The lagoon is small and has a prolongued river-like shape. When the water level is low you can see the roots of the trees. Shaded by those trees with weird roots and with a lot of birds flying or hiding, this lagoon is a strange fairy-tale place. It's like entering a darker, older world. And then, after the short boat trip you emerge into the open and enter the sea, and again it's so bright and hot. Then the boat takes you to the small Cueva de las Golondrinas (a cave with a lot of swallows) and on the way back you can bathe in the sea or the lagoon.
We took a boat trip from the small town of Rio San Juan which can easily be reached from Puerto Plata/Sosua/Cabarete. Boats can also be taken from the small beach right next to the 'mouth' of the lagoon.
This place is more popular with the locals so you don't see big crowds of tourists. Still, it's worth to see this dark lagoon and the Swallows' cave, and then you'll have the chance to swim both in fresh and sea water on the same trip.
Cocoa "fruit" grows from the trees. In this photo you can see that they grow in a different way, .. .well, I found it different since I had never seen any of these trees where fruits grow in the log. When fruit is mature, they catch it and then a treatment they make some balls of cocoa and store it that way. When they want to use it (to make chocolate) they grate it in the amount they need and use it. It smelled so good and tasted delicious!
We soon discovered that the house that we were visiting was the driver's house. He introduced us to his nice family - wife and kids - and showed us around. We had a nice explanation about local fruits grown at their house - papaya, mango, and banana - and where given some to eat. Fabulous, tasty fruit!
We were also shown how they "manually" produced their own coffee and cocoa. That’s an interesting process, although it requires some work. I ended up buying some homemade coffee and cocoa. Delicious!!
While visiting the inner island, we were shown a typical house. Houses are somewhat apart from each other, and made of wood, some of them being very colourful. Usually houses consist of a living-room connected to the kitchen, and one or two bedrooms. Not too big, but all the family fits there and seems to be happy.
Around the house you may find a kind of warehouse/outside kitchen and lots of trees – fruit trees, cocoa and coffee. The fruits, cocoa and coffee grown from those trees are for family's consumption.
The sugar cane grows in these farms, and occupies huge extensions of land: sometimes it looks like reaching the horizon, as everywhere you look you see sugar cane.
When sugar cane grows, men cut the cane with a proper instrument, a kind of blade, and put it in a "carriage" that is pulled by some kind of cow or ox. When "carriage" is full, the animal pulls that load (guided by worker) to a central warehouse. This warehouse is equipped with machines that help to unload "carriage" and weight the sugar cane, that is then placed inside the warehouse.
One major economic activity in the inner island is the sugar cane plantations. You can see huge plantations (farms) where the green sugar cane fields extend for kilometres and kilometres.
The owners of these farms have installations for their workers, mainly Haitians. Haitian men come to Dominican Republic in search of work and bring wife and children. These sugar cane farms have all the required infra-structure for families: houses for workers, school for children and basic health care system. Mainly, all their life is there: women take care of house and children, men work in the plantation, children attend farm's school and when someone is ill they go to the farm's doctor. Actually, this is the official version I was told by our guide. Nevertheless, I’ve also heard about Amnesty reports about the exploitation and lack of conditions of these farms.
Children in Dominican Republic need basic school supplies. If you come here and want to: bring suitcase of pencils, paper, chalk, chalkboards, maual pencil sharpeners and the most basic school things.
They truly need and appreciate them!
Baseballs and gloves fun things too.
Then you have empty bag to bring souvenirs home!
Go to the center of the country and visit La Vega. In La Vega you will find high mountains, and an important one named Contanza. It is a beautiful mountainside, just like springtime scenery. It does get a bit chilly in the winter (*amazingly), but it is a great place to visit. I miss the mountain views just like this one here. It is the only part of the country where strawberries can be grown...and I love strawberries! I haven't been in Constanza in over ten years but I heard that some roads are in better shape.
This building is what the White House is for the U.S.
It is the place where the president stays and works for the most part.
They recently gave it a paint job. It looks like a very pastel pinkish type of color now.
As of August 16, 2004 the newly elected President Leonel Fernandez has taken its position and hopefully can reverse the damage that previous president Hipolito Mejia has made in the past four years.
The boys love baseball and baseball cards and underwear is greatly needed (and appreciated). The girls love little dolls. I just stopped by a school to visit and they sang for me and read stories also, and were so proud to tell me their story!
High in the Cordillera Central above Bonao are a system of surprisingly picturesque reservoir dams. The turqouise waters, pristine valleys, and fantastic views make for a great hike and picnic destination.
You can really feel the altitude. Fresh air, pine trees and vultures wheeling around. On the road between the dams there is a giant waterdall emptying out onto the road below. The 3 dams are all very different in character, and you can't fail to be impressed by their construction. More info on the trek:
For an extended and knackering hike, you can start off from Los Quemados, from where it is a 10km uphill trek to Rio Blanco, the village of the dams. A tour of the dams may be possible if you want.
To reach Los Quemados head west out of Bonao through 'Barrio de los Gringos' an upperclass neighbourhood. Follow the main road, Avenida Circunvalacion until you reach T junction and on your left is a golf course. Turn left and keep on this road for 10km till you get to 'Los Quemados'. On entering the village, bear right towards the road that follows the river.
The mountain village of Rio Blanco, about 20 miles west of Bonao, has breathtaking panoramas of the Cordillera Central. This remote area has a lovely antiquated ambience with roaming pigs, open fire stoves, and men tilling the land with machetes.
The only visitors to the area are engineers to the nearby dams and ranks of the Dominican bourgeoisie, who have chosen these stunning landscapes for their hilltop holiday chalets.
I'd recommend walking to Rio Blanco along the road winding up from Los Quemados. Though this 2 hour hike is quite demanding, it is well shaded and you will be thoroughly charmed by the hummingbirds, passing villagers and roadside waterfalls. For more on this trek check
The Mountains that surround Bonao are so untouched that God himself forget where he put them.
Charco Bonito is an enchanting, TV advert quality waterfall buried deep in forested valleys behind Los Quemados. To reach it you must take a strenuous 2 hour trail that involves wading across the Rio Yuna and hiking through steep thick jungle. It is simpy unmissable.
Since we were in the DR for a Church trip, to learn about poverty and injustice in the Third World, we visited some communities where the poorest of the poor live. Bateys are small communities where the sugar cane farmers live with their families. They live in shacks that a breeze could knock over, and the living conditions are very uncomfortable and unsanitary. The people have barely anything to eat, and the children are dressed in rags and have no toys or anything. If you're in the DR for a trip similar to mine, a visit to a batey is something that will truly show you how the poorest of the poor live.
I want to share with you why I love this place. Take a minute and check out the web site link.
It is to a Dom. Rep.photo gallery that tells you the story in pictures.
If you don't have time, Click Here for a quicky preview:
I have helped a lot of people find the beauty of the "campo"...here is a great trip report from one of them...I know you will find it helpful.
Manuele's trip report
Stayed here for annual holiday in October 2001. First time in carribean and definately not the last....more
Myself and my girlfriend spent 7 miserable days here. We pads for reserve rooms , top of the line...more
I stayed here on a recent business trip in the Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo. This 6 room hotel...more