Today we embraced the true spirit of Sunday and enjoyed several hours of beachy relaxation, the perfect way to rest up and gear up before camp begins tomorrow!
It started with a trip to Laguna Gri Gri, a small, picture-perfect, lagoon that leads to the ocean. We boarded two boats, wound through a series of mangroves filled with white birds and clear waters spotted with sting rays, before we arrived at the turquoise of the Atlantic Ocean. Pretending we were in Pirates of the Caribbean we cruised along the coast, at one point entering the mouth of a cave (no bats, lots of stalagmites). On the way back towards shore we had the chance to jump in and swim at “La Piscina,” an alcove of water that is pool-like calm (hence the name). Nick’s underwater camera allowed for a full-on photo shoot and chicken fights abounded, until it was time to re-board and head back.
From Laguna Gri Gri we cruised East towards Playa Grande, one of the DR’s best beaches. We’ve quickly realized Jesus, our driver, is easily the most skilled on the island (“he’s my literal idol,” says trip leader Moe Torres). Jesus (hey-zeus with the correct pronunciation) is able to maneuver our 45 passenger charter bus down roads dotted with speeding motorcycles and 12-point turns his way down the narrowest of streets. Otto and Adonis, our DREAM trip leaders, call our hulking green bus “El Rey de la Carretera” (the king of the highway), and we’re going to pretend it’s the largest available on the whole island.
Once we arrived at Playa Grande we immediately sat down for a typical Dominican beach lunch of cotorra (parrot fish), chicken, rice and beans before we were treated to “Coco Locos” (crazy coconuts), which are a mixture of coconut water, grenadine and condensed milk (very sweet, we felt divided about it, though thumbs up that it was served out of a coconut). After Nick gave us our lesson in expert bargaining (“No, eso es mucho para mi,” “Eso cuesta demasiado” or simply a shrug and walking away), we were equipped to hit the beach stands. Items purchased included: woven bracelets, shell necklaces (including a throwback puka shell necklace for Ben Bochner), and mini wooden sculptures. The next two hours were spent body surfing, Frisbee-ing, go pro-ing, and generally hanging in the ocean. Already our Scatico shorts and socks tans are starting to fade.
By 3 pm it was time to head back to the hotel. Our drive home had us learning more about life in the Dominican countryside. Common sights include: Stacks and stacks of water jugs, dogs napping in the shade, fruit stands (in the DR every season is mango season), cow pastures, people staring at “El Rey de la Carretera,” and lotto kiosks. Back at the hotel, Moe, who was born in the DR though he left when he was 2, started up a game of dominos on his own travel set (the tiles are about the size of a piece of gum). Plus we partook in the now-classic combination of pool and pool, and even tested out the Beachcomber Jacuzzi.
The last stop of the night was El Velero Beach Resort, for a sunset beach walk and dinner. Sunsets in the DR just may rival sunsets at Scatico, and trading a lake for a beach as the backdrop doesn’t hurt either. Cabarete is known for its kite surfing, and the silhouettes of kite surfers’ sails and flips were spotted against the orange-tinted horizon. After another extensive Nick Goodacre photo shoot we enjoyed dinner under the stars (and, as Noah Levine notes, a slightly crooked palm tree).
Once we wrapped up it was time to prep for tomorrow’s camp day and receive our very own DREAM camp T-shirts. Itineraries were solidified, sample animal face masks were made for arts n crafts (shout out to Tony’s dragon and Emma’s butterfly), and we got pumped for a full day of meeting our campers. Regardless of how much we’ve prepared, it’s doubtless the camp day will be filled with unanticipated surprises. If everything went exactly as planned… well it just wouldn’t be camp