Okay, so back to heaven. We all woke up on no more than four hours of sleep after a night of dancing and drinking to pile into a large van to take us to unknown territory. Our route was Casa de Campo in La Romana to Villa Barkel in Las Galeras on the undiscovered Samana Peninsula. We left at 10 am with the shuttle and drove nearly five hours in essentially a rainforest downpour! It was a long drive and we all were sleep deprived and a wee bit hungover (but not as bad as we were expecting) and we even had to change vans at one point because of an unexpected hiccup with some other folks needing to get to Punta Cana from another hotel. So we finally arrive to Villa Barkel to two housekeepers to greet us and tour us around.
It was still pouring out and continued to rain and thunderstorm (we got a really good show from our play on the ocean!) all night which was really fine by us in not wanting to really expend much energy on Sunday. Once we finished checking out all seven bedrooms, the top floor roof deck with hammock, kitchen, large porch with second hammock and dining table, pool, and bathrooms we all sat down to a huge platter of cut tropical fruit and chips and salsa. We were hungry and the fresh sweetness and salty chips satisfied that for a time. Most of us then headed down to our private beach, Playa Colorado, during the two hour break in rain, where the boys jumped right in the water to do some body surfing and us girls climbed up to this bench perched up on the cliffside.
At 6 pm (early because we were tired and hungry still) we sat down to our first meal at the house; shrimp curry, stewed chicken pieces, black beans and rice, and a salad with avocado, cucumber and a light dressing, plus some juice that was so exquisite that it was gone in seconds. We discovered that our cooks were making their own juice from all of the passionfruits, mangos, and other tropical goodies that we had at the house and it was the best juice any of us had tasted. We all retreated to the upper deck to take in the storms, listen to music, rock in the hammock and just hang out after dinner. By 8 pm we were already digging into some fantastic cream and chocolate flavored ice creams our housekeepers picked up for us and by 9 pm Bryan and I were sound asleep.
Monday morning began with sun and clear skies and stayed that way throughout the morning. Some swam in the pool. I read with my feet in the pool until breakfast was ready for us at 10 am. The breakfast contained scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes with fried onions on top, mashed plantains, and sliced and grilled salami, plus that juice and coffee. It was great and hearty. We all packed up bags to take with us to explore Playa Rincon, a 1.5 mile hike from our villa to the 2nd or 3rd highest ranked beach in the world. It took us about 30 minutes to get there and it was hot and steamy. As soon as we hit Playa Rincon the rain started again. We threw our bags under thatched roofs on the beach and ran into the water to play. Here we spent the next few hours; swimming, snorkeling, buying pina coladas served in pineapples or coconut water served in coconuts. The sun never really came out but the water was nice and it was still fairly hot out. We walked back to the villa where we swam in our beach a bit longer before cleaning up for dinner.
Monday night’s dinner was another great and filling meal. This time we had a sliced pork loin in gravy, a shredded crab dish, rice with corn, and more of the same salad, plus that juice! We had more energy this night and most of us stayed up until past midnight. We made rum drinks with blended mangoes, played Mafia on the deck, and spent some time chatting and reading.
Tuesday was our one excursion day and we woke up at 8 am to have breakfast before leaving on the taxi at 9 am. Our housekeeper, Lisanna, made another hit breakfast of scrambled eggs, a salami and red pepper hash, mashed potatoes with fried onions, and sliced mango and pineapple. We hopped into our taxi and drove the 40 minutes to the town of Samana to meet Enzo for our trip. Enzo was our skipper of the 40′ sailboat that we had for the day. We boarded the boat and headed out with Enzo at the wheel and his two friends serving us Cuba Libres (rum and cokes) and chips on the deck. For about an hour we motored to Cayo Levantado, a breathtaking island off the peninsula, where we then picked up our snorkeling equipment, anchored and then rode in a dinghy to another smaller island to jump out and snorkel. Here we found a bunch of starfish and sea urchins but I did not see many fish in this spot. We jumped back in the dinghy after a while and rode back to the beach of Cayo Levantado. We snorkeled some more and found an abundance of different kinds of fish and sealife and I really enjoyed this.
At 1 pm we all gathered on the beach and followed Enzo inland to an area with a bunch of hut beach bars, food stands and thatched roofs with tables and chairs. There was a quartet playing some Latin beats around at all of the tables which was really fun. Here we were going to have lunch and they brought us out cokes and waters and then brought us each out a coconut (in which we say them hack open) filled with coconut water, a big of condensed milk, and we had a bottle of rum that was passed around to customize each of our coconuts. This was delicious! They brought out our spread for lunch which was more salad, rice, spaghetti, grilled little fish (delicious), and grilled chicken. It was all good but then they brought out a fresh and piping hot platter of tostones (fried green plantains) that really hit the spot. They brought out another plate of pineapple for dessert. We had another hour of beach time which I just hid myself under a palm tree to retreat from the sun. We swam back to the sailboat and with great winds we sailed back to the mainland. Our return taxi was waiting for us and we made it back to the villa just before 6 pm.
Our last night featured more pool time, more mafia, more mango drinks, more looking at the stars, and the best dinner yet. Lisanna made us an excellent diced octopus dish, chicken stewed pieces, rice, black beans, the best sweet potato and red and yellow beet side dish with just mayo I think coating it, fried pork empanadas, and fried bread fruit. We had so much food but it was all so good. It was sad to have just the last night remaining. Wednesday morning we had our shuttle waiting for us at 7:30 am. We packed up the house, I finished paying the grocery bill ($414 for all nine of us for 3 days and nights including alcohol), and we grabbed the prepared ham sandwiches, fruit plates, and bags of chips that Lisanna had made for us for our shuttle ride to the airport. We said our goodbyes and Lisanna gave me her phone number to text her which was sweet, she even gave me a hug goodbye. We piled into the van for just over a 3 hour drive back to the Santo Domingo Airport. It was a beautiful and hot day out.
Our flights back went smooth enough. We had a four hour layover in Miami so the six of us from Seattle all grabbed a long dinner in the TGI Fridays together before boarding our insanely long six hour flight back from Miami. It. Was. Such. A. Long. Flight! We pulled into Seattle at 11:30, grabbed our bags, and Bryan and I said our goodbyes to hop on the light rail and then the bus for home. We got home just before 1 am and were mighty tired but so glad to finally be home!
P.S. I am very thankful that I know Spanish, although it is not nearly what it used to be. No one at the villa spoke English and many of the people along the way, taxi drivers, shuttle drivers, boat crew, etc. also did not speak any English. It was good that I knew it but it then also forced me to be even more of a lead and organizer for the group and I felt that I had even more people relying on me for translation and information which was a bit stressful at times. Have someone who knows Spanish if you plan to go anywhere in the D.R. that is off of a resort!