“Ikar Hut” – where beauty, adventure and creativity meet!


Usually, I’m attracted to tropical and exotic destinations, rarely before I’ve had an inspiration to write for my country, especially as a part of my travel blog.
But, never say never!
I’m interested in everything related to water, because the gravitation is less and the feeling is more…
After almost two years living on islands I am back for a while in my home country, a land locked, with strong gravitational forces produced by the mountains around…
The only “blue” water sometimes even reminding on ocean, when afternoon winds hit is the Ohrid lake.
Here, “Ikar Hut” is situated.

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Lying between Ohrid and Prespa lake, separated by Galichica, National Park and Mountain.
I decided to visit the hostel, because I needed a gateway from the city life, and because few friends told me that it offers adrenaline activities.
They said: “you won’t be bored for sure”. True!
The Hostel, it’s run by Ilina young women, adrenaline addicted, herself…with impressive sport achievements, and among other things an artists. Its open both in summer and winter.
She definitely made a soulful place out of many artistic details, skillfully combining as well the comfort with the natural beauty around.
It is the most colorful place I visited recently.

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The house is overlooking Ohrid lake and summits of Galichica mountain in the same time.

When I arrived she offered me to settle and then head for a sunset canoe ride.
The ride was magnificent especially that we saluted sun the while setting behind the mountains and shining diamonds in the lake…
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Next day, I had a great bike ride from Lagadin to Trpejca (small fishermen village)……
This is not demanding tour but is a good work out combined with spectacular scenery along the way…
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For those more in shape there’re several demanding bike and hiking trails around. You can do rock climbing, on the nearby rocks…of course, with assistance and guidance by trained and experienced staff. These tours are all guided by Ilina herself.

Although I haven’t seen mountains in two years, and my physical tracking preparedness was not in full gloom, I managed (thanks to Ile a friend and a mountain guide at Ikar’s) to climb to the third highest summit in Macedonia (Pelister 2601m), as a part of Ikar’s activities.

The trail was just beautiful, frequently changing landscapes and flora…Recommended for sure!

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However, I must admit that I enjoyed the most the simple platform terrace built in front of Ikar’s living room. Overlooking in same time Ohrid lake and Galichica mountain…

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You may spread your wings and fly wherever you want… here, on this magical terrace you, can day dream endlessly or socialize and share with guests and friends along with tasteful meal, and Turkish coffee or rakija…

As tradition speaks itself, on the way back we were greeted with the best “tavce grafce” made out of the Ikar’s magical kitchen…

“Ikar Hut” is not just place to be but is the place to daydream…

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‘Off from work’ and direction Encuentro to surf!


 

Pauhana surf school 

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‘Home is where the waves are’ – and that’s Encuentro beach, Cabarete – DR!

Beautiful surroundings, intense green color combined with blue of the ocean and gold of the sand, the tallest palm trees, great hospitality, and amazing surfing.

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I’ve been coming to Cabarete and Encuentro few times before I definitely decided to move here from Bavaro. Right decision!

Every day I go surfing with strongest determination ever, without even checking the surf forecast since I’m sure I’ll find something. The surfing usually happens in the morning, because there’s no wind! It’s the place where for first time I really live a life of a surfer..although still so much to learn and experience.

From the first time I came here in October, I felt extremely comfortable at Pauhana Surf School. Pauhana [pow HAH-nah] is Hawaiian expression and means: ‘off from work on to surf’.  The surf school is located just centrally on the beach, and as well centrally from the right and left break. It is run by the locals ‘Chepe’ and ‘Jack’.

The school has different varieties of boards for every level and taste, and quite animated and experienced surf instructors. Mainly locals and experienced surfers, but this is not all since to be instructor of any kind first you need to love what you teach, and most of all you need to like to teach. Not every experienced surfer can be a good surf instructor. For Pauhana’s staff this is not the case since they really have been working with me  in different manner and aspect.

Almost every day starts with some surfing tips from the guys/the team working there. For example ‘Ino’ almost regularly tells me where to get in and in which condition which spot works better for my level. Nicolas works on my fear of big waves, and every time encourages me to just paddle out even when they are bit bigger. Once I was in my overly thinking mode and he said: ‘don’t worry it’s just water, sometimes big water’ – and started laughing. ‘Chepe’ works on my technique and tries to help me improve it. Once in a while shows me how to pop up faster and how to position my board in the peak of the wave.  The other day told me:’ listen you have to start surfing without shoes and get use to it’. Continued: ‘if you step on sea urchin I will take care of it don’t worry’. And, I followed the advice, the next day I went in the water without shoes although I was overly concerned not to step on rocks. And I stepped and nothing happened…

With Jack we talk about life…

As much as I spend my days at the surf school I consider it as meeting point inside ‘Encuentro’. It is a life inside the community. It is a microcosm inside the big picture and the endless horizon of the ocean. Around this microcosm many activities and things happen apart from surfing. There’s basketball court, ping pong table, and playground for kids. Especially week-ends are so animated with all the kids around. Pauhana is regularly organizing camps and activities for children trying to involve them more substantially from young age in community.

Ideal place for many outdoor activities but mainly for learning how to surf and improve your surfing skills, since life’s better when surfing, so ‘off from work’ and direction Encuentro to surf!

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Text: JanaLoza Altervoyage

Photo credits: Margo Soul X Ray

WHALE’S DANCE!


I have a saying that goes: “travelers always find open doors wherever they go”; and definitely many times  its confirmed. Recently, I moved to Cabarete in Amber Coast or the Atlantic shore of the Dominican Republic.  I came here because of the waves, surfers say: ‘home’s where the waves are’. True!

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But now I’d add ‘home is where the waves and whales are!’

The beautiful Encuentro a beach near Cabarete, means “meeting” in English, is not only home of waves throughout all year round, but is also a place where people meet with whales… Humpback whales travel from January to March every year to their final destination the peninsula and bay of Samana (distanced three and a half hour’s drive from Cabarete) where they give birth and mate.

We’ve started our adventure from Encuentro, Cabarete.

When we commenced I wasn’t aware of the etymology of our starting point.

Four women (three Russians and me), in a rented car launched on a trip, main inspiration – to see the whales! At least, that was mine. And, after a long time I really desired something truly – to see many whales!

It’s indeed important with whom one travels, and me usually I prefer to travel alone and meet people along the way. This time was different and every one added some extra flavor to the adventure. I have to be honest and say that never connected with Russian people, maybe kind of a stereotype that I had from before. I always felt natural around latino people… although have had some friendships with Russians never truly shared something. With these three extraordinary women, characters for themselves, we shared the thrust for adventure and exploration.

Nataliya Palkina, visiting us directly from Russia, Moscow, definitely ‘contessa’ by appearance and manners, and natural born actress, was always there to cite old Russian proverb. I enjoyed hearing her speaking – Russian never sounded so melodic.…But that wasn’t only of what she was capable of, her protective skills engrained in steeled Russian knife was something that was protecting us throughout all the way, at least to say from some unwanted ‘ghosts’. At the end of the adventure she decided to move to Dominican Republic for some time, and canceled her return ticket to Moscow.

Evegenija or Dijena half Russian half Korean, was spectacular. Always ready to jump to help, to do small things, to take your bag to hand you something that you are looking for, fearless and brave, full of joy and enthusiasm. With her due to the language barrier (she didn’t speak English and my level of Russian is pretty poor still) developed special language that sounded like Japanese. We could understand more with this imagined Japanese sounded language, than if one of us spoke either in English or Russian. So, we’ve communicated like that throughout the trip.  Few days after everybody came back to its own nest, she sent me an email saying that in two days she’s moving to Cabarete. Wauuuu! She instantly made all the arrangement and is moving from Bavaro (which is seven hours drive, and it’s on the other coast of DR) to Cabarete. At the moment I am writing this I expect her to arrive anytime here.

Margarita…I knew her even before I met her…the writings I completed before few months ago, talk about the same ‘Margarita’…For me it’s incredibly curious how one is able to capture in advance, yet unconsciously, the principal character of its own book …This Margarita, and that Margarita both have one common and very peculiar feature….and took me awhile to realize that. They both want to see images one after another, rapid change of perspectives like a lane of a film projector…This Margarita, bit of a nonchalant, with tremendous curiosity, rational but yet dreamy like was the official photographer of the trip.

Me, I don’t know – I say to my close friends that it’s not easy to be me… but I love adventure and love to observe people; and took me 35 years to realize that I’m extremist in every sense of the word and I’ll keep it like that, now that I am aware of…

On the way, I could see the faces of people and locals wondering how and why four white women travel alone throughout Dominicana…along the way we had small adventures that enriched the trip even more. Our car was stuck in mud and on a rock, so five Dominican’s had to lift it up with hands; we spent the night in some one’s luxurious villa, they offered accommodation since we couldn’t find any…the next day we stayed in a typical Dominican apartment in the shanty town in Samana…small things that add spice to the travel…

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Usually to tourists that visit the island in mass all-inclusive resorts the first thing they say is – this not the safest place to be! Better! Let them stay in the boring all-inclusive resorts, and have the island for people who really want to explore.

Definitely, the island offers a lot. During my stay here I’ve been almost at every part, and every time I am amazed by the beauty and natural richness the island offers.

This time was the same.

Our first stop was Las Terrenas. Of course, we didn’t do advanced booking, this is for people who plan everything; we just let the adventure flow its natural way….

Before reaching Las Terrenas we crossed the high mountainous road all in serpentine’s. The scenery was amazing, I had an impression I’m traveling through Mars because of the reddish intensity the road deflected, however of course with slight difference of having also intense green and blue colors around.

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The intensity of the colorful road wasn’t even over when we started to descend to reach finally Las Terrenas…In the horizon above from the ocean on one side and on the other reaching the reddish mountain – a rainbow opened, shining seven different colors. Spectacular view! A gift for our trip…

We arrived in Las Terrenas and spent the night there… Early in the morning first we drove to El Limon village between Las Terrenas and Samana where in the mountain and jungle one can enjoy and swim in spectacular waterfalls high 54m.  We got horses, pretty tired though…. mine in English was called ‘timid’. My last horse adventure was in Central Cuba near Trinidad in quite rocky and steepy mountainous area…I have to say I didn’t enjoy it a lot…maybe because I had huge horse and terrain was quite hard for inexperienced riders…

This ride was just great!

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We’ve crossed over turquoise colored river and started to ascend through mountainous jungle towards the waterfalls. The trail and the excursion are slightly commercialized but we didn’t matter….it was spectacular scenery everywhere …tropical paradise and mountainous landscapes… At the highest point of ascend, on one side was the jungle with the beautiful waterfalls and on the other the ocean…just breathtaking…we’ve cooled ourselves down in the waterfall and continued our journey to Samana to see the whales.

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It took us few hours to make a deal for the boat because we didn’t want to go in a big and touristic one. First, because they don’t get to close proximity to the whales as a small boat do, and second too many people. We made a good deal and rented a private speed boat to see the whales…The speed boat ride to the whales was adventure and adrenaline by itself, mostly because was afternoon and there were lots of waves, and the small boat jumped back and forth in the air and then water almost for forty minutes until the captain located the whales…

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We’ve approached to a mother and a newborn…they were relaxing in the deep ocean waters. Me, I didn’t have camera and I don’t regret because I love taking photos with my mind and then turning them in words, and second because we had professional photographer with us….

The level of excitement was getting to its peak because we knew we’ll witness something extraordinary that day. In a moment the boat stopped we all stood up! After few minutes standing we saw in the distance – somewhere 400m an enormous creature jumping…wauuuuuu, excitement and adrenaline…I heard someone asking where, where? I started to show and it took another minute or two– bammmmm another jump in the heights ….but much closer to us…again minute or two and spectacular full jump of the humpback whale…I saw National Geographic photo that day…I saw his black and white body with full intensity of colors above the ocean, his flippers; and the ultimate splashhhh…Speechless..

The locals said it’s really rare to see a triple and full whale jump…and maybe I belief so, this was especially for us…Buzzing in my head from excitement, and I hear the captain saying in Spanish “you saw it and now we go back”. Me, probably perplexed from the idea of going back and leaving this ultimate power of the nature behind…murmured: ‘please stay five minutes more’…he replied: ‘he won’t jump again that’s it’…I said – five minutes more and we go…the two other whales were just next to us all the time…I knew, I could feel that something more will happen…and it did…the mother started to dance and flip around showing off…on every applause and shouting she would do it even more intensely, start swimming  and flip to one side and then another, breach a bit and flip over with the massive white flippers…waving at us…

We witnessed the whale’s dance…we witnessed the dance of a women, a joy of a mother; we witnessed the freedom of whales…

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Photo credits: Margo_soulXray

Text: JanaLoza – altervoyage

JAZZ and SURF in Cabarete this week-end!


Today is the opening of the 17th edition of DR jazz festival nothing less nothing more but in the north shore – Cabarete, Puerto Plata and Sosua! 

Yes, jazz in Dominican Republic! This is the line up for those who might be interested: http://drjazzfestival.com/festival/line-up/.

Tomorrow is a opening of another great event under title “Master Surf Reunion”, which will take place at the beach Encuentro in Cabarete. Is it’s 5th edition!  Here is the program and details: http://www.masterssurfreunion.com/.

Rafael Fereras my friend, from Macao Surfadventures Camp will participate so fingers crossed, we want to come back with a trophy! 

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So, stay cool and surf jazzy this week-end in Cabarete!

THE BIG BLUE!


 

This is not a review of the movie “Big Blue” but is a writing about young men who has some similarity with the Jean Reno – the main character who played the famous diver Enzo Maiorca. He’s not an actor, although his presence and charisma could definitely suggest such possibility. My inspiration for writing are primarily people, people who in one or another way made impression on me. I like to write about people and probably this is the reason why I love to travel or vice versa…Nonetheless, this story is about David or Goñi or both, professional diver. Currently, he is living and working in Dominican Republic, where the big blue is all around. He’s in his early twenties, however despite his joyous character there is also certain contemplative side. Not serious but deep. The color of his eyes is the same as the color of the ocean, every time I look at him I see in my imagination how would be underwater. Once I asked him why he chose this profession, and how he feels deep down, his reply was that – “feels very peaceful”. It always amazes me why people chose one profession over another. Why someone is a dentist? Or mechanic, a DJ, professor, mathematician, physicist, doctor, policemen, firemen, photographer and the list can go endlessly. 

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Photo credit: Samir Ljuma

So, why David choose to become a diver and how was the decision made? Is it only a profession or a passion? Can you please share part of your experience and feeling down there?

Since I was a kid I have felt extreme passion for the ocean and including everything that involves water. I was born in Amposta in a small town in the middle of the Delta del Ebre in a natural reserve in Catalonia (Spain). I recall that when I was eight years old I went to my first fishing trip. I spent all the summer snorkeling trying to catch some octopus or just enjoying and observing the underwater world. In the afternoons I was fishing from my grandfather’s small boat. After, at the age of sixteen I became obsessed with the spare fishing doing apnea. I did this sport for many years. I was never a good student but finally I found something that I started to have interest on; and that was agriculture and diving. Thereafter I become a professional diver. Actually that was the moment when the ocean – my passion; turn to be my job and vice versa. Whenever I am deep down I always have this strong sensation of peace. The underwater is a place where one completely forgets about all problems and nobody can annoy you and tell you anything. There… it is just you and your breathing, so you can feel yourself being completely alive.

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What kind of training and preparedness is necessary one to become a diver? Are there different levels of divers? Could you explain us more? What is your job about?

The thing is that there are so many types of divers in the diving world. First of all, there is a professional diver, also known as a commercial diver – one who works in the fish farms, petrol stations, harbors, or in the aquariums. Of course, there are different levels of divers depending on how deep one goes and works.  First one is small deep or CEMAS (Center of Excursions Mountaineering and Underwater Activities)  (2nd class restricted  – 30mts deep), medium deep( 2nd – 60mts deep) and big deep (1st – 90mts deeps). On the other hand, PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and other associations of instructors of recreational diving provide diving training and issue certificates for recreational divers.

I became a professional diver in small deep at the when I turned nineteen. Then as soon as I have obtained my license I began to work as a professional diver. I have worked in the Barcelona aquarium and after in Vigo (Galicia) in an investigation center close to the Cies islands where the water was freezing, and also repairing some pipes in the harbors, cleaning some ships and doing this type of works. My dream since I was very young was to live in a Caribbean, so I applied for jobs here in the Dominican Republic. Got the job and now I have been living and working here as a diver almost nine months. Currently, I am working as an underwater videographer, shooting under water videos for people who do for first time diving tours or those who want to obtain a diving license.

How deep have you dived so far, and how long is possible one diver to stay underwater? Is it something that depends on the equipment one is using or preparedness or both? Which are the dangers down there, if any at all?

I don’t know exactly how deep I’ve been – probably 30mts. I’ve never had interest at all on going so deep as other divers are obsess about it. I don’t see the point yet… For the moment I enjoy without going so deep by being and seeing what’s in there. Neither I’ve had the possibility to go any deeper I’ve been so far. The time spent under water and the depth one goes is not proportional in the dive world. The time spent down there it depends on how deep you go, that means one would be able to stay longer or shorter time depending on the depth. So, as much deeper you go less time can you be under the water. In order to determine the time that you may stay in the water in terms of depth, there are tables that one has to check it every time before making the dive. The purpose of the tables is to determine the time you should stay in certain depth. These tables are named decompression tables and usually are used in professional diving. Nowadays, there are computers that calculate this, which function by introducing the bottom time and the depth, which are more or less exact.

Another very important thing is that one needs to be in good condition both physically and mentally for diving. To have overall awareness of what one actually is doing, to posses’ physical preparedness, but also to have sharp and fresh mind, and most importantly to be aware of the possible hazards there.  The danger exist certainly but if you do the things right, and you make sure you follow the rules and take care this is minimized. Additionally, if you know exactly what are you doing and how to react  affronting the dangers that you’ve been previously trained to affront there is no point to be afraid, it’s all about you and how sure and comfortable you feel down there. I consider that is extremely important to know yourself and be aware how you react if a problem actually occurs. In my case I can react and solve a problem better under the water rather than outside. I don’t know exactly why, but I assume is because I feel  more relaxed and comfortable down there and there is nothing  stressful at all for me, it’s difficult to explain.

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Can you imagine yourself living underwater J?

No. But for sure in a pirate boat with a lot of barrels of rum and gunpowder sailing around the Caribbean Islands looking for big treasures full of gold and more Ron in the big blue! ha ha ha !

 

Altervoyage: Jana Loza

 

THE WANDERING BOY


It’s been several days since I haven’t seen him. And I use to see him at least once a day or even more. Would salute me every time, not expecting anything in return. I am bit worried actually I am distressed. I wanted to film him, but then I dismissed this idea because of the fact that is too complicated. The subject is a kid and the object is a kid, barefoot wandering kid. I was suggested to film just his shadow in order not to release much of his identity and features. But he’s not a shadow! He’s real! He’s presence all over. His face comes to my dreams. Why? Then I decided I am going to write about him. For me he’s a presence and for  others maybe fiction or perhaps real, depends on how much one can imagine the wandering boy.  I just wanted to help him, or more precisely help myself…do he needed any of my help? I use to see him how he comes out of the jungle, alone, and immediately to go into an asphalt jungle, obviously none of it was disturbing for him. He seemed in connection with himself. I was questioning him many times, about his family, school etc. trying to give him life advice…what life for God sake, he’s wandering boy! Once he told me that he has parents and home…I believed him…how naïve! He wasn’t lying he was just protecting himself and I realized that subsequently. I saw him sleeping on a concrete fence of the electricity transformer; the wires were leaning toward and almost touching his body. He wasn’t afraid, or at least he wasn’t aware of the danger. But which danger, he’s wandering boy?! I saw him on the beach; I wanted to know whether he knows how to swim. The moment I posed the question he plunged into the turquoise water, for me seemed like an eternity before he went out…This boy, a young boy with much integrity and dignity than any adult I’ve ever met. This boy… so alive and wandering I just want to be like him when I grow up.

Foam!


Foam!

Waves, turquoise water, heat… local kids don’t have surf or body boards, but yet they fully enjoy the nature with improvised foamy stuff that the sea tide has brought along…the Bahoruco children!

Dreams!


Dreams!

Michel – nine year old from Santo Domingo. Likes playing piano, but loves guitar. Wants to become English and French teacher. On my way back she brought me Guyana’s which still refresh the airspace in my home. Not all kids have their dreams come true here, many of them are on street or living in sub-standard conditions, with no access to health and education, involved in criminal and malicious dealings…wanna talk about poverty and hard life? Still, many of them have the smiles on the faces, warmth of the heart and dreams of the day….