After two days of celebrating my friend’s boda, relaxing with amigos old and new, and a hasty plan for a weekend in Vegas, it was time to move on. For “the notes” this meant hiring out a taxi and riding some 6 hours to the north for 6 more days. The wedding party said goodbye over coffee and caught taxi’s to the airport. Their waves goodbye said, “yeah, we saw them climb into the cab and that was the last time we saw them.” We asked the concierge about our taxi and got a increasingly familiar look. The look is similar to being given the bill at a nice restaurant when you knew it would be big, but not really that big? Muddled shock. Followed quickly by, “ay, that’s a long way.” Heavy emphasis on the long and muddled shock.
Having done a fair amount of traveling at this point, neither Mrs. Notes nor I were all that concerned. The biggest obstacle to overcome was the opportunity to relieve oneself. Mrs. Notes has a bladder the size of a pea even when she is not 5 months pregnant. The continued look of shock to our requests for transport had me believing that an actual bano would be, shall we say, escasos. There were other concerns as well, like taxi size relative to boards and the sorry state of my Spanish. The taxi arrived-an Astro Van-with Gregory, Jose-Luiz, and Jared. Ci, Jared. No problemo, the boards and all the luggage fit in the van and the three drivers sat side by side in the front; leaving all kinds of room for us to sit together and stretch out. In broken Spanish I explained my wife’s delicate position and even that was of no concern. The only concern? Jared.
Gregory and Jose-Luiz both had company yellow shirts on. Jared sported fingerless black gloves, amber sunglasses, black pants, black leather jacket and a black fanny pack. Full of? Phones. Broken ones, cracked ones, chipped and begging to die with each desperate incoming ring; flip phones, touch phones,and even an iPhone. In Bahia we stopped for a bathroom break, to check the parade of the national holiday and see the Basillica. And unload Gregory. Mrs. Notes insisted one of us stay with the van. Probably wise but after a couple of brief chats we learned it was just Jared’s sense of style, and perhaps a dealing in stolen phones, that made us nervous. Really he was quite a personable guy. He had been hired by the Rio to sing almost 16 years ago and 4 years ago had opened his little tourista company. All his calls were around setting up new drives and tours. Still can’t say for certain about all the phones, but he was harmless enough. He was overjoyed when a third of the way into our trip he lined up a transfer from Cabarete back down to a ferry for Santa Catalina island. He would drive us six hours through the heart of Hispaniola and turn around and drive 8 back. A hustler but one with a family to feed.
Eight hours was mind-numbing. The roads are not so much a worry as the traffic. We had our brief scare with car versus bovine, but the sight of a motorista (of which there are hundreds) driving along with a gas canister balanced on the back seat was a bit unnerving. Worse than the guy we saw somewhere in the mountains painted silver, wearing blue jean shorts, a cowboy hat and boots and carrying a machete. Ci, blue jean shorts. Short ones. It’s this kind of thing that slows you down. Through the plains in the middle Jose-Luiz opened up the van and we hummed along with little to no interruption in view. One stop at the surreal Don Franschesca travel stop and its two seguridados accompanied by chihuahuas. Ci, chiuahuas. Cleaner bathrooms than Bojangles and an array of hot plate lunches or candy bars and tourist gifts.
The mountains crept closer and to either side the flat stretch of land occasionally interrupted by a palm tree or small village. In the small towns kids played baseball with little more than sticks, rocks, and some torn paper cups as bases. Or they sat in small corrugated-metal houses peering out into the day from the cool darkness within. While Sadie only experienced the trip via the occasional jolt from a brake check, she and her sister will travel again if for no other reason than to learn life and simplicity.
Several stops for directions and we made our way into Cabarete and the Hotel Kaoba. The place is best described as a Dominican version of Tamarindo, CR. It’s a backpacking stop for some, a world class kite boarding beach (hey, if you’re into that-from my notes it looks like as much work as SUP-ing, gracias pero no gracias), it’s a European family vacation, a Dominican vacation, a prostitute hot spot, a final resting place for ex-pats and just seedy enough in the daylight to give pause. Jared helped drag our stuff into the lobby and vanished, a phone to each ear.
We stood in a lobby with two ex-pats complete with bad Hawaiin shirts, dog tags, and tank top undershirts draining the life from their eyes through the bottle in their hand. A simple hello disappeared before ever being acknowledged. A peak inside the moldy room and I knew we weren’t staying. We asked the receptionist about a taxi and she got a number from the resident prostitute on late day shift. All was well, this was the introduction to Jose, our personal chauffeur and ambassador to Cabarete for the rest of our stay. He picked us up and drove us to several spots closer to Encuentro, the surf break, since we would be walking it and the town of Cabarete is actually a five to ten minute drive. We settled on the Val-Mari condos on the crest of the hill above the break. Up in the trade winds and surrounded by open pasture, no problems. Rum por favor.
Más a venir, especialmente la historia de las olas y photos.
Gracias por perder su tiempo.