November 27 – 30, 2018
After our first service project, we left for an excursion in the early afternoon. We had gone to the concierge desk that morning to ask about available options, and this was the one the one of most interest to us: a 2-3 hour private tour around more native and traditional parts of this region of the DR. As avid travelers, Erin and I enjoy getting away from the curated tourist-y areas to have a more authentic taste of culture and life in the area.
Higüey (or more formally, Salvaleón de Higüey) is the capital city of the eastern La Altagracia Province. This is the 8th largest city in the country and is rapidly growing in population and economy. This is fueled by tourism and the nearby resort-filled city of Punta Cana. Despite parts of the city being geared towards tourists, we were able to visit traditional parts of the city and experience native life. We also were able to visit the home of a friend of our tour guide. This was a very interesting experience. Our trip started by visiting a nearby beach that the locals visit, and then we went on some rural roads for a while to visit this man who enjoys showing locals around his home and farm. This allowed us to see local life, homes, and vocations. We were able to practice our Spanish with both him and the tour guide who drove just the two of us around in his car for the afternoon.
So, first stop about 20 minutes in was to the local beach, which was stunning. One of the best parts was that this is a beach frequented by the locals, and not a tourist-hub.
Next stop was about a half-hour trek through some semi-rural residential and farming areas on our way to the tour guide’s friend’s house.
I wish I remembered the name of the man who was so hospitable and let us explore his home and farm! Although our Spanish is broken, we were able to communicate a bit. He was so proud of his home and work, and it was so meaningful for us to have this experience to connect with a local person and see the type of work many people do.
After taking us into his home and showing us around and telling us about homelife in the Dominican Republic, he showed us his vary vast farm where he primarily grew fruit and coffee. Then, we had the opportunity to walk the long trails where he has many plants growing. We were so thankful for his hospitality, and it was one of the best experiences of the trip!
The next stop along the way was the Basílica Catedral Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia. This is a Roman Catholic church completed in 1970. It is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year who make offerings along their 5-day pilgrimage which begins in early August.
Our next stop was going into the downtown city of Higüey. This is where we got to see more native urban life, still intertwined with tourism but much more authentic than Punta Cana. We got to walk into local shops and through farmer’s and meat markets (an odd experience for long-term vegetarians). I don’t have a lot of photos from this because I didn’t want to invade local life like a tourist and put people on display as a spectacle. So I limited photos due to that and due to being present and immersed in the exploration of the city as we walked around.
After this, we started the approximate 40km drive back to the resort in Punta Cana, filled with a lot of conversation and learning from our guide.
When we got back, it was late afternoon/early evening. Our dinner reservation wasn’t until later in the evening, so we took some time to relax in the hotel and more time walking around the resort. After dinner, we hung out in the bar overlooking the ocean, and then walked along the beach. Next was getting to sleep early after a busy day and getting ready for our third day!