Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dances with birds

It was distinct error to take the guagua (the public bus) down to the southern border on a Friday afternoon. No air conditioning. Traffic bottlenecks. Seats designed for very small oriental people. With the customary five across seating, a fold up seat placed in the aisles. Seven hours in which to reconsider the entire escapade.

There is a deluxe air conditioned bus that arrives in the major town of Barahona, about 2 hours from the border but I had been told that connections from there are dicey. Nevertheless, next time, I am on that big bus.

But ohhhhh the ride down from Barahona to Pedernales is the most beautiful in the country - ranking up with the coast of the Big Sur - winding roads beside the Caribbean sea, high mountains, then into desert with cacti (I really love to use that word because how else will you know that I struggled through two years of Latin?) as big as people. The region is mostly national parks. But parks with little or no development, perhaps a main entry road and a visitor´s center but no campgrounds or tours, yet. There is work on that. But as yet the ¨powers that be¨still have not made the connection that you must actually get the people down to the area in some sort of comfort and have rental cars for them at the other end.

Down in Pedernales there is one park, Bahia de les Aguiles, which ranks among the most wonderful in the world, absolutely pristine white sand, miles of pure blue water. You go out by boat now, or take your 4 x4 and camp overnight. The Peace Corps workers are training some locals in how to be tour guides, to identify the local birds, trees, rent out camping equipment protect the environment a bit.

There is always pressure to sell off the land to a private developer, build another big resort complex, bring in massess of the massess.

Please no.

Because behind that park is another one, high up in hills. I had been there by car and so thought little of taking my friend up to see the view from the hills, this time by moto concho - really sort of a two person Vespa. Somehow it didn´t seem like a 25 kilometer ride in the car! But you do feel every kilometer on the back of a concho--- which I have now decided is the only way to see it, unless you went by mule, or horse, or mountain bike...... The road rises, the climate changes from the Carribbean to Canada..... High pine forests, rich red dirt, fresh cool air.

We had not had the forsight -nor had there been any suggestion- that we pack lunch. And falling off my usually good form, I had not even brought water. Next time, I will go for the day as there are trails, with tree identifiers, and markers. The view --- from here to forever, is akin to my beloved mountains of North Carolina.

How glad I am that it is a park, that it will be forever preserved. But how much I hope that people will soon discover the beauty here and come to enjoy it.

I bonded with a bereaved parrot at the local hotel. His mate had been killed by a cat and he sat, bereft and mournful. I pulled up a chair next to the basket where he was eating his breakfast bread and starting singing to him in French. He looked up. He dropped his bread. He came over to the edge. He started bouncing, dancing back and forth with me to "Au claire de la lune, mon ami, Pierrot". B

By the next morning, he was sitting on my shoulder, and then sat down on the table and ate part of our breakfast. Fortunately, my friend does not like papaya.

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