Saturday, September 26, 2015

Free Fallin: Dominican Part Deux

September 2015

Waterfall. Jumps. This is the one thing that I absolutely had to do in my visit to the Dominican Republic. No matter where I was in the country, I had to jump off some falls. I saw an article about a tour company, Iguana Mama (, that allowed you to jump off 27 waterfalls in the Dominican. When I heard this I yelled "Get out" and violently pushed the closest person next to me like Elaine from "Seinfeld." I contacted the tour's owner, and he told me because of a severe drought, you could only jump off 12 waterfalls at the moment, and the best tour for us would be the Rappeller's Delight because it was located in an area where the water was still deep enough to safely jump. 


The cost of the tour is $129 US, and includes breakfast and lunch (breakfast being a small sandwich but a delicious authentic, homemade-style meal for lunch) and goes from about 8-3p. After a 45-minute or so drive from Cabarete to Duarte, we began a hefty hike through the jungle that was no joke. We were fortunate that the tour was just 4 people. I can imagine it becoming much more exhausting with a huge group. I was pouring sweat on the hike down, as you're wearing a wet suit. On the plus side, there weren't a ton of mosquitos or biting insects and I probably lost 90 pounds of water weight. Be sure to properly hydrate on this tour. 
I don't remember how many rappels we did, maybe around 6? They were all easy and the footing was fine.
I need to start flexing in these pics.
After the rappels, it was time to explore the water. Normally a lot of this area would be covered in water.
The water was probably in the 70s. I'm totally guessing. I had a wetsuit on, people! Whatever it was warm enough.

This was after the first jump, around 40-feet. Same spot as the opening pic of this blog. 
Getting instructions on where to jump because apparently if I jump too far to the left, there are rocks. #ThatSucks
This is in mid-air. Look to the left of my shoe and you can see my shadow. This jump was also around 40-feet.
Ciguapa Falls is stunning. A perfect aqua.
Angela contemplating her final jump. 
The hike back up was far more grueling than the hike down. After a 30-minute trek that felt like we were extras in "Everest," we got to an area and rented some burros! Just $10 and so worth it. The hike up was so intense that one of the dudes kept puking. For real, but that was also because he was smoking a lot on the trip - which isn't supposed to be allowed - so maybe it's just karma!
Selfie time with this jackass! #AndTheDonkey #SeeWhatIDidThere?!


We had the Iguana Mama tour drop us off directly at the Sosua bus station and immediately hopped on a bus all the way back to Santo Domingo.

The Occidental El Embajador. Still no Michael Corleone. #SeePreviousBlogPost
A popular Dominican rum, Ron Barcelo. I've got no beef with it.
I read a Rough Guides article that told me Malecon is 10-km long boardwalk area in Santo Domingo that was full of bustling nightlife. I tried to convince some film festival goers to join me on an evening jaunt to check it out, but all the locals warned them it was too dangerous. I was still curious so I paid a cab driver $20 US to chauffeur me around the city… which was rad! The chauffeur part that is. Malecon left something to be desired. The area is apparently shady enough that the cab driver insisted he walk across the street with me when I told him I just wanted to take a picture. Dude was like the guy who drove Al Pacino around in "Scent of a Woman." Rough Guides has a questionable definition of "bustling."
I mean there was this statue of two big naked butts, so Malecon did have that going for it.
Where is everybody?!
This was a slightly more populated area of Malecon, considering the time of the night. And by that I mean there were a lot of ladies of the night walking around. Prostitutes, folks! #ThatsNotWhyImSmiling

Totally dug the graffiti art though.


And plentiful.
I bid DR adieu with this. A very questionable magnet design.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dominican Domination: Surfing and Snorkeling in DR


Dominican Republic
September 2015

I got a travel problem. A friend invited me to head out to the Dominican Republic for a relatively last minute trip. She would be attending a film festival, but had a free place to stay and knows I have an impulsive travel addiction. What I didn't have was any additional vacation days to use, so the trip would only be for a weekend. Would that be worth it? Probably not as I'd have to travel after work on Thursday, then leave Saturday night to be back at work Sunday. I'd never been to the DR, but if you factor in travel time, I'd be there for around 36 hours. 

Lo and behold… I ended up working a 6-day week, earned a comp day, and could apply it to this trip. 60 hours is a different ballgame! I'm in. Fly out of New York late Wednesday, fly back Saturday afternoon. Done.

The hotel I stayed in Santo Domingo was the Occidental El Embajador, and had several scenes from "The Godfather Part II shot there (pretending to be Cuba). I didn't see Al Pacino there. But I did see prostitutes. And I'm not talking about Pacino's turn in the Adam Sandler movie "Jack and Jill."
What I didn't realize was that this film festival was in Santo Domingo, which is the country's capital and very metropolitan. I was told there's a significant amount of crime in the city and its one of the most dangerous cities to drive in. No disrespect to the city of Santo Domingo, but there's no way in hell I was about to fly out there for just a couple days to sit in a city (even though there are some places to check out like Christopher Columbus' burial site in the Colonial Zone). If I was going to the DR - I needed to see some beach.

As I researched where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, everything pointed to the northern part of the island. There's a nice surfing area called Playa Encuentro near Puerto Plata, but even more thrilling - a place to jump off 27 f'n waterfalls called Damajagua! I had to do that. Problem is the only way I can get there without renting a car (which turned out to be way too gnarly) is taking a 4.5-hour public bus ride. That would mean spending around 9 hours - on an already short trip - sitting on a bus. Nobody wants to sit on a bus that long except Otto from the Simpsons, but 2 days of chilling with Columbus' remains didn't sound that enticing. Hello bus.

After landing in DR and getting to the hotel around 12:30a, we woke up around 5:45 and walked a couple blocks to the Metro bus station to hop on a 7a bus to Sosua (which left around 7:30a because you're dealing with Island Time). The buses are like tour buses and totally safe and nice. Best of all, it only cost around $9 US to travel to the entire other side of the country! In Sosua, we hopped in a cab to Playa Encuentro, which I pictured to be a small surf beach with a boardwalk and maybe a couple surf shops and restaurants. Nah bruh. It was just this. Empty beach with a couple huts that act as surf shops. 
More dogs than people at this beach.

Fortunately there was one place that cooked food in this Corona commercial gone haywire, Club Mendi. They also had wifi, which was great because we just booked a last minute AirBnb spot and didn't know how we were going to get picked up or what the place's address was (sometimes this is how I travel). I would definitely not call Mendi a club, nor a restaurant. It was more of a grill. But holy shit could they grill! They didn't speak much English, so I ordered some fish that was allegedly indigenous to the area. I thought I asked if it had bones (which would deter me), but who the hell knows what I said, because the fish came out whole with a shit ton of bones. It was completely fried and completely delicious. Normally I'd be so frustrated with the bones that I wouldn't enjoy it, but it was perfectly spiced and salted that I tore through it like the sound of velcro. Naturally, I topped it with a Presidente, the island's beer of choice. 
There's no swimming allowed because it's all reef in the area and you'd get cut up. There's also no life guards, unless those sleeping dogs miraculously wake up and save your drowning ass.
Rented a longboard for $20 US/day
Conditions weren't great. Wind-blown and choppy, so it didn't make for many rides. Also, the paddle out was draining enough that I ended up just riding whitewash. You definitely have to be careful getting off the board as it's all reef next to the shore. I haven't really surfed in quite awhile - and I'm not very good to begin with, so that's a pretty solid combo.

I couldn't stop playing fetch with this guy. He loves the water so much. One of the dudes at the grill told me I'd make a friend for life if I threw a stick into the water. He was correct. Then I attached a GoPro to the branch, and started throwing that, hoping to get a cool perspective of fetch. It was just okay.

See you later, Encuentro. #AndByThatIMeanIHighlyDoubtIWillEverBeThereAgain
So after a few hours chilling in Encuentro, we went to Sosua to dive/snorkel. My friend, Angela, is a hard core diver, but I'm just a snorkeler. We went through an outfitter called Aqua Adventures ( It was around $50 for the dive and $25 to snorkel. I contemplated diving again, but on the drive over I had another President and the dude's wouldn't let me dive. It was for the best I think. So here's a snorkel trick in the DR (don't know if it applies everywhere), but if you bring pieces of banana and crush it up in your hands, the fish flock to it! That's what in the water bottle. 
This is a ray. Angela took it with her GoPro. That's all I got.
Apparently this dude has never heard of Steve Irwin.

Photobomb time...
The area we were in is called 3 Rocks. As snorkeling goes, it's only mediocre. There isn't a tremendous amount of visibility, even though it was a relatively clear day. Perhaps because it was around 5p. I did see an octopus - you'll see a crappy shot of it in the video below. Angela saw a lobster, sting ray, eel, much more cool stuff than I.
Sosua Beach.
G'bye Sosua.

We booked a 2-bedroom villa with kitchen, living room in Cabarete… for just $50! AirBnb is the best!
Dinner at Papi's, a seafood place on the sand where we got ceviche, a lobster skillet with spaghetti, crab cakes, and mama juanas - a local liquor. Tipping at restaurants isn't necessary as tips are included.
Lobster skillet. Not too shabby.
This is the main street in Cabarete; the city centre as it's called. Looks quiet. And on the street it is.
But on the other side, there's a strip of clubs, bars, restaurants, people even playing volleyball. It's a very deceptive scene from the street.
We got a carafe of mojito at the Lazy Dog Beach Bar, where we were accosted by a pushy henna tattoo "artist." By "henna," I mean "Sharpie." I tried to drink my mojito as quickly as possible to avoid consuming any melted ice and shady water. Eating ice left me with an unplanned cleanse after my last trip to Mexico. Apparently I have a sensitive tummy.
Another look at the Cabarete strip. It was quiet on Thursday night.  Everything open, and also mostly empty. I imagine it's a Friday, Saturday type of town.


Next: Waterfall and cliff jumping with Iguana Mama.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Montreal: Who needs the Expos?

Montreal, Quebec
August 2012

At this time, I was going from part-time to full-time at ESPN, so I had to take advantage of the time off. I went to visit a friend in Quebec City, and spent a night in Montreal.

Surfing the St. Lawrence River at sunset. That ain't me, folks.
The main river sport outfitter is KSF. It's $125 for lessons, gear, and surfing two spots. According to the website, it was a 6-hour excursion, but I don't remember.
This is the bunny wave on the St. Lawrence River behind the Cite du Havre Park. These are called standing waves, and according to, they're formed by "fast moving water going over a drop or slope and the river bottom contours. The water goes down the slope or drop then comes back up to form the wave." Basically you start upstream, angle yourself to let the current take you into the wave, and like normal surfing, paddle hard to stay on the face, control the board, and pop up. Just that easy. That last sentence was sarcasm. 

This is surfing the area called Habitat 67. The area is hidden behind some nice apartment complex. You have to climb down a little hill (no stairs, peeps), and you'll likely see a line of surfers looking to ride. You need to be a decent swimmer to do this, as there are parts of the current that you don't want to battle swimming against. After the ride, you're taken downstream for awhile before you can swim back towards the shore. Honestly, I think I only got up a couple times, but it's a cool feeling. I certainly prefer the ocean, but it's another notch on the belt. The water temperature wasn't that cold either, but I think surf tours stop in September.

Colorful lighting on those Montreal nights.
Not sure I remember where I was walking. But they got fancy street decorations.

They're all artsy and stuff up north.
Like for real.
I think that's a library! Who knows?! I suppose anyone who can speak French, or who's been to Montreal. But that ain't me.
Nice burger and beer at Les 3 Brasseurs. The beer was better than the burger if I recall. I don't think avocados are native to Canada. Really good white ale.
There's a decent casino there originally called Casino de Montreal. It's decent if you have a gambling problem. I only show these chips because I think I got took by the exchange rate at the cashier. I tried to pull a scam, by buying in for X-amount of chips in US dollars, but then cash out Y-amount of Canadian dollars. I don't remember what happened, but I'm pretty sure I got played.
Really late or really early.
This was my first ever stay at a hostel. It was called the Montreal Central, and was located in a central location. Montreal really need to work on more clever names. I shared a room and bath with 2 other dudes, and was on a bunk bed. I kind of feel like I'm told for that, but that said - it was so cheap! I wish I'd been doing this more before, especially when traveling with a group of friends. I think my room was around $30-40. As hostels go, I have nothing to compare it to, but I think the premises were fine.
Maybe there's art here?
I don't know if they realized they made the lamppost crooked. Dummies.
Montreal is an amazing biking city. Very accommodating, usually bike paths. I rented from a spot called Dyad, bike was $12 for 4 hours or $20 all-day. It's also located in a fun neighborhood.
Sir George-Etienne Cartier Monument. I don't know what they did, but I'm pretty sure it had an overall positive influence on Montreal.
Xiao long bao. Dumplings. I've heard amazing things about Montreal's Chinatown. The area was crowded as F! There's a large Asian population in Montreal. The food was good, but unfortunately for you, I don't remember where this was.
Old Montreal
More from Old Montreal area.

I've never been to France and I imagine this is what it's like. I'm such an avid supporter of cobblestone streets. All streets should be made of cobblestone. Except ones you have to drive on...
More Old Montreal.

How I feel about being able to remember what I did in Montreal.