Puerto Plata

We wanted to tour the nearby city of Puerto Plata and since we were planning on making it more of a discovery day than anything else we did just about no research ahead of time figuring we would just find what we found. When we saw something interesting we would stop. Our only real goal was to pull over at all the little roadside shacks and bring home as much fresh produce as we could eat and we also wanted to check out the Wal-Mart-like store, La Sirena, for provisioning later on.

We rented our trusty blue motorcycle- the one that has NO suspension on it and off we went.  As we got closer to the city we started to see more and more of the road side stands we were looking forward to stopping at on the way home-so many so that we thought “how do they make money being so close together?”.  Then we drove right by a huge cruise ship. We didn’t even know we were near the water yet-it looked like the giant ship was nestled between two mountains!  All of a sudden the plethora of fruit stands made sense.  Darn- there went that plan for cheap fruit!

We were expecting some crazy city driving.  Crazy city driving has a whole new definition for me now-Holy crap!  There were trucks driving down the wrong side of four-lane roads, vehicles driving in reverse, buses going the wrong way on one-way streets, and three lanes of cars on a two lane road and all the while motorcycles are weaving in and out everywhere. And, of course, there was still the sampling of horses, donkeys, chickens, and goats sharing the roads. Everybody honks for everything which just adds to the craziness. It was an experience! I have never seen driving like it!  We made it through without any crashes, but not necessarily unscathed.  Keith has long red scratches on his stomach from me digging into him with my nails in a death grip just trying to stay on the back of the bike.

To escape the worst of the city driving we got down to the Malecon (road along the water).  It was a little more touristy than we like but we found the “yellow Wal-Mart”.  What can I say- it was just like Wal-Mart, but yellow.  The prices were not great-more like American prices even on the non-imported stuff.  We only bought crackers, butter, and tortilla chips (to go with all those avocados we planned on getting on the way home).  What I was really looking for was a pair of shoes.  My only non-flip-flop style shoes floated away back when we were in the Bahamas.  I didn’t find anything worth buying so it was a quick stop. For lunch we knew we had to get away from the tourist track so we headed up the mountain side until we passed a place that had a line of locals trailing from it’s patio.  Another great lunch for two people under $6.00.

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From there we drove randomly but quickly decided that we couldn’t see the city at all because you had to focus entirely on the traffic.  For sure, it would have been a better choice to take the bus and walk around.  Plus, you get to interact with the city if walking.  Lesson learned. We passed a large open-air alley market that had tables and tables of shoes.  We turned around and gave it a shot.  I found a pair I liked but we had a translation error.  We thought they were 340 pesos (not unrealistic- there were signs for shoes for 200 pesos nearby).  They were 3400 pesos-almost $70.00!  I thought there would be a problem when we changed our mind but the seller just chuckled at us and told us to have a good day.  Silly gringos.  We wandered through some more of the market. This was certainly the local market.  They were selling underwear by the mound-full  and mops by the bucket load, not jewelry and trinkets. It was a little claustrophobic but the vendors were not overly pushy. Well, except for the one who wanted to sell Keith a pair of boat shoes. He wouldn’t let go of Keith’s hand after he shook it.  I guess we had a “boater” look to us.  It was fun and not at all like my traumatic experience at the Straw Market in Nassau many, many years ago.  Thank goodness!

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We decided to not push our luck with the city driving and headed home.  The roadside stands were a bust- too close to the cruise ship as we expected.  They wanted wanted $3.00 for a pineapple and they asked for it both in English and in US currency right away.  Nope, not what we were looking for. We stopped at a few stands/family homes way outside of the city, the prices were normal again. At one a man was making fresh peanut butter in his shack and used his fork (that he had been eating from) to scoop out some of his new batch for me to try.  Please tell me…what is the proper response to that?!??  I picked the blob off with my fingers and licked the non-fork-touching side but not enough to actually get any on my tongue. I bought two plantains and we escaped as quickly and politely as we could!  We didn’t buy any peanut butter.

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The last stop of the day was at the cheese factory right outside Luperon.  We were led into the only door which led to the human resources office. There were the of the remains of a big sheet-cake, half-full bottles of warm soda, and lots of paper plates- the universal picture of an office birthday party. We thought we were in the wrong place but there was a scale on the desk and we weighed out a big ball of cheese for less than $2.00. It was the score of the day. Keith was a happy boy.

Cheese to go with our crackers and avocados to go with our chips.  It was a successful day despite our non-existent planning. We came home exhausted.

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^^ I thought that maybe in the city we wouldn’t see as much of the friendly faces or receive the warm greetings that we love so much about the people of Luperon and the small surrounding villages we have been to.  I was so wrong.  Everywhere we have gone people are happy and so friendly. We like it here (even if the driving is scary).

Motorcycles!!!!

Keith, I may have mentioned once or twice, has been obsessed with getting on a motorcycle here.  He finally rented one for the day.Unfortunately we had to stay close by because the cold front was arriving and we were not sure what to expect in the harbor.  We had so much fun just touring close by that after telling Antares and Blabber about it we all rented motorcycles for the next day. They cost about $10.00 a day. We had already rode around so much that our butts hurt, but it didn’t stop us from going again!DSCN8760_Fotor

We had arranged to have three motorcycles the night before and they were waiting for us in the morning.

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^^ Walewijn, Quirijn and Hedda from Antares all set to go!

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^^ Ben and Ingrid from Blabber all set to go!

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^^Wright Away all set to go!

 

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We quickly left the town and got on the country roads. There are lots of small family farms.  Some had gardens and field crops others had pastures.  It was very overcast but the views were still stunning!

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We passed lots of horseback/donkeyback riders.  Some were herding cattle some were carrying produce.  Others were just traveling.

DSCN8841_Fotor^^ One of many “where are we- where should we go” stops.  Also provided a “give my butt a break” stop.

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^^ One of many traffic jams we encountered. It is against the law to honk your horn at a cow here.  Not that we ever would.

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Everyone we met was so helpful and everyone we passed waved and shouted “hola”.  It was easy to find someone willing to help with directions and if we were stopped on the side of the road to rest or sightsee we were asked if everything was OK.

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The floods that hit Haiti also hit the Dominican Republic.  We came across a bridge that had be swept away in the floods.  This man has made a raft and ferries the motorcycles, and their riders, across the river.  It was so fun to watch.

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^^Here is us deciding whether we should cross the river or not.  It looked like a fun experience, but in the end we decided not to.  We were not sure what was on the other side of the river and also we were afraid that when we came back the raft tender might not be there anymore.  Sensibility won out and we chose another route.

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^^ The horse did not ride on the raft, it crossed up river where it was a shallower.

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^^ Another traffic jam

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^^ One more traffic jam.

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^^ We stopped in the small beach town of La Isabella to grab lunch.  It had the perfect little beach shack.  We were the only ones around and it was beautiful!

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^^ Despite the bar offering a picture menu, it didn’t have a tourist feel to it.

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^^ Perhaps not the most local choice of cuisine, but I think the brothers that owned the shack were from Spain.  I think, I’m not sure.  The pizza was good though!

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We rode around for a few more hours and stopped at the ice-cream shop next to the red and white polka dot café.  An ice-cream cone is about 50 cents here.

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It was another fantastic day!!!