Tag Archives: beach
19. Dec, 2009

My Fascination With Bolivia

7 Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

7 Mile Beach, Grand Cayman

Years ago, during another adventure, I ended up on the island of Grand Cayman just South of Cuba in the Caribbean. I had just finished hitch hiking a few thousand miles from California to Florida, with a couple detours in between. Now it was time to leave the USA. Sitting in the Miami airport, I watched the marque displaying airline departures and wondered how far South I could get for as little money as I had on me. After a few question at the ticket counter, I was on my way to Grand Cayman.

After arriving in Grand Cayman, you must go through customs. I was a little naive at this time and did not know then, what I know now. The customs official asks you questions such as, how long will you be staying? And at what resort are you staying at? It’s obvious now that the purpose of these questions is to make sure you have sufficient funds to stay in their country, and that you will contribute to the local economy instead of become a drain on it.

Well, being stupid and very naive at the time, I told the customs official I had no reservations in a hotel, and that I would figure out my lodging options upon arrival. Of course, that did not go over well and was very unacceptable to the customs agent. He gave me a 3-day visa, and told me that would be enough time to arrange for my immediate departure!

That night, I spent the night under a bridge. I arrived in the afternoon, and hadn’t had enough time check out the local scene yet. The next day I headed toward the beach. The famous 7 Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. This is where all the rich people stay in their fabulous all inclusive resorts. If you walk past all the hotels, the end of the beach is (was) desolate. Perfect! This would be my home. There was a huge Sea Grape tree that I would call home for the next 10 days or so while I figured out what to do.

I had a hammock, and actually lived “in” the tree. Just like Robinson Crusoe. In the day, I would swim offshore and find conch hidden in the eel grass for food. Then I would sell the shells to tourist to get a little extra cash. And since my clothes where getting pretty ragged from my travels, I would visit the resorts at night, and find lost shirts and pants left on the beach by tourists that still lived in the world of excess.

After exploring the island and avoiding deportation, my goal became to leave the island without jail time. There are two ways off an island, by plane and by boat. A boat seemed like the obvious choice.

After hanging out at the marina, I found a 47′ Ketch that was sailing for Roatan, Honduras. I had no idea where that was, but I knew it was better than staying here. A couple days later, I was free of Grand Cayman and sailing South to a little know island of Roatan, part of the Bay Islands in Honduras.

The first mate was a nice guy, but a strange character. He had the forward cabin and was an avid HAM radio operator. He had no license to operate, so he would just “borrow” a license and call sign from different people depending on the day. I also think he was ex-military too.

Sunset at Sea

Sunset at Sea

If you have ever spent time on a boat doing blue water sailing, you will know that you have a lot of time of your hands. So the people you are with become your best friends and you share, and talk about anything and everything. This guy, was one of those people. And he had some great stories to tell. He is how I found out about Bolivia.

Whether his stories were true or not really didn’t matter. They were great stories just the same. He spent much time in South America before he started crewing on this boat. I would listen to his stories for countless hours and dream of a life like the one he painted.

He was a pure capitalist, and saw opportunities in everything everywhere. The details are fuzzy, but his stories entailed exporting (smuggling) uncut emeralds out of Colombia. And importing (smuggling) arms to freedom fighters in different locations in Latin America.

He was a helicopter pilot, probably trained by the US government and practiced combat in Vietnam. Supposably he made pretty good money doing this for a couple years. But the adrenaline rush and adventure of it all was the true reason he kept doing it. That was until he was ambushed and almost caught one time. He had to ditch his helicopter and hike out of the jungle on foot to avoid capture.

He always said, that when he had the time, he would go back to Bolivia where he had ditched the helicopter and hidden it in the jungle, fly it out, and start doing it all over again! And of course, I was invited to come with him.

Well, that was many years ago. Whether any of the story is true, or whether he ever went back and got his helicopter I will never know. But the seed was planted. Adventure, espionage, all the makings of a great movie. And all I had to do, was get to Bolivia. Well finally, I’m on my way…

15. Dec, 2009

Ocean World

Ocean World in the Dominican Republic, is probably the most popular and best tourist attraction this country has to offer. Just North of Puerto Plata, Ocean World has Sea Lions, Dolphins, Birds, Tigers, Sting Rays, Sharks and more!

Arriving in the morning, we got there just in time for a the Bird Show. They have beautiful Macaws, Parrots, and Love Birds that do a great job at entertaining the guests. As soon as the Bird Show is over, the Sea Lion show begins.

Sea Lions have to be a favorite of everyone. They’re smart, cute, and funny as can be, both in and out of the water! Some of the skits they do are hilarious and they really get the crowd involved. Especially when the Sea Lions start splashing everyone in the front row.

Taking a break from the shows, we toured the grounds and went into the Bird Avery. The Avery is really quite cool. All the birds from the bird show are kept there, and you can see them up close and personal. If you are lucky enough, you even get to hold or pet a couple of them. They also had a few Toucans in their too. But holding or petting the Toucans is pretty damn hard. They got a big beak and like to use it. Take my word for it, I know!

Outside of the Avery is another aquarium with Piranas in them. If you’ve never seen piranas, you should. They are smaller than I imagined, but I still wasn’t fooled by their size. Probably not a good idea to hand feed these guys.

Next we checked out the Bengal Tigers! These cats are HUGE! Separated by some pretty thick plexiglass, you can swim in a pool right next to the Tigers. And if you are lucky enough to be there when the Tigers are active or swimming, it can be quite a show. They also feed the Tigers at regular intervals. And for a price, you can get your photo taken with a Tiger while you feed it through a small hole in the plexiglass.

Getting hot, it was a perfect time for a swim. So we headed over to the Coral Reef for a swim. There you can put on a mask and snorkel and swim around a coral reef with live fish everywhere. If you are afraid of the ocean, or have never experienced swimming with fish in their natural habitat. This is a definite MUST DO!

After cooling off a bit from our swim, we headed over to the shark enclosure for a close up Shark Encounter. It’s really pretty cool. They have a bunch of Nurse Sharks and let some of the audience get down in the water and actually hold and pet the sharks! It’s quite a good show. You learn about sharks, and laugh your ass off while the Shark Trainers take turns scaring the people in the water holding the sharks. They are harmless, but hearing that and believing that are two different things.

At the end of the day, we went to the Dolphin Encounter where we got a chance to hold, pet, and interact with some dolphins. It’s incredible how intelligent and powerful these animals are! Of course, you get a chance to get your photo taken with Dolphins too. We finished up the day watching the Dolphin perform. Probably the best show in Ocean World. I’ve heard they have the largest Dolphin enclosure in the Caribbean, and they need it too! With the Dolphins jumping, doing acrobatic trick, and giving their trainers rides, it’s the one show in Ocean World that cant be missed!

29. Nov, 2009

Playa Esmeralda

Playa Esmeralda

On the North Coast near Miches, you will find a small Pueblo called La Mina. This is the gateway to Playa Esmeralda, one of the most beautiful and unspoiled beached in the Dominican Republic. Here you will find another dirt road heading North towards the coast. The drive isn’t far, but because the road is in such poor condition, it will take you about 25 minutes to reach the coast from La Mina.

We were foolish enough to drive it at night when it was pitch black! There is a fork in the road and you must go left. First we went left, and after navigating around numerous “body bags” and almost getting stuck in some mud. We decided we must have taken a wrong turn, so we headed back to the fork, and went right this time.

After seeing several giant toads, giant crabs, and a couple of Tarantulas cross the road, it was getting a little bit eery going down this road alone at night. Tired and hungry, you had to squinting to see the road ahead of you. We had no idea what they were, but there were “body bags” everywhere! White bags big enough that you could fit a body in. You would be driving down the road, pitch black, and would have to swerve because this damn body bag was right in the middle of the road. I’d be damned if I was getting out of the car to check to see what was inside one of these bags. And every now and again, we would see a small one. Just large enough to hold maybe a head! OMG! We were scaring ourselves to death!

 

Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, some big bird comes swooping down out of the black abyss, inches from our car, and right in line with our headlights! All I hear was a scream! The car swerves… then yelling and cursing! Mother f*$k3r, Damn it, this is not the way. No way! We are turning back RIGHT NOW! I was laughing my ass off!

We turn around, go back to the fork, and head left one more time. This time we drive further and finally find the beach! It’s pitch black when we setup our tent, but we were excited we finally made it. It looked beautiful, but we would have to wait until morning to really see where we were.

Morning came and we were eaten alive by bugs! But, the beach was beautiful! Nothing like a swim in the ocean to wake yourself up in the morning. Some security guards came by and said how they would protect us during the night. The were actually very nice. Venezuelans own the land by the beach, and the security guards where there to protect the land. From what? I dont know. But they were doing a good job cause the land was still there, and the beach was as beautiful as can be.

After breakfast we headed back into the town of La Mina to get our defenses against the mosquitos and fleas for the next night. Bug repellant, Baygon, and a slow burning anti-mosquito coil. They didn’t have a chance tonight!

We drove back to Playa Esmeralda and could see the body bags in the daytime now. We actually drove through a rice field and the “body bags” where bags of raw rice that fell off the truck ! Oh well, I still like the idea of seeing body bags at night. It makes for a good story!

Back at Playa Esmeralda we hiked down the beach to the point and went skin diving. Along the way we found a new spot to put our tent. It would be our All Inclusive Resort for the weekend! And there were less bugs there too. We moved the tent, fumigated the area, and setup our new camp. It was heaven on Earth! Better than Gilligan’s Island, and even better than Swiss Family Robinson. We were living in style now!

That night, we build a bonfire, ate dinner, and drank cold margaritas around the campfire. As the stars twinkled above, and the rays of the moon lite up the ocean, Playa Esmeralda was the most beautiful spot in the Dominican Republic tonight.

[mappress]

27. Nov, 2009

Playa Coco

Heading North from Higuey along the coast towards Miches you’ll find a small unmarked dirt road. If you follow it all the way to the coast you’ll find yourself a beautiful and secluded beach called Playa Coco, with no one else around for miles and miles! (except for John, but I’ll get to that in a minute). From as far as you can see in both directions there is no one. Just palm trees, ocean and sand. Oh, there is the occasional pig, chicken, and maybe a dog or two that might cross your path. But that’s about it. Now, back to John…

John lives here. He left his family in Haiti to try and make a better life for himself here in the Dominican Republic. He’s been here for one year, and lives totally alone and rarely sees another human. I think we were the highlight of his month. Well, at least the highlight of his past week. He lives off coconuts and was kind enough to open a couple of fresh coconuts for us as we shared stories and learned more about his life in Playa Coco.

The only other people that John see’s are the Dominicans jumping in boats and heading East towards Puerto Rico. This happens to also be the departure point for Dominican fleeing the country in search of a better life in the USA. Entire families of 10-20 people cram themselves into small little fishing boats that are not much more than a dug out canoe. These brave (crazy) people, try to navigate the 80 plus miles of the Mona Passage towards Puerto Rico, the most difficult and dangerous passage in the Caribbean.

John see’s many people leave, but has never seen anyone return. Do they make it, who knows. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but the next beach over is called Playa Muerte, or Death Beach. Coincidence? I’ll let someone else be the judge of that…

[mappress]

10. Nov, 2009

Hotel Coco Plaza

Sitting on the edge of this beautiful town called Las Terrenas, you will find Hotel Coco Plaza.  Beaches, water sports, car rentals, and many daily excursions around the Samana Peninsula are all readily available and within walking distance from the hotel.
CocoPlaza

Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1 809-240-6516
Website: Hotel Coco Plaza

09. Nov, 2009

Gaia Club Party

DJ Stan Courtois at Club GaiaStarting my day off right with the breakfast of champions…rice, beans and chicken! Then it was off to Playa Bonita on a moto concho for a day at the beach. I met and made some friends the night before, and was going out to Bahia de las Ballenas where they were staying. They had a beautiful villa, and Playa Bonita really is a beautiful beach. We walked down the beach and around the corner and swam with a view of Playa Coson in the background. Great people, and a wonderful day at the beach.

That night Punto Popy got rained out, so I waited until late to got to Gaia once again. I bounced back and forth between Gaia and Mosquito, another bar right across from Gaia but directly on the beach. Nacho was the DJ at Mosquito, and was playing Marvin Gaye, Barry White, and other great Motown classics. A totally different vibe and feel from Gaia. Personally, I love Motown and the vibe at Mosquito is my type of place. It’s a great place to hang and talk with friends, while listening to great classic music at the same time. Gaia, is more house, electronic, and go crazy type of fun. Either way, it’s hard to loose. There is also another club down the street. I forgot the name. But they play local music. Merengue, Salsa, Bachata. I spent time there too. They all have their own appeal to a different crowd. So basically, Las Terrenas has something for everyone.

Between 2:00am and 3:00am, most the other clubs closed down, but Gaia stays open to at least 4:00am. Yet again, the place was really off the hook tonight. DJ Giacomo was getting the crowd started when DJ Stan brought the house down and went till a little after 4:00am. Yes, there was dancing on the tables, yes there was girls dancing on poles, and yes, the bar was busy all night long. I stayed after most the people left, and helped close the club down. It’s 6:30am and it’s time for bed. Finally, the weekend was over, but the memories and people I’ve met, I’ll keep forever.

09. Nov, 2009

Bahia de las Ballenas

In Playa Bonita, away from the hustle and bustle of Las Terrenas, lies Hotel Bahia de las Ballenas. This beach hotel is built in traditional style cana roofed bungalows, with comfort and simplicity. Exotic and charming, this is the perfect location to escape, relax and unwind.

Hotel Bahia Las Ballenas, Playa Bonita

Email: [email protected]
Phone: +1 809-240-6066
Website: Bahia de las Ballenas

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