Running in the Dominican Republic

Wed. June 6, 2012

Tuesday, we docked in La Romana, a semi-industrial town on the southeast part of La Republica Dominica. This was my opportunity to go for a land-based run, rather than whipping around the short track on the top deck of the aft part of the ship. We docked at around 8:30, and could leave the ship around 9 AM. My wife had plans to take a tour of the factory where the finest hand-made Dominican cigars are made, while I went for a run. I was prepared to go about 10 miles, and had a water bottle with me, since it was very hot and humid. I asked the guide at the dock for suggestions on where to run. He told me to take a bus up to Altos de Chavon, a little recreation of an old village at the top of a hill, in a large development called Casa de Campos. From there, he said, I could run back to our ship, around 10-12 miles. The buses leave every 15 minutes or so from the dock, and it costs $7.00 for a round trip ticket, no one-way option. He assured me there was only one road up and back, so I wouldn’t get lost. Trusting in his advice, and my unerring sense of direction, I took his advice and got on the bus. I did pay attention to the route taken by the bus, just in case there might be a turn or two I would need to make. It turns out, there were plenty.

We arrived at the little creation called Altos de Chavon in about 20 minutes, passing through a number of security gates, and passing lovely homes and golf courses along the way. I gathered this is not the Dominican Republic of the locals. I took a quick look around Altos de Chavon, with it’s old-appearing stone construction, art galleries, and musicians playing _____ for beautiful young women dressed in colorful dresses who will dance with the tourists. There’s a dramatic view over the back of the development of a deep canyon leading down to a river. Having checked out the view, I decided it was time to run.

The sun was up, it was around 10 AM, very humid, and I set off down the road we had come up on the bus. I settled into an easy pace, not wanting to get dehydrated, although since it was generally a downhill route, it wasn’t too bad. I kept to the shade as much as possible, under bountiful bougainvillea of many different colors, oleander, and palm trees. This is a very large planned community, and as I passed the local workers, they smiled, said buenos dias, and waved in a friendly manner. There were plenty of side roads leading to golf courses, stables, and housing developments, but I managed to stick to the same route the bus took up the hill. By the time I reached the entrance to the development, where the bus had turned off the main road, I ran into a little problem. I was stopped by the security guard at the gate, who wanted to know where I was going. He spoke no English, and my Spanish is practically worthless, so I had a bit of a problem explaining myself. He didn’t want me to go on, “muy pelligroso”. Also, by my trusty Garmin, I had only gone 4.75 miles, hardly the 10-12 advertised, and it was less than a mile back to the ship. After much discussion, he in Spanish, me speaking a version of it he’d never heard, and a quick phone call on his cell to a person who spoke English so I could explain myself, I was instructed to get in the pickup truck of one of the workers who would take me back up the hill. Somehow, he got the idea I wanted to go to “La Marina”, not where our ship was docked, but a development partly up the hill which led down to a private marina on the river I mentioned above. He dropped me off there and left. So, there I was, in a part of this big development, not knowing where to go, running low on water, hot, humid conditions, and short on miles. I asked the security guard at this place, ¿Donde esta Altos de Chavon? He pointed down the road, told me to turn right and head up hill. I set off again on the run, clicking on the Garmin. Along the way, I spotted a sign for my goal, which was encouraging. Soon, though, I was on a residential street which didn’t seem quite right. Again, i asked a gardener for directions. He pointed up the road, and said “aribba”, upwards. There I went, coming to a dead end on the road, behind some houses lining a golf course. I snuck around the back of these houses until i came to a swimming pool and club house, where a pool guy was working. Again, I asked directions, and he said to stick to the golf cart paths, turning, right, then up the hill, in Spanish, of course. I got the gist. I headed off again, noticing my down hill run had now become an uphill return. Oddly, it hadn’t gotten cooler or shadier, I was out of water, and getting thirsty. Running on empty, I finally saw the entrance to Altos de Chavon! My Garmin read 6.5 miles, and i was determined to at least get in 7 miles. So, I headed along the golf path, around the entrance, and kept going. I finished my run at an outdoor bar between the 9th and 10th hole, and got my water bottle refilled from the tap behind the bar, with the woman bartender, and the few golfers in the bar staring at me like I arrived from another planet. I then walked up to Altos de Chavon, and caught the next bus back to the ship, luxuriating in the sublime air conditioning of the bus, and trying to keep my wet shirt and shorts from touching the unhappy teen sitting next to me.

Arriving back at the dock, I stopped in at the bodega, grabbed a Budweiser, and sat under the shade of an umbrella, listening to a family behind me having a blast playing dominoes, and awaiting my wife’s arrival from her tour. I decided the best option for a run in this port is indeed to take the bus up to Altos de Chavon, run down 4.5 miles, before you reach the security gate, then turn around and run back up the way you came. It avoids a lot of hassle, and beats running the track on board the ship.


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  1. patrick stewart

     /  June 8, 2012

    Enjoyed this! Am sure it will become a favorite memory!

  2. FormermarathonerEd

     /  June 11, 2012

    Oy vey! If you didn’t make it back to the ship and were lost inthe DR forever, what would the other SJACSteamtownmarathoners have done without you?


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