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Santo Domingo. Dominican Republic

Saga Sapphire blog - Captains' blogs

3rd March, 2017

Sailing back past the Windward Passage, Haiti was on the left, then the Dom Rep, both part of what used to be known as Hispaniola. Santo Domingo is the busy capital and our berth was separated from the walls of the old Spanish fortress by a very busy road where the traffic, even at 7.30 in the morning, was nose to tail.

The first tour out was ours, billed as a truck safari, the initial ride was on a comfortable air conditioned coach into the country side. Here we transferred to a ‘conditioned air’open sided truck with hard seats and unforgiving suspension, a little different you might think, but a great way to get a real feel for what life is like away from the big city.

After a few miles we stopped off in a small town to check out the fresh produce on sale by the side of the road. A small dilapidated pick-up truck with a corrugated tin ‘roof’was completely full with pineapples, a couple of which were expertly chopped by the driver using a serious looking machete so we could have a taste.

Ten minutes later we pulled up outside a small farm and went down a track, colourful bougainvillea growing both side and sugar cane in an adjacent field. A few long sticks were chopped down, the black skin removed and small pieces offered to taste, chewy but sweet. There were a few small wooden shacks that made up the home for this rural family, seemingly poor, but we were told that they might not be cash rich, but they owned all the land and managed to make a small living from what they harvested and the animals they kept. Nothing was thrown away it seemed, even the few cattle were taking their feed from an old tractor tyre with one side cut off.

We moved another mile or so down the road, to another small farmstead, and here we met a smiling 92 year old lady named Mercedes. She and her family grew, amongst other things, coffee and cocoa, and were heating hot water in an old saucepan over a small wood fire when we arrived. The water was eventually added to some of their home grown crop and offered to us for tasting. In addition there were small bottles that had once held rum now filled with vanilla and cocoa powder along with ones filled with what looked like leaves, herbs and other ‘stuff’. Apparently grape juice, honey and water had to be added to make some sort of ‘cure all’. I tried a little, which reminded me of a certain cough mixture I had as a child. Well, I haven’t got a cough, so I resisted the urge to drink any more.

It was a delightful insight into rural life in the Dominican Republic, poor but certainly not in poverty. The government provides free compulsory education in every village, no matter how small, and free medical care. The people seemed happy with their lot in life and when we left the family came out smiling and waved us all goodbye. Perhaps we have something to learn.

Captain Philip Rentell

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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