Driving through sugar cane field. I didn’t actually take any pictures on this stop, because, well, we didn’t really do anything on this part of the trip! We drove through a HUGE sugar cane field….but as it was not the season, there were no crops, no workers, nothing really to explore. We were informed, however, that tarantulas and snakes are VERY common in the area. Yikes! Driving through the town of Higuey. Higuey is the capital city of the eastern province of La Altagracia. This was an interesting part of the trip! We got to see the “next town over” from the touristy area of Punta Cana. Probably most surprising to me was just the sheer number of locals who sat around on porch steps, or in chairs on the sidewalk, just watching the cars/people pass. Definitely a different pace of life there! Most are so easygoing and carefree….just doing what they’ve always done! The colors of the city were AMAZING….pinks, purples, yellows, blues, greens were all over the place! It was refreshing!
I didn’t take enough pics to share with y’all everything we saw, so I scoured the internet to show you some more views of the town of Higuey. The next (4) below were found on Flickr via: via Flickr: 1987porsche944.
We then stopped on the outskirts of town at a local “market.”
Visit the Bascilica of La Altagracia. Although we personally did not go inside the church, we heard from many on our tour that it was VERY beautiful!
Visit a local school. There are (2) four-hour sessions a day, an AM class and a PM class. The children only attend one class a day.
Experience Dominican mountain life. This was another unique aspect of the tour – seeing “real” scenes from living the mountain life. There are multiple families who live on, and therefore, own, a “mountain.” They share the resources and the money. Cacao trees grow very well in the mountainous soil, so we stopped by a “cacao house.” The family allowed us to tour inside their home – 1 open room for living room and dining room, which led to 2 tiny bedrooms, which circled back to the open kitchen – with a dirt floor. The kitchen consisted of fire pit, a sink, and tons of cooking pots/pans, covered only by a thin piece of roof. The only electronics found in the entire house was a TV a stereo, and a fridge inside the living room. The adults had one full-size bed in their “bedroom” and the 3 children shared two twin beds in the next room over. There was no insulation, no closets, no glass windows, or “attached” roof (tin roof only). But everyone was proud of their house and their land…
We later sat under the “picnic area” – which is typically used as their outdoor kitchen while making mamajuana, spices, cocoa, etc. They do bottle all their products and selling to those on tours passing through the area. Just down the road was a “snake charmer”…another house kept the goats and animals…each family having something to bring to the table.
I was most surprised to learn that Cacao came from trees! And as seen in the pics below…it is NOT what you would expect as the main ingredient in “common chocolate.” We each tasted a piece of the “pulp” inside the shell…and it was…weird and sticky and bitter!!! “Real cocoa” does not have any additives to enhance the flavor, what most of us are used to tasting in milk chocolate. However, we did have a fresh batch of pure hot chocolate…and wowza…it something super strong that I’m sure women across the country would LOVE to have at their disposal!!! They also talked us through the bottling of “mamajuana” – the local Dominican drink that is commonly used for all types of ailments. It’s main purpose is medicinal…but the locals also like to sell it as an “aphrodisiac.” Main contents are a mixture of mountain roots, which typically soak in red wine. An upcoming post will give the full details!
Lunch in the mountains. We ate “traditional” Dominican food – commonly called la bandera (“the flag”). La bandera is a meal of stewed meat over white rice with beans (usually red beans), fried green plantains and salad. Another common dish is a sweet bean soup with root vegetables known as habichuela con dulche.“ I did not taste this soup…but many others seemed to enjoy! We ended our lunch date by taking a few moments to take in the stunning views surrounding us!
Swimming at Macao Beach. We had an awesome time here! Macao Beach was VERY beautiful…and we even had a fun coconut experience! As we had a full hour to play in the sand and water, the hubby and I took a stroll down the beach, where we encountered a few palm trees surrounded by fallen coconuts. The hubby decided to “crack one open” for fun! After a VERY AWESOME display of man-li-hood…ripping open the coconut to find it’s sweet insides….we were approached by a local who wanted to know if we wanted a “fresh” coconut. We said, sure! Next thing we know….he is CLIMBING up the tree…with his machete…promptly drops a few to the ground…shimmies back down…and WHACKS off the tops with a single slice of his machete. We tasted “fresh” coconut juice, and discussed, in Spanglish, the weather, the US, and the best parts of the Dominican. A fabulous memory!!
Previous posts in this series – 1) Bienvenidos a Republica Dominicana!
Recaps from past anniversaries:
1-Year Anniversary. Lake Tahoe, CA
2-Year Anniversary. Flagstaff, AZ.
3-Year Anniversary. Sanibel/Orlando/Clermont/Tampa, FL