Saturday, April 9, 2005

Dominican Republic Trip: Day 10

Yay! Saturday! We got up early, ate breakfast, and went on a road trip in an Isuzu SUV borrowed from the school principal.

We took a highway out of San Juan towards Barahona, and then turned northward, passing through little towns like Vicente Noble, Tamayo, and Galván. In Galván, we stopped and bought 2 kinds of mangoes, a big kind and a little kind. We ate them on the side of the road, and they were SO yummy!

Eating Mangoes (but on a later date, not the particular ones I was referring to on the side of the road)

Have I described eating mangoes? I had never eaten a whole mango before coming down here. We just happened to come right at the beginning of mango season, so they were very cheap, about 5 pesos each (18 cents). To eat a mango, you take a big bite at the bottom, suck the flesh off the peel that’s in your mouth, and spit out the peel. (You can eat the peel, but only if it’s well washed. I ate the peel on one bite. It’s not too bad—easily chewable and not bitter or anything—but not as good as the inside.) Then you peel the rest of the mango and eat bites off the seed. This is very fibrous and you get tons of little strings stuck in your teeth to pick out afterward, but the good taste makes it worth it. You can’t get the seed cleaned off, because the fibers are firmly rooted into it, but you can comb most of the yummy stuff out and then throw the seed away. All this time, your hands and face are getting bathed in sticky, gooey yellow liquid that takes a lot of licking and wiping and washing afterward, but this, too, is worth it for the pleasure of eating the fruit.

After eating our mangoes, we went a little farther and came to this beautiful clear blue pool of water that came from a spring. It was called, “Las Marías” (I think), and a few people were swimming in it. We took a few pictures and Jonatán got in to swim. I dangled my feet in the water and little minnows nibbled my toes. Later we heard that a lot of people drowned in this water because they couldn’t swim and didn’t realize that it was very deep in the middle. It was hard to tell. The rocks were so easy to see in that clear water, and they seemed so close by, it was hard to believe it was deep.

After this pleasantly refreshing stop, we continued our journey. Down the road a little way, we came up to a car, a bicycle, and a motorcycle all clumped up close together. At first it looked like the bikes were hitching a ride from the car to save their energy, but when we got close we saw that it was the other way around: the bikes were pulling the car! The bicyclist had his arm hooked into the front window of the car and was straining at the pedals as hard as he could, and the motorcyclist had his foot braced against the back bumper, pushing from behind. They were going slowly, but they were moving.

We passed through more towns—El Salado, Nebya, Jaragua, La Descubierto, Los Rios. El Salado means “salted,” and the land there is so salty it cannot be cultivated. Neyba is in the valley of Neyba, one of the three major valleys in the Dominican Republic.

Somewhere along the way here we came upon El Lago Enriquillo, the largest lake in the country and saltier than the ocean. It was named after a man who gathered a big army on a mountain and fought against the Spaniards when they invaded. Initially he had been friendly with them, but when he saw that they were killing his people, he turned against them.

We were heading north with the lake on our left when we pulled off the road to see a rock formation on our right. It was called “Las Caritas,” which means "The little faces," and it had Indian carvings of round happy faces in the rock. They were very cute! Rosie, Jonathan and I climbed up to see it close-up, took some pictures, and scrambled around up there. We had a good view of El Lago Enriquillo from there, and we could also see the Haitian border.

After seeing that, we continued on up around the north side of the lake. Here, there was another spring like Las Marías, only this one was called Las Barías. It was larger and had colder water, and there were tons of people there. We ate our lunch under the delightful cool shade of the trees, among people who either wanted to sell us something (mangoes, grapes, straw hats) or who wanted some of our food. We gave them some.

After lunch, we drove on around and down the other side of Enriquillo Lake, though we couldn’t see it. As we went south we went through a town called Jimaní that had been flooded last year. Everything was a picture of total devastation and ruin. The river had swept through, ripped houses apart, and deposited a layer of stones that covered the ground. Nobody lived there anymore. Most of them died, and the rest had to find somewhere else to live. Nobody was rebuilding—there wasn’t money or manpower left to do it. It was a sobering sight. I will have the image of that field of stones in my mind whenever I think of Jimaní.

Then we went down to Barahona on the Caribbean Sea. On this whole trip we had been stopped every so often at military checkpoints, but on the road to here they seemed especially watchful. Mr. Encarnación said that there was a lot of smuggling of drugs and other contraband material from Haiti. A lot of people have STD’s there, too, and they’re not allowed to enter the Dominican Republic. However, every time we stopped, they treated Mr. Encarnación with great respect. He told us it was because they saw the ring on his hand from his university. He always greeted them in a friendly manner with a smile, “¿Cómo estamos, hermanos?,” and after looking in the windows at us, they would let us pass.

Barahona meant the beach! It felt so good to get out of the cramped back seat and see the beautiful ocean with its waves just in front of us. We swam for about an hour and had such a beautiful time! The air was so warm, and the water felt so good, and there were beautiful tropical fish swimming all around.

From the beach, we went back to Eulalia’s house. It took a long time and I wrote in my journal all the way. I finally stopped after it had been too dark to see for a while, and my writing there was so messy! It had been a busy, long, fun day.

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1 comment:

  1. I didn't remember the part about the little faces. It was so nice you and Rosie got to take that trip and so nice of Pastor Encarnacion and Tati to be such amazing hosts!


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