Friday, March 26, 2010

Voal Day #4

Land Ho!
Good Morning and Welcome to Samana of the Dominican Republic! We woke up and this is the sight that greeted us!
We had been notified the night before by our first class traveling companions that they could "tender" over at anytime so we needed to hustle so we would arrive there soon after them so we could all get on our exciting tour! Needless to say we were up and dressed in our swimwear bright and early the next morning and we got on the first ship tendering over to the shore. We went out on deck and waited for our number to be called. While we were waiting we talked to many people from the Bliss Lounge who just had to find out if Jenn was for real.
We also ran into "CANADA" who stole Brandon's hat and posed for this lovely picture.
Finally we loaded onto our tender boat.

Down the stairs. Onto the little boat.
Here we are nicely settled in for our little voyage to the island. Is the DR an island? I mean there are 2 countries on this island and I don't want to make it seem insignificant or anything.Alli looks really happy here. I should have asked her the island question. Here is our tender driver. OK sidenote. I once told one of my boys not to kick his brother in the "privates" because it was a tender area and would hurt and ever since then he has called that area his "tenders". This made it very difficult for me to talk about taking the tender or getting tender tickets. Just saying. Sorry Mom. We are almost there! Look how beautiful it is. Here is a picture of my first step on foreign soil. Ok you can't actually see the step. But I took it. I didn't even trip which is pretty good considering I was walking on a dock, after getting off a rocking shop all the while taking a picture. We got to the top of the dock area and lo and behold we beat the 1st class crew. We could have slept for another 5 minutes! Sheesh. Here they are and they don't even look sheepish for making us wait. We were met by our guide Domingo who put us in this old open air taxi. We were loaded up and ready to head out when Domingo came and took another look at us. Cute lady and her plain husband and ... good heavens what is that in the back. I am sorry sir I don't care if it is your Christmas present we have standards here in Samana. Now all of you go get in the mini van.
So we did.
Domingo was very disappointed in our behavior! Just kidding. Domingo was actually very nice. He is originally from the DR but has a new wife in Minnesota but we were informed that it is too cold in Minnesota so he is going to ask his wife to meet him in Florida next time he goes home. He really liked Tricia and Brandon because they spoke Spanish really well. He thought Mom was a bit nuts because apparently since she knows French so well (her major you know) she can understand Spanish but then she answers his questions in French. If you think Mom is crazy raise your hand. Andrew and Mitch also understood most of what was said in Spanish although they actually speak Portuguese. Those 2 kept talking about how much this area reminded them of Brazil. I guess in Brazil they have strange men who rides around town on their bikes and sells gasoline or something because Andrew and Mitch saw a sign painted on a building and kept yelling "OLHA TROPIGAS"! They yelled that expression and laughed about it for an hour! I think Jenn finally threatened to kill them which then got them into a hysterical discussion about how easily you could die carrying around a lot of gas on a bike. We stopped in "town" and picked up our guide leader. His name is Jerry and he is an American who moved to the DR to learn Spanish and has married a girl from here and then promptly moved her to Chicago. I don't know about these men who work down here in the warmth and let their wives stay in the coldest parts of the US in the WINTER. Recently Jerry bought some property and he took us to the area where he will someday build. It is a little chunk of paradise.Here are Andrew and Jenn at Jerry's place. Here we all are at Jerry's place. Now Jerry has a neighbor and friend who allows Jerry's tours to tour his home. I think it may have once been painted green or it has a lot of algae growing on the outside of it!Dave and a few others toured the inside of the house. Dave was amazed at how they built the walls and then just plunked a tin roof on it. As he listened to Jerry he realized that the roof leaves huge gaps where it doesn't quite meet the walls. He kept thinking that would be really cold in the winter when the snow blew in but then he remembered. No snow. I didn't go inside because I was too busy outside with a group of adorable and friendly kids.
This little one reminded me of Joe with his Green Crocs (2 of Joe's favorite things!) He made me miss my boys a little bit. Then there was this group of boys showing off for the cameras! It must be a boy thing!Tricia was in heaven talking with these little ones. They seemed to enjoy listening to her speak in her strange accent.
I don't speak Spanish but I do speak the international language. Nope not love. Candy! So we loaded up in the mini van and headed to the school. We parked at the school and Haley immediately found a group off good looking boys working across the street. We took a picture of them and then we headed across the street to the school It is so green there that I expected a lot of grass around the school. There is none! It has a cement courtyard and a few classes off the courtyard. I guess they don't have recess. In Samana the middle school kids go to school in the morning and the elementary kids go in the afternoon. Here is one of the classes we went and visited for a minute. (Sure couldn't do that in America! They would lock down the school!) The kids were working on learning English so we "talked" for a minute. Ok Tricia talked. We smiled and listened.
Here is their adorable teacher! She looks a bit familiar and she seemed to be talking in French to these children who speak Spanish and are learning English. A bit confusing.
Oh wait this is the teacher. Some of those on our tour had done this tour before and knew about the school stop. They brought a bunch of school supplies and gave them to the teachers! What a great idea!
So we jumped into the van again and headed up to the ranch. We got there and B. Rad started on the satellite phone !
We prepared for the next leg of our adventure. Here are our guides and their animal companions sizing up our group.
Dave was all excited to get on his magnificent steed and take off all "Man From Snowy River" on it. They called us over and one guide would point to a person and signal them to come get on their horse. It was a lot like being divided up onto teams! They seemed to pick the women first. Here is Jenn. Take a good look at her because her guide could obviously sense her independent nature and after this he swatted the horse and Jenn took off like a shot. She was pretty certain he was trying to separate her from our group so he could have his way with her but come to find out he just wanted her to gallop her way to the top!
Mom and her 1 dollar Brazillian hat. She looks so comfy up there.
Here am I on my horse, Pedro. Please excuse my white leg. Riding a horse in a swimsuit is not a natural thing!
Brandon looks happy. Probably because that other horse is covering up his white legs!Here is Tricia. She is smiling because she has seen Dave on his horse. Where is he?
Oh here he is. Wait I thought she said he was on a horse. But his guide looks like he is just about as high as Dave. He must be standing on a rock.

Sara looks like a natural doesn't she? Don't you love the brightly colored saddle blankets?Alli and her pretty pony.
Mitch and Haley always look so adorable. Look how sweet putting their heads together. Dave and I should do that. So I rode up to Dave and realized there was something completely wrong. They had put him on the smallest little horse they could find! I am towering over him! He said he felt like he could have put his feet down and helped the horse along. He named himself Sancho Panza to my Don Quixote. See the resemblance?
We started on our hike. The guides stay right by the horse and guide it along the trail. They walk or in some cases run the entire way alongside us. It made me feel bad. I tried to tell my guide, Mossimo, to trade me places for a while but since the only English he knew was "You ok?" our communication was limited. Here is Brad. He looks a bit short too.
My guide was really good to point out all of the food growing wild around us. Grapefruit, almonds, mango, papaya, avacado, coffee, coconut, and several others that I couldn't understand until one of my multi-lingual siblings would yell back what he was saying! B. Rad was not helpful with the language thing. Korean is not spoken a lot here in Samana. And even if it were he wouldn't understand it! ha-ha. Here is Andrew with his guide. So the guides introduced themselves to us and I mentioned mine was Mossimo. Dave introduced himself to his guide and his guide then told him his name was David too. Dave believed him at first but later realized he may have just told him this to get a bigger tip! Maybe he was right because this young girl introduced herself as Andrew!! Hmm. I wonder.
The area through which we hiked was gorgeous. So many little hidden waterfalls and ponds. We got to the top and dismounted (equine term for get off). Then we started on this hike in the slippery mud. We were told to wear shoes that could get wet and let me tell you flip flops are not made for hiking in the slippery mud. Lucky for me Mossimo was right there and when I say right there I mean RIGHT THERE. Holding my hand. The entire way down. I tell you this boy wanted a good tip. Actually all the women got this kind of help on the way down. Except Jenn. Her guide juast swatted her and made her run all the way down! We finally made it down to El Limon Waterfall!
Here are the falls! They are gorgeous. The water falls from about 150 feet over us and crashes down into the beautiful deep pool. We wasted no time. We waded right in!It was cool enough to be refreshing but not so cold you couldn't enjoy every minute! All of us got in and we swam over and found a little cavern where we sat and chatted for a while. Jerry popped up to check on us!I remember at one point I was right by the falls and I couldn't catch a breath because of the spray hitting me and taking my breath away. I was thinking "man I could drown out here"! This is when I realized that this could never happen back home. First of all it would have been made a National Park or something and there would be working restrooms ( a plus) and rangers pointing out all the local plants but we would have been on a path with a small fence. Maybe a plaque telling us all about the history of the falls but there is no way we would have been swimming and exploring like we were! After a while we were told that we needed to get moving to make it back to the ship. So we got out and watched our guides dive in from way up on in the falls! Amazing. You can tell they have been here a few times before. Like every day at least once. Sometimes twice. So we headed back up the trail. I decided that I could make it much better without shoes. So I started up the trail barefoot. So I hear shouting and Mossimo beckons me over to the pond and he has taken off his hiking boots and has washed them out. He holds them out and I realize that he wants me to wear them! I try to tell him no but his insists. Many times. So I put them on and I can only tell you they were amazing. I didn't slip once! they look really fashionable don't they? OK. He is going to get a big tip. Here he is with my loyal steed, Pedro. At the top our guides ran to get the horses. Very picturesque isn't it? We headed back down the trail. We were met by these two industrious hand washers! Meanwhile, back at the ranch, they had prepared an authentic Domincan lunch for us. All of the people who had lived in South America were THRILLED.
Dave is a bit food suspicious so he kept asking everyone "What is this?" "What is that?". I told him to just eat it and stop asking! So here is the meal. Rice, beans, spaghetti-ish type stuff, salad of some kind and some fried something and meat- origin unknown.It was delicious! We had worked up a great appetite. They also gave us their version of Coke and Diet Coke. I heard that the Diet Coke tasted like Coke and the Coke was like Coke flavored Syrup! The water I had tasted exactly like water! The best part of the meal was the dessert tray. Fresh papaya, grapefruit and coconut! It was so sweet! The grapefruit was sweeter than an orange! We wolfed it all down and then loaded up into our van to head back to the ship.On our way down to the dock we stopped by a little store and right outside the store was a cigar shop. We went in and watched the young man roll a cigar. It was amazing. The funny thing was that they import their highest grade leaf from America to make the world famous Domincan cigars. Right across the street was a cool old church so went over and toured it! The rock work was amazing. So we headed back down the road with Andrew and Mitch yelling "Ohla Tropigas!" and laughing hysterically. Tricia and Brandon and Domingo talking Spanish. Mom talking French. Funny translator Tricia makes. We would ask her what Domingo had said and she would turn to us and tell us. In Spanish. Domingo thought that was funny. He asked her where she learned Spanish and she told him about her mission. And taught him the first discussion. Here is Brandon with our wonderful guides, Jerry and Domingo! They were perfect!We got back to the dock and took some pictures overlooking the water before we headed back to our tender!
Here is the tender coming to be hoisted back onto the ship. Samana was amazing! It couldn't have been a better day. Even Alli's hair is excited about this day!


Brenny said...

I was eating an apple while reading your post and almost spit it all over my computer when I saw that picture of you and Dave on the horses. The whole thing was funny -- your mom trying to answer in French. Classic. Remind me to take my spanish speaking siblings with me on a cruise...

Allison said...

I laughed so hard about you and Dave that I was having a hard time breathing. That was so much fun! Thanks for dedicating the next two years of your life to documenting our trip :)