Today we headed out to Moca, Jarabacoa, and Santiago. We started off the morning with a great breakfast. Ed, who works at 3MM, was nice enough to have arranged for the breakfast to be delivered to our villa and chose some great food for us to eat. He knows that we love chinola or passion fruit so he brought passion fruit juice, passion fruit juice with oatmeal, passion fruit cake and even the regular passion fruit. There was also banana bread, pineapple, papaya, and coffee. I tried the banana bread, passion fruit cake, passion fruit juice, passion fruit juice with oatmeal, and the passion fruit itself. Everything was delicious. I especially loved the passion fruit itself. It was a little sour and I love sour things so I devoured it. The passion fruit cake was delicious as well. I know when I get home I'm going to be craving some passion fruit since I have had so much of it here.
Our first stop was in Moca. Here we went on a short hike to see a waterfall. The hike to the waterfall was interesting we had to go over long wooden bridges that were hanging over enormous rocks and water. I kept my eyes on the wooden planks because some of them didn't look very secure and I was not about to fall through the bridge. After going over about four of these bridges we finally got to the waterfall it was beautiful. There was a small waterfall hidden among the trees and a larger waterfall. The scenery around the waterfall really made the view; so much vegetation. There were even pine trees there but they didn't look like the pine trees we have at home. The branches on the ones here shoot out at odd angles and they are much heavier. One interesting fact is that if we would have hiked up higher we would have come across another waterfall where they filmed a scene from Jurassic park. I love Jurassic park so seeing this waterfall would have been pretty cool but since we were on a strict time limit we weren’t able to.
Next we were off to lunch. We traveled into Jarabacoa and it was interesting to see the houses here. They seemed nicer than the ones in Cabarete. Apparently the land is cheaper in Jarabacoa than in Caberete. This makes me wonder why more people that live in La Cienega don’t move to Jarabacoa. It is a bit cooler in Jarabacoa due to the high elevations. The house we stopped at for lunch was beautiful. The spread for lunch was delicious there was rice with beans, avocados with oil, salad, and chicken. This seems to be the traditional Dominican meal and I love it.
We had a slight change in plans since the coffee plantation we were supposed to visit is closed on Sunday's (even though they let our guide make reservations for a Sunday). Since we had time to fill we decided to go horseback riding. I was really nervous since I am far from an experienced rider. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time that I have been on a horse. The horses had a saddle but the reins for my horse were so short. I was also nervous because the guides told me that if the horse stands up on his hind legs for some reason to just hold onto the saddle. I wasn’t wearing a helmet so when he told me this I saw my death in the near future. Luckily for me my horse controlled himself somewhat and didn’t stand up on his hind legs. During this adventure I kept telling the guide no quiero a morir (I don't want to die) and miedo (scared). I was saying these things because my horse, Bruno, was crazy. I first decided that he was crazy when we were waiting to start our ride. My horse just decided all on his own that it was time to go and began walking down the road. I had no idea how to make the horse stop so off I went. I just kept shouting back to the group "how do I stop?" "Where am I supposed to go?" I just kept my fingers crossed that the horse knew where he was going because I didn't have a clue. I got to the end of one of the roads and my horse got thirsty and started drinking out of a mud puddle. I was relieved to have stopped because it would give the rest of the group time to catch up and rescue me. Then Bruno decided that he didn't like me very much because he decided to turn around to go back towards the house while the rest of the group continued on. Luckily one of the guides was nearby and helped me turn the horse around. David said I needed to be fuerte when pulling the rains so I pulled harder and got the hang of making my horse turn around. I think that David found my reactions while being on the horse quite funny; at least I was entertaining someone.
Since there was such a large group of us riding and due to the fact that the horses that were traveling at different speeds David had to go back and forth between the slow and fast horses to keep them on track. Every time David came by on his moto I assured him that I was going to die and that Bruno was crazy. My horse really was crazy. He thought he was a racehorse so I was always in the front of the pack. In fact, at one point he was speed racing. He was on a mission and he was flying. So picture this: you are sitting outside your house enjoying your day and here I come flying down the road on my horse shouting to you that "me caballo is loco" I finally learned how to make my horse slow down so the rest of the ride wasn't as bad. The worst part was not knowing where I was going. Like I told David I just knew me and the horse were going to be lost in the wilderness.
When my horse was acting normal I really enjoyed my time. We were traveling down streets where people were sitting outside so I would say hola and talk to them while riding by. It was great to interact with the community. After riding for a while we came to a river and David thought it would be fun to take the horses into the river. I was not as excited about this. Especially since on the way to the river my horse kept walking around the mud puddles which meant that my face kept getting slapped by tree branches. When we got to the river there was a group of locals there. I kept asking them if they wanted my horse so I could get off and ride on David's moto but there wasn't any takers. While in the river the locals were taking pictures of us. In fact, a group of guys came down to the river and asked if they could take pictures with us. It's not like this in Caberete because Caberete is a tourist area so they are used to seeing tourist. I found it so funny that they wanted to take a picture with us but I didn't mind them asking. So there I was stranded on an island in the middle of the river with all the other horses around me. My friend’s horse was next to me and it decided to run its mouth against my leg smearing a bunch of leaves that it was chewing on right onto my leg.
On the way back I felt a lot better because I had a better idea of where we supposed to go and I had a better idea of how to get Bruno to move the way I wanted too. I was so happy to be on the ground again once I got off the horses. Not just because my horse was crazy but also because there is not a very comfortable way to sit on a horse for a long period of time. However, I am still disappointed that I didn't get to ride the moto but now I can say that I rode a “wild” horse and survived so it was definitely worth the experience.
Next we were on our way to Santiago. On the way we stopped at a beautiful restaurant. It was at such a high elevation that it seemed like we were above the clouds. The view was breathtaking. You could see the whole city of Santiago. It looked like the town was made out of little lego pieces that’s how high up we were. You can just imagine what the ride up to the restaurant was like. There was a lot of twist and turns on unpaved roads. There are actually houses by this restaurant that are gorgeous but I cannot imagine living there because to have to drive up and down the mountain everyday would be brutal. At the restaurant we went to we were able to sit outside so I was able to enjoy the view while I was eating. We got our choice of a brownie, tres leche, or flan. I love brownies but I have been wanting to try different things while I am here so I decided to try the tres leche. I am happy that I did because it was delicious.
Our last stop was a monument that was built while the dictator Trujilo was in power. Before coming on this trip I had to read the book In the Time of the Butterflies which tells of a famous and true story about the Mirabal sisters and the dictator Trujilo. It is a wonderful read that lets one gain insight about the history of the Dominican Republic. The monument was closed by the time that we got there but we still got to look at it from the outside. It was gorgeous. I was exhausted at this point so I wasn’t too disappointed that I wasn’t able to tour the inside of the monument. What was funny is that different groups of people that live in the Dominican Republic kept coming up to us and asking if they could take their pictures with us. Here they were at this beautiful monument and it seemed like they were more interested in the Americans than the monument itself. I just find it so funny. What makes us so special?
Overall the trip was exhausting but I learned a lot about the Domincan Republic. I also like that we got to travel outside of Caberete. I kept saying to my friends on the trip that I wanted to see other parts of the Dominican Republic because I wanted to see how the people live in other areas. Just like in Buffalo I saw that people live differently depending on the area they live in. there are very poor areas, middle class areas, as well as affluent areas. I have been exposed to how the poor and the middle class live and the difference seems to be extreme. I find it very interesting to see how differently people live and how people with so little sometimes seem to be happier than those that have more than them. I think that this is something to truly think about. One needs to take the time to appreciate the little things that they have in life instead of always wanting more.