Puerto Isabella (Keith) - August 4, 2003
Christopher Columbus established his first Colony in the Dominican Republic at Isabella. At that time, he was convinced that he had discovered another Continent instead of just a rather large island. During the construction of the settlement, a storm hit and scuttled the Santa Maria. Chris decided to take a quick trip back to Spain to get some more money and ships. During the time he was gone, the 105 settlers (all men), mistreated the local Indians so badly that the local chief sought help from all the other chiefs on the island and wiped out the settlement.
Although the indigenous population won that first battle, sadly, they ultimately lost the war. Unlike Mexico, where over 90% of the population has Aztec blood in them (Meztito), there is no trace left of the original inhabitants of this beautiful island.
Isabella lies about 10 miles West from Luperon. The Dominicans have turned the original settlement site, which consists of a few scattered foundation stones, into a rather uninteresting museum. It certainly does not do the story justice.
[CONTINUED BY BG]
Although the museum does have so few artifacts as to be amusing, the site of Columbus's first stop in the new world is beautiful. It sits next to a long stretch of beach lined with brightly painted rowboats, and the Dominican guides and caretakers have tediously placed about a million small stones to outline the foundations of the houses Columbus built for himself and his men. At opposite ends of the beachfront, Columbus and the captain of one of his boats built two hefty sized mansions (well, hefty in Dominican terms) for themselves. Between the two they built small shelters for the hotheaded group who remained here when the others returned to Spain to ask for more money (all sailors run out of money).
Parts of the group's common area -- a large tiki hut -- and their giant cannons are still standing there today. And the skeleton of one of the unfortunates massacred by the natives is still lying there today. The descendents of those same natives have built a thatched roof over the skeleton to protect it from the local weather. And covered it in chicken wire to protect it from the local dogs.
Punta Rusia - August 5, 2003 (Keith)
Sometimes the journey can outshine the destination.
Today we decide to continue our exploration of the coast West of Luperon. Since the road to Isabella is wide and well paved, I figure we will be able to explore at least a 100 miles of coastline today.
[CONTINUED BY BG]
Keith having been distracted, I'm continuing. The road to Isabella does start out looking quite solid (relatively speaking). It quickly disintegrates to a really, really fun motorcycle ride -- dirt road, big rocks, small boulders, two rivers to cross (though they're relatively low at this time of year) (this was fortunate or we probably would have had to turn back and miss the best beach!).
We drop from 60 miles an hour (pretty much top speed on our rental, at least when two of us are riding) to about 10 miles an hour. Great fun, and very entertaining, but no, we didn't see 100 miles of coastline.
What we did see:
Small burros carrying four loads -- usually the loads are two small smiling boys and two giant basket of green bananas. Sometimes the load is one old couple with their two grandchildren, all packed onto one tiny burro, legs hanging everywhere.
Old men with faces like cracked leather, absolute masses of wrinkles when they smile. Think Keith and I will look like this. Probably soon.
Women carrying large bowls on their heads. I've become used to them carrying fruit and vegetables. These women were transporting clothes and shoes. Maybe they're packed for a trip. Maybe this is the trip. Who knows. Fascinating.
Two men holding a ladder for a small boy...who is adding a homemade wire to an already overloaded transformer. Shocking. Yes, in more ways than one. More on this from Keith elsewhere.
Smiling locals who direct us at every fork in the (so-called) road! I tell Keith about growing up on Cape Cod, the ever-present war against the tourists who kept our economy alive. My friends used to give tourists the wrong directions just because they were tourists. When a woman directs us down a road that dead-ends in a streaming river, he says, "Maybe she was from Falmouth." But she was right. Turns out you just need to keep right on going -- through the river. The giant bridge (currently about 30 feet above the low, low water level) washed out in the last rainy season. If that's how high the water gets, come this rainy season, no one will be making this journey along this route.
A beautiful, beautiful beach, with cliffs to climb, clear water, and (so we heard) fish to catch!!! Can't wait to come back and catch some fish!
Keith bypasses the washed out bridge.
Punta Rusia's beach.
Typical traditional home here in the DR.
Typical modern home here in the DR!
Some beautiful beaches within a motorcycle ride of the boat.
Tabaco, the horseback guide.