Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dominican Republic – Monte Cristi

 We checked into the DR at Monte Cristi, a small town in the northwestern corner of the country, close to the border with Haiti.  Unfortunately, our experience here was marred by the unexpected “fees” charged by the local Commandante of the Marina de Guerra (coast guard).  He actually held onto our boat documentation until we paid him, much to our dismay and the disgust of the local woman who was translating for us.  However, everyone else we met was delightful.  The translator, Soraya, runs a small stand selling soft drinks and beer along the beach road to the town of Monte Cristi, and her husband, Santo, takes tourists out by boat to view the mangroves, or go to some of the nearby islands.  They were incredibly helpful and nice.  Another nice young man was Isael, who was “assigned” to take us around on the local mode of transportation, the motor concho, which is a small scooter.  It was cozy with the three of us (Isael, Anne, and Chris) squished on the seat, but we saw up to five people (an adult driver and four school girls) on one.  And it turns out that Isael is a member of the marine police.  We found this out in an odd way.  I thought it was his cell phone tucked into the back of his pants that was jabbing me in the stomach when we were on the motor concho, but it turned out it was the butt of his pistol.  We certainly felt safe with him!  Isael spoke not a word of English, and we speak little Spanish, but between hand signals and my little dictionario, we got along well.  We were unsure why he had been assigned to us, since this is a tourist area and we didn’t feel unsafe when we were out and about on our own.  Everyone said “Hola!” (hi in Spanish), and one day we got a jovial ribbing by a bunch of guys enjoying a beer at an outdoor bar when they saw us walking by carrying a carton of 30 eggs (they cost 95 pesos, or about $2.50, and we couldn’t pass up the bargain – omelets for everyone!), and they shouted “Huevos!  Muchos huevos!” (Eggs!  Many eggs!).  We climbed El Morro, a cool-looking mountain that descends in cliffs to the water, and had terrific views, though the steps haven't been tended to for quite a while, making for some tricky climbing in areas.

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