CABARETE, Dominican Republic- But the beach is nice. Chair vendors charging 100 pesos to sit down, ladies swarming in droves with little photo books trying to put braids and beads in my beard, white people basking in the sand under foot, a wrinkly lady listening to headphones drunk by the surf — I think she could be dancing with herself — dudes kitesurfing the waves, dudes windsurfing the waves, and kids with boogy boards being slammed face down into the beach at the end of their wave.
But the beach is nice, and everybody is smiling.
The beach and the waves are full of moving bodies. Kite surfers and wind surfers and body boarders, along the entire coastline of this town — at least 3 km — are young people riding, rolling, and splashing in the waves. Cabarete is one of the water sports capitals of the world.
Go to Cabarete
“You should go to Cabarete,” my Canadian friend Richard urged when I turned a glum face towards the suggestion of going to another tourist beach in the Dominican Republic, “No, really, you should go.”
The next day I went.
The cost was a mere 20 pesos — a little over 50 cents — to ride a public taxi from Sosua to Cabarete. The ride takes around 15 minutes. The car fills up with as many people as those who want to get in, without respect to spacial restrictions — 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 people? Come on in.
Arrival in the town was without event: we were dropped off along the main street next to an entrance gate to the beach that said, “Welcome to Cabarete.” The entire town is really just one road that runs parallel the coast: a track for a long row of curio shops, sun glass vendors, hair beaders, bars, and middle class to luxury hotels.
I walked up and down this beach with my wife and baby. I shot some video to test whether I want to make little movies for this travelogue — the idea fell through when I got back to Sosua and became motion sick from merely watching the shaky things.
How much is that doggie on the beach?
A Dominican man with his boy tried to sell me a dog. 500 pesos — 15 US dollars — takes all. They told me that the dog was two months old and came from “muy fuerte” forbears in Santo Domingo.
The dog was a little gnarly. His fur was a little stiff with grit and dirt, its gums were pale and gouged, but it waged its tail and jumped around happily anyway.
I admired the salesmen’s ingenuity. This was one ways to get rid of pariah dogs: sell them to tourists. It was also a business with an endless amount of supply, I am sure. Though I am not too sure about demand, but it is possible that a foreigner could buy a dog for 15 bucks in a rash moment of a “poor thing” frenzy, snuggle in its fleas for a week, remember — oh yeah — that they have to go back to their country and will not be able to stuff a dog into their checked luggage, then kick it back out the door to square one again.
What else could you do with it?
Cabarete beach has a moderate number of vendors walking its length back and forth through the sunny days and in the face of the heavy wind. There are not so many that you need to crawl through them or run an obstacle course to evade their advances, but if you want to eat coconuts, snack on peanut sugar patties, buy beach jewelry, or get corn rows, this is the place.
I sat down in the shade with Chaya and Petra. We ate some crackers. A vendor of jewelery came up and sat down in front of us. His job is — I suppose — to make friends with us, talk for a half hour, and then sell a piece of jewelry that we would never buy under any other circumstance.
He was good at his job. His name was Santo, he told me about his life growing up on this beach and about his family. He had a shy smile and a soft voice.
Chaya got a new bracelet.
Petra’s first boyfriend
Petra makes friends everywhere she goes. She is an active participant in this socializing: she sees someone coming, she looks them in the eye, starts smiling, and then gets proportionally more excited the nearer to her they come. By the time the get within an arm’s reach she is shaking both of her arms and legs and grunting like a heifer in heat.
The person has little other choice than to stop walking and introduce themselves.
Petra befriended a couple of little Dominican girls on the Cabarete beach. They looked at her like they couldn’t quite figure out for sure what in the world she was.
What is this thing? A flower, a lobster, a baby????
Then their mother came over to have a look for herself. She had her own baby with her, and, apparently, knew exactly what Petra was. She put her son, who was the same age as Petra, down on the beach so the peers could become acquainted. I watched as my daughter made her first boyfriend.
The baby boy then peed.
This is the beginning of a long road.
I learned a lesson this from this beach at Cabarete: I don’t need to be on an idyllic, empty beach with palm trees and “nothing to do but fling monkeys at the coconuts” to enjoy it. Though I still go to the beach wearing boots, jeans, a long sleeve flannel shirt, and a hat while everyone else is only a thong and a thin stretch of spandex away from being naked.
But this does not mean that I don’t enjoy the beach. I just have a lot to learn.