Ivone and I had been in the Dominican Republic, or as my t-shirt says, ‘Republica Dominicana’, for two whole days. We’d frolicked in the clear blue ocean, walked the beaches, ate like kings and queens, and bellied up to a few bars. Resort life was sweet. Something, though, was pulling at us.
It was time to explore.
Which is how we found ourselves boarding a small bus with several other turistas. Destination: Cable cars and the sights of downtown Puerto Plata. This city was where our resort was located, but earlier we had passed through the real place. It was large, different, kind of scary looking. It would have been daunting to try this on our own, so we signed up for a group tour.
Once we had settled in our seats, our Dominican guide Luis stood up and addressed the group.
“You are my family, and we all have to stick together. I don’t want to lose my family.” A few people chuckled and we relaxed a bit as the bus lurched away. First stop, the cable cars.
A small mountain looms over the city. Cable cars, or what we in the US might call gondolas, take up to twelve people at a time up the mountainside. Clear plexiglass windows allowed us to check out the amazing views. The day was hot and steamy but clear, so we could see the coastline as well as the city from our lofty position.
At the top, we disembarked and walked around. A woman who worked there took our picture in the foreground of Christ the Redeemer, a downsized version of the one in Rio. We held up our arms and extended our hands. Scanning our pictures later, it looked as though we were holding up the giant statue by ourselves.
The heat was even more intense on the summit, so we found some shade and waited for the ride back.
Back on the bus again, Luis explained the rest of the day’s itinerary. “We are going to a rum factory, where you will try eight kinds of rum. Then we will visit the chocolate factory and sample the chocolate. We will then visit the Museum of Amber. Finally, we will stop in town so you can buy gifts for your loved ones. Free glass of beer also – they want you nice and relaxed so you’ll buy more.” His honesty was refreshing.
We enjoyed the rum tour. I told myself I would not drink eight small shots of rum, but we ended up doing exactly that. The chocolate place was a bit of a let down. Just like at Hershey, you watch a video to see how the chocolate is made. The samples were stingy, just a few bits for each of us. We did buy some regular sized bars back at the resort and it was sinfully good.
The amber museum was in the downtown area. Some of us loved it, others didn’t. I kind of liked seeing photos of amber mines, and the insects trapped in the stuff, as seen in Jurassic Park. The jewelry was crazy expensive; I’m not sure if anyone bought any. I was fascinated by the paintings on the wall. If I was Joe Millionaire, I might have paid way too much for a striking black and white study of the coastline.
Finally it was time to do some real shopping. We parked the bus and zigzagged our way through the busy streets of Puerto Plata, the roads getting narrower and more sketchy looking as we walked.
We found the place and sure enough, there was beer. After a small glass of Presidente, we moved off to check things out. The prices, my god, the prices. It took a while to figure them out, since all were in pesos. But $80 for a wooden horse? Thanks but no thanks. Ivone said she might have paid $40, but not a penny more!
After that we walked the main city square and took pictures. The sun was beginning to go down, lending a golden color to the city. Still feeling good from the rum, chocolate and beer, we drifted back to the bus. It was a great afternoon; fun, informative, delicious, well worth our time.