For Semana Santa (Holy Week) we had Thursday off of school (it was more like a fin de semana santa - holy weekend) and so John, Jacob and I took off for the south. The southwest part of the country is the least travelled as we were super curious about what was down there.
Thursday, we went to Bahia de las Aguilas, which is the most isolated beach in the country and it was absolutely gorgeous! The water was incredibly clear... it felt like we were in a swimming pool and not in the ocean. Getting there was an adventure (and really stressful at some points) but everything worked out and it was totally worth it. I brought my snorkeling gear and I'm so glad I did. Right off of the beach was a small reef and then behind that the sea floor was full of enormous beautiful starfish! That night, we camped and it was pretty scary, but a lot of fun. It was also great to wake up and be right on the Caribbean Sea.
Friday, we went to Paraiso and Los Patos. The beaches there were closed in by dramatic cliffs and the were full of really smooth, beautiful rocks instead of sand. The water was incredibly blue and full of waves. In Los Patos, we went to the shortest river in the country where everyone was swimming and it looked like uttered chaos, however, when we got in it was more organized that it seemed. The older people sat in the back where it was calm and peaceful drinking and chatting. Then the center was where the younger hooligans splashed and played and the third portion was for the little kids. It was so much fun!
Saturday, we took off for San Juan de la Maguana which is more in land and famous for its mix of religious influences from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, so we thought it would be interesting to spend Easter there. We had heard that the city was alive with festivals. When we arrived, we got of the bus to find three masked people with whips and that made us so excited! Then for the rest of the day, the people we saw were all really "normal" and we couldn't find a procession or festival. The city was really tranquil and relaxing, but if the city is alive during Semana Santa, I can't imagine what it's like the rest of the year!
Getting home was rediculous! The bus station for the busses back to Santo Domingo were more chaotic than anything I've ever seen. John and I got on one bus, but Jacob didn't make it and had to take a different bus to Santo Domingo. We hated splitting up, but it would've been impossible to find a bus for the three of us, so it's a good thing we did.
I can't possibly convey how awful the weekend was in this blog. We didn't see any other tourists the entire time we were gone and feel like we celebrated Semana Santa the "Dominican way". The south was also really beautiful... definately the most beautiful part of the country I've seen so far.