A trip to Pedernales
Thursday 23rd February 2012
We thought a trip into town would make a nice break from the boat, so we took the rib ashore and went to see Nicolas, the coastguard, to see if this could be arranged. The nearest town to here is Pedernales, which is on the border between Dominican Republic and Haiti. Nicolas was out checking in a yacht that had arrived this morning. While waiting for him, we met a young local chap, Quico, who spoke some English, who was crewing on the said boat, but as he lives in the town, he was going to pop home for a few hours before rejoining the boat later in the day. He said we could join him, so we set off with him and our four jerry cans towards the gate to the port. Having waited there about ten minutes, he then flagged down a truck that was leaving, and after a brief chat with the driver we were told to get in the cab while he tossed the jerry cans in the open back and climbed up to join them.
It was nice and cool in the cab, not because of air conditioning, but because of the two enormous holes in the windscreen! We safely made it to the town, about 20km away, and were dropped at the petrol station where we left the jerry cans for collection later. We needed to get some local currency, so Quico organised some more transport, this time mototaxis (riding pillion on a motorbike!) to the local bank where there was an ATM. After trying out various debit cards we eventually found a credit card that worked (ouch!) and managed to get some DR pesos. We were then shown around the town, and taken to a bar for a beer. The walls of the bar were lined with one-armed bandits, there was a roulette wheel in one corner, and in another a betting office with televisions showing baseball games. We had one beer and decided it was time to go.
We were invited to Quico’s house, which was a very basic shack, really, with a couple of rooms with concrete floors, wooden walls and corrugated tin roof. There was electricity and running water, and a television set in the corner, and basic furniture, supplemented by some white plastic patio chairs. It was hot inside, despite the electric fan, so we sat out in the shade in the garden for a while, chatting. When we reminded him we needed to get some shopping, we set off back towards the market.
On the way we passed an empanada stall and stopped to get some as by now it was well past lunchtime. Quico asked would we prefer to go to a restaurant, and we thought this a good idea as we could buy him lunch as a thank you for getting us here and showing us around. We got on another mototaxi and were taken a few minutes’ ride away and ended up in a residential area, though this was obviously a much more well-to-do area. The houses were brick built, rendered and painted pastel colours, surrounded by gardens and big fences, and with cars parked on the drives behind big gates. We started to get a bit nervous, though, because our friend didn’t appear to be joining us. Our driver confirmed that he was following on another bike, but as the minutes passed and he didn’t arrive we began to get edgier and edgier.
Eventually, after what seemed like hours but was in fact probably only five minutes, he appeared round the corner, somewhat upset with our driver who, it appears, had misunderstood where he was meant to take us! So we climbed back on and went to the restaurant where we had a pleasant lunch of grilled fish, rice and beans and battered plantain. Quico professed not to be hungry and would not allow us to buy him lunch. However, when we said that there was too much food for us to manage, he did tuck in and help us out.
We then walked back to the market and got some fruit & veg – it was neither particularly fresh nor cheap – then went to a supermarket where we got some eggs, longlife milk, bread, ham and a vacuum-packed cooked chicken. This was the only meat available as the ‘fresh’ meat in the market we would definitely not have even thought of buying.
Then it was back onto another motorcycle – Steve & I both on the same pillion seat mind you! – and back to the petrol station to collect the jerry cans of diesel and hitch a lift back to the boat. Fortunately there was a truck load of workers heading for the bauxite works and our friend managed to negotiate a couple of seats for Steve & I in the cab while he rode once more with the jerry cans in the back. He helped us get the jerry cans into the rib and then onboard, before Steve took him back to his boat in the rib, towing his kayak behind! We sent him off with a couple of paperbacks and magazines as he uses these to help to develop his English further.
It had been a very interesting day during which we saw a glimpse of life in the Dominican Republic which we might not otherwise have seen.