Our First Week in the Dominican
This morning we were up early for breakfast at the Hotel Europa which served us a traditional European breakfast of eggs, toast, jam, fruit, and various juices. What added to the European ambiance was the view of ancient Dominican ruins that could be seen from from the rooftop terrace. After everyone was well fed we walked a few blocks through the colonial zone of Santo Domingo to the Hispaniola Language School where the students had a Spanish class. Jon showed us that he was already up to speed and spoke at a high level throughout class. Language class was followed by a dance class where we learned how to dance Merengue, Bachata, and Salsa. Sydney especially enjoyed the dance class, being a competitive dancer herself and shared that she loves learning new dances. After dancing we met with our tour guide and began a walking tour of the Colonial District. We had all worked up an appetite at this point and so we went out to lunch followed by our own walking tour of Santo Domingo which included souvenir shopping and viewing historic buildings and statues such as a statue of Christopher Columbus. Afterwards we had an early dinner followed by an early bed time as the students still had some sleep to catch up on.
This morning we had another early breakfast and afterwards took a taxi ride to the Tres Ojos Caverns 20 minutes away and enjoyed a walking tour of the interesting cave system once lived in by native Taino Indians. Then we headed back to our hotel to finish packing our bags for our next adventure. After a 3 hour bus ride North to Jarabacoa we settled into Hotel Pinar Dorado. The weather was a balmy 80 degrees and so the group decided to take a dip in the pool. We then spent time playing games focused on teamwork and getting to know each other more intimately.
Today the adrenaline levels were at an all time high. Our group began with a short ride to Rancho Baiguate where we sat and watched a short safety video on white water rafting. We then grabbed our wetsuits, life jackets, and helmets and headed to the river. Once we arrived at the Río Yaque (Yaque River), we went over the paddling instructions one more time and then got on the water. During the first few sections Sophie was reluctant that she would enjoy the ride. Yet after she made it through a few rapids she was all smiles until we made it back for lunch. Back at Rancho Baiguate we enjoyed a Dominican style buffet and laughed at our pictures taken on the river. After lunch we headed over to the ropes course where we challenged our strength and balance off the ground. Ted had a successful go at the course and was thrilled to have taken one step closer to conquering his fear of heights.
After our day of thrills we awoke early to begin our day of endurance which would entail 10 miles of hiking. We began by taking a ride past along the Rio Yaque and up into the cloud forest. We stopped at the small village of La Cienaga where we left our bags to be carried by mules and began hiking. After hiking 3 miles to Los Tablones, where we would sleep that night, we took a short break and then continued to the steeper section leading to La Laguna. Ben was the first to reach La Laguna, where we had a lunch of fresh fruit and sandwiches while we admired the scenic views. After hiking back to camp we relaxed by the river and enjoyed the sound of water rushing past our tired legs. That night we had a hearty dinner of rice and beans with chicken. For dessert we were delighted to have s’mores around the campfire as we told campfire stories .
Camping out in our quaint mountain hut everyone had a great nights sleep and awoke to a breakfast of champions. Steak and potatoes with fresh fruit is the best way to start a day of exercise. After packing up camp we hiked the remaining three miles back and headed back to Jarabacoa. When we arrived the group was tired from the day before and opted to swim in the pool and enjoy the great weather that we were so lucky to have.