Today, we had a Dominican adventure. A few friends and I decided to go to La Romana. We didn’t really have a plan, but we knew how to get there, and Rachel had a visitor’s guide with things to see.
Our adventure began when we arrived at the park, only to realize it was about as exciting as the park in San Pedro. Now, this park did have two rows of baseball statues, so it was slightly more interesting than San Pedro’s.
There was a beautiful church in the guide book. The picture showed a massive statue in front of the church. When we reached the end of the park, we found the church, and the statue… which was probably about 4 feet tall. Photographers can do magical things with angles.
After taking a couple pictures of the church, we decided to ask around to see how far the river was. The guide book said there were places where we could rent paddle boats. Taking boats down the river sounded relaxing and fun, and we didn’t care if we were being a bit touristy. The people said the river was far, but a taxi driver said he could take us. He gave us a price to take us there, wait for us, and take us back. Great!
He drove for a while, and finally pulled over near the river, under a very tall bridge. There were no paddle boats. In fact, there wasn’t much of anything. He stopped in the gravel, and got out of the car. We did see a van down near the river, and he began to walk toward it. I think we were all thinking the same thing—”where are the paddle boats? certainly not here!” He told us to come with him, but we kept back enough distance to feel safe.
At this point, I was glad we had our Dominican friend, Luis, with us, both because he’s a guy, and because he’s Dominican so he should be more aware if anything was too sketchy.
The taxi driver, Carlo, came back to us and told us the boats were, “This way.” He began walking a worn path along the river. We followed. Not too long later, we saw a very rickety shack-like dwelling and a toddler running around in her underwear. We saw what maybe used to be boats, but they certainly didn’t look functional.
An old man who wore a rope as a belt around his very baggy pants came to greet us. Carlo explained that we wanted a tour of the river, and the man agreed to take us. His wife came out to scoop water out of the boat.
The four of us, Rachel, Luis, Kristin, and I, carefully made our way into the boat, and Carlo joined us, too. After getting situated, we were paddled down the river for a tour. Carlo told us that Anaconda, one of the King Kong movies, and Apocalypse Now were all filmed on this very river. Upon researching IMDB, only one of those turned out to be true. We also passed some cliffs where the old man told us the Indians used to dwell. As he said this, we passed an old lady. He said, “That lady there is the last surviving Indian of the caverns.” I’m sure he was 100% accurate.
We saw cows, horses, and enjoyed the “tour” of the river. All in all, though sketchy, the boat ride was a good time, and it made for a great story.
But the story isn’t over. Before we got in the boat, Carlo had talked to the man about a price. The man told him we could give him “whatever” and it would be ok. The four of us agreed that 500 pesos was a sufficient price. After exiting the boat, Carlo said he was heading to the taxi because a storm was approaching and he’d left the windows open. That left us alone to pay the man. We gave him the 500 pesos, but he wasn’t satisfied. We tried to tell him it was a fair price, but he wouldn’t hear it, so we gave him more and walked down the path.
Three girls played as we walked away, and a couple young guys just watched us. They never said anything.
We told Carlo what happened, and he said he would talk to the man. He and Luis walked the path again to figure out the whole situation. Meanwhile, the young guys were walking toward us. One was holding something behind his back. I got a little nervous because Luis, our protection, had just walked away from us with Carlo! I was anxious because I thought the guy was carrying a machete (which is common here, but he was hiding it, so that made me uneasy). It turned out that he was not carrying a machete. Instead, it was a gun. Even better. They passed us silently, and just then, Luis and Carlo turned and came back to us.
We got in the taxi and drove away. As it was all happening, I was conscientious of possible scenarios, but I never really felt in any danger. However, when I sat to write the story, all I could think about was how my friends would be messaging me to BE CAREFUL! I contemplated not telling the story, but it was too great to keep to myself.
We went to a really nice little restaurant, had a delicious dinner, and finished our day with a much needed cappuccino.
And that was our adventure.