial District”, which was the very first European city of the New World. We spent the night just off the old town square in a small, very clean hotel, “La Colonia” for $50.
The country now has free elections after many years of turmoil under Trujillo & other dictators. Trujillo even renamed the country after himself! From 1930 to 1961 this country was called “Ciudad Trujillo”. I saw sewer coverings with his name on it in the streets! Our guide firmly believes the USA assassinated Trujillo for which the people are very grateful. The majority of the people are very very poor, earning only about $100 to $200 a month, but hard working and very friendly.
Highlights & Best Memories:
The numerous road side stands selling fruits, vegetables, rugs and smoked pig. Interestingly, each is well segregated from the other. In other words, for a couple of miles only stands selling bananas & mangos would be along the road, separated by a few yards. The next few miles would be then only selling the whole pig/parts of pig that they were cooking right there; then a couple of miles of families selling just the rugs, and so on. The prices were very inexpensive, especially compared to the cities.
|Selling folk art|
|Selling a whole pig, cooked right there over a fire|
|Those are coconuts that have been somewhat peeled on the top row; Guayiga is next row, left. It has a harder brown shell, but inside is a red soft fruit, like a mixture of sweet potatoe & papaya. Mangos & eggs are there for sale, too.|
|A push cart in the city selling fruit|
|Every time your car stops for a traffic light, someone comes by to sell things to you|
|Jose buying some fruit|
|Hand made rugs for sale on the side of the road|
|I bought a piece of this pig|
|Weighing my piece of the pig|
|The back of a pig stand - note pieces hanging for sale - very crispy pieces|
|Driving through a small village (Photo by G. Kalhouri)|
|Typical overloaded vehicle along the highway (Photo by G. Kalhouri)|
|Scary No seat belts, no car seats, no helmets (Photo by G. Kalhouri)|
The motor scooters and cars -- the traffic is amazing & scary and much worse than what I commented about in Puerto Plata. Sometimes one sees 3-4 people squeezed onto a tiny scooter, zipping along. Mothers clutch babies and young children, hanging onto their spouse as they sway along the road. Traffic lights don’t mean much and it seems no one looks before pulling onto the main highways or streets. EVERYONE blows their horn, seemingly all the time!
|Those are LIVE goats in the side saddles of his scooter! (Photo by G. Kalhouri)|