If I were teaching a Creative Writing course I would give the writer an "A" for his romantisized version of his journey through the Dominican Republic. However if I were back in the college classroom teaching Journalism and news reporting as I did for a number of years I would have to give the writer less than a satisfactory grade for describing Las Terrenas and Las Galeras in considerably less than truthful terms. In the interest of accurate reporting let me make a few observations:
"...Then the town, Las Terrenas, comes into view along a fingernail of white sand, and we roll to a halt at the edge of the sea. Amid the palm trees are a few dozen pastel houses with thatched roofs and signs swinging on chains from posts, advertising bikinis, the Internet, and motos. Other travelers in flip-flops and shades wander along the dusty road while boys on motorbikes weave between them and skid around potholes. We drive past old men carrying nets loaded with lobster and shrimp and fish and squid still squirming on their lines. Ladies in colorful dresses walk slowly beneath baskets piled with mangoes and papaya."
"A few dozen pastel houses with thatched roofs come into view..." is this before or after the writer has weaved his way through insane traffic for a mile or so downtown on the main road coming into town from Sanchez?
"...old men carrying nets loaded with lobster and shrimp and fish and squid still squirming on their lines. Ladies in colorful dresses walk slowly beneath baskets piled with mangoes and papaya." Loaded with lobster, shrimp and fish? Did he pass a fish market as in 10 years living here I've never seen this. Lobster come from the oceanside of the peninsula. Shrimp come from the end of Samana Bay some miles distant back over the mountains in Sanchez. Ditto for the ladies in their colorful skirts, mangoes, papayas and all. This is a stylized and fantasy view at best.
His description of Las Galeras is even further off the mark:
"...a quiet stretch of palm-studded white sand that is literally the end of the line. Beyond Las Galeras, a sun-blessed hamlet of a few dozen houses and shops, is the Atlantic. The next landfall is Puerto Rico. The town was reputedly founded as a pirate haven in the seventeenth century, but for the most part it was settled by fishermen, who lived undisturbed until the first hotels opened in the 1990s. With some of the best beaches in the Caribbean nearby, Las Galeras is still remote and tranquil enough to appeal to even the most jaded traveler. On the beach is a bar, around which a few Dominican fishermen drink rum and boys try to sell that day's spiny lobster catch. There's nothing to do here but take in the view. There are no package tours, no rows of oily North Americans stretched out on white plastic chaise longues. The town has one Internet café, one first-rate pizzeria, a half-dozen modest hotels, a few joints hawking trinkets, and an old skinny guy who tries to sell you grass. You'll find a smattering of fellow tourists, who walk around feeling relieved that they have finally found a spot at the end of the road which isn't overwhelmed with other folks looking for that same thing. There are no buses, no taxis. You get here on your own or you don't get here at all.
"...a sun blessed hamlet of a few dozen houses..." At least he got the sun blessed part correct. When I arrived 10 years ago we had more houses than that in just the first two blocks from the ocean. Population today has to be near 4,000 at this end of the peninsula.
"...On the beach is a bar, around which a few Dominican fishermen drink rum and boys try to sell that day's spiny lobster catch." These are the local captains and various nefarious types. And the boys with lobsters? If they have any they are small, so small the tail is hardly larger than a big shrimp. They've been taking so many lobster year round (even during the closed breeding season) that there are hardly any left in the bay. I've been preaching about this for years (and we even refuse to buy lobster for the restaurant out of season) and one day there won't be any more.
"...There are no package tours, no rows of oily North Americans stretched out on white plastic chaise longues. The town has one Internet café, one first-rate pizzeria, a half-dozen modest hotels, a few joints hawking trinkets, and an old skinny guy who tries to sell you grass." Here's where he REALLY got it wrong:
We have at least 4 tour agencies offering packaged tours. Several are located on the main street and you can't miss them. We also have two internet cafes, a half dozen good restaurants besides the pizza place (of which there are two), and not a half dozen modest hotels but over 300 accommodations in 5 oceanfront hotels of which one is anything but modest, at least 4 smaller hotels away from the ocean, several guest houses and a number of small rental houses. And in the center of the town you will find at least 4 boutiques, two supermarkets (large colmados), 2 hardware stores with a third on the outskirts of town, several open-air art sales locations, a pharmacy and a number of small businesses serving the local population.
"...There are no buses, no taxis. You get here on your own or you don't get here at all." Not only do we have a bus that leaves for Santo Domingo every morning shortly after 6 and returns late in the day, but we have public taxis (gua guas) that leave for Samana every 20 minutes from 7am until 6pm. We also have private taxis that park where the gua guas do, we have plenty of motorcycles cruising the main street looking for fares and several car and quad rental shops. It EASY to get here, but difficult to leave when you get our sand in your shoes.
Now about the skinny guy selling grass: we've been tring to do something about this for some time. But as the rest of the DR goes, drugs are becomming a problem even in our community (and it's the same in Las Terrenas).
I don't intend for this to be a condemnation of the author's work, but in the interest of good journalism let's tell it like it is, warts and all. Frankly this article is much the same as many written about the DR (and many other destinations, too), long on a romanticized and rose-colored glasses view and short on current information.