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Dominican Republic - January 2015
January 01, 2015 Dominican Republic
Today we set off for a quick tour of the Dominican Republic. For the flight we sat on the wing, as usual so there was not much to see. Fortunately the wing (my side anyway) stayed on for the entire trip so we landed at the Samana airport safely and on time. We piled into a little pick-up truck and headed out into the interior of the island. The size of our group required that some sit in the luggage compartment. The truck broke about an hour in. Zoraida called in a favour from a cousin who lived close by and when the replacement vehicle arrived we made our way through the countryside past rice fields and small towns until La Vega, our base of operations for the trip. I used the Fuji X100s camera exclusively. Many of the shots were played with in Photoshop. Any errors or soft focus was strictly operator error. The little camera never let me down. I kept a spare battery in the little pocket in the right pocket of my jeans but never needed it. I just popped it in the camera before I went to bed and put the used battery in the charger. Love the look of the camera and the focal length is about perfect for travel shots.
Javier Sitting in the Luggage Compartment
Bienvenidos La Vega
When we arrived in La Vega we were well received by our friends and family there.
Marina With Old Friend
Little Girl With Tissue
Angela Behind Bars
Man Behind Bars
Marisol and Chia
Marina with the Kitchen Helpers
Zoraida and Yuselbio
Zoraida and Old Friend
January 02, 2015 Morning - Las Uvas
This morning we visit the farm where Javier grew up. We met his father and walked around to meet many neighbours. I took a series of portraits of the friendly people. It is perhaps 20 kilometers from La Vega. We had to walk the last part because the road is steep and subject to being very slippery if it rains. It does rain here a little every day this time of year. The soil is black and quite fertile. We saw good farms using modern technology for the agricultural trade beside very simple organic operations for personal use. There are flowers everywhere.
Part of the reason for the trip is to import simple technology we might use at the cabin in Canada. We encountered the simplest camp stove this morning. This is basically a couple of bricks with a grill. It is inefficient as it uses too much wood. Also because it has no chimney the wood smoke collects in the shelter which cannot be good to breathe. The simple Camp Stove here is a typical example. Later we will encounter a Lorena Stove which, although simple to build is much more efficient and user friendly.
Roadway to Las Uvas
Simple Camp Stove
Las Uvas Portrait #1
Las Uvas Portrait #2
Las Uvas Portrait #3
Las Uvas Portrait #4
Las Uvas Portrait #6
Javier with Old Friend
January 02, 2015 Evening - La Vega Christmas Lights
This evening we walked to the central square to see the lights.
La Vega - Christmas Lights
January 03, 2015 80th Birthday Party for Mother Teresa
It is Saturday and so we have the birthday party for Teresa. It was a lovely party for young and old. I suppose there were a couple hundred who showed up. A priest came to bless Teresa and also two other couples who celebrated their 28th and 30th wedding anniversaries. After a merengue band showed up and played live music all night. The food was good and our two big boxes of souvenirs which I was so worried about getting through customs were well received as were the flowers. I spent the night taking quick candid shots. There was a lot of love in the room. 25 Souvenirs.
Third Place in a Beauty Contest
January 04, 2015 Exercise and Vacation Property
Today we have a look at exercise equipment found in many of the central squares. Apparently a program to introduce physical fitness to the masses. The pieces we saw had clear instructions, were easy to use and quite durable. These have been in place for a couple of years, they show signs of use but are in excellent condition.
Later in the day we travel up the mountain to the vacation property of our friends Augustin and Sofia. It is a simple shelter with a more sophisticated cooking arrangement. The stove has a draw and connection with a chimney so that the smoke exhausts outside of the shelter. We plan to introduce a similar design to our cabin in the woods in Canada. I love Augustin's place up in the mountain. You have wonderful views of the La Vega valley which Columbus apparently thought was the most beautiful spot in the world. It is nice. There is a comfortable covered shelter to eat and relax. The patio lookout is always cool because of the constant breeze. We enjoyed a delicious lunch. Afterwards everyone just relaxed, played dominos or Bingo, talked to friends or just took in the beautiful view.
Town Square Art
Korea Living Sport Equipment
Public Exercise Machines
We visit Augustin's vacation property
Shelter with Lookout on right
January 5, 2015 Today we travel up into the mountain and back in time to the little farm where Marina's family lives. We are to celebrate the 30th wedding anniversary of Chilo and Miledes, the uncle and aunt of Marina. They grew up there also. You can get pretty close now by car but that was not always the way. I remember twenty five years ago when the long last part of the journey was by donkey, motorcycle of foot.
First I took this shot of a stylish woman who brandished a cane with authority.
Woman With a Cane
On the Road
The last part of the trip was by foot. The farther we went the narrower the path. It also seemed like we were walking back in time. Everyone had a great time. There was plenty to eat. There was plenty to dring. There must have been a few hundred guests. People kept arriving all afternoon. The Merengue group was amazing. When the party was winding down there was a beautiful rainbow which I took to be a good omen.
Off the Road
Just around the bend
Then up the hill
Past the Wall of Trees
I liked this one in B & W
Better Get Directions
Rest a bit
Back in Time
Party in full swing
(they are shy)
They Are Shy
Blessing the Tinfoil
Plenty of Food
Back in Time
Miledys, her Daughter and a Friend
Over the Rainbow
The Rainbow shot with the X100s toy camera filter, ND Filter and contrast ajustment added in PS
January 6 - 9, 2015 Marisol and I left the group in La Vega and took off early in the morning to go to La Romana. The rest of the group had things to do and we wanted to visit with our friend Andrew who was staying at his place down there. We took public transit which for long hauls seems pretty safe. There is a fleet of busses travelling from hubs in major towns. We had to change busses in the Santo Domingo but the waiting time was, by luck or good design, only minutes. The busses were clean, there was wifi and an action movie which appeared to be North American, filmed in Brazil dubbed partially back into English, renamed and shown with Spanish subtitles.
To Santo Domingo
Sunrise shot from the bus
The Luminatti Headquarters
To La Romana
(Woah! Free Wi Fi and a Movie)
Andrew's Place in La Romana is a dream. We could only spend three days and I was quite sorry to leave. Andrew and Fran have a lot of style and their attention to detail is wonderful. You would never know the place exists. Found on a very simple street within walking distance to the central square and shopping, hidden by an anonymous rented home on the street front but if you travel down a little side lane to the back yard there is the main house, guest house/bedrooms, outdoor patio, kitchen, pool and tropical rainforest in the dry La Romana climate. It was a relief to have real air conditioning, hot showers and for the first time in the Dominican, blessed relief from the mosquitoes by screens on all the doors and windows.
Screen Door to Big House
Pool / Big House
To the Guest House / Bedroom
Attention to Detail
Attention to Detail
Statue Carved From Giant Hurricane Log
Marisol Beside Statue for Sense of Scale
(4 Gas Burners, Gas Griddle BBQ- Hot and cold running water)
Outdoor Kitchen Detail Griddle and BBQ Combination
Outdoor Kitchen Pizza / Bake Oven
Big House Ceiling
Big House Kitchen
Big House Living Room
Tonight after some fine wine and long conversation into the night we settle in for a hot shower and good long sleep. Tomorrow I pick up a chip for the iPad - Claro will sell me one for about $30 for fast internet all over the island - One month or 5 GB whichever comes first. This is almost free when compared to Rogers roaming charges. Then a bit of exploring the city and we are off to the beach.
Image removed at request of model
As the suns sinks slowly in the west we bid fond farewell to Bayahibe
By the second day I picked up a chip for my iPad from the Claro dealer for around $28 CDN which gave me fast internet access all over the island up to 5GB for the month. I was able to answer e-mails and forward instructions to the office on the bus or in the mountains. We wandered around La Romana to see a little of the town including Jumbo supermarket which was well stocked with an excellent variety of good food somewhat like a Metro in Canada but also with a reasonable selection of beer, wine and spirits at low prices.
I had photo opportunities but missed them. Next time I will try to get one of the train at night. Of the town I shot only these two. They could have been from anywhere.
In the afternoon we visited Esqueleto Beach in La Romana. We went where Andrew used to play as a child. It was a short bike ride from where he grew up. Where we were it was rocky and the was some broken glass and rubbish. We weren't there to swim but rather to relax in the shade and enjoy the cooling sea breeze. Andrew selected some fresh caught Parrot Fish and we had them cooked to order while we sipped on ice cold Presidente beer and Marisol enjoyed cold coconut water. It was delicious.
Skeleton (esqueleto) Beach
Where Andrew Played as a Child
It was from a fallen tree like this that Andrew had the statue in his backyard carved.
Picking out the Fish
Too late to show the fish it was gone in less than 1/60 of a second
In the evening we visit the apartment of Andrew's friend for some more excellent wine and a light evening meal. The gentleman is an architect. Before we return to La Vega he promised to take us on a quick tour of Casa De Campo. Not the tourist resorts, behind the gated community where politicians, millionaires and movie stars hang out. But first we must visit Isla Saona. This is a National park off the south east coast. Tour boats stop by every hour or so, drop off people from the resorts who check out the little street of souvenir shops. There is time for a quick beer then it is back to the resort. We came in a private boat so we had the luxury staying as long as we wanted.
The ride to the island was along the coast past a big mangrove forest through shallows and deep choppy water. We relaxed in the village, had a look around to the school, electrical plant, the homes and the tourist shops.
Andrew once again selected some very fresh fish. He took the precaution of bringing some perfect wine and a big batata which is kind of a potato that is sliced and fried (like French Fries). It is kind of expensive and does not grow there so it was a treat for the chef and for us. After a lovely lunch we enjoyed a couple of heavy duty Dominican cigars supplied by Andrew's friend and listened for hours to the charming stories of a poet who lives on the island. Andrew calls him "The Cuban" because of a Che hat he always wears. He recited poetry and told stories of the sea.
When it was time to return we stopped at a sandbank where you can jump out of the boat and swim in the ocean. There are starfish a foot across and I shot Marisol holding one. (They do not bite but they can suck I am told).
The Architect's Apartment
Bayahibe Church from the Sea
Sailing on the Ocean
Again too slow to catch the fish - Gone in less than 1/60"
The "Cuban" Poet
La Saona House
Isla Saona House (small)
Where the Tourists Get to Jump out of the Boat in the middle of the Ocean
Do They Bite?
As promised before we left La Romana Andrew's friend took us for a tour of Casa de Campo. We visited Altos de Chavon but we also got inside the gated community where the rich and famous have their homes and where Pop stars and aging ex-Presidents go to have a nice time. My impression was that the wealthy love flowers and landscaped gardens everywhere. On out visit to the yacht club we saw Andrew's company boat - Not as it is right now of course but in its future form which will come to be shortly after he strikes it rich on the Loto Max.
Casa De Campo House
I wish we could grow this pine in Canada
Casa De Campo Yacht Club
Andrew with the Company Boat
True North Company Yacht
(Artistic licence applied)
Latino Baseball Hall of Fame
Marisol with Three Balls
Altos De Chavon
January 10, 2015 We are back in La Vega. Today the plan is to drive up the mountain to visit the dam and lake at Taveras. We will take a water taxi across the lake to relax at a small restaurant. I shot the usual blurry pictures out the side of the vehicle. On the way the vehicle of choice was likely to be donkey but we did not have that luxury. At the restaurant there were comfortable hammocks. You choose the fish from a well refrigerated selection. They cook it to order with the usual trimmings and refreshment. We enjoyed a very relaxing day.
On the Road again
The Dam at Taveras
Across the Lake
In Camera Panorama of the Lake
Down the Mountain
January 11, 2015 Back on the bus first thing in the morning for a day trip to Santo Domingo. We visit a forestry specialist and Marisol's sister who lives in the Capital. I took very few photos of the city. It was not that kind of visit. I took some shots of the interesting Urucu plant. Also known as Annatto. It is found in tropical rain forests, used for food and to die the body.
(love the pine tree air freshener)
Flower and seed pods
Carrying the Ladder
Teresa and Family
Deep Fried Pork Fat "Light"
Heading into the light
January 12, 2015 This morning after a nice cup of Madre Teresa's wonderful coffee we go to Salcedo the home of many murals Elvis and the girl with the red umbrella apparently. Our friend there has some weekend property and we were interested in having a look at his camp stove as we will try to build something similar in Canada. Our friend's camp stove was taken over by some cute doggies so we could not see it in action.
Madre Teresa Making Coffee
(Two of Hundreds all over Town)
Some kind of purple tropical flower
Camp Stove Taken Over by Wild Dogs
Girl With the Red Umbrella
Getting Ready to Fly
January 13, 2015 Today we went to Las Yerbas. I believe the name means "The Weeds". It is not a town but rather a couple of stores and some people who live along the roadway. I am not sure how the place got the name. It had some tidy farms with healthy stands of plantain and cassava. We are going to pay our respects to Tia Zunilda who lost a daughter to a serious illness late last year. Tia Zunilda had 14 children and innumerable grand children and even some great grand children.
The place is not served by busses. We could have hired a car or real taxi for about $50 but that seemed excessive to Teresa so we travelled using the local transport. This consists of waiting at at the curb where irregular taxi's, vans and pickup trucks will take you out into the country. Getting there cost Marisol, her Mom and I about 40 cents each. getting back proved to be more difficult but we made it.
Waiting for a ride
A Boy and his Chicken
Marisol and Zunilda
Selfie with Zunilda's husband
After we returned to La Vega, which involved waiting for about an hour until we flagged a pickup truck headed back to town, I visited the machete factory and picked up a couple of beauties for the cabin in Ontario. We ate afternoon lunch at our friend Monica and in the evening some friends took us to a club where we had great drinks and snacks. I liked the graffiti room with hanging running shoes and vintage camera - Which looked a lot like the camera I was using.
This Machete is a Toro!
At the club
January 14, 2015 Time to wind up the trip. We had a free day. I shot a couple of things and then went with a friend to a lawyer's house in the country to see his fish farm and Lorena Stove. There were goats and many flowers. The fish farm water was murky so you could see no fish. The owner threw some feed in and they splashed around like my koi or a school of piranha. I wondered what would happen if they tossed a goat in. Would it be stripped to the bones in minutes? Fortunately the man loves his goats and declined to try the experiment.
The Lorena Stove was a very good design and I hope to try something like that at our cabin.
A few days earlier I got on the phone to Westjet. I am sick of flying on the wing. Customer service was not good. No number to be found in the Dominican so I ended up paying a dollar a minute roaming charges for an hour and a half on hold. I was in a pretty bad mood. Yes there were first class seats available. No you can't have them. Got to try at check in or something. But for 40 bucks I was moved up a few rows. They put me on the engine. Great. I managed to keep it on by sheer force of will (my side anyway) and we landed safely and on time.
I am the Modern Man
With Parts Made in Japan
Rice Farmer in the Morning Fog
Your Usual Spot on the Wing Sir?
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Our cabin in the woods, August to December 2014
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