San Francisco de Macoris, that is – not the (slightly better-known) city on the west coast of the USA.
It’s about 65km south-west from Nagua, and last weekend and feeling adventurous we took a day trip there.
We went by Caribe Tours. They are the largest intercity coach operator in the Dominican Republic, and their bright-yellow coaches are a regular sight thundering along the intercity roads. Also our choices were limited to this or a pick-up truck – there is a five-times daily service between Nagua and San Francisco where you just jump in the back along with whoever else is there! We weren’t feeling quite that brave, so the big yellow Caribe bus it was.
Our bus was at 8am. I think our driver thought he was James Hunt (this is 1973, remember). Once underway we stopped for nothing, and gave way to even less. The road was never more than a single carriageway – with one narrowish lane each direction (and often less). Cars, motorcycles, lorries, horses – we overtook them all. There clearly was a ‘law of the biggest’ at work – even cars coming in the opposite direction slowed and gave way to our yellow goliath. We slowed (a bit) for villages, and once (a lot) when a fuel-tanker was headed straight for us. Other than that all other vehicles seemed to know to get out of our way – and the few that didn’t were given a long and loud horn blast – often as we passed inches from motorcyclists and their passengers.
Barely an hour (and 65km) after we left Nagua, and we were arriving at the bus depot in San Francisco. We sat for a few minutes to orient ourselves (and maybe to feel solid ground beneath our feet). Then it was off to explore this new pueblo.
Sadly San Francisco was a bit of a disappointment. A lot like Nagua, only bigger – with bigger city things like a cinema and a Burger King! We didn’t expect much – the place hardly merits a paragraph in the Lonely Planet. A concrete cathedral and nice-ish parque (paved with some green bits) are really the only places mentioned. The cathedral was odd. Large, boxy and concrete. The parque was nice-ish – about 100m x 100m with some greenery, some fine tall palm trees, lots of shade and a bandstand. Other than that though, it was just somewhere different and Not Nagua.
The town statue was – rather strangely, a giant Cadbury’s Creme Egg held aloft by a dismembered hand, sitting atop of a brick from Pink Floyds Wall. At least that’s what it looked like to me – maybe just a side-effect of the Burger King cappucino.
The highlight for the kids was that they got to play in 3 playgrounds – firstly at Burger King, then at Pizza Hut and then finally at a cafe next to the bus station. There are so few places here for the kids to play – no green spaces, very, very few parks with swings & slides – and we don’t have a garden – that the chance to play on even these small playframes was like heaven to them. So we happily drank a coffee in BK, had our lunch in Pizza Hut and an ice-cream at the bus-stop cafe whilst the kids played merry on the playframes (don’t we just know how to live it up!).
And then, after a few short hours, it was back on the bus. Once again with James Hunt at he wheel. He made it back to Nagua in even less time than the outward journey. I think it would have been easier if he’d just kept his hand on the horn the whole way. We’re going to do some more trips (days or overnights where we can) – Santo Domingo and Samaná are the first targets. I’ll let you know how we get on.