Last Friday, CIEE took an excursion to the isolated beach of Playa Ensenada. The beach consisted of nearly white sands, a few people, and lots of great little restaurants serving fresh sea food and chicken dishes. The main reason why any tourist would come to Playa Ensenada is get on a boat and head out to "la isla". Everyone was talking about how great the island was and that you just have to go, so me and 10 others chartered a boat and headed out to the island which turned out to be a lump of sand in the middle of the ocean renting snorkel gear and selling rum and coke. It was paradise! The snorkeling around the area was absolutely gorgous. within the reefs, fish of all colors, shapes, and sizes were swimming about. Upon returning to Playa Ensenada, we were told to get ready to board the gua gua and head back to Santiago, but Stacey, Kori, and I were not ready to do so and with and decided to stay the night. We had no plans, no clean clothes, a little bit of money, and no knowledge about the area, but were convinced that it would be fun to stay.
We were walking down the street towards Punta Rusia asking around if anyone knew of a hotel and that's how we buddied up with Myra. She took us to La Tortuga, where she was friends with the owner and we were given a room for RD$700 (roughly US$21.00). We had to sleep three to a bed, but all in all we were extremely comfortable and happy.
We had to call our host families and let them know we wouldn't be coming home, but we had a problem: no cell phone signal. We asked the hotel owner if he knew where we could find signal and he directed down the road and up a hill which is the only place in town with cell phone service! On the way up the hill, we saw discarde phone cards giving us an indication that we were heading in the right direction and we did see other people on top talking on their phones. We had found signal. :)
When we returned to La Tortuga, we waited around for a bit for Myra was taking us to her friend's restaurant. This place was amazing! The food was so delicious (and I don't even like seafood, but loved this fish!) and the workers were extremely friendly. After we finished eating, we were lucky enough to get to listen to the owner tell us stories of his adventures fishing in the ocean and he said that sometimes he takes people out on his boat for the day.
After dinner, we were pretty tired, so Mrya and her daughter walked us home and after talking the couple that runs the hotel for a bit, we went to bed.
The next morning, while sitting on the beach, the hotel owner came out to tell us he had made us coffee and it was waiting for us in the lobby. Thank goodness we had that coffee because we sure didn't have money for food! We had to save every peso to get back to Santiago, which we were beginning to get the inclination that that would be an adventure in itself.
We had met up with the guys who took us out to the island the day before and they had a friend with a gua gua who was willing to come out a little farther past his route and pick us up at Playa Ensenada. We walked along the beach to find sea shells, some dead, but still cool sea life, and isolated white sand beaches with crystal clear shallow turquiose water.
We waited around for about and hour and half talking to Falto and Danny, the guys who found us our ride, and then hopped in a gua gua to La Isabela.
In La Isabela, we had to get on another gua gua to Santiago. On that gua gua, the people were again extremely. Every now and then we would slip into English while talking to eachother and were quickly reminded to speak Spanish so everyone could enjoy our stories. It was hillarious trying to explain ugly Christmas sweater parties and other themed parties where it's a theme to wear ugly clothes to the Dominicans who dress to nines for every social outing!
We made it back to Santiago safely, hungry, and very satisfied with our decision to stay the night in Punta Rusia. We had an amazing time and met some of the nicest people. I'm planning on returning in April for Semana Santa and I want to go snorkeling again, fishing, and go to the near by manetee reserve.