title- Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Arriving at Amber Cove.

Our stormy arrival to the port of Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.

 

Following a day at sea, our next port was the recently developed cruise ship harbor on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, Amber Cove. The gale force winds had not abated, and the exercise of turning the ship 180 degrees at the mouth of the harbor, and then backing the ship into the narrow strip of water between the steep bank and the pier was a process I watched in detail. In 20 years of Navy service I had not seen so demanding a job of docking. The crosswind was right at the limiting capability of the bow thrusters, and a small tug pushed on the bow of the ship to keep the bow from being blown into the pier during the backing process. We tied up without incident and it was time to get on with explorations.

Amber Cove itself has shopping and entertainment provided by the cruise line, but we were interested in exploring the city of Puerto Plata, about five miles east, which also held a Columbus connection. At San Salvador, Columbus was surprised that the Indians were able to understand his recently drawn maps. Columbus was looking for China, and while there was a complete language barrier, the Indians were able to draw other islands on his maps and to convey that a much larger body of land lay to the south and west. Columbus took five men on board as translators, to learn Spanish, and to help navigate the islands which they seemed to know. They headed southwest and had to navigate a treacherous string of islands sitting in very shallow water. Past them they eventually came to the large body of land of which the Indians spoke, which turned out to be Cuba.

Columbus reached Cuba at about it's middle, and explored it eastward. There were groups of Indians there, mostly friendly. He was not sure if it was a continent or an island, but when he reached its eastern end realized that at least it was a large peninsula of a greater body of land. He was told of another large piece of land further east and headed that direction. He reached the island he called Hispaniola, which is present day Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He found several harbors and groups of Indians. He found a community about 3/4 down the northern coast which he named Puerto Plata. About 20 miles further, he established his own community to set about exploring the land and looking for gold.

So, eight of us rented a taxi and set off to explore Puerto Plata, a place named by Columbus.

 

Amber cove entry

As we backed into Amber Cove we were only a ship width from shallow water. A buoy marking the edge of deep water was only a few dozen yards beside us.

 

The tug.

A small tug was bobbing like a cork, but it pressed up against the bow and held it off so the wind would not push us into the pier as we backed in.

 

Explorers in Amber Cove

Our group heading out to rent a taxi and explore Puerto Plata.

 

Don at Amber Cove

Don strikes the pose behind the ship.

 

Our driver was a retired Dominican baseball catcher; an interesting and fun guy.

 

 

Macorix distillary.

We arrive at the Macorix rum distillery at the same time as a thundershower.

 

Don in the rain.

A very big bench at the distillery.

 

Oak barrels for distilling rum.

Macorix ages its rum for up to 8 years in oak barrels purchased used from a bourbon distillery in Kentucky. The older rum tastes just like a fine scotch.

 

 

Cigar maker in Puerto Plata

The Dominican Republic grows essentially the same tobacco as Cuba. Their cigars are hand rolled and, I'm told, have the same quality.

 

Mike and Tom enjoy cigars.

Mike and Tom sample the wares.

 

Kathy asks about the cigar process.

Ginny and Kathy get that sweet tobacco smell.

 

 

Kathi examines the coconuts.

Kathi examines some large coconuts.

 

Coconut Cart

A vendor whacks coconuts with a sharp machete.

 

 

Pigeons in the park.

It wouldn't be a town square without pigeons.

 

Couple on a motorcycle.

Narrow roads, pricey gasoline and warm weather make for lots of motorcycles.

 

Family on a motorcycle.

Much of the older architecture has a colonial European theme.

 

Bringing the kids home on a scooter.

Bringing the kids home on a scooter.

 

Local Wallmart

Bob and Ginny pass the Wallmart.

 

Local art

Local art on display.

 

More examples.

 

 

Fruit vendor

Fruit and fabric are both made locally.

 

Joking around.

Bob jokes around with a local shop owner.

 

To continue the Columbus story, the Admiral wrote fondly of the Taino natives. They had no metal tools, so they were excited by the trinkets that Columbus traded with them. Some families had small gold ornaments which they happily traded with Columbus. Since a primary goal of the voyage was to find gold, Columbus was encouraged and wanted to find where it was mined.

While doing further explorations, Columbus lost the Santa Maria on a sandbank in what is now known as Cap-Hatian, Haiti. Supplies were getting low, so he decided to leave 40 men to build a fort near Puerto Plata, and to work with the Indians to find the gold mine. He then went back to Spain, taking about a dozen hostage Taino people with him to show to Queen Isabella. These he planned to educate and to convert to Christianity. The Taino people were already monotheistic, so the concept of one God appealed to them.

To make a long story short, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand were thrilled at Columbus's discovery and sent him back with 17 ships and 1,500 people of various trades, priests and artisans, to establish a colony on Hispaniola and to mine gold. When Columbus got back, he found disaster. The men he had left had each taken about 5 women for themselves. This greatly angered the local people, and one tribe which was fiercer than the others killed about half of the sailors. Others died of disease or were killed by other natives as the relationship deteriorated. None were alive when Columbus returned.

This set the tone for the new colony. It turned out that there was very little gold left in Hispaniola. What Columbus had received in trade on his first journey represented years of family wealth which was accrued in tiny amounts over a long time. As Columbus left to continue exploring islands, the new governor installed by Columbus dealt harshly with the native people and killed many of them when they did not produce the demanded gold. Many natives and Spaniards died of disease. When Columbus returned to find not only disarray, but no gold, he was panicked that he would not be returning to Spain with wealth to cover an expensive journey. The only commodity left was to take slaves, something he had vowed earlier never to do to these gentle people. Columbus returned to Spain with 300 Taino people. Most of them died, either on the voyage, or in the much colder climate of Europe.

Not to justify it, but in the days before electricity, before dishwashers and refrigerators, the way that the privileged made life easier was to have slaves. They could make daily life easier, and they could increase wealth by doing manual labor in fields. Virtually all the colonizing countries took slaves from their colonies.

It is estimated that at the time Columbus discovered Hispaniola, there were about 300,000 Taino people. A decade or so later, when slaves were brought from Africa by the thousands to tend sugar cane fields, disease and killing left only about 500 Tiona people on Hispaniola. The current populations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic represent almost entirely descendants of African slaves with essentially no traceable Tiano blood.

 

Eating seafood.

Our driver took us to a seafood restaurant.

 

Seafood lunch

We chose all different kinds of seafood; here langouste pulled live out of the tank. My seafood stew was superb.