“Good Afternoon. Are you Christy?”
I hear a voice from behind as we collect ourselves and our luggage from the cab. Our minds still a bit groggy from 17 hours of travel and sleeping on the Miami airport floor.
“Yes, hi. We were not sure if we were at the right place. You must be Elena?”
“I am. We spoke on the phone. Welcome to Ali’s Surf Camp.”
We are escorted to a small, pastel-colored bungalow that I assume is the office. We pay for 6 nights with US dollars since that is the currency in which our $30/night stay was quoted.
After check-in, I immediately settle in at the outdoor restaurant in search of a beer. The Caribbean-style restaurant at Ali’s Surf Camp is covered in a palm thatched roof and sits beside a lagoon with a brightly-colored dock that is decorated in Christmas lights.
“Oh, yea. It’s Christmas Day! Merry Christmas, Scott!”
We turn our attention to a vehicle that pulls into the tiny gravel parking lot. A large group of about 15 people begin jumping out of the extra long bed of a truck that has ‘Cabarete Surf Camp’ written along the side.
I begin to wonder how many names this place goes by. As we were researching places to stay in Cabarete, we found very little budget options. The 3 places that received positive reviews were Hostel Cabarete, Ali’s Surf Camp and Cabarete Surf Camp. Little did I know, these are all the same place.
The driver gets out of the truck and speaks to the group with a thick European accent.
“Great surf session everyone. Merry Christmas! See you all tonight at dinner.”
It becomes clear to me that the man with the European accent (I think he is German and Scott thinks he is French) is Antonio, the head of the surf camp and the main surf instructor. It seems like a fun group. I can’t wait to head out tomorrow morning for our first surf session at Playa Encuentro on the northern coast of the Dominican Republic.
Elena informed us that the communal dinner is served at 7:30 pm. We are supposed to sit at the long picnic style table that stretches almost the entire length of the restaurant. The rest of the tables are for non-guests of the hotel.
It’s about 5:30 pm by the time we get our first beer. Nacho, a very nice young Dominican man, serves us two Presidente beers, a local brew. We are joined by a few Canadians who had just returned from surfing.
All four of us spend the next two hours drinking and talking about travel, surfing, and beer. The rest of the hotel guests begin to arrive for dinner and gradually join the conversation.
We meet a family of four from Texas, a young couple from Brazil, a man from Spain who now lives in Santo Domingo, a young guy from Germany, a Canadian couple in their early twenties who are in med school, a Kiwi who lives in Pennsylvania, a French family who live in Madagascar, a guy from Japan who lives in Boston, and few more Canadians.
By 8:00 pm, the table was full of people from all over the world, laughing, drinking, and enjoying each others company. A moment ago these people were all strangers to me, and somehow they instantly felt like old friends.
Scott and I ordered two grilled lobster tails, sea bass, fried calamari rings, roasted vegetables, and too many beers to count. Our Christmas meal, including alcohol, came to $25 US. We really couldn’t complain.
Even though it was Christmas day and I was thousands of miles away from family, I was happy to be spending this holiday enjoying a delicious meal and a few rounds of Mama Juana shots with a bunch of new friends.