Will you walk a steep muddy trail in order to explore a place you’ve never seen or heard about before? Are explorers driven by simple curiosity? Or do they always hope to find something incredible, shocking or inspiring?
One Satuday morning, I arrived quite early to Agua-Sabrosa, my favorite Dominican village. I parked my “Jeepeta” in front of my friend’s house, and called out loud his name: “Adame!!!.”
A few days earlier he visited me at the “Fundacion” and told me that we must dive and fish together in Playa Ermitano, where we first met, so we set our mission to Saturday. Adame, a tall, skinny and impressively upright fisherman, came out of his shaky house with disappointed eyes. “El mar esta malo” he told me in his “rich-poetic” Spanish: “The sea is bad”. “I already climbed to the top of the mountain at sunrise and saw the waves….”. He knew, that I knew, what it meant. If there are waves in the ocean, the water becomes opaque. The sand rises from the bottom, what makes for low visibility conditions and poor spearfishing environment. “If you insist, we can still go” Adame said “But as a professional fisherman, I do not recommend it.” I told him that I came to enjoy and not to fight with the ocean. He smiled and continued: “Let’s do something else together. We can go to the Palmarito River and catch some crabs, or we can go to La Bojukera, visit the cave, and bring back home some food”. “Why not do both?” I asked, and he immediately replied: “Vamonos”- Let’s Go!
So we first climbed the steep road to Palamrito, the village that is located on the top of the mountain, above Agua-Sabrosa, and for some reason, its inhabitants are more religious and united than the people of Agua-Sabrosa. After crossing Palmarito, we walked down a rough road for mules, which lead us directly into the river. It felt like entering another universe, and it took me a few long moments to realize how enchanted that river is and how the abundance of water creates a unique ecosystem within the tropical mountainous environment. It is surrounded by thick vegetation and entirely shaded by the canopies of the huge treas, whose wide trunks and dragonic roots hedge both sides of the river. The dark colored rocks hold the structure of the escalators like water cascades which flow majestically and sound like a Zen meditation CD. Adame showed me the safe way to descend from one pond to the other and where to look for the crabs. After catching a dozen “Jaiba” crabs, we decided it’s enough for breakfast and returned back to his house for the feast. He quickly fixed the fire outside his house and boiled the crabs in a big pot. We managed to grab a few crabs before my foundation kids arrived and gave us those desperate hungry looks that we couldn’t resist. “Do you still have energy for La Bojukera?” Adame asked. “Absolutely”, I replied. We both took our machetes and off we went. In other areas of the Dominican countryside people maintain their “Conucos”, small plots of land, nearby their houses. However, since Agua-Sabrosa is located in a mountainous area, the land plots are not big enough to provide the families with sufficient food, so they have a few “alternate” areas they cultivate. One of them is called “La Bojukera”, A valley that is 40 minutes walking distance from the village. There is no road going to La Bojukera, only a steep muddy trail, that is good enough for either mules or strong humans. We climbed to the entrance of the trail and began our muddy journey. When we got closer, Adame asked me if I’d like to get into the cave. Curious as always I replied: “of course”. Honestly, I was quite in shock. Not because I’ve never seen stalactites caves, but because I had never heard about this one or read about it anywhere, and that was probably after 6 years of living in that area. Then we heard someone coughing, and those coughs became louder, which obviously meant that it was getting closer. Then we saw him coming out of one of the cave’s halls. “Tell me Ermides, how are you doing?” Adame recognized the man from the area, and Ermides told us he had been there for 3 days fasting, reading the bible, and awaiting God’s voice. He became very excited when I told him that I am from Israel. “Maybe this is the sign I’ve been waiting for”, he told me. “God had sent me his Israeli messenger to tell me he’s forgiving me”. Without asking, he began telling me how evil he used to be, only a few years ago, before he discovered God. After blessing each other a few more times, we went back out to the trail. Adame, after admitting he’s a true sinner and that he never goes to church, told me that the church utilizes the cave sometimes for conducting religious ceremonies, and that they believe it is a holy place of the divine. Then out of nowhere, in the middle of the mountains, a surprisingly orderly cultivated valley appeared, with wires between the various parcels and groomed fields of fruits, vegetables and grains. I didn’t expect to see such well kept plots, because Agua-Sabrosa is entirely the opposite: messy, dirty, and neglected. Go figure it out! “This is La Bojukera” Adame announced, and like a seasoned agri-business guide, he began touching each of the plants, explaining their variety, growth stage and name: Corn, beans, tomato, carrot, okra, guava, passion fruit, mango, banana – plantain, pumpkins, sweet potato, yam, yuca, cassava (roots), pineapple, papaya, sugar cane, cocoa, cafe etc. Then we arrived at his Conuco. He cleaned it a bit, picked a few plantains and took out a few Yuca roots, and moved his dear goat to a grassier area. We sat down under the “public” shade in the middle of the valley, where, as he explained, everyone can rest, and we opened a few coconuts. When I asked Adame about the origins of the name “La Bojukera”, he explained that the valley is full of “bojukos”, pointing to a variety of weeds. When I asked : “Which of these weeds is the Bojuko?” , he replied that a “bojuko” is all the weeds that grow naturally on this land. “Are we Bojukos?” I asked him smiling, “No Oro, we are Los Bojukeros” he laughed. “So from now on, I am Oro Bojukero!”, I announced. Although I frequently doubted Adame’s theories and explanations, I liked his simple answers and decisiveness. As always, I entered my studio later that evening, overloaded with inspiration from the new places I explored and equipped with a new name. Oro Bojukero was connected to the ground and plants, and represented my passion to trekking and exploring the land.