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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Dominican Highlands

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC | Friday, 29 June 2012 | Views [1291]

As I began my journey south from Tubagua I have my first hitchhiking experience in the Dominican Republic. First in a car and then in the backs of two utes, all the way to Santiago. Earlier I hoped I'd get a lift from someone heading to Santo Domingo because it was early and people likely would be driving from Puerto Plata to "La Capital." Santiago is too big and too hot to walk to the edge of town for a lift, so I was dropped off at the guagua stop. The man who dropped me off told me to take a guagua to La Vega and get one to Constanza from there. It was packed solid but it had air conditioning. Less than an hour later I was in La Vega but I found out there were no more guaguas to Constanza until tomorrow. That frustrated me because I didn't realize how big La Vega is, so I started walking back out to where I thought the Autopista Duarte. The heat was searing but then dark grey clouds hovered over. Although they create a cooling effect it started to rain and I was lost. Finally I found a motoconcho that took me where there was a guagua to El Albonico; I could hitchhike to Constanza from there. Today I was quite tired and worn out. I've been on a rather limited amount of sleep for a journey due to my project. Once in El Albonico I got an apple juice as I stood on the side of the road in anticipation of a lift that will relieve me from the heat. Moments later a ute stopped for me and I hopped in. The road is literally straight up (the road is curvy) a steep hill and there's a spectacular view of the lowlands below! The vegetation began to change as there are pine trees alongside palm leaves, and the air is noticeably cooler. The highlands are prime growing areas for strawberries, flowers, peaches, and garlic. Grey clouds passed periodically and at any time I had to be ready to wrap my backpack inside my pack liner.

Approximately 20 km from El Albonico the driver of the ute had to stop and do some work related before we were on our way to Constanza. I told Eduardo (my CS host) I'd be there by 2:00 PM and I thought I'd get to Constanza with plenty of time to spare but it took awhile to get lifts earlier and I got lost in La Vega so it took me a lot longer than I expected. And the drive, despite being only 51 km takes well over an hour. Dropped off just short of Constanza I got a lift in the back of another truck the rest of the way and I looked around for Eduardo but I didn't see him. I thought he'd recognize me because I appeared to be the only gringo in town. After it rained and I strolled I called in at a restaurant where I called Eduardo. It turned out he lives 20 km east (from the way I came) and he had ridden his motorcycle all the way to Constanza and then rode back, but he still agreed to come get me. At the restaurant I was chatting with the waitress: a gorgeous girl named Penelope. Dominican women are widely regarded as being extremely beautiful but to be honest I haven't seen that many beautiful girls. I wanted to hang out with Penelope longer but Eduardo showed up. When he told me he waited almost two hours I felt really bad. He wasn't upset though. We stopped at the supermarket so I could grab some snacks and then, on his motorcycle we headed east. It was quite chilly! About as un-Caribbean as you can get in the Caribbean. Grey skies, mountains, cool air, and rain prevail here. Bring a coat or at least a jumper if you're planning a trip up here. Halfway to his house we stopped and got some strawberries.

Eduardo's family greeted us at the door when we got here and his mother immediately made me some rice and beans and a cup of coffee. One thing I've sure not gone without is food. At every place I've stayed or visited I've been offered food of some description; it reminds me of being in New Zealand or the various Pacific islands. Later, Eduardo's friends asked if he wanted to go camping and he then asked me. I wasn't really up for it because I was pretty beat today. Sitting there, I thought about it and then thought "whilst I'm tired, I may not have another chance to camp in the Dominican wilderness so I'd better cherish the moment." The skies were getting dark so we packed up some gear and we were set to go. I have no tent, no sleeping bag, and not even a warm jacket, but Eduardo brought an extra blanket and let me borrow a jacket. Into this seemingly out-of-place wilderness I felt like we were going camping in Idaho. But, this was a totally different camping experience. There's no state-of-the-art camping gear, such as a nylon tent with metal poles and stakes, or a 3-season sleeping bag. These guys say they've never camped, and brought along a large piece of tarp and a machete, which they'd use to cut some thick logs to support the tarp. A brief but heavy rain crashed down on us but it dissipated shortly after and we had the tent set up. These guys had trouble getting a campfire going, but when I had it going they were impressed with my campfire building skills (and I was never in the Boy Scouts). With my various outdoor experience and the time spent in New Zealand I have a lot of camping and outdoor skills. It was lots of great fun this evening; laughing, chatting, and having a rum with Tampico.

The sky was clear and the stars were beautiful with crickets and the wind the only noise we'd hear...

Eduardo woke me, "Chris, wake up we gotta go" he shouted. We took down the tent and cleaned up all of our rubbish. As we sat around the fire last night I made an announcement to the guys to not leave any rubbish whatsoever. Eduardo told me that people in the Constanza region are much better about cleaning up their rubbish than those in other parts of the country. This morning was brilliant!

Still a little tired, we made our way down the hill to Eduardo's house. Earlier I had comtemplated staying another night but today I'd be heading back to Santo Domingo. We got back to his house and Eduardo had parked his motorcycle in the front room; somebody might steal it otherwise.

Ready for me was a foot-high plate of mangu, and I could only eat about a quarter of it! Food, food, and more food! Calling Jorge, I told him I'd be back in "La Capital" at roughly 3:00 PM so I was in no hurry to go anywhere. Since Eduardo is just getting started on CS I helped him upload a photo and I talked to him about the basics. In a few months he's moving to New York to go to film school, where he'll live with his uncle. "Nueva York" is a term you'll here a lot out here as many Dominicans dream of (and likely have family near) the Manhattan skyline. I strolled around their flower farm and put my feet in the creek behind their property. It sure is beautiful! Eduardo was heading to La Vega in a while, so I hitched in the back of a truck packed with a bicycle, luggage, and two other passengers back toward El Albonico. The pine trees and cool air later subsided and the palm leaves and sweltering lowland heat took over once again.


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