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John Crawford's blog - a.k.a John-Blog.

This is a report about Diane Pellerin's Place in Puerto Plata, in the Dominican Republic.

As my Equiworld tour is part business, partly visiting family scattered across the globe but partly adventure, I chose to visit Diane Pelliniès place in the Dominican republic for a little adventure. Some say that an adventure is an experience, which is partly scary, partly joy but certainly something never to be forgotten and the Dominican Republic is all of that. Click here for details of the Equiworld Sun Camp Youth project.

After an easy flight in from Miami, personally, I found the towns in the Dominican republic noisey and unpleasant and my advice is to land in Puerto Plata and get Diane to have you picked up and take you directly from the airport to her place in the countryside. But be ready for a bit of a shock because if the roads and driving doesn't freak you out the shacks of houses you pass before you get to her pleasant base camp probably will. I was picked up by one of her guests and Diane's wonderful welcome was the reassurance that I needed in this strange place. My chalet was one of many built in a peaceful valley by her father during the 20 years they have lived there. Spartan but clean, my home for the week had lots of room and gave me a wonderful feeling of being right in the middle of the best of tropical countryside. As we had driven from the airport I had already been told that people often came and wanted to leave the moment they arrived, but hey! as I told you this is an adventure! My advice to anyone who gets that feeling is to stay a while, for there is more to this place than is at first obvious to the eye.

Diane's guests are fairly laid back and if you speak French or Spanish or English you will be fine as Diane is originally from Quebec in Canada. To set the scene: There is a river to swim in at the bottom of the garden, a pool table, a bar and the internet. Self catering is the order of the day so you will do well if you are into meeting the people and finding out about the real Dominica. Diane has 20 years experience in tourism, which means that she knows all of the best ways of getting about, spending a peso and her advice about where to go is nothing short of excellent! It needs to be noted that this is essentially a poor country so one can understand why they sometimes try to overcharge the rich tourists or if that fails might be tempted try steal what you have. But for those who are bored with five star isolation this is the place! Speaking to her many guests, they all agreed that he reason they were first attracted to Diane's place and now keep coming back is for the unique and original experience of riding the native horses, enjoying nature and get a chance to unwind on the beach or in the mountains in glorious weather.

The riding is simply fun and there is many a mini adventure on horseback to be had on the plucky little Paso Fino ponies whether riding up in the mountains and down on the beach. No jumping, no schooling, just ride out into the countryside on western saddles getting truly involved in real Dominican life. On the first night I was there I have to confess to drinking just a little too much rum but after sleeping like a baby I rose at 9.00am in time to meet the ponies and Hosay who was our escort on our ride out. When I saw those little Paso Finos which looked a bit scruffy and thin I remembered not to judge them on looks alone for I had met the breed in a tropical setting before. I knew also that this centre has been recommended by the company Hidden Trails to its clients for many years and for good reason. What a bunch we were that morning though, most with no hats, one rider with not too much experience and me who has ridden forever all mounting up into our western saddles onto our ponies no more than 13 to 14 hands in hight.

If I had doubts, then they dissapeared the moment we set off and I recognised that Paso Fino directness of purpose - "O.K. let's get to work!" said my mine to me. Hosay led from the rear? looking after the rider with least experience while I rode forwards with Cracker in the place I am most used to be, out in front. The ride took us right into the countryside, through fields of sugarcane, through rivers and right up the side of a mountain. The ponies were indeed the stars of the show and to say they were as sure footed as a mountain goat says too much for goats. The saddles were comfortable and the Passo Fino paces too, with canter after pleasant canter up hill after hill. Often I would look round just to see how our novice rider Marie from Sweden was and always I just saw a huge smile. Sometimes I lead and sometimes XXXX Hosay had absolute confidence in his ponies and had mounted us all well. A mid morning break gave the ponies a well earned rest and for us there was fruit juice straight from trees, salsa and marengie music and a chance to dance with the locals - remember, anytime is a good time to dance in the Caribbean! Back into the saddle for a further hour, our lunch was an absolutely Caribbean affair high up in the mountains, which gave us a wonderful view of Puerto Plata and the beaches far below. The rest of the ride back home was at a peaceful pace but on the whole the rides tend to vary from fairly fast to easy going depending on the standard of riders riding on the day but even the quiet days are far from boring. Riding down to the beach can provide you with superb gallops or for those who are not inclined some shopping while the ponies rest happily in the shade and wait to return you to Diane"s place. Of course, I can understand how those who choose the five star hotels by the beach would find this place scary. Personally, I was happy that I had found somewhere which allowed me to experience the real Dominican Republic. As I sat with my rum, coke and fresh lime picked straight from the tree I watched the sun go down chatting to Diane about our new Youth Eco-holiday project and how it would probably benefit those chose to come just as much as the Dominican People.

Youth Eco-holiday.

Equiworld Sun Camp. Check out:
Equiworld members between the ages of 18 and 26 can take part in a project designed to be great fun yet benefit peoples needs in the Dominican Republic. The project runs from mid June through to mid September and there is no limit to the length of time you decide to stay with the project. You will be living dormitory style with other like minded people of about your age and as self catering is the order of the day so expect to do your share of duties such as fetching groceries etc. However, if dormitory life is definitely not for you, there is a possibility that Diane can accommodate you in a chalet perhaps sharing with your friends. Your basic costs once you are off the plane will be minimal at between $100 - $50 a month for the chalet. How much you spend after that is entirely up to you but factor in food and spending money for luxuries such as soap and riding! There is no doubt that this is a country where you can live well and have great fun without spending a fortune. Your riding will cost you about $20 US, or 26 Euro's per day for 3 or 4 hours with lunch included and you can ride as little or as often as you want. If you want to spend a great summer doing some good work which will benefit the lives of people less fortunate than yourself then this project could be for you and there will be lots of time left over for sunbathing, sightseeing and dancing the night away to salza and Merngie music too.

To contact Diane who is the person in charge of the project: Contact:
Diane Pellerin, for futher information.
For project data: Click here Equiworld Sun Camp Youth project.