Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Santo Domingo and Andreas/Boca Chica

Marina Zarpar and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic


Marina and Colonial History Time

It had been about twenty years since Mags and I had been to the DR and it was apparent much had changed. The standard of living and the visible wealth of most people had definitely improved but the existence of a double standard of pricing is now much more apparent. Then, most tourists stayed in all-inclusive resorts and had little interaction with the communities surrounding them. At that time as we drove our rental car around the country we were greeted with curiosity and friendliness. If we were in line to buy anything it was apparent we were paying the same as the locals in front. Our only issue with corruption and treatment as a foreigner was by a policeman in Santo Domingo with whom we negotiated for twenty minutes to get an arbitrary fine reduced from $100 down to $6.

Marina Zarpar is a modern facility with lots of new powerboats and is interestingly located between the local community of Andres to the west and the tourist destination, Boca Chica slightly farther to the east. Boca Chica was one of the first areas to evolve as a tourist destination with apartments for rent in a safe community with restaurants and gift shops galore. It is definitely looking somewhat worn as newer resorts have claimed the tourist dollars but it still has its entourage of faithful northerners haunting the coffee shops and bars. Although distinctly cheaper than the resorts it is still vastly more expensive than the town of Andres.

We ate in restaurants in Andres with the locals, getting seafood or chicken both with rice and beans and salads for a fraction the price of the restaurants in Boca Chica. We prowled the local hardware stores for boat needs, often being sent to a competitor’s feriterria if whatever we wanted was not available. People were curious and engaging. It reminded us of the two sides of San Andreas, Columbia. We were always safe and the locals were attentive to our needs. The two marine supply stores opposite the marina were very well stocked and we purchased six of the 10 micron fuel filters (all they collectively had) and a few more 2 micron filters.

The party is on...
The public beach between the marina and Bocas is packed with hundreds of local families on the weekend. Although the water is not too inviting there are numerous kiosks selling beer and food and young and old wade into the water to cool down and spend family time. Innumerable seadoos screamed up and down the beach and past the marina while power boats on the water and cars and trucks on land stacked with speakers competed to out decibel one another. It is a cultural thing, you cannot change it so accept it or move on.

After a couple of days getting boat chores completed we took the local bus into Santo Domingo about twenty kilometers away. The cost was about seventy cents each, the passengers, locals who work in town. 
24 of our best friends together on a bus. 
How many can it hold? One more.
The bus ended its route on the edge of the Zona Colonial near Plaza Independencia so we were able to revisit some sites of the Christopher Columbus era. The amount of construction the Spanish engaged in during the period from 1492 to the early 1520’s is amazing, especially considering how often they were beset by earthquakes and hurricanes. 

Plaza Independencia

We rode share taxis throughout the town for a dollar a ride. The challenge is determining what the routes are and where best to catch them. It made a great excuse to engage the locals who were always willing to help with information. Older women were especially helpful. We wanted to go to the Plaza Cultural because there are three museums and an art gallery there but when we arrived two of the museums were closed for major reconstruction. We did visit the Museum of Natural History and developed a clearer understanding of the indigenous and invasive plants and animals as well as the history of man’s interaction through time on Hispaniola. We enjoyed a quiet time with air conditioning and no other tourists.

The Cathedral

We returned to the Plaza de Independencia and walked the pedestrian mall to Plaza Conde, the Duke’s Plaza, and Park Colon, site of the first Cathedral in the new world. The area is heavily touristed with repetitive shops selling the same faux DR memorabilia with buses arriving steadily from the resorts and cruise ships. The economy of the country is dependent on the influx of foreign dollars and the tourism is largely contained to a few very special areas deemed world heritage sites. To a degree the Dominicanos are victims of their own success but are generally happy with the visitors.

On returning to Zarpar we prepared to continue east as another weather window provided an opportunity. The m/v’s Blessed and Figment arrived so we had a brief visit with Amanda and Alberto, Lyn and John and Jan and Don. It is always fun meeting people you have met before and sharing cruising information.

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