Two days earlier than planned and due to the fact that I did not have sufficient time to reach Constanza before dark, I park my car at Rancho Wendy near Bonao. Frank and Elias, who run the place since Rancho Wendy’s founder and Eco adventure promoter Marshall Zipper passed away last year, are welcoming me. Rancho Wendy, named after Marshall’s daughter, caters to travelers on a budget. With beds starting from $ 9 US before taxes, it is a great deal for young people who do not mind roughing it a bit. The hotel offers decent beds, beautiful rough on the edge surroundings; free Wi-Fi Internet access, a small pool and a pool table. Some of the large dormitory rooms have an air conditioner, a small television and even a DVD player, which you can use for checking out a DVD from the extensive movie library located in the communal dining room. The smaller more private rooms have to do without most of the above. Here exhaustion, a ventilator, a bottle of anti mosquito lotion and perhaps a beer or two are the best change a solo traveler, like me, has to make it happily through the night. Warm water is not available; so I rough it, realize once again that my hard-core backpacking days are behind me and urge myself to keep this fact in mind before passing unreasonably harsh judgment on the bare bone facilities with fancy touches. Up until here I can stay positive, even the smell from the shower drain I can handle, after all I am out in the boonies and the amount of money guests pay does not allow for major investments in plumbing, paintjobs or elaborate decorations.
I am less inclined to be flexible when it comes to details that do not cost a penny and can be achieved by hard work and maintaining a positive focus.
The overall atmosphere definitely seems depressed and I cannot escape the feeling that much of the positive energy that many others have experienced at Rancho Wendy’s (I did my research) has diminished. The fact that I am only one of two guests in a huge place most suitable for group travel does not help either. Maybe I arrived at a bad day. Bottom line is that I expect to be energized when I arrive at the place with the ambitious slogan “ Rancho Wendy: Your Adventure in the Caribbean”. I get the impression that the people at Rancho Wendy are wrecking their brains on how to get the potentially wonderful and fun facility back into shape. My largest disappointment and the thing that is easiest to fix, is the quality of the food, which is just not good enough. I paid $3 US for breakfast and $5 US for dinner. Money that would be better spend on a loaf of bread and some cheese. After a day full of adventure and excitement I need food, not just a pork chop and some dry yucca. No! Don’t get me wrong! I do not need a de-luxe restaurant style meal but I do expect some yummy, healthy food with a salad or some fruit. This cannot be too hard in the country where, according to my friend Anja: ”every seed that hits the soil, turns into a flower or a tree”. While visiting Rancho Wendy, you might want to partake in one of the excursions on offer. I highly recommend the excellent and very affordable hiking experience to the Carco Bonito waterfall ($ 10 – 20 USD depending route). Other hiking excursions include The Pico Duarte Package, a five day hike to the highest mountain in the Caribbean ($ 299 USD), an up river hike that guaranteed gets you wet and keeps you refreshed ($ 20 USD) and River Kayaking ($ 15- 20 USD). Horse riding can be arranged. You can read about my Rancho Wendy’s excursion elsewhere on this site. It is time to sit down and write about my experience or what it could have been. I imagine myself being part of a fun group who just hiked to the waterfall and played in the chilly, crystal clear and pure water. At night we will light up a bonfire in the large garden and listen to the crickets and each other’s stories. Thankfully one of us brought the insect repellant and we have great cook amidst ourselves who does not mind to help out in the kitchen. We eat, we drink, we laugh and sing. We decide right here and now that we definitely will come back!
With outstanding alternatives just 50 km away, swift action needs to be taken by Rancho Wendy’s management to maintain its appeal to adventure travelers. All the elements for a good time are available, like they have always been.
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