Road Trip to San Jose De Ocoa
Day 1 – Sunday Oct. 23, 2011
I always try to go to a river or some area quiet for the day my son Billy Jay (to see his memories in pictures)died (Oct. 25). I just need to get away and be near fresh water even if its only just a few minutes. So this year I decided to go to San Jose de Ocoa and check out the area to put information on my web site, combining work and pleasure. I was there once many years ago for about an hour during their Virgen de Altagracia festival they hold each January for the Altagracia Day. I took some videos (see the videos I took in San Jose de Ocoa here)
and had a nice time so I figured I needed to go and learn more about this quiet little town.
I caught the bus in Parque Independencia in the Colonial Zone at 12 noon. The bus driver, Julio Manuel, was very nice. He took my suitcase and put it in the bus. We talked for a bit before the bus took of. When he told me it was time I got in my seat and settled in for a new adventure.
The bus was going so slow but I finally figured out they had a schedule to keep and since it was Sunday and there was no traffic on the roads they had to account for that and go slow to keep on time. But it seemed like it took forever, driving 5 miles per hour in the city picking up people here and there. Finally we hit the Parada where the bus really filled up and we were on our way. The bus trip to San Jose de Ocoa is $160 pesos and takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes to 3 hours.
When I got to San Jose de Ocoa and got off the bus I asked the driver about hotels and told him about my adventure. He told me I should go to Rancho Arriba which is a little farther up the mountain. I figured, why not, so I got back on the bus and we were off again. This time I was in the front seat next to the driver.
The road started to get bad and wasn’t paved anymore. It was really bumpy as we weaved our way up the mountain and into, what seemed, the middle of nowhere. The driver turned off the air and told me to open the window. The breeze was so nice and cool and the air smelt so fresh and clean. I was really enjoying the ride and the view. Thank goodness the bus had great shocks for the bumpy road. All the twists, turns, bends and places where the road was looking like it could turn impassable at any moment, Julio Manuel did some good driving as we worked our way up the mountain.
An hour later, costing me $100 pesos more, and we were there. He dropped me off at a hotel Tell Apin where I checked in. Julio asked me if he could come back and buy me a beer later and, of course, I said sure.
The owner of the hotel, Fernando and his son were both very nice as were the employees. I got a room for $300 pesos (about $8us dollars). It was very basic but what more does one really need, bathroom, bed and a fan. I left me luggage in the room and went out to explore. Walked up to the large Colmado at the entrance to the little town for a beer.
I met some nice guys Aneurys and his friends from Nizao, a little town half way down the mountain. Aneurys is a coffee farmer with his father, he is 20 years old, has a wife and 2 children and has no email address. I just found that interesting for a man that age not having an email address. He invited me to his house next time I am there. We talked a bit then some guy speaking a little English talked to me, Luis, and he bought me a jumbo beer and left. I went back and sat with Aneurys and friends and shared the beer with another guy cause I couldn’t drink all that beer before it got hot.
The Colmado was starting to get full as dusk approached. The shiny leaves of the coffee bushes were shining on the hill in the distance. The Colmado was filling up mostly with people arriving on Motorbikes all lined up in a row on the street. Then the horse riders, Cabelleros, started arriving on beautiful horses some even had chaps and spurs on, these guys were real cowboys. But it was getting dark, Aneurys and friends had to go so I decided I best head back before dark as the Colmado was really filling up and I saw very few women there and no women alone. I had to make my escape to the comfort of the hotel.
I got back and had some yummy Mondongo and a few beers, including tip for $200 pesos. Then Julio Manuel, the bus driver, called and we went to his motorbike for a short ride. We talked a bit, then he took me back to the hotel and I went to the room, read a little and went to sleep.
It was a good day.
Day 2 – Monday
Woke, took a cold shower, watched the guy milking his cows by hand from the window in the room, packed up and went down to the restaurant in the hotel for breakfast and to figure out how to get back down the mountain. Fernando, the hotel owner, explained to me how to get back to San Jose de Ocoa and told me a bit about the area. I got my luggage and headed back to the Colmado from the night before to get a Guagua down the mountain.
There were a few people there that remembered me from the day before in that Colmado. When the Guagua came there was no way my back could handle sitting on plain wooden seats for the bumpy ride down the mountain. They offered me the front seat but it was no better. I didn’t want to seem like a picky American but I had to take care for my poor ole back so I waited for the next bus. It was the same. So I talked to a motoconcho guy about a ride down the hill on his bike. I told him he had to go slow and maybe make a few stops for pictures and he said $200 pesos for the 45-minute ride so I agreed. He tied my suitcase on the back and I hopped (not really hopped, mounted the bike very slowly is more like it) on the back and we were off.
The motor guy, Odalis, made a few stops for a beer here and one there. We danced to some bachata. I stopped here and there and took some pictures. There was an interesting cemetery and a waterfall. There was a funny drunk guy in one place. He kept hugging the pillar where he was sitting. Odalis and I named the pillar Rosa. We left before the drunk started making mad love to his cement Rosa. I just did not want to see that..lol. We made sandwiches in a Colmado, which is a very inexpensive way to eat when traveling.
Five and a half hours later Odalis pulled up in front of the hotel in San Jose de Ocoa. Hotel Marien. They have a restaurant, bar and nice basic hotel on the second floor. The prices in the bar are the same as a Colmado so I was content. I checked in for $600 pesos a night (about $16usd). They have cable TV, air-conditioning, hot water and clean rooms.It is located in the center of town directly across from the park, Parque Duarte.
I unpacked and went down to check the area out. Aneurys was going to visit but he couldn’t get down and back up the mountain before dark. I got some dinner in the hotel. Had some really great Monfongo and salad for under $200 pesos. Then I went to the bar. There were a few guys there having a good time and they invited me to sit with them, Wilkin and his friends. We started laughing and talking. We danced a little. We used the beer bottle as a microphone and sang a bachata song. Of course, I had no idea what the words were but I just sang whatever. They were laughing so hard. We did have fun. Then around 9PM I went to the room to enjoy the air and sleep. When I got there Julio Manuel, the bus driver called to see me but I was too comfy in the room so I told him he had to visit another day.
It was a good day
Day 3 – Tuesday
Odalis, the moto guy, said he would take me to the river for my time with my son Billy Jay. I called him and he had finished his morning work milking the cows on his farm and was already heading down the mountain to meet me. We went to eat some Empanadas and had some juice and coffee. We went to his sisters’ house to visit for a little bit. Then he got a call from someone he needed to take for their documents and he had to go. He said he could not take me to the river and he was sorry. So I had to find someone to take me to a river.
I went back to the hotel and met an older gentleman, Jose, and we had a beer. Then I went to the corner to talk to the motoconcho drivers. The one guy was very rude and wanted $400pesos to take me for 2 hours. That was just too much and I really didn’t like the way he was acting. Then out of nowhere, the guy I met when in Rancho Arriba, Luis, came by. I told him what I needed. He was finished working, he only worked a half day, and he said he could take me for free. So I got on his bike and we were off with the motoconcho driver yelling behind that he could take me for less money.
Luis took me to a river where there was very little water running (the river was messed up because of tropical storm Irene that passed by. They said the water was over the bridge). He let me walk to the water and be alone for a while.
He told me about some Taino cave that wasn’t too far and if I wanted to go there. Of course I said yes. We started driving on these little dirt roads sparsely populated with little wooden and corrugated steel house and small farms. The road turned intro a trail and still there were homes here and there. It was a bit difficult on the bike as both Luis and I are large people. But we finally got to this little creek where the water was so cool and clear. The trail ended. You had to cross the creek and go on a walking trail the rest of the trip to the Cueva Indios. I did not bring the right kind of shoes for creek walking and was not prepared for this so we just stayed there. He sat on the rock and I walked around the woods for about a half hour. It was just what I needed for my time with Billy Jay.
We headed back to civilization and were almost back into Ocoa when he realized that he left his backpack on the rock. He dropped me at a gas station, here called a Bomba, bar and went back cause it would be faster if he went alone then he would come back and get me. Well, the bar was closed so I went off walking down the road for a Colmado.
There was one a few streets away owned by an older couple. I got a beer and we talked a bit. Their lights were out but the beer was still cold. They were so sweet. I enjoyed the conversation very much. Then I saw Luis passing by on his bike. I called his cell as he entered the bomba. Told him to turn right on the road and I was there. Well, he turned the wrong way so I had to call and tell him to turn the other right. He came back and then he took me back to the town. He went home and I went to the Supermercado Massiel (friendly staff and one man working there speaks English) near the hotel and got some food to eat in the room. I got some ice and a big pitcher of water and retired for the evening at around 6.
It was a difficult day knowing it was the day Billy Jay died but it was the prefect way to spend this day.
Day 4 – Wednesday
I wanted to spend this day checking out the town of San Jose de Ocoa. I went out for a walkabout. It is a nice little town were most of the homes are wooden or palm wood. It is very clean and well kept. There is very little trash in the streets. The people are friendly but not overly so.
I passed the Fire Station, the Bomberos. There was a very old fire truck so I took a picture and the firemen came out and we talked a bit. They were very nice and told me a little about the Cuerpo de los Bomberos.
I saw a nice little park filled with wonderful shade trees. There was a group of kids fighting the beta fish. I talked to some men sitting in front of their house and one took me in his house to meet his dying mother whom he was taking care of. I don’t know if she even knew we were there but I talked to her for a little bit anyhow and then was off again.
Wilken called to meet me for a beer so I stopped at Colomado Andujar to wait for him. The older gentleman I met the other day, Jose, was there so we had some laughs. The owner is a Dominican York and spoke English. The kid working there whom I named Motorconcho (they thought that was funny because here it is not motorconcho it is motoconcho), kept asking me to introduce him to an American woman so I took his picture to share with the world. As usual, Wilken never showed up but it didn’t matter because I had a great time. I left to meet the bus driver, Julio Manuel, at the bus station at 3. We talked for a few minutes and we made a date for later in the evening. I went back to the hotel to take a nap.
Woke and met Julio Manuel at the bus station at 8PM and we went to have a hamburger at some street vendor place. The burgers were only $50 pesos each where here in the Capital the price is double that easily. We had a beer and talked a while then I went to the room and to sleep.
It was another good day
Day 5 – Thursday Going home
Woke around 10AM, got ready, packed up and met Julio Manuel for a coffee. He waited with me for my bus back to Santo Domingo. Then I was off on the bus home. Talked to a lady for a while but mainly the trip was very uneventful.
I walked into my apartment around noon breathing a sigh of relief. I was in my own home again. The trip was wonderful but it is always so nice when I get into my own home with my own TV, my own kitchen, my own bed and all my stuff.
It was a great trip. I met some very nice people, a few of whom will be friends for a long time. I also got to spend time way in the country along a babbling creek, time alone remembering my baby boy, Billy Jay.