Sirena en el mar de maravillas
This Sunday, I had an experience like no other. The CIEE crew boarded onto two busses at 8am to start our journey to Playa La Ensenada. The two hour bus ride flew by as I feasted my eyes on the mountainous campo. Never ending hills surrounded us as the bus twisted through winding roads that gave us an ever so brief view into the lives of the people living in the farm towns. We made a quick pit stop along the way at a small family food stand situated with a backdrop of rolling mountains and small ranches populating the landscape. There, we tasted “queso de hoja”, a traditional Dominican cheese that is thick and salty in its unique flavor.
Arriving at Playa La Ensenada felt like a truly authentic Dominican experience. We poured off the bus eager to see the beach after the long ride. We walk through a line of restaurants that bordered the entire beach in a colorful array of painted scrap metal and plastic tarps. The air was filled the spices, salt, and MUSIC. A dirt pathway divided the food vendors from the array of covered tables which looked out onto the white sand and aquamarine water of the Atlantic Ocean. With a tall rocky boarder to our right, rolling mountains covered by a light haze to our left and never-ending crystal clear water in front of us, I felt as if I got a glimpse of heaven.
Soon after we arrived a handful of us boarded boats with brightly colored life jackets and made our way to Cayo Arena, a coral reef not too far off of the shore. Our fearless captains had us flying over the waves. My eyes have never had such a feast. Looking out onto the rolling hills was just spectacular while I was surrounded by angelic waters. We stopped to swim in a piscina natural (natural pool) on our way. Swimming in the crystal clear water was surreal and felt so cleansing.
We journeyed farther into the ocean and started to draw closer to these little shacks in the distance. As we got closer I couldn’t believe my eyes. There lay six or seven thatch huts mounted on top of a sand bar that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Our boat reared to a stop and we all frantically jumped off the sides to get a closer look. We were hung our towels in the huts, creating a colorful banner that waved in the wind.
The next thing I knew, I was given a mask and snorkel and followed our captain out into the ocean. Neon fish darted between my legs as I waded through the shallow water. I couldn’t contain my excitement! It just seemed too good to be true. I put my mask on and submerged myself in the water. I had no idea that what was under the water would be even more spectacular that the view above. Without a doubt, my childhood dream to become a mermaid came true as I swam with the fish all around a huge coral reef. I wish words or pictures could eloquently explain my experience that day. I felt as if I was dreaming.
After spending a few hours snorkeling and relaxing on the sand bar we made our way back to the main beach. The boat ride was much choppier on the way back and all of laughed to whole way, as if we were on a rollercoaster ride! We weaved in and out of mangroves, gawking at the intricate root system and the plethora of sea life that clung onto it.
Upon arriving at the beach we wasted no time waiting for lunch. We lined up and filled our plates with fresh fish, tostones (fried plantains), fried yam, rice and beans, shredded cabbage and tomato. After all that swimming I had no trouble eating my giant plate of delicous dominican cuisine! The fish was incredible, possibly some of the best I have ever tasted. The eye-ball is supposed to be the best part; however, I could not bring myself to eat it (my inner-vegetarian was in a bit of a crisis). Maybe next time I will be able to take the plunge!