First Things First: Building a Foundation in the Yoga Loft

What is that saying…first things first? Well of course they are – it seems silly and redundant. But in a new place it can be surprisingly easy to get jumbled up and not put the right things first. I have a few weeks of adjusting to internship life under my belt and am trying to gain some traction on completing the “life” tasks (ya know…run errands, cook, do laundry, find the good coffee). Sometimes completing the smallest task in the Caribbean feels like camping, in a sauna, with one arm tied behind my back. Seemingly simple tasks take allllll day.

I know in my head that adjusting to life in a new country will take time but feeling ineffective is frustrating regardless of the situation. Heeding the many well meaning warnings from my Extreme family to “take it slow”, “don’t burn out”, and the pointed “get your butt to yoga”, I escaped to the Yoga Loft for a class with Claire. This class was exactly what I needed! Her meditative vinyasa flow class allowed me to clear my head and get back to basics. Claire’s style is perfect for beginners and infuses tidbits of yoga philosophy throughout to create a well rounded experience.

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The beautiful view of Kite Beach from the Yoga Loft at Extreme Hotel

This class made me realize how quickly I had forgotten the importance of having a self care practice. First things first, foundation first, put on your own oxygen mask … FIRST. Self care first. For me, yoga is an integral part of my self care routine and it can serve as the cornerstone for building a healthy and vibrant lifestyle in Cabarete. I decided to jump back into this practice with both feet.

Molly’s class was next, and traditional Ashtanga is my jam. I left with a big smile while feeling the “yoga high”. Her style is warm and inviting; she has many regular students that she connects with closely. This is a great class to deepen your asana practice, try some new tricks, and be social!

Molly's class

Molly’s class

 

A few days later I got to try Bronya’s class. Her style is a slow flow that focuses on technique and alignment. She blends in elements from many holistic healthcare practices including tai chi and chi gong. Bronya’s calming and meditative voice combined with nadi shodhan (alternate nostril breathing) and the sound of crashing waves allowed this class to take on a deep restorative vibe. It’s the yin to the yang of the Cabarete athletic lifestyle.

Bronya practicing yoga on the beach

Bronya practicing yoga by the ocean

Practicing in the Yoga Loft reminds me that all of the essential “things” I need are right at my fingertips. First things first, and finding the good coffee can wait-  at least until after class!

 

Trip to Pico Duarte: the Roof of the Caribbean

What an experience! During this trip you will witness breathtaking views from the highest point of the Caribbean. The view from the summit is absolutely incredible!  Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes, to everyone! But be warned, it is extremely tough for inexperienced hikers. Although it is difficult, you will be absolutely blown away by what nature has to offer – Amazing flora and fauna and it doesn’t just stay the same. The landscape changes along the way as well as the vegetation. You will walk through the clouds and watch the sun rise over the highest point of the Caribbean while looking over Haiti and Puerto Rico. We headed out at four in the morning from the base camp. I have never seen stars so clear and bright! Besides the natural beauty, the sense of satisfaction from doing the climb totally made the tough hike worth the effort.

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This trip can be shorter or longer depending on your preference and we did the express version (two days). From Extreme Hotel on Kite Beach, Cabarete, we passed through Moca to get to Rancho Baiguate in Jarabacoa (www.ranchobaiguate.com/). Watch out when you drive down to San Victor as there are some sharp u-turns going downhill. Also watch out for holes in the road and drive very carefully. Take a phone that has Google Maps. This app can help you out big time when you get lost which is more than likely – it’s all part of the adventure!

When we got to the ranch we ate a very nice meal at the buffet. The guides explained what we would be doing the next day and afterwards we went to bed early to catch some good sleep in one of their nice cabins (you will need this rest for when you wake up at 6 am the next day!). The following morning you drive to La Cienega de Manabao. This is a very cool 1.5 hour ride in an open truck. You will see a lot of nice villages, beautiful landscapes and friendly people greeting you. The hike starts with the journey to the base camp, la compartición, which will take between 7-9 hours. It is there that you will eat and catch some sleep because the climb to the summit begins at four in the morning. After that you return to base camp where you will have another much deserved meal. Then begins the decent all the way back to La Cienega de Manabao.

Base Camp – La Compartición

Very important tip: phone beforehand and ask if the track is muddy or not (Ranch Contact). I would recommend to go only when it hasn’t been raining a lot and to book through some kind of agency unless you are a very experienced hiker. My friend and I practice a lot of sports, but our knees were hurting a lot on the way back because they were simply overloaded. We climbed the mountain without using one of the guides’ mules. In retrospect, it would have been better if we had taken the mule for at least two hours on the way to the top. We did have sufficient energy on the way back, but if your knees are hurting, going down is especially difficult! So in the end, we sat on mules on the way down for 4 hours. All in all, Rancho Baiguate took care of everything very well!

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What is essential to bring?

– Warm clothing, a hat and gloves are needed at the top! (we did the tour in March and it was about 5 degrees Celsius at the top … other months can even be colder)

– Good quality hiking shoes and socks

– High energy snacks like muesli bars

– Sunscreen and sunglasses

– Flashlights (iphone will suffice, make sure it is fully charged!)

– Rain gear

Y ahora, vetepalla!

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Written by Jelle Boekema, the Netherlands (29) and Billy Gonzalez Capellan, La Republica
Dominicana (23)

Santiago: the perfect getaway from your vacation getaway

Santiago de Los Caballeros—the DR’s second-largest city and one of the oldest establishments in the Western Hemisphere, founded by the brother of Christopher Columbus back in the year 1495.

Only a few hours’ journey from Cabarete, today Santiago is the perfect place to get away from your vacation getaway for a few days during your visit to the DR. Simply hop on a guagua to head to Puerto Plata (45 minutes, RD $50) to catch one of the many busses that head south every hour to Santiago (80 minutes, RD $130), and spend a day or two exploring the sights and scenes of a city which locals refer to as La Ciudad Corazón: “Heart City.”

So-named for it’s central location in the heart of the El Cibao Valley, Santiago is known for it’s charm and rich cultural history, and is a place where friendly locals still embody the laid back, undemanding lifestyle and cheery charisma so typical of the Dominican people.

It’s also home to one of the country’s most popular baseball teams – Las Aguilas Cibaeñas, and scoring a pair of last-minute tickets to a Friday night game was one of the highlights of our visit!

It all started early on a rainy Friday morning, after our search for an eco-village described as a “rustic mountaintop retreat” supposedly located somewhere along the road between Puerto Plata and Santiago completely FAILED, and our curiosity (and lack of a backup plan) led us to follow the highway the rest of the way on our motorbike into downtown Santiago to see for ourselves what the city had to offer.

As it turned out, we had such a great time that I honestly don’t think we could have planned better experience even if we had tried. After riding into the densest, busiest part of the city center and negotiating a couple of tense traffic scenarios, we pulled over to ask where we could find a cheap hotel.

We were directed to a small street just south of the intersection of “30 de Marzo” and “27 de Februar”—yes, the streets here are named after random (or possibly important) dates of the year—where we quickly found a small hotel named “Hotel Shalom,” featuring rooms starting at just 300 pesos.

After realizing we didn’t have enough clothing to stuff into all of the holes and cracks in the walls and windows of our room, we came up with a novel solution for dealing with the mosquitoes which seemed abundant enough that they might have posed a problem:

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With all the money we saved on lodging, we were able to absolutely SPLURGE on a taxi (100 pesos) to the stadium downtown where we treated ourselves to a pair of front row tickets (100 pesos each) to the big Friday night game between the Aguilars and the Estrellas. It was a delightful game and for the first time in my life I witnessed a grand slam at a baseball game!

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We found that even though there are seat numbers listed on the tickets, nobody abides by these, and seating seems to operate on a first-come first-served basis. So if you do go to a game, make sure to get there early and grab good seats. Also, bring some coins to spend on the interesting treats that are sold by vendors walking up and down the stands, such as delicious peanut-cookies (10 pesos; highly recommended), bags of popcorn (we didn’t buy any), lollipops (5 pesos), and nachos (35 pesos; didn’t buy any either).

We left the stadium during the bottom of the 8th inning to avoid what probably would have been a crowded, hectic street battle to find a taxi ride back to our hotel (80 pesos).

The next day was Saturday, and after taking our bike to the shop and replacing the old battery (now the headlights, horn and auto-ignition switch all work perfectly!), we cruised up to El Monumento a los Heroes de la Restauracion de la Republica, set high up on a hill just east of the downtown area, with incredible views over the entire city:

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It also turned out to be a lovely place to catch the sunrise on our last day in town, although we can’t 100% guarantee you won’t get mugged if you show up there with your expensive camera in the wee hours of dawn.

Later in the day, we spent some time at the nearby Fortaleza San Luis, a highly recommended art/artifacts museum/fortress that functioned as a military stronghold from the late 17th century to the 1970s when it was converted into a museum. It’s a great place to spend the hottest part of the day admiring an impressive collection of Taino artifacts displayed alongside the artwork of modern-day Domincan artists:

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We spent the rest of the day walking past the shops along Calle del Sol, wandering through street markets, observing a lively political street-rally, watching children from orphanages receive belated Christmas gifts being distributed out of large vans owned by a local organization, chatting with friendly locals, and watching the scenes of life unfold in a community living under the Rio Yaque del Norte bridge. At night we wandered the narrow streets and alleys past food vendors and watched as daytime shops closed down and transformed into homes and living quarters for the workers and their families.

The next morning, after ducking into Catedral de Santiago de Apostol to escape a morning rain shower and observe Sunday mass from the back row of the chapel, it was almost with a hint of sadness that we left Santiago and headed back to paradise.

Perhaps of all the things that amazed me about our visit was the fact that the entire time we were there, the only “foreigners” we saw seemed to be the Haitian immigrants sharing the hallway with us in the hotel where we stayed. But even at the main places of interest downtown where one would expect to see foreigners snapping photos, we were the only tourists in sight. And although we must have stood out greatly to the locals, we found the people of Santiago were just as friendly and lively as our local friends up here in Cabarete.

Given my experience, I would definitely go back to Santiago again. And looking back on the weekend I can confidently say that if you’re feeling the desire for a change of pace and are open to participating in an authentic cultural experience, I highly recommend a visit to Santiago!

How We Handle Mosquitos in Cabarete

Extreme Hotel Cabarete, on the north coast of the Dominican Republic, caters to an eco friendly environment. One of the realities of living next to El Choco National Park is that there are mosquitoes during the rainy season.

Dealing with mosquitoes is a fact of life in the tropics. Chikungunya, malaria, and dengue are a few mosquito transmitted diseases that have been contracted in the Dominican Republic, but there are things that can be done to help manage the mosquitoes without having to poison ourselves with chemicals. All it takes is some creative thinking to ensure that we have a mosquito tolerable environment.

One effective measure that works for us is spraying an organic insecticide around the property as needed.

Here’s a glance at our handy man, Oscar, spraying for us (I know you’re singing “Ghostbusters!” right now):
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The harmless spray contains a mixture of organic neem oil, water, and a natural detergent. Neem oil is an incredible moisturizer and is widely used today in popular products such as shampoos, toothpaste, soaps, cosmetics, and creams. It also contains vitamin E, essential amino acids, fatty acids, and compounds that offer natural medicinal and insecticidal properties.

In addition to our checmical free mosquito management technique , we offer our eXtreme guests a personal mosquito swat-racket.

There is a technique to using a mosquito racket. Basically the procedure is to close all your doors and windows in your room, checking to ensure that all the seals are closed so no more can get in. Next, use your racket in a gentle swinging manner to clear the room and all the corners of the mosquitoes that have managed to get inside.

These are no ordinary mosquito rackets – our staff ran a trial period of testing out various rackets to see which ones were most effective in zapping away the mosquitoes. We unanimously agreed upon a mosquito racket with wires that only run one way- no crossing! This technology allows air to swiftly fly through the racket instead of being propelled forward and ultimately pushing the mosquitoes out of the way. The end result is dead mosquitoes with minimal effort, and easy sleeping nights with no mosquitoes buzzing around your ears!

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Here are a few handy tips for getting the most out of your zap-racket:

1) Close the door behind you! Don’t give insects a chance to fly in as you enter the room. Also, check that your screens aren’t damaged with holes or crooked frames.

2) Make sure the green light turns on when you press down on the yellow activation button. If the green light does not respond, then you need to try rolling the batteries around a bit in order to guarantee that they are receiving proper circuit supply from both ends. If the light still does not respond, then we can switch out your faulty racket with a new one from reception.

3) Mosquitoes love damp, warm areas and are often found gathered in corners of rooms. Sweep your zap-racket slowly around the corners of the room and rest easy as you hear the sweet, succulent zapping sound.

An additional measure we take towards our eco-friendly bug management includes bat housing we installed on the property. A single bat can consume up to 1000 mosquitoes in a night! Citronella plants and Neem trees have also been transplanted onto our property to act as natural insect repellents. You may recognize the scent of citronella (lemongrass) in the air. It is has an energizing citrus aroma used in perfumes, soaps, and incense. We are also continuously inspecting the property for standing water. By eliminating standing water we also eliminate the bug breeding ground that comes with it.

Inside the eXtreme Hotel rooms you will find big fans located directly over top of the beds. These go a long way in reducing the random stray mosquito! Due to the lightweight nature of mosquitoes, the fan makes it difficult for them to maneuver through the air.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to bring an organic mosquito repellent. You can easily concoct your own by adding a few drops of citronella or neem oil to a moisturizer. Your skin will love it after playing in the sun all day!

Moto Taxis: a complete user guide!

Planning a trip to Cabarete? Not sure how to get around? Read on! We do things a little differently around here. If you want to truly embrace the Dominican culture, you will love getting to know the moto taxi mode of transportation.
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At the Extreme Hotel we attract guests that are looking for adventure and exploration, and as such, transportation becomes an integral part of their trip. The hotel staff value guest safety as a top priority and we will always be available to assist you in setting up the mode of transportation that best suits your needs. One option that many of our guests find exciting, cheap, and easy is the the moto taxi.

Just a stone’s throw from the Extreme Hotel sits a moto taxi stop. Here you will find a few of our true and tested local moto taxi guys that wait around to accommodate our travel pursuits.

Meet a few of our guys!
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From left to right we have: Luis, Luis, and Vale

The rates are cheap, the ride is fun, and the best part is that you don’t have to wait around like you would for a bus. Fifty pesos will get you to downtown Cabarete; a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. You will find yourself downtown for dancing, drinks, shopping, socializing on the plushy lounge chairs that pepper the beach in front of the restaurants, dropping in on volleyball pick-up games, and live music events!

Ready to ride the moto taxi wave? There are a few things you should know, since transportation can be very dangerous. However, there are basic principles you can implement to avoid unnecessary accidents.

Moto Etiquette: 7 Key Points to Know Before You Go

1) Get on a trusted moto taxi!
-Don’t let just anyone pick you up. Instead, look for an actual moto taxi stop. The taxi guys operate territorially here and will not allow any sketchy business. If you are desperate for a ride and can’t seem to find a moto taxi stop anywhere, you can ask to see a license before you hop on.

2) Always, always, ALWAYS get on and off from the left side!
-Forgetting this tidbit may cost you a severe burn from the exhaust pipe. Ouch! (Not a memento you want to take from your trip)

3) One word- “Tranquilo!”
-If you feel that your driver is going too fast, don’t be afraid to speak up. The word “tranquilo” will basically command your driver to slow down.

4) Don’t get on the moto until it’s facing the direction you will be going.
-This will help you avoid unnecessary turning into traffic.

5) 50 pesos
-Fifty pesos will get you into town and you can fit a third person on the back for 50 more pesos. Four people is pushing it!.

6) Use the same guy.
-Your driver will want to wait for you if you will need a ride back. If you won’t be spending much time at your destination, ask the driver to wait and he will happily give you a ride back. If you will be awhile you can ask him to meet you at a certain hour to give you a ride back.

7) Lean with it!
-It may feel natural for you to lean the opposite direction as the driver when you are taking a turn; however, the driver will maintain balance easier if you lean in the same direction as him.

Study these seven points and you will learn to love the moto taxis as much as we do!
Happy Travels 🙂

Off the Beaten Path on the North Coast

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I am one of the lucky few able to live on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. I am reminded about the many beautifull things to see in this caribbean gem when new eyes come visit.  How you choose to see the Dominican can make or break your vacation.

At the eXtreme hotel, we have many adventure tourists, solo travelers, and sports enthusiasts. All are looking to experience the country at their own speed. Sometimes it may seem easier to be packed on a tour bus and herded around the various tourist destinations like cattle. But in the North Coast of the Dominican Republic, it is just as simple to rent a car or take a taxi and go where you want, when you want to.

To compare, I recently went with some guests on a tour of a zoo, plantation, Blue Lagoon and a couple beaches- basically a ‘most bang for your buck’ kind of day. The bus stopped at a local grocery store to pick up rum and coke for the bus ride. It quickly became apparent that many of the other tourists on the tiny bus had not spent much time off the beach. As myself and the other eXtreme guests did some regular grocery shopping and searched for bananas in the local colmado, the other attendees wandered the aisles- amazed that crackers and soda were as readily available here as they were at home. We quickly grew restless with the slow pace of the tour at the first few stops and jokingly ‘mooed’ as we were slowly ushered along through the gift shops. My my crew had already followed recommendations to visit our local, organic farm and the shops of local artisans. So, they had no urge to see a guinea-pig eating crocodile poke his head out, awoken from his morning nap by the poke of a rebar pole, or haggle for the best price of a glitter coated key chain.

eXtreme guests want to walk among the friendly locals, practice their spanish, enjoy delicious local food and explore off the beaten path. I loved hearing our guests passing on dinner recommendations for authentic Dominican food and advice about how to enjoy the local culture. It showed that rather than viewing the Dominican from behind paned glass, they were really feeling comfortable immersing themselves in the culture. Just one of many times I’ve felt overjoyed and proud to be a part of the off the beaten path, adventure tourist culture in the DR.

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