I finally took my trip to visit my friend in Sosua. I was planning on going on Wednesday but around 5PM I checked the news and saw that there was going to be a huelga (strike). The people were demonstrating against the price hike on fuel and they were going to stop all the trucks and public transportation. So I ran home, thank goodness I was packed, and headed to the bus station to get a bus for Sosua instead of getting into all the problems with the huelga. Thankfully I did that because the next day all the Caribe tour busses were not running.
It was good seeing my buddy again and catching up.
On Friday I decided I was going to take a trip to Salcedo in the Province of Hermanas Mirabal (map). It was a great plan. I found out how to get there from Sosua. I decided to take the local transport instead of the big bus.
My friend took me to get a public car and I was on my way. I told the driver what I wanted and he left me at some little stop to take me to Moca. The car I got into was a small station wagon. People kept piling into the car. I thought I would wait for the next one but the guy said no. He took my carry-on suitcase and some others stuff and tied the stuff onto the top of the car. I was the last to get into the back seat of the car so I was wedged in against the door, one butt cheek almost touching the seat and the other on the door handle. There were 5 people in the front seat; the driver was sharing his seat with another person. There were 5 people in the back seat where I was. Then there were 4 people in the back on the car with the hatch open and their feet dangling out the back. I have ridden in these public cars before but never did I see this many people in one car. It was like the clown cars in the circus where all the clowns keep getting out of a tiny car. The only difference was this was not clowns but it was sort of like a circus.
I was laughing for most of trip, about 1 ½ hours riding half-cheeked on winding mountain roads. There were a few places where the car scraped bottom. I thought we were going to have to get out so the car could get through, but it was all good. I had my arm out the window; there was no room for it inside the car, holding onto the handle of my suitcase. Thank goodness that all inside this squished space had used their deodorant and it seemed to be working. The scenery was wonderful and I wish that I could have stopped to check out some of the places along the road for a bit but riding in these cars, they do not stop.
Finally we got to Moca. I needed a cold beer after that trip so I took a break and went to a Colmado and shared a beer with a few people there. I needed to stretch out my kinked back for a bit before I got on with the next leg of my journey.
The next ride was much more comfortable. It was a large guagua and only a 20-minute ride. I sat in the middle in the front seat. I don’t understand why they didn’t use this bus for the mountain ride and the smaller car for the city trip. But then this is Dominican Republic.
We stopped at the station in Salcedo in the Province of Hermanas Mirabal and I asked about the hotel. They said that there was only 1 hotel in the area so I walked the 2 blocks to the hotel and hoped they had a room. The hotel was La Casona Gran Imperial (809-577-4468 and 809-577-4555) in the central part of this small town. It also seemed to be one of the tallest buildings in this town. They had to different types of rooms so I got the better at a reasonable price. It was a basic room, clean, air-conditioning, hot water and cable tv. The owners were very friendly and helpful. I was content.
The Church in the center of town and some murals on the buildings (click images to enlarge)
I put my stuff in the room and went out to explore the area. Of course I had to go to the first Colmado I came across to see what was going on in the area and ask some questions. The first 2 minutes there I already had a guy fall in love with me…too funny. I wanted to get some food so I went on a quest.
I decided to go as cheap as possible so I went into another place and got them to cut me a piece of pan de auga and some cheese and made myself a sandwich. They were bagging up all this cheese, queso en oja and yellow cheese and selling large amounts to the customers. So I had to ask. It happens that this place is a cheese factory, Punto del Queso “Don Miguel”. They make cheese and yogurt. The owner took me around the back to their house and we sat on the patio, had some coffee, yogurt, cheese and a beer and talked. The family, husband, wife, grandma, grandpa and kids were hanging out and talking for about an hour. They told me to come back Sunday and they would take me into their factory and let me take pictures during the cheese making process.
It was getting dark so I went and got some ice, water and some snacks to take to the room and went and rested. It was a busy and good day. The room was a little noisy as the music from the street wafted up through the hallway into my room but it was bearable. I heard the church bell ring out each hour that passed. I looked outside at the midnight bell and the streets were quiet and void of people. All the motorcycles and people partying in the street had gone home. It was very quiet.
I woke Saturday morning and took my time getting ready for my visit to the museum and whatever other adventures might happen. The roosters were crowing and the streets were getting alive again.
I went to the corner, about a block away, in front of the central church and park to get my morning sustenance. They were making fresh empanadas. I’m not sure if they were empanadas, pastels, or some other fried pocket food, I get them all mixed up. But whatever they were called they were good, hot, crispy and substantial. They rolled out the dough, made a pocket, dumped in an egg and dropped it into the hot oil and fried that bad boy up. Yummm..(Got a note from a blog reader, the name of these yummy things is yanikeke relleno the huevo)
Breakfast being cooked for me (click images to enlarge)
I went back to the hotel to start my trip to the Hermanas Mirabal Museo. The motorcycle guy (motoconcho) that I wanted was not there so I went with another guy. I hopped on the back (not really hop but got on slowly and lifted my feet onto the foot pegs) of the motorbike and was off after I gave the guy my orders to not go fast. I´m not really comfortable on a bike but it is the cheapest and easiest mode of transportation.
The Hermanas Mirabal Museum gardens (click images to enlarge)
The museum and property was so beautiful. The lands and gardens were so well groomed. You could tell that the Mirabal sisters came from a wealthy family. I took some pictures outside but they do not permit pictures taken inside the museum-house. There was the original furniture and decorations in the house. The kitchens had all the original utensils and stoves. The bedrooms of the girls, Patricia, Minerva and María Teresa had their sewing machines, lace handkerchiefs and belongings all inside. It was just like someone still lived there. Each room had one of the favorite dresses of each sister. The most touching parts of the tour for me was seeing the pony tail of María Teresa that DeDe, the only surviving sister, cut off in the morgue. The other was the bloodstained handkerchief that came from the murder scene in a glass case.
I left there with my motor guy and we went to the house where DeDe still lives. There is a beautiful well-maintained park on the opposite side of the road and another smaller park adjacent to it. The smaller of the two has a monument representing the 3 butterflies and the chassis of the car that the girls were riding in then they were brutally murdered by Trujillo’s henchmen. The home of DeDE and family is so beautiful. They have some beautiful orchids in their garden as well as other flowers.
Original home of the Mirabal Family porch and orchids(click images to enlarge)
I was so touched when I was walking around the grounds and a large yellow butterfly swept by and landed on a bright red flower. I felt like the sisters were there greeting me. I tried to get a picture but by the time I turned on my camera the magnificent butterfly had disappeared as fast as it appeared. Did the spirits of the sisters themselves greet me? Interesting thought.
The maid showed me around the property. She showed me the outdoor kitchen where they cook with wood when the family has their large gatherings. She showed me what cacao (coco) looks like and she opened the large fruit and let me taste the insides. You only suck off the white coating that surrounds the seed. It was sweet and very tasty. They raised cacao there and had the drying area but it did not have any fruit drying at this time.
I got back on the bike and the driver, Ramon, showed me the different trees, veggies and plants along with their names as we passed. He stopped to let me see some cacao drying and say hi to some of the people sitting there on their porch watching the cacao dry. It was a good trip.
I was hungry and wanted something substantial so I got some typical Dominican food, la Bandera. I went to a place called Route 55. It was a very unassuming place, not open long. They serve typical Dominican food, pizza, sandwiches and hamburgers on this wonderful special bread, tacos and other foods. The food was excellent and the owner, Elias and his employees were wonderful and very attentive. Elias and I talked a while and he invited me to come for dinner, his treat. Can’t beat that deal.
I wanted to discover some more so I found Aristidad, the original motoconcho guy I wanted, and we were off again. I told him I wanted to see the River so he took me to Rio Cenobi. He was a really nice guy and came highly recommended. We stopped and had a beer then took a walk along a motor-walking trail to see the country people and their homes. He explained about the fruit trees and veggies. There were some beautiful country homes and farms (fincas) along the path. There was wires strung throughout the trees as this is the only was these country people can get a little electric as the power lines do not reach here. These homes are modest and so clean. They do not have running water even though some houses are set up to collect rainwater for their use. Most use latrines and do not have indoor facilities. It is amazing that people still live this way.
Houses in the campo near Salcedo with Aristidad(click images to enlarge)
I did not know we were going to walk into the campo so I was not prepared. Stupid me. I had calf length pants on and no bug spray. I knew better but it was too late. The mayes, or as I call them no seeums had their way with me. They loved the new blood and had their way with me. I was doomed to have the itchy red welts on my legs but it was worth the 2 weeks or these unsightly blotches.
Along the trail a man came riding on his motor with his machete at his side. It was a friend of Aristidad, Felix. He took us to his home. We had to cross the river on rocks they set up (I wonder how they cross when the river is high). Then we walked up a steep slope to Felix families’ home. The 5 or 6 wooden outbuildings and main house were so well taken care of. The yard was clean and the grass trimmed perfectly. There were fruit trees everywhere. We sat in the yard and talked a bit. The family was so nice. They gave me a cup of coffee as we shared some stories. They had to get back to work, as it is a working farm. They do not have and motorized farming equipment. The main tool of choice is usually a machete and other hand held farming tools.
They showed me the pigs, chickens, ducks and their horse. Felix climbed a tree and got me a piece of fruit. While he was in the tree a wasp stung his arm. There was a very long palm trunk laying in the yard. He explained it was drying out to be used to repair the house and buildings. They hand chopped the trunk into board lengths. Then when it was completely dry they finish chopping the sections. Then they use other hand held tools to cut the wood into usable boards. Just like in the pioneer days or maybe like I saw on Little House on the Prairie, except it was palm wood. I was just so amazed with these hard working peoples way of life.
Aristidad and Felix at the Osorio farm(click images to enlarge)
They told me about a mountain near by called Loma el Cerro de la Cruz (I hope I got the name right). People hike up the hill and sign their names so others know they were there. Felix (829-853-7802) and Arisitdad (809-254-0660) can take people there if they want all you have to do is give them a call and see when they can do it. Remember, they do not speak English and to tell them you got their numbers from Janette, The Dominicana Gringa.
I discussed with them about maybe taking a few tourists into their home for a few days to live and work with them. They could enjoy showing people their way of life and make a little money doing so. They agreed but they would have to meet the people first and make sure that the people were nice, did not swear and could accept their lifestyle for a few days.
We left, with my poor red itchy legs leading me along the trail. I was quite hungry by this time and was ready for my free meal at Route 55. So I got cleaned up at the hotel and headed for some fuel for my body. Elisa first gave me a quipe, his mother’s recipe. It was the best quipe I ever had. Then he gave me this giant place of food. Way too much for me, but I dug in. It was beef that he marinated to perfection, platano frito, and a salad. It was all wonderful. I ate until I was stuffed to exploding and enjoyed every bite except for a few platanos that was just too much.
It was getting dark and the partiers were coming out to play. That corner is where everyone goes in the evening. There are about 5 places all playing different loud music. The people crowd into the street, like a small Aveneda Venezuela in Santo Domingo. I went to the small place owned by the hotel and had a seat out front as inside it was so loud this old gal couldn’t deal with it. I was shocked that the prices of a beer in these places were the same as a Colmado. I shared a few beers with some people sitting around. I bought a jumbo and they all took turns buying also. But I was pooped out with the days journeys and the streets were filling up with tons of humans, so I headed back to the hotel for the night and slept very well despite the loud music coming from the street. I was whooped. It was another great day.
Sunday I woke to the maid, Maria, knocking at my door with a cup of coffee. She saw my legs and went and got some Vicks Vapor Rub, the Dominican cure-all, and put it on my legs. They were all swollen and itchy. I had some antihistamines and was so glad I brought them with. They sure came in handy. I got cleaned up and went to get my egg pastele breakfast. I called Aristidad to see if he could take me someplace else but he was outside of the town. It ended up that it was a good thing. I was so tired (maybe it was the antihistamines) and my ankles were swollen from the bites. So I just went back to the hotel and rested.
Around 2 o’clock I went out to see what was going on. There were people everywhere. They were having their pre-Carnival party and parade. It was fun but there were so many people in the streets and I’m not real big with giant crowds as I get older so I went to the hotel bar place and talked to some people I met and shared a few beers. They told me that Salcedo was also known for their murals, famous and unknown Dominican painters paint many of the buildings with beautiful murals. I was waiting for my time to go to the cheese factory.
I went to the factory and the girl working in the Colmado told me they finished up with the cheese early and to come back tomorrow. I had to leave tomorrow so the picture taking and cheese factory plans would have to wait for another time. Oh well, such is life.
I went back and had a few more beers with Fausto and watched the events in the street. I went to the pharmacy and got a little bottle of alcohol for my legs. Then I went and got a hamburger at Route 55 to take to me room and try not to scratch my swollen legs. The hamburger, no lie, was one of the best I ever ate. I don’t know what he did to the meat, whatever marinade he used was perfect.
I took a nap and rested in the hotel for a while but the noise from the celebration in the street was so loud I decided to go out and see what was happening. I got out the door of the hotel and there were people everywhere so I went around the side with less people, bought a few snacks, ice and stuff and went back to the room for the night.
Got up on Monday and got my stuff together to go home. Maria, the maid, came with my coffee and the menthol for my legs and we talked a bit. She invited me to her house for lunch but I needed to get back to reality and work so I had to decline. I got her number for the next time I visit so I can go to her house. She helped me carry my stuff down the stairs and I paid the bill. I called Aristidad to take me to the Caribe Tour bus and that was that. I was on my way back to the Zone for work and everyday life. The best thing of all is I was back to my own bed and had another great adventure. I love this country!!