Thursday, September 24, 2015

Dominican Domination: Surfing and Snorkeling in DR

Presidente.

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 (http://www.scubadivesosua.com). 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.

Video:

Next: Waterfall and cliff jumping with Iguana Mama.

No comments:

Post a Comment