Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Semi-Final Vacay post: the real DR

While on vacation Jon and I decided to do a tour of the island because Jon loves tours of islands and I love Jon.  We settled on a tour that was supposed to show us the "real" Dominican Republic and it sure did!

We got picked up at 7:30am at our hotel and then got on this Spanish army truck.  It was bumpy, loud, and dirty.  In other words (Jon's words mostly), it was awesome!


Our first stop was at a real Dominican Republic house.
We had to drive for about 30 minutes before going off the "main" road and driving another 10 on a dirt road that barely fit our tour truck.  This tour company takes turns with various families every 6 months and pays them to let strangers wonder on their property and interrupt their lives.  I think it's kind of cool that they rotate the houses to make sure every one gets a little piece of the tourist money.

The house consists of a small hallway they call their living room and dining room, a couple of small bedrooms, and the newest addition - a bathroom with running water.  The walls are made from palm trees, while the roof is metal.  Their rooms are just big enough for a bed and sometimes some additional small furniture.  And yet, every single house has satellite TV!

The kitchen is in a separate hut outside the house.  Makes sense since it's about 70 degrees on the coolest day.  We drank some coffee, petted some puppies, I took pictures of flowers, and we got back on the truck.

This was along our drive - another house with a satellite dish.  Seriously, every house had a satellite dish.

On our drive, the Bartender passed out some drinks

I love the old Coca Cola bottles. So freaking cool!

We also got some snacks

These are sugar canes.  They taste like sugar.

Someone ordered a rum and coke.  It was like 9:30am, but hey, I'm not judging!  Anyways, I was a little curious about this drink since the Bartender was trying to open and hand out bottles while the truck went over a bumpy road.

Then our talented bartender grabbed a couple of bottles of Coca Cola, dumped some liquid off the side of the truck, and poured some rum into them.  Then he closed them back up, turned them upside down, and handed them out.  I couldn't stop laughing.

Then we kept driving.  And drinking.

These are the fields along our drive to the "producers".

And these are the piles of trash we encountered at almost every mile of our drive.  Dominican Republic doesn't have a recycling system but they're working really hard to take care of that and put one in place in the next 5 years.  Gross.

Ah!  This is a much better view.  I didn't realize that Punta Cana had so many mountains but they were everywhere.  In fact, we climbed one in our truck (barely!) for almost 30 minutes to get to our next destination.

As we kept driving, we started seeing everything from chocolate fruit, bananas, mangoes, to even coffee.  Along the ride, our Guide climbed out on top of the truck and grabbed some weird looking stuff.  Do you know what these are?

They're cashews!  It's okay - we literally had no clue this is how they grew.  You only get one cashew per fruit, which explains why they're so expensive.  And so delicious.

Our next step was at one of the 4 major producers on the island.

Our guide showed us how chocolate grew.  Did you know this was chocolate?

Each of these fruit hold these squishy little pockets that contain chocolate beans.

When you peal off this gross white coat of goo, you get this purple bean.  That's chocolate.

They lay those purple beans out in the sun for 3 days and they turn brown.

Then it gets ground up and you drink it.

It tastes delicious!  We bought some to bring home with us.

We also smelled some cinnamon.

Poked some pineapples.

Admired the sugar canes.

Smelled some fresh-ground coffee.

 Ate some fresh fruit.

Then bought a whole bunch of stuff.  We couldn't help it - come over and smell this chocolate and coffee and you'll understand.  Besides, as our Guide continued to remind us, we're helping their economy!

Our next stop - the ranch!

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