>After a short stroll around Paraíso and the beautiful rocky beach, my husband, J., J.’s boyfriend, and a friend of a friend who lived in town headed for breakfast. We had mangu, a traditional Dominican breakfast made from mashed boiled plantains, fried onions, and fried eggs. It was seriously tasty stuff. We then packed up our rented Honda Civic and set out for Sierra de Barahuocco (not sure if I spelled that right) National Park.

On the way to the Park, we passed a large cattle drive taking place on the highway. We had to wait a few minutes for the road to clear up before we could go on, and then we finally arrived at the turn off point for the park. From there, it was another 35 km to go. The terrain was very interesting, full of red earth and strange formations left by the mining done by my least favorite Republican and anti-choice donor, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa). Fuckers. We seriously felt like we might have turned off and wound up in Mars.

Eventually, though, we got to the park entrance. A ranger approached the car, we paid our entry fee of 50 pesos ($1.50 USD) per person, and asked him how to get to Hoyo de Pelempito, a scenic look out point at the top of a mountain. The ranger said that he just started working there and had no idea how to get to Hoyo de Pelempito, which we found strange since that’s pretty much the only tourist destination in the park and my friend told me that Dominicans don’t really camp, so if anyone came into the park it was to see the view and leave, thus any ranger should know how to get there. Anyway, he went tto get the other ranger, who showed up a few minutes later in his bathrobe, looking pissy at the interruption. He did tell us how to get to Hoyo de Pelempito, though.

We set off. Not long after we left the ranger station, the dirt road began developing ruts and other challenges for the Honda Civic. We had to park along the side of the road and get hiking, which was fine by us. Before the hike began, it was time for a bathroom break. Unlike Lago Enriquillo, where we used the nastiest outhouse in history the day before, we just peed by the side of the road. The men had an easy time of it. As a former Peace Corps volunteer, J. is very experienced at peeing in natural settings, and had no problems. As a city slicker with a vagina, I was not so fortunate. I tromped a bit deep into the woods, pulled down my pants and undies, and squatted. I’m an experienced squatter (I never sit on public toilets!), but it somehow did not occur to me that the position I squatted in would lead me to pee directly on my own right ankle. Ooops. Lesson learned, I repositioned, finished, and took my soggy leg back to the others, who laughed at me. I wondered if urine would at least keep the bugs away.

We began our hike. The forest was beautiful and the air was nice and cool. There were tons of butterflies. We hiked more. We were careful of the pits in the uneven road. We hiked more. I wondered if there were bears in the forest. We hiked more. I hoped we somehow didn’t get lost (which really would have been impossible as there was only one road and we were still on it). We hiked more. We all started wondering where the fuck Hoyo de Pelempito was and if we would get there and back before dark. It occurred to us that no one had any idea where we were. Going to Hoyo de Pelempito had been a last minute idea J. had. We decided we’d hike for 10 more minutes and if we didn’t get there, we’d just turn around.

Five minutes later, a rusty pickup truck tore down the road. The driver stopped, and J. asked him and his wife if they knew how far it was to Hoyo de Pelempito. The driver starting to answer in Spanish, looked at the gringos (my husband and me), and then said, “Hop in the back, that’s where we’re headed. Oh, and be careful of the cactus.” Yes, several pieces of cactus lay in the bed of the truck. We piled in, and as the truck bounced up and down the rutted road, throwing us around like rag dolls, I hoped that the cactus did not wind up under someone’s ass. It was delicately balanced between my husband’s legs. (Is that a cactus in your pants, or are you just happy to see me? Ha ha!) In the meantime, I was having the time of my life.

Long story short, we got to Hoyo de Pelempito, hiked down a short path to the edge, and were rewarded with a stunning view of a 250 meter deep crater with pine trees surrounded by other mountains. Our driver, originally from the DR, and his Philippina wife were actually from Woodside, Queens. They were hilarious New Yorker types. As we gazed in awe at the view, our driver’s wife said in accented English, “It’s a big hole. I can’t believe you dragged me here. You see it, now let’s go.” My husband and I found this hilarious. When it was time to go, we piled back into the back of the pickup truck with our friend the cactus. Our new friends dropped us back off at our car, and we were ready for our next adventure.

What an awesome 30th birthday so far: I got a birthday treat of a roll with a tampon as a substitute for a cake and candle, a shower with ants, a tasty breakfast, a very intimate view of a cattle drive, and a wild ride with friends and a cactus in a pickup truck on a crazy mountain road. Seriously, I was loving it.