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Published: April 10th 2012
Though the shutters were drawn and our room was dark, there could be no doubt that it was early morning, as a cacophony of roosters competed for air time in a deafening chorus outside of our apartment. I opened my eyes, and took a second to remember where I was. I quietly rolled out of bed so as not to wake Dennie, threw on a shirt and some sandals, and snuck out into the streets of the village. The town was bathed in a golden light. A boisterous women in the small square down the street from our place began to prepare the batter at her empanada stand, just as an older man rolled a wheel burrow of oranges and pineapples towards her. Stray dogs sprawled out on the interlocking brick that paved the square, enjoying the first rays of the warm morning sun. I passed parents escorting their children to the small Catholic school near the water. I walked through the square towards the beach and the harbor, where hundreds of fishing boats waited to escort tourists to the nearby islands in Parque National del Este. Near the sea, men huddled around a breakfast truck, waiting to fill their bowls
with a hot stew of beans and meat. Others loaded coolers filled with beer and snacks onto their boats. Local artists, opened the shudders on their ramshackle stalls near the giant tourist bus parking lot. Though the pace was slow and the energy relaxed, the harbor was teeming with life, as locals prepared for the daily onslaught of tourists who arrive each morning from their resorts further afield to enjoy day trips to Saona Island, or scuba and snorkeling trips to various reefs along the nearby coast. The rush lasts only a couple of hours each day, once in the morning, and again in late afternoon. Once tourists board the boats, the town once again transforms back into a lazy village until the boats return at night. I walked past the harbor, on a beachside path that went by brightly painted local homes and farms, and the town grave yard. Down from the harbor, the homes thin out. I arrived at a deserted public beach. I sat down on the sand. The Caribbean waves gently lapped the shore. The smoke stacks of the sugar cane factories of La Romana could be seen in the distance. Choosing a more pleasant view,
I gazed back at the waking village. The serene beauty is interrupted only by the sand flies circling my sarong. It may be time for a coffee.
Bayahibe retains much of it’s charm despite it’s relatively recent transformation from a sleepy fishing village to tourist destination. It has resisted most of the all inclusive development that typifies much of the Dominican Republic, and though tourism has become it’s dominant industry, the town exists mainly as a departure point for boat trips to the nearby National Park. A number of expats run restaurants and guest houses in the village, serving Poutine, Sushi and Pasta to occasional tourists who choose to stay in the village. Their presence however is minimized by the dominance of all inclusive resorts at nearby Dominicus Americanus, where vacationers eat and drink to excess, and refuse to spend money at local establishments. Bayahibe itself is mainly locals and Haitian immigrants, though the majority of her workforce likely commutes daily from the nearby city of La Romana. Most locals I met were happy with the change. The infusion of tourist dollars means that people have more money, and so far, it has not lost all of what was
before. It is a pleasant town.
It is here that Vicki, Adam, Dennie and I spent a week in mid February. Time off of work prompted the last minute purchase, and affordable plane tickets chose our destination. Despite my desire to do nothing but swim in the ocean and lounge on the beach, a vacation with Dennie refuses to only relax. While time was spent laying on beautiful beaches, and snorkeling on incredible reefs, we also rented a guided fishing boat to Isla Saona, went ziplining through the jungle, did some decent hiking, rented stand up surf boards, and spent a day in La Romana. The people in DR are super friendly, the weather is amazing, the geography is beautiful, and the food is just ok.
After a lengthy sit drinking café con leche on the patio of an Italian café on the ocean, I slowly meandered back to our apartment. On the way up the stairs, I stopped to chat with Werner, our German guest house owner. He agreed to let me borrow his snorkeling gear, and a flashlight. This, he said would be needed for the hike we planned to a nearby cave where we could
go swimming. As I approached our door, I could hear movement from within. Dennie was awake and sitting on the bed rubbing sun-screen allover her body, Vicki and Adam had moved from their bed to the couches in the living room. We walked together back to the café I had come from, where I would drink another café con leche.
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