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In this week’s ‘Memories of Casa de Campo’ post, Carol Burke reveals the hidden secrets of Casa de Campo’s famous Altos de Chavon: once again Carol’s memories and photos take us on a walk back in time to how Altos de Chavon used to be….
Altos de Chavon has a hidden side. It is a little suburb named the Colinas of Altos, where houses and apartments congregate on top of the hill with views of the village of Altos, the River Chavon, and the Caribbean Sea. If you love color and landscape, within a short walk to the village, then the Colinas of Altos is a good place to live.
Bougainvilleas, in orange, white, purple, and pink, are planted, along with banana trees, and bamboo. Poinsettias, the Christmas flower, reach up to second floor windows and tall white flowering yucca and orange-flowering century plants grow everywhere.
On the south side of the street is the intriguing Vista de Altos apartments. Reminiscent of the Casbah of Algiers, Vista de Altos is a labyrinth of pathways and alleys edged by picturesque apartments, built on a downward slope towards the sea.
Next to the Vista de Altos apartments was an unpaved road leading down to the River Chavon. It was quite a walk down and even more so on the way back up. The road was made out of flattened coral rock which glittered like diamonds as you walked over them in the sun. It was surrounded on both sides by dense bushes.
If you walked off the road, through the bushes towards the edge of the cliffs over the Chavon, you could see cacti growing through rocks, ancient campfire places with coconut cups strewn about, deep holes in the volcanic-looking rock, wild orchids clinging to branches, and at the edge, a steep drop to the Chavon below.
Walking all the way down to the river was like a journey back in time. As you approached the river, the trees became taller with hanging Spanish moss from their branches. The tree canopy was a view straight out of a rain forest.
Country people from across the river often crossed at this point and walked into town through the back roads of Casa de Campo. They carried machetes, and sometimes were leading donkeys laden with sacks of charcoal.
At the river’s edge you can see crabs scuttling around in the mud near the mangrove roots. As you walk by they jump back into their holes. The mangrove trees spread some of their branches vertically out over the river where you can climb out and sit for a while watching the river flow underneath you and across to the other side.
After the walk to the river, we would walk to the village, past the School of Design’s wattle-and-stone office building with its thatched roof of growing cacti, and past the new Altos Cigar Club, to Café del Sol to refresh with pizza and a cold drink.
One day the chef of Café del Sol invited us to a pizza making demonstration. Next week we’ll see how to make pizza, Altos de Chavon style.