It’s been a while but the structure of the recent posts has been around “the notes'” trip to Republicá Dominicá. This is the last. Stay tuned for a photo special from March and April here along the Right coast…
Cabareté, DR-Days four, five and six passed in an even pace of relaxation, surf, siestas, dinners, and rested sleep. After arrival at the Val-Maré, we were given the royal treatment by the condominium caretaker Alex and would later play around the ground with his son Alejandro. Along a hill line just up the beach road from the break, the condos are surrounded by green fields, banana trees, palms, and green grasses. The only visitors besides us were the cows or horses sneaking treats from Alejandro. At first, the fixture of such a tall gringo kept Alejandro’s curiosity at bay, though it was not long before we were up to childhood mischief. I was told to behave and Alejandro threatened with no swimming time so the wild roosters and chickens were free from our torment. Time passed unnoticeably. Mornings were spent at the beach; afternoons were spent at the pool or in the breeze and shade of the room, reading and napping, occasionally rising for cold beer; evenings were spent on the beach side of Cabareté, lounging under strings of lights stretched along palm trees and tables lit by candle. Todos tranquillo. Such an even mien hazes the memory. Details seem rather fuzzy, as if on the edge of sleep, which is easily explained by the frequent siesta. Yet there is certainly more. There is a humming from within. A steady gentle vibration which rises from inside and lays gently over all till the person knows this is what it means to be on Caribbean time. That would be days four, five and six. What follows are snippets of travel journal and pictures of each day-as best as I can remember.
“28 Feb. ’11-Cabareté, DR. No idea on swell-east-ish at maybe 3-5′ @ 9 seconds, trade winds. …the walk to the beach is easy, the hardest stretch being along the main road and near lawless, speeding, metal death…this place is schizophrenic. Its temperament wavers from tranquillo to “man, I can’t wait to get the hell home.”… Surfed the famed Encuentro. Funky and mediocre. Had I been home I wouldn’t have gone, but the water would have been just above 50°F. This was clear, blue and 75°, so I went. Two waves worth mentioning. Both rights near “Coco Pipe”. Long walls and glassy till mid am…stories of the trade winds are true. By 11 most everything is indistinguishable from blown chop. We spent 50 pesos on a beach lounge chair attended by Mejuco and his dogs. Dried off, walked home and relaxed in the shade by the pool. Alejandro met us at the gate with a squirt gun for drowning ants. Amy rolled her eyes and let me off the hook to play…rest of afternoon spent drinking cold beer, reading and napping-in no particular order.”
“29 Feb. ’11 Cabareté, DR. [corrected upon arrival home for an actual date existing on the calender-1 Mar. 11. Que sera.]. Still no idea of swell. Maybe 6′ @ 9 seconds? …am surf was cleaner, little more solid in size, good sets. Head high and better. No barrels at “Coco Pipe” so the name remains in doubt, but got a nice wave from a gypsy motorista cabbie. Thanked him and that bought me a couple more. Then he dropped in all over me. Ah well, his house…walked east along the shore to Natura Cabana for lunch-a secluded little resort/spa built into the natural vegetation instead of gutting it. Twice the beach disappears in lava rock and the trail wanders up through the tree line. Discovered a wave all to ourselves which kept us from lunch. No problema as lunch blends from breakfast and gently merges straight into dinner. There is no time. Walking home we write the names of our family in the sand and let the Atlantic carry it home, north to Carolina…walked the street of Cabareté for souvenirs for Abby before crossing through an alley for dinner on the strand. In the street old white men pick up hefty Haitian prostitutes with 40 oz. beers. On the strand are candle-lit tables, colored sun sails lit by hanging lamps and excellent meals-place is schizophrenic…interesting trip. Beautiful and dirty, good surf and poor, kind and indifferent…I am ready to go home. Not ready to put on a wetsuit. Ready to see my daughter, my dog, my home…”¿
“2 March ’11, Cabareté, DR-Miami, Fl International Airport. 2-4′ at some weaker period. In the airport in Miami. This am I was surfing small, clean and crystal clear waves…at first sight through the palapa the hope was a falling tide might make more face to ride. Brought only the 6’4″ thruster. Posted up under a palm and slept while tide fell. Amy disappeared around head point in beach for a morning walk. The local dogs followed her in some sort of innate sense of protection as they had adopted her the last two mornings, particularly the black lab that arrived by scooter every morning…woke up and the surf was still small. Worked a deal to borrow a longboard. Choosing the board was interesting. Kid working the shack wasn’t too sure about loaning a board for free. Quizzed on frequency of surf, how good, and, finally, tested with, ‘which board you want ride?’ Suddenly had flashbacks of adolescence…rounded 9’2” with no rocker, single fin, tons of weight. Thing had been reattached in the middle and seemed to have added weight with the repair, but it was a solid stick. Choice was approved and board granted. Heavy was perfect for the glassy, Caribbean mush. Rode well. Even met the former owner in the water. “Hey, that’s my old board. Guevarra shaped it for me in Maui” Good noserides and sweeping drives. Ownere looked like he might give it another shot. Not sure it can survive it…Amy returned in view with her dog pack. Cold beer and rinsed and headed for the plane…sitting in the Miami airport we scarfed down big bacon cheeseburgers and a good old fashioned Budweiser. Each little girl that passes brings me closer to home and my own little girl. See you soon little one. Thank you Sonny for watching the house and our girl. Voy a mi casa y Carolina norte.”
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.