Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mountain Drive

One of my favorite parts of the area we live in is the mountains.  It is about ten degrees cooler at any given time in the mountains.  So while I live near beautiful tropical beaches, what I really crave a day trip to the mountains.  The only problem, as we discovered, is that it's tough to take a day trip there.  The mountains are not filled with paths and parking lots for hikers and there are no trail maps to be found.  So when I told Owen I wanted to go hiking in the mountains--Owen, as lover of maps and guide books and web pages, being, of course, our trip coordinator--he had to rely on descriptions of a hike from a guide book.  We told the kids we were having a hiking adventure in the mountains, packed a few granola bars and water (the guide book promised restaurants and shops near the hiking location), and headed off.

The drive is a mountain road which connects Santiago to Puerta Plata, a nearby beach.  It's a beautiful drive and we had a promising start to our day.  However, the guide book accidentally confused two "La Cumbre" roads and when we turned off of that road we had a terrifying ride straight up a broken concrete road (turns out this one runs on a fault line and is broken up by earthquakes) with an unbelievably steep slope.  I did not get a photo of this one because I was too terrified for photo snapping and we were too busy reading the owner's manual to make sure we had the four-wheel drive correctly engaged and to make sure that the picture-of-the-car-on-the-steep-downward-grade button was in fact the button you push when going down a .

We got back on track, through broken and insufficient Spanish, to find a more substantial-looking "La Cumbre."  When I say substantial, what I really mean is that this one was marked for tourists.  It was still unpaved and tiny.  This one looked more promising, as it led to a memorial to the Mirabel sisters (opposed to and killed by the dictator Trujillo); their death helped to gather even more support to Trujillo's overthrow.  The monument is constructed where their bodies were found in their car, and is truly in the middle of nowhere.

Here is the Davis family at the memorial; three of them have no idea what the memorial is for.

We got directions from there for the mountain hike near the amber mines (as read about in Owen's tour book), slightly vague ones, involving more driving up tiny mountain roads.  People kept vaguely waving us on ahead, and while we grew gradually less hopeful about finding a trail, people did seem to know something of the amber mines.  Eventually, some man looked at us curiously when we said we wanted to see pretty sites and go for a walk near the amber mines and waved us down the road a few feet and pointed off to the side of the road.  It did not look remotely possible that a trail could be where he was pointing, but I got out of the car.  I walked over to where he was gesturing and realized that he was pointing down into an amber mine.  I assured him that we did not actually want to take our walk in the amber mine, but said I wanted to take a picture.

After that, we had a good laugh, broke out the Nutri-Grain bars, and told the kids we'd just go out to eat, as promised.  I got some great pictures on the way down, which I must post here in order to justify making our car ride a little longer (I mean, for a family hike, this was turning out to be pretty sedentary and boring for the kids).

I had no idea that a banana tree flowered until I saw this

We made our way back to the main mountain road, and started to look about us for restaurant options.  There weren't any.  At least, there certainly didn't appear to be, and lots of people were staring at us as though we were a travelling zoo.  I'm going to just take a wild guess here and say that there probably aren't so many tourists going back to see the Mirabel sisters monument.  So we told the kids we'd stop at the "town" on the way down.  But the few stands there offered Snapple and a few fried meat products that looked unappealing and which I refused to feed my children.  So the rest of the granola bars were divvied up, and we started back down the mountain.  Owen wanted to stop at an amber store he'd noticed, so we unloaded the kids and went for a little mini-field trip, as it turned out (perhaps not so riveting for the early childhood age-group).  The tiny shop sold amber earrings and such, but what was far more interesting is that it also purchased amber.  And there were two men there selling amber in rock form to the owner--one of them even had a more rare turquoise-colored amber (the edge was amber, when he put the flashlight behind it it was the familiar golden brown color).  And, thankfully for all of my faithful readers here, they had no problem with me taking pictures of everything they did and all the different forms of amber.

The contender

A rare color of amber

Quality assessment and comparison


Filing it down a little

The merchandise

The pair I liked

Mommy's choice approved by all
Family hike, pretty much a failure.  But an interesting one at that.

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