Well, I never thought that the halfway point for my time in the DR would come… but the intern’s week off has come and gone and our new group has arrived at the Mak House ready to start the next week!

For our week off we decided to travel to Jarabacoa ( a city in the mountains about two and a half hours away from Puerto Plata). Jarabacoa has a lot of adventurous attractions like white water rafting and hiking, but I was particularly excited because Jarabacoa is where the Dominican Republic’s Young Life camp (Pico Escondido) is located.

On our first day we found the grocery store and bought some groceries and supplies to make pizza the next night. On our way back to the hostel we were staying at ate dinner at a random restaurant we found and I made the mistake of ordering a quesadilla… which was made with some kind of gross fake cheese that tasted like a wannabe Velveeta®. Note to self: Mexican food in the DR is not good, unless it’s the Mexican food made by Ricardo at the Mak House on Sunday nights. His food is delicious.

The morning of our second day in Jarabacoa we went white water rafting! The only person that fell out was Cakito (which was pretty funny and didn’t surprise me considering he wouldn’t listen to the cues from the guide to get down when we were going down a rapid). After eating lunch at the rafting place and watching the 10 minute video that was made of our rafting adventure, we all headed back to the hostel and then went out again in search of a waterfall. The boys told Audrey and I that they had the direction under control, but we soon found out that the waterfall we were wanting to go to was about 2 hours away. After that realization we all opted for walking down to the river, which Audrey and I soon regretted. The boys decided it would be a good idea to go off exploring and abandoned the two girls in the middle of a river in the Dominican Republic. It was starting to get dark… it looked like it was going to storm… there were random men coming out of the forest and crossing the river to the other side… we had really sketchy cell reception and Audrey’s DR phone ran out of minutes… and we hadn’t seen the guys for about 45 minutes. So, after calling them 20,000 times and thinking through all of our options logically, we decided to get a ride back to the hostel instead of waiting for the boys to come back and save us. After being dropped off at the wrong hostel, a quick trip to the supermercado, and a stop to get a much deserved smoothie after a stressful situation, we were both happily back at the hostel safe and sound. We later discovered that the the boys had found a group of Haitians playing fútbol and joined their game. Jack even scored a goal, so I wasn’t as mad when I found out what happened. It was actually pretty cool that they got to experience that, and I was even a little bit jealous! That night we made homemade pizza and had dinner together outside. It was the 4th of July, so it was weird not grilling and watching fireworks. We decided we at least needed ice cream, so we ordered some brownie sundaes to be delivered to the hostel. The menu didn’t have prices on it, so when the guy came to deliver them and told us we owed $7 US for each of the four half-melted sundaes it was kind of a shock. We all enjoyed our outrageously expensive deserts and then went right to bed after a long, but fun day.

Day three rolled around and we started off the day with a hike to a secret waterfall (this time with an actual guide), which was incredibly beautiful and was truly a well kept secret. It was cool to go to something that not a lot of other tourists get to see. We swam in the freezing cold water and watched Jack jump off the falls, and then we headed to what was my favorite part of the entire trip to Jarabacoa: Pico Escondido… the Young Life camp in the DR! We met Allison, the North American Liaison at Pico, who gave us a tour of the camp and explained what Vida Joven (Young lIfe for Spanish speakers) and Young Life (for English speakers in the DR) both look like in the Dominican Republic. I honestly can’t put to words how much seeing the Young Life camp there meant to me. Not only was it cool to see Young Life in the DR and to be reminded that it is an international organization, but just being around YL people in the Dominican Republic was enough to put tears in my eyes. I felt so at home there and you couldn’t have wiped the smile off my face if you had tried. It was huge for me to realize that I can literally do Young Life anywhere in the world, and it will always serve the same purpose no matter where I am: “to introduce adolescents to Christ and show them how to walk with Jesus”. One of the coolest things we got to do was meet Julia, the area director for Montellano and Puerto Plata. I was able to speak with her about what Vida Joven looks like in the area where Makarios is located. She had a few students with her that were working for the week at the camp and she wanted them to go back home to tell their friends that they should go to camp on July 14th. Julia was incredibly passionate about leading young people to Jesus and it was so evident in the way she spoke that she is one of the most driven and encouraging people I have ever met. Because of the work Julia is doing I am confident that a ton of young people are going to hear the Gospel. It isn’t big enough to have a club yet, but Vida Joven in Montellano/POP is about to take off in huge ways and I am so beyond excited to see the fruit of all of Julia’s hard work in the near future! 

For dinner that night we went to a local Columbian restaurant and a local ice cream stand both recommended by Julia, which were both super yummy. We went to bed after watching About Time(yes, the guys watched it too) in the girls room… the only room with Netflix 🙂

On day three we all went to a really great bakery/coffee shop that Andrew had found with Cakito on the second morning. Then we split into two groups… Jack and Audrey went mountain biking while Andrew, Elyse and I read at the coffee shop and then walked to the Jarabacoa coffee factory to take a tour that explained the coffee roasting process. That night we ordered dinner and had it delivered to the hostel and then watched another movie (yes… the boys watched not one, but TWO chick flicks with us… bless their kind souls). It was a really fun and relaxing last day in the mountains before we packed up and took Caribe Tours back to POP.

I would definitely recommend Jarabacoa to anyone traveling to the Dominican Republic!

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white water rafting with Cakito!
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the secret waterfall
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Cafe Monte Alto

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Pico Escondido Young Life Camp
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