Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dominican Republic

Trip Date: February 2005

In 2004 a group of friends and I were talking about going someplace warm over the March break in early 2005.  We settled on Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic purely for monetary reasons; namely we were all university students with part-time jobs and it was one of the cheapest options!  This trip would mark my first time having the all-inclusive experience on a vacation.  Although I think there's a time and place for the all-inclusive vacation, I think I prefer different ways of travelling.  I think part of why I feel this way is because I get bored on the resort and I need to get out and see the town/city or the surrounding countryside, taste the local food, hear the local language, and experience how the locals live their day-to-day lives.  It has taken me quite a few years of travelling to come to this conclusion, mind you, and this trip was exactly what it should have been; a break from work and school, with lots of sun, too many beers, and some great stories!

The Dominican Republic is one of two countries that share the island of Hispaniola, the other being Haiti.  The island is located in the Caribbean region and is part of the Greater Antilles archipelago.  The Dominican Republic is the second largest Caribbean nation, both by area (48,445 square-kilometres) and population (approximately 9.5 million).  The capital city is Santo Domingo and is also the country's largest city with about 1 million people.  San Felipe de Puerto Plata, or more commonly referred to as just Puerto Plata, is the capital city of the northern province of Puerto Plata, and is also the city we flew into.  The official language is Spanish.

Dominican Republic
The five of us drove from Regina to Winnipeg where we met Tate, who opted to fly there.  Our flight to the Dominican Republic left out of Winnipeg instead of Regina.
The Winnipeg airport.  We can't get there quickly enough.
The Fun Royale Beach Resort
We stayed in small cabins as opposed to a bigger hotel-style resort
The pool area
The beach and mountain scenery
Malorie, Mike, Tate, and Rob
Tate and Mike decided to try para-sailing
The view from above the boat
This bartender stole Rob's cowboy hat.  Luckily for Rob he gave it back...eventually!
On one of our first nights the resort threw a big beach party
We weren't prepared for the lighting of the bon fire, which was more of a fireball!
Christine and I
As part of our vacation package we got to go horseback riding
Rob even tried to look the part of a cowboy, but they made him wear a helmet instead
Heading out for an extremely humid horseback ride
The girls before our à la carte dinner
The Brazillian à la carte restaurant
Enjoying a pretty amazing meal with some great friends
We nominated Mal for a dance competition on stage.  We found out afterwards it was a contest for children!
Perhaps my boredom for resorts started on this trip as we ventured away from it on a few different occasions.  One of these excursions was the Jones Truck Safari Tour.  We wanted to get out and see different parts of the island, more of the city, and have a couple of adventures along the way.  This tour would give us a great sampling of the Dominican Republic with a few thrills thrown in!

Christine, Malorie, Me, Mike, and Rob about to board the safari truck
The Brugal Rum warehouse in Puerto Plata
Jungle scenery.  Parts of the movie Jurassic Park were filmed in this area.
Grinding coffee beans
Mike, Christine, Mal, and Rob
A captive Iguana
A Boa Constrictor and a Hispaniolan Parrot
Wild Peacock
Pineapple plant
We were shown a mock cock fight.  The guide explained that if cock fighting wasn't illegal, it would be the country's national sport.  Millions of dollars are bet every year on cock fighting on the island.  
Sugarcane field
As part of the safari we did a waterfall tour.  We actually climbed up several levels of this cascading waterfall and then got to slide back down.  The rocks were very smooth from the rushing water, it was like a natural water-slide.
Overlooking the ocean
San Felipe de Puerto Plata
One of the locals
Our last adventure of the trip was white-water rafting. We got a ride to Jarabacoa, which is about 110km south of Puerto Plata, and located in the central region of the country among the Cordillera Central mountain range, also known as "The Dominican Alps".  We would be rafting the Rio Yaque del Norte (The North River), which is the longest river in the Caribbean.  The rapids are classed between 1 and 4, and carry names such as "Mike Tyson", which is a 12-foot vertical drop, "The Toilet", and "The Cemetery".

This was our raft guide.  He wanted us to call him "Whiskey"!
Rio Yaque del Norte
Going over rapids
We even got to do some cliff jumping.  This is me jumping off El Cerrazo Rock.  
Mal, Mike, Rob, and Christine
Group photo in the river
One of many Geckos we saw around the resot
Rob and a reasonable-sized cigar!
Time for some snorkeling.  We saw a few fish, a sunken fishing boat and this Sea Urchin.
I was also lucky enough to see this Octopus before he squirted ink and disappeared
Snake Eel
Dominican sunset
Silhouette of a Palm Tree
Getting in touch with my Saskatchewan roots
The six of us on one of our last nights.  This trip definitely infected me with the travel bug!

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