Comments Off on When the Cows Come Home
Something you have to get used to while driving the rural streets of the Dominican Republic and sometimes even the streets of the larger towns, is sharing the streets with livestock. The term “when the cows come home” refers to the way a cow (usually) just ambles along at a slow pace, and really takes meaning when you find yourself coming up to a herd in the street that is completely unaffected by your desire to pass.
In most cases the owner of the herd is nearby and will try to get the animals to move to one side of the road so you can pass, this has various degrees of success depending on what is distracting the cows at the time. So, this often means weaving through the cows if you’re on a motorcycle or waiting till they pass if you’re in a car.
Weaving through a herd of cattle can be a little nerve wracking at first. Some of the bulls are very large and as you sit on your bike, you find yourself looking up to the head of the Bull or at best eye to eye with a set of horns. Considering that he might take offence to you getting between him and his harem this isn’t exactly the most comfortable place to be.
Really though, the animals are quite used to people and motorcycles and if you don’t do anything to startle them, you are usually pretty safe. I just try to take it slow and anticipate which direction the individual cows might decide to take.
Accidents are frequently caused by animals in the streets, especially at night. With few street lights in the rural areas you often don’t see the animal until you are very close. While the speeds people travel here are relatively slow compared to the States (usually 20 – 40 mph), this can mean a lot of damage and at times death when there is a motorcycle accident.
One typical case that recently happened in my area was a motorcyclist traveling at night who hit a horse in the street. This accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. While the accident is considered the fault of the owner of the animal (which by law should have been fenced in), usually no one will claim the animal if there has been a serious accident and so the person hurt has to cover the bill.
The typical Dominican Republic motorcycle insurance coverage only covers liability. So there are no benefits for the person riding the bike or for the bike itself. While I am sure that it is possible to buy better insurance few people here seem to want to pay for anything more than what is required by law.
Accident claims also have a tendency to go against whoever appears to have more money. Thus as a foreigner, if you get in an accident even if it was obviously the fault of the other person, the judgment will very likely go against you (all foreigners are considered rich).
Cows on the loose
Some of my best stories come from seeing cows in the middle of town. First, yes we do have blacktopped streets in town, and even concrete sidewalks. Therefore, seeing some big (and usually lost at this point) bull walking through the center of town down the middle of the street is a little surreal. People just go about their business avoiding getting too close, that is unless the bull decides to checkout someone garden, store, etc.
Cows are also scavengers that really enjoy human trash. Therefore are times instead of seeing dogs dumping over trashcans and scattering the trash, it’s often a cow. Now That’s Entertainment!. Picture a bull that has stuck his head in a 35 gallon trashcan and gets it stuck! Unfortunately we couldn’t get our camera out in time to catch him trying to shake the can off.
Cows in the streets are just another thing that you get used to and starts to become commonplace if you live outside the largest cites of tourist cities in the D.R. One thing is for certain, after driving here for a while, driving in anywhere in the States seems boring.