Donkeys and Dresses

After a full day out in the sun and enjoying Los Haitises, we decided we wanted to have a night out in the town. For the first time since we visited Santo Domingo, our second week in the DR, we got dressed up. We wanted to go dancing after dinner, so all of the girls did their make up and wore dresses. Once the gang was ready, we headed out the blue iron gate and down the dirt road. Luckily, it had been a beautiful day without rain, so the mud puddles weren’t too big. We hadn’t gone too far when we noticed Jess wasn’t with us, so we stopped and waited. When five minutes turned to ten, Natalie decided to go back to see where she was. After Natalie being gone for a minute or two, we start to hear yelling in the distance.

When we look around the corner, Paco, the donkey from our hostel, is bookin’ it towards us! Someone is yelling for us to stop him, but stopping a determined donkey isn’t an easy task. We blocked him from going down the dirt road, so he turned into a near by field. Brenda, in her bright yellow dress, went running after him. Luckily the neighbors were outside and gave Ryan a rope to better his chances at catching Paco. I know they got a good laugh in watching the Americans chase down a donkey. With Brenda on one side, and Ryan on the other, we were sure they were going to get him…and then Paco out ran both of them and went the other direction. At this point, the neighbors are laughing hysterically, along with all of us entertained on the sidelines. Finally, one of the neighbors took the rope from Ryan and got it around Paco’s neck. After much continual struggle, we finally got Paco on the other side of the blue gate, where he belonged. Once we were all reunited, we asked Jess how in the world Paco got out. Turns out, Susie, the puppy with a white coat and the newest member to the hostel animal family, kept crawling under the gate and following us, so Jess went back in and put her in the kitchen. In the mean time, Paco saw his opportunity to escape, and he took it! Jess felt bad of course, but we found it quite amusing that the one night we got dressed up, we ended up chasing down a donkey.

Because of the whole donkey ordeal, it was already getting dark when we left, and we didn’t want to make the 30 min trek into town at night, so we decided to take moto conchos. So fun. A few of the girls had never been on a motorcycle before, so they were a bit hesitant, but once we reached our destination, they we glad they took the risk. Dinner was fabulous.

The restaurant was right on the beach, and the food was great. When we were done eating, we took a stroll on along the coast. It was such a great way to end a wonderful day. There was one thing that paradise didn’t have, though…Matt :[
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Los Haitises National Park

Fortunately for us, Edit, the wonderful owner of our hostel, is a guide for the Los Haitises National Park. At 1500 pesos a head, we were a little hesitant to agree, but we decided to go for it anyway, and no one regretted the decision. We started off our morning with a short walk to where we loaded on the guagua. This particular guagua was a truck, so most of us got to sit in the bed, and enjoy the same beautiful view overlooking the bay, as we did on our way to Las Terrenas the first day. Once we got down to the water, we walked along the dock, got in our boat, and off we went!
The boat ride was wonderful. It was about 45 minutes long, and included all the drinks and sunshine you wanted. Once we got close to the national park, we noticed little islands off the coast, made up solely of rock and trees. The boat took us from the salty sea to a fresh water river, and into a cave. We were then instructed to jump out and let the current take us to the shore. The water was a little cold, unlike the ocean, and current was pretty strong. The shore was only a five-minute swim away, and the island made me feel like I was in paradise. The trees, coast, sand, and numerous yellow butterflies that sprinkled the air made this moment picture perfect.

Edit explained the different species of trees to us; which were imported from different countries, which were used as food for the slaves, and which were used to build houses. After this 20-minute stop, we jumped back on the boat. We weaved in and out of the tree filled islands that surrounded the main island, and Edit told us lots of fun facts about the different species of birds that lived there; like the pelicans only live to about 25 years old because they dive into the water with their eyes open, and after a while they go blind. Once this happens, they can’t dive to find food anymore, and they starve to death. [This became a joke the rest of the week. Whenever we were at the beach, and anyone said, "I wish I had goggles", someone else would say, "So do the pelicans!"]

Our next destination was a cave where indigenous people once lived. It was huge. I was grateful I brought along my flashlight. I went off exploring because I wanted to take pictures, so I didn’t hear all of the fun facts about it, but I did see the drawings they made on the walls that Edit pointed out. After spending a good amount of time exploring, we jumped back on the boat. Our next stop: the mangroves.

The mangroves were SO neat. Picture huge trees growing out of the ocean, with their thick, tangled roots resting above water level. They grow in water that is about a foot deep, and when the water gets too shallow, it can’t survive. So, to prevent its certain death, it walks to deeper water. That’s right. It walks. When the water level lowers, the side of the tree that is growing in deeper water produces a bundle of roots that hang down from the top of the tree, and grow until they get long enough to reach the ocean floor, where it becomes rooted. So, if there were a video camera taping one of these trees for 50 years, it would look like it was walking. So cool! I couldn’t help but think of my mom while I was here, because of her love for trees. :]

After the mangroves, we went to another cave. Again, I went off exploring, so I didn’t get the educational experience, but I sure did have fun. I set up my camera to have a long exposure, and I had everyone use their flashlights to paint!

We loaded on the boat, for the last time, and enjoyed the long boat ride back to the peninsula, where an all you can eat buffet was waiting for us! The food, our guide, the boat ride, the sunshine, and all of God's creation that we saw, was so wonderful. It had been such a fabulous day :]
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Las Terrenas

Its been a while since I’ve updated this, and so much has happened these past few weeks. I’ll try to remember all the good stuff!

We headed to the bus stop right after school. The bus didn’t leave for another couple hours, but we wanted to make sure we got our tickets. I sat next to Cecilia on the bus, and we had some good conversations, in Spanish. :] There was a man and his daughter sitting across the row from us and we were talking to him for a bit. When we got to Sanchez, a town about 30 minutes outside of Las Terrenas, he told us that when we got to the hill that we would be able to see the national park and the bay. He was sitting on the side of the bus with the view, so he switched seats with us so we could take pictures. He was so kind. :] When we got to the top, this is what we saw. It was beautiful.

As we entered into Las Terrenas, there was a lot to see. The town was definitely geared more for tourists than Santiago. There were shops lining the streets, and they all led to one place…the beach! We didn’t know where in Las Terrenas our hostel was, but fortunately for us, the driver did! He took us down a dirt road, until it forked and we got out. It had been raining, so the road was very muddy. Good thing I was wearing my tennies :]

Our hostel, Fata Morgana, was great! Each of the rooms has a bathroom, a hammock on the patio, and a clothesline for wet towels. There is a community kitchen, which definitely came in handy, and tons of animal friends. Paco and Flor, the donkeys, were my favorite, but the cats, chickens, and dogs were fun too. Edit, the owner of the hostel, is wonderful. She provided us with drinking water, and was always willing to help us if we had any questions or concerns. By the time we got settled, it was pretty late. Edit told us about a restaurant not too far from the hostel, so we headed over. The pouring rain set the mood of relaxation and tranquility while eating dinner, and it made the walk, or run, back to the hostel a little more exhilarating.

The next morning we headed to Playa Bonita. It wasn’t too far form our hostel so we walked. Little did we know, the road was made up of thick mud and huge puddles. Some people literally sank to their ankles as they walked. Fortunately, about half way there, we got a bola! The beach was beautiful, and we had it all to ourselves, minus a couple and a few dogs. It was lined with palm trees, and had some patches of flowers. Like almost all of the beaches here, the water was perfect, the sand was soft, and the sun was bright. :]

The next day we went into town for lunch. While searching for a good place to eat, we stumbled across a cute colonial plaza that reminded us of Santo Domingo, and we stopped to take pictures :]

Because Las Terrenas is for tourists, everything is more expensive, so we decided to eat at a Dominican restaurant instead of an American or French one [About 10% of the people that live in Las Terrenas are French. A lot of them moved here because they weren’t successful in France]. I ordered a tuna sandwich, and it was so yummy. Dominican food, besides the fruit, is typically not healthy, entonces, I was grateful for the tuna sandwich. As we were finishing up our lunch, our server, who had been talking to us throughout our meal, offered us a round of shots! It didn’t matter that it was only 11am, they were free. ;) The Dominicans like to put their rum in a bottle, full of a type of bark called Mamajuana, and it is supposed to enhance the flavor. I hadn’t tried it before, so I was quite intrigued. Our server gave us the choice of having a shot of just rum, or a shot of chinola juice and rum. If you know me at all, you knew which one I chose, and it was good!

After lunch, we walked less than five minutes to where the edge of town and the coast met. It was the first time we strolled along the beautiful beach of Las Terrenas, but it definitely would not be our last. After the beach, we made a pit stop at the grocery store so we could make dinner at the hostel. We had pasta, chicken, salad, green beans, and bread. It was so good, and cheap too. :]
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