There is a hill/mountain in Puerto Plata that has a Christ the Redeemer statue at the top like the one in Rio de Janiero only smaller. To arrive at Cristo, you can either take a semi-relaxing Teleferico ride to the top or hike. I felt horrible... gripe got the best of me, and so Kori and I decided to take the Teleferico ride to the top and then walk down. The other group, who was walking up, would meet us at the top and we would then walk down together. There were all these guides bombarding us saying that we couldn't walk up or down the mountain by ourselves and continued to turn them down and fight to be able to walk wherever we please with out a tour guide giving us watered down explanations of what we were looking at. Eventually, the hiking group just left and Kori and I got in the teleferico guide-less and content.
We had shakey cell phone reception at the top of the mountain and it was taking the hiking group a while to arrive. I called John and he told me that they were somewhere in the forest, there was no marked trail, and they were completely lost. I told him I was going to blow my whistle to see if he could hear it and he told the rest of the group to listen. The heard my whistle and were extremely excited, but then realized that it was coming through the phone. They eventually decided to walk back down, defeated by the mountain.
Kori and I had a wonderful time at the top! There was a small cafe where we had a cup of coffee, we walked through a garden, a little trail, and talked the people selling souveniers. We saw the prettiest paintings we had seen in the entire country in a shop up there! When we decided to go down, we were pretty nervous since our friends had gotten lost, so we asked for directions and we were directed to a paved road and were told that it would lead us all the way back to Santiago! When we called to tell the other group that, they were sooooo mad and thought were just being jerks. We had a really beautiful walk through forest and then through a small, rural community. Eventually, someone offered to give us a ride and we hopped in the back of a pick up truck and they took us all the way to our hotel! When we offered them money, the laughed, turned it down, and told us that they hope we enjoy Puerto Plata and then left.
The other group, after getting down the mountain defeated got into a cab who couldn't find the hotel we were staying at and swore that it didn't exist, so he just dropped them off at a random hotel and left. They wandered around Puerto Plata and I tried really hard to explain where we were. It was well over an hour before we all met up and all of us had used all our cell phones had zero pesos left when we finally found eachother.
From that point on, the rest of the trip was great. Our hotel was the best value hotel I've stayed in here. It was 600 pesos (US$18) for a room with two double beds and the lady who ran the place was insanely warm and friendly and the atmosphere was just very relaxed and fun. We spent the night in Puerto Plata and met a really nice woman who runs a colmado out of her house. We spent about an hour there playing with her adorable, snuggly, itty bitty kittens and drinking cherry juice. The next day, we had a lazy morning and spent the day at the beach.
The dunes, San Cristobal, the cave, and Puerto Plata were all considered one trip and overall, pretty much everything that could've gone wrong did. Perhaps it was because I forgot my traveler's protection pendent at home. However, despite everything that went wrong, we were still able to see everything we wanted to see and had a great time!