After Doug and Madison departed we looked at weather and decided we weren’t going anywhere, anytime soon. So, what to do next… I thought it would be fun to make a drive down to Santo Domingo, the capital and see the colonial town established after Columbus and Ponce de Leon came to the Island. A friend from home had given me her brother’s contact info. He works for the Mormon Church and lives with his family in Santo Domingo. I reached them by phone and worked out details to make a visit for the weekend. The biggest obstacle was how to get there. We could take the bus at $10 US per person. But I wasn’t very excited about that idea. It is about a 2.5 hour drive and we probably would have been fine on the bus. We looked at renting a car but the only car rental place in the area – that we could find on the internet was $200US per day for a van rental. A taxi was $300 round trip, so that was what we decided to do. Gas is very expensive here, close to $6 per gallon.
Later that evening the baby came down with a fever, and then the 4 year old had one too. So we decided to cancel our plans. It was the right choice because over the weekend, the 2 were sick for 2 days, and then 2 more kids came down with fevers and colds for 2 days, and then David and I caught the bug. Ugh.
So we stayed on the boat and recovered. During this time, the bay was windy for a few days. We had positioned the boat so that the stern faced the wind. This worked nicely. We would open our back door each day and receive the beautiful breeze right into the boat each day. It was so nice. As soon as I would step onto the dock- into the sun, to walk the dog, or take Matthew to the play park I would roast in the sun, but the boat stayed nice and cool with the breeze.
One morning when the winds were lighter we loaded the kids into the tender and went back across the bay to the Los Haitises park. We had heard about the Eco Lodge located just outside the park, thru the mangrove channels we had previously gone thru. At the Lodge is a beautiful natural pool made from a nearby creek. They rerouted the creek thru a series of waterfalls to form this beautiful pool and water park. So we took the kids to play in the water for the afternoon. Since we were there, it was easy to eat lunch at their restaurant on site. The water was quite cool, being a mountain creek, but very very clear. The kids enjoyed a few hours playing and then we hiked back to the tender for the bumpy ride back across the bay. We were able to head straight across the bay with waves hitting our beam and lifting us up and over. Then we hugged the shoreline as we made our way to the Marina. The waves are the most “painful” when you take them head on. So, this was a longer route, but MUCH nicer than the direct route to return to the boat. Matthew was so worn out from the trip, he fell asleep on the way back, so it couldn’t have been too bumpy of a ride if he could sleep thru it.
While David and I fought off the sickness, the kids had a great time playing in the afternoons with their new friends from another boat. A French family joined us in the Marina. They had a set of twins, a boy and a girl, 9 years old. The kids all had fun playing together all week. We heard from this family about a lady in town who rents car for an affordable price. So we called her and rented a car for Saturday afternoon till Sunday Afternoon. This way we could do a little touring Saturday, and go to church Sunday. We loaded the kids up in this well worn Ford Escape, a small SUV. 4 of them sat across the back bench, and Calvin rode in the back with the baby in the baby car seat. And if that wasn’t crazy enough, you should see how the Dominican’s Drive. I had to remind myself that when I grew up, it was okay for kids to share seat belts or ride in the back of the car, at least that was how it went in my family. My mom would drive around the neighborhood loading up every kid she could find in our van to drive us all 45 minutes away to the coolest park ever. She did this every month during the summer. Kids filled the seats and the back of our 12 seater. David’s family had a 15 pass van, and his dad built a little portable crib to keep in the back for their little ones to sleep in on family trips. He remembers saving up for a portable TV and VCR so they could lay in the back of the van and watch movies on trips. Times have changed.
But drivers in the US at least follow rules on the road. Maybe there are no rules to follow here, I don’t know. In general they drive on the right side of the road, unless there are potholes (which there are a lot of) or they are passing (which they do constantly). There were a few scary moments. Still, we enjoyed driving around the Samana Peninsula. The kids hoped we’d get out at the beach to play in the waves, most of the beaches we visit have little to no waves, so to see waves at a beach is very enticing to them. The north shore of DR has quite a few beaches with great waves. Unfortunately, the skies were not cooperating, and it rained and sprinkled through out the day. We visited Las Terrenas, were we drove along the shoreline watching the kite surfers, not afraid of a little rain. We also got out for a short walk there and visited a French bakery for some yummy treats. We loved driving thru the mountains and the windy roads. The scenery was beautiful.
The next morning was a big day. We drove to church in a town an hour away. As we drove thru the little towns and villages along the way, many people were out walking in their Sunday best, either heading to church or on their way home. It was neat to see that so many were taking time from their day to worship our Father in Heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ.
An hour later, we arrived at the spot on the map and couldn’t find the church. We were late, so this was making me a little anxious. We expanded our search area looking for the street (which there aren’t many street signs to help with this) and the church sign. After a few minutes we ended up back where the map shows the building, and I rolled down my window to ask a lady—in my non existent Spanish “Donde La Iglesia ….” (I had learned the name of the Church in Spanish as a missionary, and have used the useful knowledge many times in the last 2 years) She responded with “ Las Mormonas?” To which we said “Si” ( I love that the people here know our faith here, they very much know both the name of the church and the nickname given to us.) She then gave us directions in Spanish, to which all I knew was the direction she pointed, and that we would need to turn right. I had a hunch that we needed to take a small side street—really barely big enough for a car. So we went up, turned right, and then went, hmmm. I had seen that we had passed a little ally, so we went back and turned down the alley. As we drove down it, there was a little neighborhood just hidden down these alleys, hidden from the main streets. We still didn’t find the church so we stopped to ask again, This kid lady told us to go back up the alley and turn left. So we backed up to another little alley on the left and turned down, and halfway down the street as we passed by another alley on the right I caught a glimpse of the sign we had been looking for! We backed up again and found the small church building hidden in this little alley neighborhood. We made it in time for the last half of Sacrament meeting and the rest of the classes after. We enjoyed visiting with the members there, only a few spoke English, but they all welcomed us with in Spanish with open arms. They were drawn to the baby, and he was passed around, cuddled and kissed by half the women there. It’s a good thing he likes that kind of attention, because it happens often.
As soon as church ended we had to rush back to the boat, to return the car, and get ready to head out. We were going to spend all night moving the boat to the East Coast and a Marina in Punta Cana. Plus, I still hadn’t seen any whales, and I wanted to spend one more time out looking.
Back at the marina, we let the Navy know we would be leaving soon. He notified M2, the DR intelligence officers (who look like teenagers dressed for high school) M2 and the Navy come out and lightly search the boat upon arrival and departure into the port. We told them our plan was to leave the marina and anchor at the nearby Cayo Levantado until 8pm, then we would leave the port and head to Cap Cana. They said okay. What is interesting to me, is that the 40 year old Naval officer was deferring to the young M2 teenagers. The Naval officer fills out the departure documents, and collects the fee, but the M2 guys are the ones who “approve” the departure. They are the ones who search the boat and give the final “okay”. At this point, the naval officer told us, that the fee for the despacho was “$20US, and that if we wanted to, we could tip them. He then finished filling out his paperwork while David laid the $20 fee on the table. David, who was not going to “tip” them, aka, bribe them, headed out to the back deck to ready the tender tow lines. So I was left in the living room, with the 3 officials, who were “hanging out” for their tip. They eventually left, but it was a little awkward.
After we got the boat anchored at the island nearby, we loaded into the tender and headed out to the mouth of the bay to look for humpback whales. They come here every winter by the thousands to mate. It’s still early in the season, and the tours were not operating just yet. I hoped we would see at least one leaping from the air, but we didn’t even see a tail splash. I was disappointed, and told David that someday we would most definitely come back to see the whales.
After our short whale hunt trip, we loaded back on the boat, ate dinner, then readied ourselves to leave. The anchorage was VERY rolly. So much so, that I told David that the night had better go well, because I was not turning around to go back to that anchorage. After dinner, we got the kids ready for bed, then pulled up the anchor. We had a 12 hour voyage ahead so we couldn’t leave to early. We had called the marina to let them know we were coming. They told us they have dock hands available at 6:30am, but since the sun doesn’t rise until 7am, we really didn’t want to arrive before it was light. So around 7:30pm we pulled up the anchor and headed on our way. It was a dark night, so I couldn’t even look for whales on our way out of the bay. Bummer.
The fisherman who stopped by the boat at the anchorage wanting to sell us their fresh catch.