Casa Bonita, Baoruco, and BA Harona!
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Where I stayed
Justin Lee's house
So we decided to go south. Further south that is, to the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. There is a Peace Corps Volunteer (and fellow couch surfer) whose house is rumored to be on the beach. Not near the beach, not across the street from the beach, but literally and figuratively, on the beach. We took a bus to the Capitol, Santo Domingo, and then another on to the sleepy coastal town of Baharona. Here’s a curious bit of Dominican trivia for you. Did you know that for a bus of any significant size to transport people on this island, has to, at any given time, be able to store fresh meat or popsicles. Or act as a workshop for Santa’s elves. Or give the Dominicans an idea of what the Itidarod feels like. Baharona was made famous in that song by The Knack… wait… that was My Sharona. Nevermind… although try listening to that song from now on and not sing “Ba-Harona”
We hopped a gua gua and off we went. We were told by Justin, the volunteer we were going to visit, to tell the gua gua driver to drop us off at Casa Bonita. “Tell them you want off at Casa Bonita, but don’t act like you are going to Casa Bonita, otherwise they’ll charge you double.”Casa Bonita is a resort located in a town called Baoruco. It sits atop a cliff and overlooks the ocean, it has a beautiful outside bar and patio, with an infinity pool that trickles off towards the ocean. It mainly caters to wealthy Dominicans and the occasional tourist. A little bungalow at Casa Bonita starts at around $150 US dollars
So it is that we found ourselves trying to look destitute and determined to pay no more that the forty pesos per person that everyone else pays for this trip. I even have exactly 80 pesos in my hand, which I plan to just hand over so I don’t have to ask how much, thus inviting an opportunity to be ripped off. Foolproof.The driver pulls over next to a well painted sign which reads “Casa Bonita” accompanied by an arrow pointing up. We hop out and without a word I shove the pesos into the cobrador’s hand, bellow a “gracias!” and turn to walk away. The cobrador doesn’t say a word, just looks at the cash in his hand and hops back in the gua gua, which takes off and disappears around the bend. Its then that I realize that I have just shorted the guy 15 pesos. Its such an insignificant amount really, but to me it was just a little victory which I was entirely too smug about at first, and then later it became this Andre the Giant sized guilt that I had a cage match with for the rest of the day. In the end though I was able to reconcile my guilt with the knowledge that in almost every other transaction here, I will be seen as an American tourist and will be charged more for goods and services than Dominicans
After the fast one I pulled on the gua gua, we met Justin and he walked us up to Casa Bonita to see how the other 9% lives. (Over 90 percent of Dominicans live below the poverty line, which doesn’t help my guilt about the 15 pesos). It was very nice and very elegant. The three of sauntered down through his town and he explained to us how he works with the artisans and self taught jewelers who all work with Larimar. Larimar is a semiprecious stone that is found only in the Dominican Republic, and only in this area. It is a light blue stone that is same color of the ocean on this part of the island. The artisans all have there own parts of the mine in the mountain where the Larimar is found. It is a fairly recent discovery and is only now starting to boom. It is relatively inexpensive for what it is, and it is beautiful.We finally arrived at Justin’s house, and the rumors were true… Open his back door and you are face to face with Mother Ocean. The beach in the south is not sandy, but made of tiny pebbles. The sound that the incredibly large waves make as they crash is astounding. There are a few beaches nearby that are better suited for swimming and hanging out, but as far as back yards go, Justin’s is pretty cool. He said that he inherited the place from the Peace Corps volunteer that lived in this neighborhood before him. Its likely that it was passed down to that person as well. But as with all paradise, this too has its price. It comes in the form of a gang of muchachos. A half dozen of 6 to 10 year olds who worship Justin for his kindness, his patience, and his cooking. Every time his stove is lit, or there is a mention of snacks, this band of little merry men come swarming in from the front and back doors. As lively and as entertaining as any sitcom, these little guys kept us well entertained until the electricity went out, and even then after some ducking and dodging Justin had to sweep them out of the house so that we could go to bed.