8.33 To get to Constanza from Santiago there’s a gua-gua to Labanico where you take another gua-gua to your destination. Ok, we can do it. As long as they tell us when to get off!
Today the time changed in Italy but not here, so now there are 6 hours difference (they were 5 until yesterday).
3.07pm There’s wifi at the hotel, but it’s not working. I hope they’ll fix it, but I doubt. The owner called a guy a couple of times while we were waiting, but now why should he care?
It’s cold, I’ll have to wear an undershirt and to sleep there’s a duvet. We are in Constanza, 1.200m above sea level. It wasn’t easy to get here! One and a half hour on the truck of a pickup whose owner didn’t bother putting wooden boards to rest our butts, like they did in Cap Haitien. So it was about 10 people sitting on the edge of the truck, a couple in the middle, plus our backpacks and other bags. The landscape was nice, but I was too busy keeping my butts moving (when I could) to shift the pain and to keep tight not to be thrown out, to enjoy the view. All around are cultivations. They even grow flowers and strawberries. As if it wasn’t full enough (there’s never a limit to the number of people they can get on a taxi, that in cases like this is good, because if we are all stuck together it’s more difficult to fall off), a guy took onboard two large bundles of chrysantemums and roses (these with their nice big thorns), that we arranged right in the middle.
There are some huge clouds over there. Nearby thee’s a natural park with a lake where you can bath and walk 12km in the forest, but it’s at the bottom of the mountain, in El Abanico, where we took the camioneta/pick-up.
4.45 The sky is darker and darker, almost scary, but I don’t think it will rain. Earlier it rained a couple of minutes only. I think it’s normal here. After a stroll around this tiny village, that is pretty and lives of cultivations and local tourism, we stopped at a baseball field to watch a match, with thousands of white butterflies flying around our heads.
7.02pm We are in a Grill&Tapas, it must be a new place, it doesn’t even have a sign outside. It has diner-style seats and a white Harley Davidson in the middle of the room. Food is not cheap, but we wanted something different from the usual chicken and rice. So angus burger, a chicken cooked I don’t know how, and two caipirinhas. Luca should drink a hot tea, because it’s his turn to be sick, but he couldn’t resist. Ahhh… the caipirinha is so good!
It’s raining so hard that to have breakfast at the café next to the hotel we had to go to the upper floor, where there’s a large room that in the gold days was probably used as dance floor, and we went back down from another staircase. You can’t walk half a meter under the water. Well, you can’t, WE can’t. I’ve just seen a scooter with a family of 4 on it, including a 2 years old kid, covered with a plastic sheet. When you don’ have a car and you have to go some place, I guess you can’t really be difficult.
10.05 Luca is upset because I never speak. Maybe it’s true, but I was checking the hotels in Santiago; if there was something interesting I would have told him. He says that I’m used to be alone and that I like it (we’ve only been dating for a few months and this is my first trip with someone else after a long time). It is true, but I also like being with him.
It’s not raining that much anymore. Luca went to our room, more and more upset.
Now it must have stopped completely because I guy is washing his car. It stopped raining but I don’t want to go anywhere, I would stay here the whole day doing nothing.
4.30 It’s not raining but there’s a strong wind. I’m worried something will struck onto our heads soon. We are at the Comedor Yvelise, the same we had lunch yesterday, for some kid again and a beer. After so much chicken, it’s nice to have a different kind of meat. The sign reads “Benvenidos in Choza”, I almost feel like I’m in Venice (there’s a small town near Venice called “Chioggia” and its pronunciation is similar to Choza, in dialect).
March 28 – 10.33
We are in Monte Cristi, still. It’s cheap and quiet, we need to eat some more good food after 10 days in Haiti.
Today the sun is hot, but on the terrace of the hotel it’s perfect.
Ho fatto una foto alle ciabatte che mi hanno accompagnato in tanti viaggi, perché era ora di dirsi addio (dopo il ritorno comunque)
Afternoon. Schei fa schei, i peoci fa peoci (money makes money, lice make lice: it’s a Venetian saying, meaning that it’s easier to make money if you already have some, while it’s more likely you’ll be poor all your life if you already are). Luca and I are making projects on how to make money. We are on a bench at the ugly beach of Monte Cristi. The wind is so strong that it moved all the sand and made the beach much larger. We’ll collect lice once we go back home.
Today Luca did a good action: there was a shell walking in the middle of the road, clearly lost. He took it and threw it into the water, saving it from certain death.
It’s Friday night and at Terraza Fedora there’s a party. It’s not dark yet but people are drinking and dancing. Seeing how they move at the rythm of this music so sensual, makes me jealous; I hate how I am flexible like a trunk. We spend a few hours admiring the moving people on the other side of the road, then go back to the hotel. A quick slice of pizza from a hole near the supermarket, served by a girl that kept calling me “sweetheart” and “my love”.
Green water and white sand. Yes, we definitely are in the Caribbeans. One of those beaches you could see in postcards, if there still were postcards. This beach is so beautiful because it’s in a National Park and you can only get here by renting a boat (or with your yacht, like the English couple we met here, who are doing a tour of the Caribbeans).
You can only come on a day trip, there are no restaurants nor anything else, so the chances to find basura (rubbish) is low, and probably someone comes to clean from time to time.
We paid 2500 pesos to come here from Pedernales, about 40 euro. Not bad, considering that in Los Patos a travel agency that works with Giordano asked us 90 US dollars, so we saved about 100 euro. “The best money we’ve spent so far”, said Luca. It is true and it definitely deserves a visit.
We were the first to arrive and took place in the shade of one of the few trees that are on the beach.
This morning we had breakfast in a street in Pedernales with something that looked like a sweet potato, but it wasn’t sweet, it was disgusting, maybe dried and salty fish, and something very good, pig with rind.
A boat full of Dominicans has just arrived. We should go for a stroll now, before it gets too crowded. It’s Sunday, it will probably get busy later on.
We came here on a motorbike, 3 on the same bike. On the paved road it wasn’t bad. The last 6 kilometers on gravel were painful. Pedernales, a region of red soil, that they use to make aluminum and concrete. There’s a factory not far from the beach.
15.22 So beautiful. We got sun burned even though we put the sunscreen 3 times and stayed in the shade. We probably got burned during the walk and the time spent in the water.
Against all odds we were almost alone all the time. From time to time a boat would arrive with a few people, stayed half an hour or one hour and left.
Back to Pedernales. Little snack with sancocho, a soup with pork ribs and potatoes, really good.
6pm. We are now in the main square of Pedernales. There are two cafes, at about 50 meters one from the other, both with music at very high volume that if you are in the middle you can’t hear well of any, a mix of the two. Fortunately a car stopped between the two cafes, took out two huge speakers and we can now listen to that music, even though you can still hear the other music in the background.
The dominicans: they park their car in the street, turn the music on at the loudest possible volume, take down a few chairs and sit there, chatting on the pavement or in the square. Today it’s Sunday, so they wear wedges and heels and miniskirts. I just love them.
The sun is still shining, but we are burnt and keep away.
Discovering the area around Los Patos, in the Dominican Republic
March 14, 2014
We are in San Rafael. Giordano recommended this place. There are some natural pools created by a stream coming from the mountain, before it gets into the water; they put some stones together to create low walls and here you are five nice small pools with freezing water in the middle of the valley, one over the other. I like them because the ocean is a bit rough for me, but the water is too cold to stay inside for a long time. This place is similar to what should be in Los Patos, but there they are doing some works at the moment. By the pools there are small restaurants/huts and people relaxing.
We had lunch with a cereals arancino with meat and a fish&chips Dominican style, with sliced platano, pressed and fried, in place of the chips; it was good. We eat it quickly because we left our towels on the other side of the pool, at a table that is part of another restaurant; I was afraid they discovered our betrayal and would hide our towels.
Here come schoolchildren on a trip. They must be a hundred. All in denim and white shirt. Some of them to be different wear a hat, a wool scarf, or a gilet.
3pm We were about to leave, because in the sun it’s too hot, but we stopped at a table among the Dominicans drinking rum, take a bath with soap in the pools, move at the merengue rythm, and laugh when some white people find the courage to jump into the cold water.
4.05pm We are at a Comedor in Los Patos drinking a very sweet coffee by the road (in the local custom). A gua-gua to Pedernales has just passed by. So tomorrow we know sooner or later there will be a gua-gua taking us there. But we actually knew that already, because on the gua-gua from San Rafael to here, Luca shouted “c’è un gua-gua che va a Pedernales?”, just like this, in Italian, without adding any “S” to make it sound more Spanish (this is how we Italians speak Spanish when we don’t know the language). He shouted because he was in the third row and wanted to ask the driver; but he ignored him and other people replied, that soon started to debate about Pedernales being a city or a municipalidad or who knows what.
In front of us, on the other side of the road, some people are gathered around a pile of second-hand clothes, on sale on the sidewalk. Probably clothes coming from Pedernales, where today that is Friday, there is an international market (Haitian-Dominican), where people sell clothes that the UN and NGOs send to Haiti to dress those that have no money and in some ways end up on sale on the streets of the two countries.
6.43pm We are back to the comedor after the shower. They can offer us lambi (local fish) with fried platano. I’m sorry we are not eating at Giordano’s, but we need to save some money. Dinner with sea view.
I’m going miss Los Patos, I like it here. If, as Giordano says, it’s the best area of the Republic, we will have to come back. Luca seems keen on going to Haiti. Because he doesn’t want to go back to Barahona on the same road we came here; or probably to Santo Domingo. Last night Giordano cooked us a fish similar to stone bass, cooked in coconut milk, because I told him I would like to eat local food. And it was delicious.
The lady at the comedor where we are eating has a house along the main road of the town and thought of exploiting the location to transform it into a restaurant. She put two small tables and six chairs out of her door, cooks in her kitchen and offers what they eat. Tonight: lambi with fried platano. But you can choose: lambi normal or with vinagrette. I prefer the normal. It’s actually delicious. And the platano does taste like chips. The lambi normal is cooked with small green peppers, onion and tomatoes. It’s really good. I think I will digest it tomorrow though.
After dinner, the lady kindly told us we could stay a bit longer people-watching. Good, my favorite past-time.
12pm. First swim in the Caribbean Sea done. Luca likes the pebbles beach because he can’t stand the sand between his toes. I can’t find a laying position without a stone piercing my lung or stomach. It’s hard walking on the stones and getting out from the water is difficult because there’s a short climb to do and you sink and I really can’t come out. I must crawl and move my weight on my arms. Luca laughs really hard at this sight and threatens to record a video.
1.30pm Amelina, with sweet dark eyes, sold us for a few cents a delicious cake made with nuts and a lot of sugar. The sun is out. Soon it’s going to be impossible to stay at the beach.
Big lunch at the beach today: lobster with fried bananas and a nice fried fish with rice and chickpeas. I’m scared about the bill though. Other people have brought a beach umbrella, they were cleverer than us. Amelina is now in the shade with them, hoping to get some more cash. 950 RDS the bill, 16 euro. Not bad.
2.07pm We are at the hotel’s swimming pool. It’s too hot to be around. Here we are in the shade, with a nice breeze, a cactus and a palm tree on one side, banana trees on the others, in the background the bleating of a goat, the parrot calling Gionatan (one of Giordano’s sons) and a rooster from time to time.
6pm Little break. Esprite and coke. We went to see the natural pool at the end of the small river, but it was too in the shade to jump in. The ocean was too wild and it scared me (people in the slums don’t scare me, the ocean does).
So we layed at the beach thinking on what to do next. Giordano already told us that it’s better to avoid Haiti, the capital is dangerous and the whole country is expensive. But I didn’t want to believe him. According to the Lonely Planet it does seem a mess actually. To go from Jacmel, that is in the South-East, to Port Salut, still in the South, it looks like you have to go to Port-au-Prince, North of Jacmel, at about three hours from there and three more hours to go back South, instead of driving along the coast. Maybe for the first time the Lonely Planet is not really helpful. And there are very few hotels at 40 USD. In Port Salut, West of Jacmel, where there seem to be some beautiful beaches, hotels have crazy prices. So I don’t really want to go. In the Dominican Republic there are enough interesting places to keep us busy for 6 weeks, among beaches, natural parks and towns. We’ll see. We’ll do a research in the web and decide once we are in Pedernales (a dominican town at the border with Haiti).
8.14pm There’s another guy from Verona at the hotel tonight. He’s volunteering in a mission near Port-au-Prince for half and a half months. He thinks Haitians hate white people. Maybe they smile at your face because they need a tip or other, but as soon as you turn they want to stab you. And they don’t want to work, when you are not watching they sit down. It might be because of all the international help they are getting: they know they can get something to eat with no need to work. Well, I don’t know if this is true or if it’s just a wrong impression this guy had. And it’s not because they are black, like some racist might think, because here in the Dominican Republic they are also black and they do work, maybe not at the speed we are used to in the North of Italy, but is ours the right way of living? Anyway, this guy from Verona confirmed an impression I have had for some time: the International Aid industry is a “magneria”, as we would say in Veneto, an embezzlement. Of the billions of dollars that were donated in the United States after the earthquake, only 3% was actually used in the island (this is what he said, I didn’t verify). The 97% was spent in the organizations, in administration costs, salaries, expensive vehicles, etc. This really makes me angry. I actually thought of working in this field when I was younger, but realized it’s not how it looks. I think the best way to help poor countries is to stop exploiting their resources and let their citizens move to other countries, if there is need to work.
The Veronese also advised against Haiti, that is a mess. Because they are so poor, they assault tourists anywhere, because tourists always carry some money; some time ago in Port-au-Prince they shot a couple of tourists coming out from a bank and they didn’t even have cash with them; you must be careful all the time, etc. And the news is that from Ainse-a-Pitre (the small town on the other side of the border from Pedernales) you have to get on an overnight boat to get to Jacmel, a wooden boat like a fishermen boat, just a bit bigger, that sometimes sink and people die. Mmm… At this point I got tingling and an urge to go there.
Some clients call Giordano: their car broke and they are stuck along the road. He asks his waiter/helper/slave/all-around to give him his rifle, gets on the jeep and goes getting them. It’s 9.30 in the night and he doesn’t go anywhere without a rifle, because here it is safe, but it’s better to be cautious.
I have always loved traveling, since I was in my mother's womb. I love to see new places, meet new cultures, eat the food of the world. Recently I discovered that pictures can sometimes show more than I can do in words.