This weekend, my program members and I took what will be our last weekend excursion together for the rest of the semester and with finals just around the corner, our trip to Samaná was a great break from reality.
Although this trip involved a stay at an amazing villa (with a pool and the beach across the street…literally across the street), and lots of great food, relaxing is not the word I would use for our getaway. This trip was the most grueling, yet fulfilling, experience I’ve had thus far and I write this post from the comfort of my bed while I ice my muscles.
On Friday, we set out to Samaná. The bus ride to this part of the island was a little over three hours, but the time went by quickly enough as many of us slept the entire way there. Upon arriving in Las Terrenas, also the location where Turkish Survivor takes place, I knew this trip would be an unforgettable one. We made a short stop to admire the view before descending further in the town, and I was again, captivated by the pristine beauty of this island. Little did I know however, I would myself be taking part in Survivor: The CIEE version, on this trip.
Once we checked in to our hotel, we left to have lunch at Barrio Latino, the first of our many delicious meals for the weekend. After lunch, we left for our “hike,” or forty-five minutes of people complaining (mostly myself), sweating, slipping and internally cursing ourselves for not pretending to be sick, as we trekked el Salto Limón. By the time we stopped at the top of a hill overlooking a forest of palm trees, and eventually made it to the waterfall, the pain, sweat and suffering was definitely worth it. At the waterfall, we were greeted to 50 meters of cascading water. It felt surreal. I was hesitant to get in the water at first, but I quickly had a change of mind when I saw two little boys jumping off the top of a cliff, to which I followed in doing. To end the day, we had dinner on the beach before heading to our rooms and dozing off.
The next day, we headed to the beach again for an unforgettable breakfast. After filling up on huevos y jamón, watermelon, mangoes, pineapples, and natural fruit juices, we took a boat tour of Los Haitíses. This national park is considered to be one of the most bio-diverse areas in the Caribbean. After crossing Bahía Samaná and arriving at the national park, the first half of us explored la Cueva San Gabriel. Inside the cave, to say the least, was an experience in itself. We ate lunch together as a group before switching with the second group to go kayaking. Again to say the least, kayaking was definitely an experience I will never forget.
Following a bumpy (and hilarious) boat ride back, we headed to our hotel before gathering again for one of our last dinners together. The meal was unforgettable: after two or three appetizers, we were treated to Paella (either de carne o de mariscos), and ended the meal with warm chocolate cake topped with vanilla ice cream and a shot of Mama Juana, a Dominican drink made from tree bark and herbs that have been soaked in rum, red wine and honey.
With Sunday free to do whatever we wanted before checkout—I did what most people really do on vacation: I slept. After another amazing breakfast, I lounged around the pool and took advantage of the beach across the street by hopping back and forth before we headed back to Santiago.
Altogether, this break was very much needed as I head into a week full of exams, essays and presentations. Looking back on it all, I am once more reminded of the importance of taking part in every moment life offers to me to live. Although I’m incredibly sore right now, I would do this weekend all over again if I could, in a heartbeat.
From the Dominican Republic…with love,