I received a phone call while visiting a friend in Big Sur. It was mid morning, late spring and sunny out on the ranch. The call was for a two-part job in the Dominican Republic. I was to be hired by a Venezuelan woman to document a three-day celebration of her union to a man of San Francisco. Mrs. Nathan of Tiny Atlas had connected the two of us and asked if I’d like to stay a few extra days to collect images for a travel story.
I had to walk down the hill to the bakery for internet waves and here is where I spent the rest of the morning sorting travel plans for an arrival into Santo Domingo for the third week in June. I had a scheduled red-eye to catch an early morning flight from Miami to the Dominican Republic's capital. My transportation had been arranged before-hand so all I could do was hope there was someone on the other side, otherwise I’d be out $160.00USD for the taxi. After a long grace period at the airport we had a van that consisted of a New Yorker from Uruguay, the maid of honor, a family from Caracas, and myself. I fell into sleep listening to Spanish being thrown around the lavender curtained van on our way to Cabrera, a small coastal town two hours north.
I woke to winding roads through lush mountains, then open passages through farmland where motorbikes and ox-carriages alike rode the shoulders of the highway. We arrived in Cabrera at dusk, just an hour before the evening’s work was to begin.
Mama Juana native to Dominican Republic that is made by allowing rum, red wine and honey to soak in a bottle with tree bark and herbs. The internet tells me It was originally prepared as a tisane by the native Taino Indians and is said to act as an extract base that pulls the herbs’ curative properties, creating an herbal tincture often served as a shot.
The contrast of foreigners to this rural town is what characterizes Cabrera as it sits today. There are large villas towering right up to the ocean’s front, separated by gates that sit across from modest-to-poor cement single-family homes powered by propane. These homes are colorful, though, and chairs line the front porches with mothers and their children parading around. The momentum in the country is easy island time and the people in town seem to be mostly happy. Crime in Cabrera is far less than in the city and this is a main highlight of the countryside.
I had the pleasure of riding around with the owner of La Catalina, a lovely hotel up on the ridge, and an American woman that had been traveling to Cabrera since her youth due to her Father’s investment in the hotel. She had married a beautiful Dominican man and started a family and a local preschool. She said that there were people from Canada, Italy, Germany and the States, but mostly they stuck to themselves or with like foreigners. The cross into the established population was rare, but she was thankful for her traverse into the community.
The infrastructure of the town is tourism and agriculture. Cabrera plots of land have been cut out for development and sold, but I was told and could see how lofty ideas became stunted, leaving flat overgrown plots of open beachfront land. It is typical for people to buy a piece of land and build it up over a long time. You will see single-story structures with stairs going up to nowhere. Everything is lush and color pops against the rich sky. From the flowered plants on the homes painted in sherbet, the island is saturated seamlessly in color. Submersion in color like a mirror to the island’s warm ocean water.
Come down the hill by motorbike that can be hired, but do it before dark, otherwise taxis are available anytime it is just about $20 each round-trip lift. There is a man by the name of Manny who owns a restaurant and bar on the north side of town right across from the ocean. He makes a delicious rum drink that I can’t remember what he called it, but it is what he drinks so he’ll know. Manny spent a fair share of his younger years living in Europe, sticking down in Berlin for a good while so his place reflects a bit of a backpacker spirit paired with fresh eats. The place is always evolving. In this remote spot we talked of solar and wind options to balance out Manny’s power needs for this chapter of his place.
I enjoy seeking out music while I travel. Traditional, contemporary, what have you. Anything that originates from the place and speaks it aloud. Bachata music is what I found. Bachata is rural music that began in the Dominican Republic in the early part of the 20th century. Bachata is music of the country. It is found everywhere in Cabrera. The corner bodega, in passing cars and Sunday nights at the car wash, where you can watch the ladies of the night walk their walk and immerse yourself in what Dominican country life is.
Enjoy yourself. Walk around. If you have a kitchen, all shopping is done in the morning where you can get fresh meat and fruit. Swim as much as you can, there are waterfalls and beaches to be found. Coffee is delicious here; Strong and proper. There is a nice modern shop on the far east side of town toward the local beach that is paired with a nursery. It is all much more enjoyable if you speak Spanish.
Travel light and be well.