Friday, 16 March 2012

the truck is a discotheque!

The first place we visited in Dominican Republic was Bahia de las Aguilas. A wide, calm bay on the southwest coast of the country. It took nearly 24 hours of beating against the wind (again) to get there from Ile à Vache, and we were hoping to continue on toward Isla Beata and around Cabo Beata toward Salinas, but we needed to recharge our batteries first. Our friends from Katarina and Pura Vida were at least 6 hours ahead of us and by the time we got to Aguilas they were already rounding Cabo Beata, or so we thought. After anchoring in the bay and catching a short nap we began to prepare to press forward when we heard from our friends on Karma. They left Ile a Vache a day after us and were now pulling into the same anchorage, only hours behind us. They also had news of Pura Vida, who had turned back from the cape and were now making their way over to our anchorage. The seas proved too rough and the going too challenging for their liking so they decided to wait in Aguilas for a better weather window. We were only too happy to hear that they were on their way back and concluded that it would be best to stay put with them, and enjoy this beautiful new coast stretching out in front of us. Bahia de las Aguilas is part of Jaragua National Park with desert steppe like terrain, dry forests, volcanic cliffs and lots of caves. The beach itself is secluded, best accessed by boat as the trail leading to it is rough and not often braved by tourists. A local boating cooperative set up a water taxi service that brings people to the beach on weekends, but the area is otherwise quiet and we had it to ourselves most of the time. We met some of these boat owners and arranged to have one bring the 6 of us around to their cooperative restaurant, where we could catch a ride into Pedernales, a neighboring town, to do provisioning in. What we didn't realize is that the most common mode of transportation in DR is a motorbike and Ruvem, our guide, had every intention of getting the lot of us on 2 bikes to ride into town on. That wasn't going to work. It's not uncommon here to see 3 or 4 people piled onto a motorbike, but we weren't quite up for that kind of adventure. Ruvem promised to bring a truck the next morning so that we could give this excursion another try. There was nothing left to do but grab a beer and enjoy the rest of the day on the water.
The following morning Ruvem showed up an hour late. He had engine problems and had to go back to swap boats before he came to pick us up. With everyone collected from their respective boats we made our way towards the water taxi dock where a small pick up truck was waiting for us. The driver's cabin had a bench seat, so Reina, Diana and myself squeezed into it, leaving the open flat bed in the back for the boys to enjoy. The hour ride into town was as bumpy and uncomfortable as some of our passages. But Ruvem had the radio blasting Dominican tunes, and we couldn't help but get into the rhythm of it. The road leading out of the park was unpaved clay, eroded by floods in rainy season and lacerated by tires of vehicles coming and going in and out of the park. The truck rocked from side to side and jerked front to back as Ruvem flew across the dried up ridges and welts on the road. We had a good laugh about it up front, in the safety of the cabin, but the boys arrived in town battered and sore from getting bounced around in the back. 
First stop in town was at the bank. Once we finished there Ruvem was to take us to the market, but when we squeezed back into the truck it wouldn't start. We clambered back out into the street. The boys and a few passersby helped Ruvem push start the truck, but it wouldn't budge. He had to go get help. Poor guy, this was the second time an engine failed him in one day. 
We moped around the streets and visited an internet cafe while our guide got the truck sorted out. Within an hour we had wheels again and were headed for the market after which we treated Ruvem to lunch and had him drive us back to Aguilas. They say disasters come in threes and Ruvem was due for another one, considering his luck that day. He got the final blow on our way back when a tire blew on the truck, which we found out he had borrowed from a friend just to get us around. We felt horrible. Our boys got to work and with the help of a few locals who came to our rescue, the truck was in ship shape in no time. Not knowing how to be of service in any other way Reina and I cracked open a couple of cold beers we had sitting in a cooler, and passed them around. Now back in the truck Ruvem was taking long swigs out of the jumbo size Presidente bottle, giving us control of the car that bounced along the dirt road leading back into the National Park. Bachata rhythms filled the air once more when Ruvem turned the radio up. We bobbed up and down in the cabin as the truck danced in and out of its dusty tracks, Reina exclaiming in spanish: "El camion es una discoteca!"

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