Posts Tagged ‘Boca Chica development’
Saturday, October 28, 2006
As many of you will know… from the Playa Vista Terrace we look right out on rather a spectacular view! We much admire and appreciate the natural view of the reef, the Caribbean Ocean surf breaking on that same reef and the multi-hued colors of the tropical sea and sky at all times and especially at sun-down when we can take special advantage of that view directly from the bar. However, over to the west we have witnessed a much debated spectacular change taking place over the years, but in this case a change purely of the man-made type.
As we told you back in Aril 2004: ‘The only evidence of man’s engineering in the direction of the Caucedo peninsula used to be the arrival and departure of airplanes as they headed to and from the runway of Santo Domingo’s principal International Airport located in the middle of the peninsula and by the way no more than a convenient 10 minutes by taxi from Playa Vista’s central location. Over the years the skyline has changed quite dramatically, but it is at night that the developments are particularly notable, as they are all accompanied by quite spectacular lighting arrangements – the kind of unfailing light-show that would be the envy of quite a number of parts of the country that are often subject to complete and extended black-outs’.
The first development was the construction of a large liquid natural gas (LNG) storage tank together with jetty, right on the tip of the peninsula, for the incoming tankers to berth and offload their cargoes. This development was followed by the construction of an electricity generating station immediately adjacent to the gas tank and then last, but most certainly not least, came the deep-water Caucedo ‘MegaPort’ itself.
The first two projects generate little observable movement except for the occasional Trinidadian tanker pulling in and discharging its gas, but the MegaPort facility is quite a different matter and in recent weeks we have noticed a considerable upsurge in movement to and from the facility.
In spite of the super-fast modern turnaround times some of the ship’s crews sometimes do find the time to visit us at Playa Vista, to touch firm ground and swig down a cold beer before they are off again. Recently we were visited by the captain of a Croatian vessel that has a circular agenda taking in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico before returning again 42 days later to Boca Chica. Others in the bar were sufficiently curious to pry other details from the off-duty Captain. As far as he was concerned his company, Hapag-Lloyd, now regard Boca Chica as the key port in this part of the globe and that the turn around times are particularly rapid… in fact just around eight hours! He also told us that as far as his ship was concerned, with a load of 3,500 containers, it was just of average size; some of the ships come in carrying over 5000 containers! On this particular day he said that they would be off-loading about 15% of their cargo, underlining the fact that most of the shipments are not in-bound, but destined to go out again as this port is specifically for trans-shipment.
All this extra activity is no doubt good for the contiguous areas of Andres and La Caleta, but actually has little direct impact on us in Boca Chica because those mariners just don’t get the time to hang around very long due to the modern efficiencies of loading and unloading containers. Right from the start there have been rumors circulating of further port expansion and development including provision for Cruise Liners. Now that would, for better and for worse, help liven up the immediate area in a big way! But, we are after all located in the laid-back sunny Caribbean so as usual – as with so many other rumored and/or planned projects – have to repeat the mantra: ‘time will tell’!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Recently we were able to have a lengthy chat with a well-informed Boca Chica visitor and Playa Vista customer who gave us some interesting insight on the well-known Boca Chica Hamaca Coral by Hilton Hotel where he is a regular guest.
The hotel is by far the biggest in Boca Chica and is renowned for its international service but also, it has to be said, here in Boca Chica, sometimes renowned for its self sufficient insularity.
Hamaca gains the insularity accolade for three principal reasons: it sits, kind of hidden away, at the furthest end of the beach from Santo Domingo… it is separated from the rest of Boca Chica beach by a very divisive wall… and it is common knowledge that the tour operators and other staff inside the hotel advise their guests not to venture out into the Boca Chica town.
Thankfully our “informant” is one who does not take kindly to that particular piece of advice to stay put behind ‘The Wall’… because he likes to break out and get in to town to savor how the ”real” Latin Carribbean world operates!
Here is what our man is saying about life behind ‘The Wall’:
Last October – after arriving and finding his bathroom to be out of soap – he called down to the hotel’s front desk and asked for some. “We don’t have any, but as soon as we do we will deliver it to your room”, the person on duty told him. Maybe they never actually got any, because he never received the awaited delivery during his stay and decided, adventurous as he is, to make the trek to the town’s local supermarket to secure his own supply… no big thing, but let us listen to other snippets he had to report on.
Apart from the roving sellers themselves nobody is very happy about the numbers of salesmen and women strolling around importuning visitors relaxing along the full length of the Boca Chica beach. One of the advantages in staying inside the Hamaca compound, we were always led to believe, was to be free of this kind of hassle. Our friend told us that on two separate counts this is not the case. Firstly the very keenest sellers will apparently swim around the hotel’s controversial barrier wall and from the waist deep protection of the water offer their wares in spite of the shouting Hamaca guards trying to ward them off. On top of that, and quite ironically too, our friend further told us that in spite of the no-salesman rule on the Hamaca’s beach apparently there is an in-house coterie of timeshare salespeople who can at times make you yearn to be precisely somewhere else in order to get that peace and relaxation you came for!
On a less daily basis the Hamaca also suffers the finger of criticism for two very fundamental reasons – both actually attributed to that infamous wall. One reason is a hottish potato in the Dominican press of late relating to the laws of the land determining that all beaches should be accessible to the public. As already indicated that kind of access is definitely questionable concerning the beach inside the Hamaca compound… and you don’t have to be a salesman to find out, our friend tells us. Even the most innocent looking beach-guests – be it international tourists or local ‘Capitaleños’ – will be dissuaded by the guards from making any attempt to clamber over ‘The Wall’. The second reason is that scientific studies in recent years have shown that the very existence of ‘The Wall’ has exacerbated the severe beach erosion that has taken place on the “public” beach adjacent to it on the west side!
Having said all that… to put Hotel Hamaca in perspective it too has to be said that it is definitely not only the largest but the most prestigious hotel in Boca Chica sporting a four-star rating and offering gainful employment to many local people… but perhaps the message, from the perspective painted here, is that the Hamaca would be well advised to go straight and, to the benefit of itself as well as Boca Chica, get rid of the questionable wall and become naturally integrated with the Latin Carribbean flavored Boca Chica community in general and especially the Boca Chica beach that sports the big azure-blue reef-protected bay called ‘the biggest bathtub in the world’!
Anyway… if you, during your stay in good old Boca Chica, should choose to stay at The Hamaca do yourself a big favor and don’t let yourself become a prisoner behind ‘The Wall!
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Last month (see blog – April 12th) we boldly dared to draw your attention to a couple of projects that seriously and officially had been placed on the Boca Chica developmental agenda by none less than the Tourist Minister himself… although our understanding of the natural rhythms of life in these parts led us, of course, to the only reasonable conclusion that “time will tell”! We would never wish to make undue anticipations or overexcite you true Boca Chica watchers out there, as we can state categorically that we have yet to see any evidence of those plans materializing whatsoever… but if we may be allowed to speculate a little, we do get the sense that Boca Chica is indeed creeping, however slowly, towards a change. It is, as we all know, difficult to predict the future but we would like to take this opportunity to run a few pointers together to help explain why we think that perhaps changes are genuinely imminent.
The easiest line of argument is that of inevitability. It is often repeated that Boca Chica is a real gem. It not only sits protected behind its own personal and natural lagoon with a fine sandy beach, but it is located ever so conveniently for the international airport of Las Americas International Airport which in turn feeds one of the largest cities in the Caribbean. That kind of combination alone is what developers and marketers around the world would usually give their right arms for!
Just the other day as if to directly confirm this we received a visit from some very go-ahead gents from Arizona in the US of A who had done their homework very well indeed and on an impressive basis of very exact knowledge about Boca Chica and the country in general had identified the Dominican Republic to have excellent potential for real estate and development projects… and for that same reason the mentioned gents had already established an office in Boca Chica. Welcome and good luck to them!
As for the two upcoming projects referred to back in April; as already mentioned we have yet to see anything further… although we do have it – as a matter of fact quite directly from the horse’s mouth – that the beach recovery program is approximately 3 months behind the original schedule referred to, and also a precise promise from the ‘Directora de Empresas y Servicios Turisticos’ (the person responsible nationally for all tourist businesses and services), finally for a swift and simple implementation of the regulations for all commercial operations on Boca Chica beach immediately following the mid-term elections on the 16th of the current month!
However… living in mañana-land we are not prepared to completely throw the “time will tell” wrapper out just yet! … after all the small matter of lamp number 25 in Calle Abraham Nunez still, yes still, has to be dealt with!
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
We are currently in ‘Semana Santa’- literally ‘Easter Week’ – which to the unfamiliar is a great festive time for the locals here in Boca Chica in particular. People arrive in droves from nearby Santo Domingo to enjoy the balmy breezes, the sun and the sand of ‘The Capital’s Beach’ and quite naturally to also escape for a few hours from congested city life.
Of course, this is just one week in the perennial life of sun and sand on Boca Chica’s fine beach, and more than rumor seems to indicate, that currently Boca Chica is finally getting the attention that it deserves… not just from the locals, but from the authorities in the Big City too.In January (see archive Jan 27th) we referred to an initiative from Politur – the police arm of the Ministry of Tourism – an initiative that allegedly has been taken to put some new order into Boca Chica. Our watchwords were ‘time will tell’… and that unfortunately remains the case. The changes we have seen are a reduced number of stray dogs roaming the town, the cordoning off from cars at the ‘Andres end’ of the beach and in addition Politur have laid down the law, several times in fact, to us and all other legal businesses regarding our facilities and practices. They have made very clear the importance of presenting only invoices with the properly registered business name at the top, and that all those invoices when paid must be franked with an official “PAID” stamp clearly flaunting the business name. This is all to help eliminate illegal practices, particularly overpricing. Regrettably we continue to hear of and witness the illegal operators carrying on just as before without even a reprimand concerning their entirely illegal and unprincipled “businesses”. We remain however sitting on the uncertain fence on this one and patiently still keep the subject in the “time will tell” category.
On a different subject, but related to the further improvement of Boca Chica, a time-frame was actually bravely put forward by the Minister of Tourism recently. He officially mentioned a period of four months, specifically beginning at the end of the current month to be precise, during which four of the nation’s beaches, including that of Boca Chica, shall have major rehabilitation work carried out principally to reverse the sand and coral reef erosion that has taken place over the years. A European company with expertise in this area has been contracted, and the contract is said to be worth €13 million!
We at Playa Vista look forward to seeing you on a newly revamped Boca Chica Beach within well… four months?
‘Time will tell’ now won’t it!
Saturday, March 4, 2006
We are sure you are all dying to know what is happening to lamp number 25 in our street: Calle Abraham Nuñez… aren’t you?
Now, we all know that our little world is full of surprises and we thought that one day, whenever that might be, we would have light once again shining down from lamp number 25 at the entrance way to Playa Vista. We weren’t entirely wrong but neither were we entirely right thanks to that exquisite surprise factor.
We left you in early February with quite a tale of promises promises promises and following non-accomplishment all starting before Christmas. From February we decided to track the continuing promises and non-accomplishment for entertainment’s sake. Each telephone conversation was directly with Ramon number 1 and his statements on getting the light fixed were noted like this:
February 7th: In one hour!
February 9th: Today!
February 14th: Today!
February 16th: We can’t send the crane just for one light so we are liaising with Politur (the
tourist police) but it will be attended to this afternoon!
February 17th: We are right now with the police on the beach checking all the lights just
around the corner from Abraham Nuñez and we will fix it when we get there!
February 20th: We are coming with ladders (what happened to the crane?) right now, honestly
right this minute!
February 21st: It isn’t fixed? I will investigate why my order was not carried out!
February 22nd: The driver of the maintenance team was injured when hit by a motorcyclist. He
should be out of hospital this afternoon and there is even a possibility that he
could get there tomorrow!
February 25th-27th Independence weekend holiday!
February 28th HURRAH… JOB DONE!
… OR WAS IT?
On the 28th Ramon number 2 arrived with a very modern looking hydraulic crane, spare bulbs, photo cells and two helpers. Within 10 minutes lamp number 25 was reconnected and had a bulb replacement too, for good measure. Wonder of wonders… we actually saw the lamp working for the first time in months!
Later that day as dark descended the light came on and shone brilliantly for… shall we say about… 25 minutes when its splendor was rudely interrupted by one of the country’s infamous power cuts. The electricity came flooding back fairly soon spreading through the cabled veins of the Boca Chica system. It relit everything and all the lamps in Abraham Nuñez… EXCEPT LAMP NO 25!
Surprise? You bet ya!
The next day Ramon number 1 was called again to thank him for sending his men and the, well… 25 minutes of light. Was Ramon number 1 surprised? Certainly.
However the real surprises were still waiting for us in that, in spite of zero attention from anybody at all, that night the lamp suddenly burst into full life again all on its own … and actually shone brightly for the entire night. The really exquisite touch though is that one more night on… and lamp 25 was once again back in the dark!
This story about the ongoing battle between light and darkness is hopefully soon to be continued with perhaps more enlightening news…
Thursday, January 27, 2005
After a quick refreshing cold beer break (check last blog entry) we are on request back to the current state of evolution in Boca Chica.
As you may or may not know a number of businesses, for God only knows what reasons, have been closed recently in the Boca Chica main street (Calle Duarte).
As reported in our blog of 17/1/05 the ‘Cosmos Discotheque’ and ‘Zanzi Bar’ were closed because of internal misunderstandings between the two businesses and the owner of the building… a case completely unconnected to the closure by the authorities/police of several bars last week,
No firm reasons have been given although rumors as usual are aplenty. Some say that everything, for better or for worse, soon will be back to normal… some that it is all part of the new government’s plans to permanently ‘clean up’ Boca Chica… whatever that means. If the ‘permanent clean up’ rumor is true we welcome it, that is if it means a long awaited and frequently promised removal of the all-too-many illegals and criminals roaming, and in some ways ruling, the streets and the beach.
However, Boca Chica is still alive and kicking although somewhat subdued. We can absolutely reassure you that service at Playa Vista continues as before and that there are, as usual, plenty of adventurous activities to go for on the Boca Chica beach and all over this exotic Latin Caribbean country in general.
So… why not make Boca Chica your port of entry and Playa Vista your base camp, as you explore further the Caribbean adventures on offer?
Hasta la Playa Vista!
Thursday, October 14, 2004
The extraordinary hurricane activity of September seems a long time ago now. The only visible evidence that something untoward happened is the still debris-strewn reef which is either waiting for the local council to get their launch out there with a cleaning team or for a very high tide to release the stranded material mostly consisting of bark-denuded tree branches.
As is usual for this time of year beach visitors mid-week are none too plentiful but the weather gives us it’s best with a recent sequence of stunning sunsets that as always can be viewed ideally from the Playa Vista terraza.
Bar talk frequently refers to the new government still getting its feet under the table. Much is reported nationally on a daily basis regarding changes. The peso appears to have reached a stability midway between the value that the previous government inherited four years ago and its lowest point to the end of their administration currently, for better or worse depending on your viewpoint, about 32 pesos to the dollar. Lack of electricity continues to present difficulties in many parts of the country but happily in Boca Chica we are spared almost all inconveniences. Long may that continue and hopefully spread further afield too. The more underlying changes will almost certainly need more time to bear fruit.
Meanwhile… as tourism is one of the cornerstones of economic development in the Dominican Republic in general, and therefore needy of government attention, we remain very hopeful that planning and support of international standard tourism will be further spurred on in our small corner of the country in a way good old Boca Chica deserves!
Meanwhile seven years later:
Frankly speaking not even the most enthusiastic PLD/Fernandez supporter can claim much progress was made for the man in the street. The peso has been kept under that 40 to the dollar level throughout that Fernandez administration and the second that has followed however the polls currently indicate that Hipolito Mejia is favorite to be the new president next year as a very disappointing signal to that PLD/Fernandeez government over these last seven years.
Wednesday, September 1, 2004
If you haven’t visited Boca Chica you might not know that we probably have the world’s finest natural swimming pool right in our own backyard. If you have visited our reef-protected lagoon pool, then you will surely have noticed a couple of small green islands to the west towards the Andrés end of the Boca Chica bay. If by any chance you should be motivated to venture into checking out the two deserted islands the lagoon itself is shallow enough at almost all points to allow you to wade out to the islands, or you can take the even more leisurely route and hire one of the small pedal boats and without much effort reach the nearer of the two islands in a few minutes.
As both islands are covered in lush green vegetation it is certainly not apparent from the shore that the origin and composition of the islands are quite different.
La Matica, the smaller of the two, is the first that you come to from the Boca Chica side. It is about 200 yards in length and was used as a zoo park for a number of years. The 1950s was a turning point for La Matica, because a hurricane swept the zoo park away never to be re-established, and in the same decade dredging of the existing underwater channel into the Boca Chica-Andrés port area resulted in the formation of the other island named at the time La Piedra (The Stone) which is significantly bigger than La Matica at some 700 yards in length. La Matica is covered in long-term evolving vegetation including different kinds of mangrove, aspen and sea grape whereas the vegetation of La Piedra derives from what man, wind, waves and birds have brought in over the last fifty years with the most notable result being a substantial area of Australian pine giving the island its now more familiar name of Los Pinos.
Plans were laid down quite some years ago for a walkway to be built from the shore to a point midway between the islands and develop the ensuing environment for visitors to fish, bathe and swim. These plans have been resting in some bureaucratic drawer for a good many years now and so these largely undisturbed islands continue as the roosting location for a number of species of birds such as herons and white-crowned pigeons which can be seen heading off to their night time perches as they fly by the Playa Vista terraza at dusk.
Meanwhile seven years later:
With so many development plans yet unfulfilled in Boca Chica it is not a surprise to note that the islands remain under the natural control of the roosting birds. However, as explained in the post on the Caucedo Peninsula Development their nightly view over to the west has changed considerably and not necessarily to their liking.
Saturday, May 8, 2004
We have from time to time described the animal life around us here at Playa Vista and we offer a little update. In spite of the major cull on the stray dogs in Boca Chica you will still notice a few parading around town in their own seemingly carefree way. Are they just the tough survivors of the early-April purge or do they come from that same, whereabouts unknown, stockpile of dogs from whence came original dog? Unfortunately, but seemingly quite naturally, some of them have unerringly already learned or relearned the irritating habit of barking raucously at the same time as their predecessors – that is when all civilized residents and visitors are fast asleep.
Our pair of green woodpeckers referred to in the story of Sept 9th last year is still sticking close to the one-way glass although the nature of their antics has changed. It was, you may remember, the female of the pair that initiated the whole mirror-charade whereas the male, with obvious reluctance, finally began to join in. It would seem that the male in particular has gone through a period of serious woodpecker self-analysis over the months, because he has moved on from merely tolerating his partners whims to taking up a seriously aggressive stance against what he clearly sees now only as a threatening invader to his territory. The hefty blows of his specialized beak directly on the glass can be heard resonating now in the early mornings, often at the very break of dawn, and it became so repetitive and drawn out it was obvious he had taken it upon himself to completely remove this irksome adversary – every single morning. How else could a full-powered beak repeatedly launched directly at an image in this way be interpreted! Months of persistence have unfortunately not paid off for the poor bird because his irritating antagonist continues to pop up unfailingly at exactly the same time as him on every single occasion. He has lessened his attacks in recent days which we take as a sign of mild compromise or possibly simple exhaustion, not that he has given up by any means, and we have noticed the female begin to sneak in again in the late afternoon for a check up on her undoubtedly attractive attire. However, there is an odd development: the habit seems to have passed on to a sparrow that last week began every single morning with an onslaught on the one-way glass doors on the second floor.
Let’s see how persistent that little wannabe pecker is compared with pro old-timer ‘Woody’!
Meanwhile seven years later:
The sparrow, being a sparrow perhaps, soon gave up and unfortunately in the normal manner of economic development the protective trees next door were removed to create a parking lot which saw the Woody and wife show come to an abrupt end!
Friday, April 30, 2004
As you may or may not know the municipality of Boca Chica consists of the town of Boca Chica and the associated and contiguous district of San Andrés, nearly always abbreviated to just ‘Andrés’. To make an easy distinction between the two, one could describe Andrés as the area centered on the sugar refinery with its distinctive red and white chimney about a mile to the east of main town Boca Chica where most of the tourist traffic is. However, both look across to the Caucedo peninsula a little further to the east where there has been a considerable amount of development activity in the last few years.
From the vantage point of the Playa Vista terraza we have been witness to what portends to be a considerable shot in the arm to the local economy principally from the newly constructed ‘mega port’ which although inaugurated last week with a terrific firework display and presidential blessing, has been receiving ships for the past five months.
The only evidence of man’s engineering over in that direction used to be the arrival and departure of airplanes as they headed to and from the runway of Santo Domingo’s principal international airport located in the middle of the peninsula and by the way no more than a convenient 10 minutes by taxi from our own central location. Over the last three years the skyline has changed quite dramatically but it is at night that the developments are particularly notable, as they are all accompanied by quite spectacular lighting arrangements– the kind of unfailing electric show that would be the envy of quite a number of parts of the country that are often subject to complete and extended blackouts.
Conveniently we overlook the scenery directly from the west and can see the sun sink behind the peninsula… sometimes with its own inimitable display at the same time as the electrical illuminations are set in motion starting at the tip of the peninsula where there is a jetty for the large gleaming white storage tank located immediately alongside. As we scan inland the next major lit-up structure is that of the 300 megawatt electricity generating station which was stated to have been funded by the World Bank to provide economic power to both this country and supply down on to Haiti, although we have yet to hear of a follow up report on whether any energy eventually reaches our beleaguered neighbor. Then begins the mega port itself with a row of five up-to-the-minute technology giant cranes shipped in from China for loading and unloading of container ships tied up at the 600 meter wharf. All in all quite a light-show. Our bar has, over the last couple of years in particular, been visited by a range of seamen, workers, technicians, experts and managers associated with the various construction projects from various countries and we have it on good authority that the mega port development has been rigorously managed and controlled and kept on time and within the tolerances laid down. The port has potential for roll-on-roll-off ships as well as cruise liners, which a lot of people around here hope will also soon choose to dock in Boca Chica with their, for the Boca Chica area in general, equally valuable cargoes.
The night scene will, by the way, be so much more viewable from May 1st because the Playa Vista bar will no longer be throwing customers out just after sunset, but will stay open for the full spectacular entertainment until 10 pm or thereabouts – we just had to satisfy the increasingly vociferous demand to enjoy a nightcap and the million dollar view from the Playa Vista Terraza!
Meanwhile seven years later:
The cargoes brought in to the Caucedo port have continued to grow unabated and is now established as a major multi-modal port in the Caribbean. The port has clearly added employment over in Andres although direct advantages have been little felt in Boca Chica and the arrival of cruise ships appeared to be just another of those disappointing rumors.