Las Galeras at last!

After two long travel days we are finally at this beach paradise! Las Galeras is in the far northeast of the Dominican Republic. It took an entire day to get here that started with an 8am taxi, to a 2.5 hour bus ride, to a motoconcho ride, to finally a gua gua ride to this little village. A motoconcho is a motorcycle that has a open four seated cab like thing attached to it. A gua gua is basically an old pick up or a minivan without doors that acts as a small bus.

The main beach in town has an excellent swimming section that had a bunch of local kids that couldn't get enough of jack and Maya, and one boy even touched jack's hair. People are so enamored with his hair, he is like a copper haired celebrity.

We are staying at the excellent La Isleta set in a beautiful tropical garden. Our place has a kitchen, upstairs sleeping loft, downstairs sleeping area and a big bathroom. The front porch has a lovely table and benches.

The lovely view of the Carribean sea from our bungalow window.

Porch sitting area where we take our meals.

The kitchen has everything we need including unlimited drinking water

This is the downstairs sleeping area. The kids push the benches together and put a big mosquito net over it at night.

Maya leads the way to the upstairs sleeping loft

It really is as perfect as it looks.

Maya always makes friends with the local cats. This one was waiting for her when she woke up.

We spent the day at this postcard perfect beach. It is called La Playita and it is about a 20 minute walk down a sandy path. We snorkeled off the beach all day. The water was amazing.

Yes there really was Weather worn abandoned washed up boat on the shore.

While snorkeling we say a guy spear fishing. Turns out he was catching our lunch. We ate at a fish shack on the beach that has the freshly caught fish on a plate that we could choose from. We chose 2 and they cooked them up and served them, heads and all, with rice, beans, fried plantains, and eggplant. Very yummy.

We are a happy and rested family. After a long year at school this is exactly what we needed.


Safe and sound in santo Domingo

A long travel day lands us in santo Domingo at the green house apart hotel www.greenhouse-hotel.com. As promised and arranged by the hotel there was a taxi waiting for us in the arrivals area where we were charged the standard 35 usd for the 30 minute ride to the Gazcue area of Santo Domingo. The hotel is very clean and the staff very friendly. Our rate for a triple room which has 2 full beds and 1 twin bed with a large bathroom is 60 usd per night. They actually walked us to the nearest ATM, which was nice but probably not entirely necessary. There is free wi fi which is great.

The owner offered to cook for us, which was welcome because if there is one thing the kids hate it's looking everywhere in a big, dirty, noisy city for a place to eat. We had a tasty but standard meal of fries, chicken, salad, and fresh squeezed pineapple juice. I neglected to ask the price before we ate which I may regret when we settle the bill in the morning.

The city is like most big Latin American cities...loud and lots of trash on the ground. Trucks, vans, cars, mopeds, and carts go whizzing by at breakneck speed making crossing hazardous especially for the boy who is distracted by a speck of dust.

We will be making our way to the bus station in the morning for a 4-5 hour ride to Samana where we will connect with local transport, called a gua gua, for the 1 hour ride to Las Galeras in the far Northeast of the country.

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Dominican Republic


Funding the trip

I get a lot of questions about how our family can afford international trips on a teacher's salary every summer. I will post about that someday, but for now here's how Jack is making some last minute money when he realized that we were leaving and he had spent all of his savings on yet another star wars Lego set.

So far he has made 12 bucks. His strategy is to only charge 25cents a cup, which people seem to think is so cute so they pay him a buck for a cup. He's doing pretty good, but Maya is outselling him at her stuffed animal emporium.

This little entrepreneur has made 21dollars so far this morning!


Pockets of Paranoia

" Ok kids, this little pocket gets safety pinned into the inside of your clothes everytime we leave the hotel. It's only for an emergency, like if you get kidnapped and find a way to escape to safety, or if your parents sink on a rickety boat and drown but you manage to swim ashore, or you get lost in a sprawling third world market while being ditsracted by crates of chickens. Inside is a copy of everyone's passports, 5o bucks, and the phone numbers of your relatives back home and it's in a tiny zip lock bag in case this emergency happens in a rainstorm, or an ocean, or a flood"

Here's what the parents keep their important stuff in tucked in flat to the waistline of their shorts, strapped around the waist, and for extra security safety pinned too. Why the safety pins? Well, if someone tries to cut the strap off from the back they will be thwarted becasue it is also going to be safety pinned on!

This thing is super hot and uncomfortable but its the only concievable way to carry important things securely like cash and passports.

What's in the Backpack?

Luis' pack is an Eagle Creek Maiden Voyage 70L purchased on ebay 2 years ago for $100. It has a detachable daypack and all kinds of little internal pockets. A great pack that is really well designed. Here's what's he's schlepping:
  • 3 pairs shorts, t shirts, unders
  • swim suit and shirt
  • flip flops
  • snorkel gear
  • games: backgammon, cards, LRC, chess
  • duct tape and scotch tape
  • sewing kit
  • journal
  • headlamp
  • 4 novels
  • toothbrush
  • jump rope (because he wants to do an exercise routine on the beach !?!)
  • 1 Q zip lock bag: 4 bottles sunscreen, shave cream, toothpaste
Here's my backpack, an REI Grand Tour 76 L, which has a detachable daypack. I bought this from ebay for $100 in 2009 and it has been awesome on the past 2 trips. Here's a list of what's going in my pack:
  • 3 pairs of shorts, t shirts, unders
  • 2 sleeping shirts
  • bathing suit and sarong
  • black dress
  • flip flops
  • 4 novels
  • snorkel gear
  • headlamp
  • journal
  • spare glasses
  • washcloth
  • copy of passports and e tickets
  • first aid kit: bandaids, ACE bandage, iboprofen, immodium, adhesive tape
  • guidebook and Spansh phrase book
  • tampons
  • toilet paper
  • clothesline and pins
  • 1 Q zip lock bag: 3 bottles bug spray, antibiotic ointment, deodorant, 3 face sunscreen sticks, benedryl gel
Here's the 4 piles of stuff for our packs. The motto here is "If you can't carry it you can't bring it". This certainly makes packing simple! Admittedly, Luis and I carry all the toiletries, especially since we load up on US sunscreen and bug spray, and that stuff can be heavy. Lucky for us we are a very low maintenance family, so there isn't really that much to bring.

We outfit a good first aid kit, but there are pharmacies on every corner where we can get anything we need. However, it is nice to bring the stuff from home to avoid trying to explain in broken Spanish and sign language that someone in the family has the runs. Last year in Peru I tried to explain to a store clerk that Maya needed some kind of salve for dry skin caused by the windy high altitude. I didn't know the word for wind, so I made weird hand gestures that I thought indicated wind. The lady had no idea what I was trying to say so I ended up buying some baby oil, which confused the clerk even more.

Getting Ready for the Dominican Republic

Just 10 days away from the 3rd summer trip. This summer its the Dominican Republic which I think is going to be really easy, bordering on boring. I don't expect to be challenged physically, culturally, or emotionally. I am pretty sure I will be challenged financially though!

Still, I have gone through the usual angst in planning. Who knows, maybe it will be much better than I anticipate. Still feel like I am wimping out. Really, who goes to the DR? Practically everyone! When we went to Peru last year we made a point to go the areas least blogged, twittered, and forum posted about. And it worked out great. We rarely saw other travelers, and the ones we did see were way cooler than we could ever hope to be. The people going on a remote cave exploration adventure in the northern wilds, days away from civilization or the botanists who are ground zero for the study of all things plant like in the world. These were the people we came across last year.

Back to the angst. There's the up till 1 am scouring the web for bad reviews of the places I have decided to visit. When I have Google searched every area I can think of I can finally go to bed. I do this a few times a week. Lucky for me the places I have chosen remain free of mass tourism. Here's the place we are staying at in Las Galeras: http://www.laisletasamana.com/english.html. I've exchanged a few emails with the guy and he is going to charge us $50 a night. This seems like a pretty good deal to me, especially since it has a kitchen so we can save by cooking for ourselves.

Another place I have found is a nice little homestay in Moncion: http://www.casadelasanas.com/Home . More expensive, at $140 a night, it does include all of our meals. With luck they will charge me a little less for the kids, becasue there's no way they can eat $70 worth of food in a day!

Other than Las Galeras and Moncion it looks like we may stop in Constanza. No accommodation found yet, so we may have to wait till we get there. And still waiting to hear from a hotel I really want to stay at in the capital, Santo Domingo called Hotel La Residence http://www.hotelresidencia.com/Pages/rates.html . Can't get anyone to respond to my emails, no can I get a response to forum posts on Trip Advisor, dr1.com, or the Thorn Tree.

I think I may have planned as much as I can for this trip!