Sometimes We All Feel Like One
Thursday, April 6 - Luperon, Dominican Republic
In the evening the gang from South Caicos gathered at the Luperon Marina's posh restaurant on a hill overlooking the harbor for Happy Hour and didn't leave for several hours. Dinner for three of us, including a number of those big El Presidente beers, came to just over 900 pesos or around $30 US. During the evening Pi Squared was able to arrange for a horseback riding trip the next day thanks to Lorraine from One More Time. People here are incredibly friendly and helpful.
Friday, April 7 - Luperon
No sooner had things settled down here when I noticed an unattended Rock 'n Roll, a Morgan we'd met in George Town, dragging up ahead of us. Mike from Fretless and I jumped in the dinghy and went up to see if we could help. By the time we got there several others already had the situation in hand, but we enjoyed talking with Wendy from Off Call and helping push on the boat with the dinghies.
Tonight we're headed for the Puerto Blanco Marina for dinner with the gang. Next big project: get a van to transport us towards Santiago (about an hour away, I think) for a visit to the waterfalls and some grocery shopping.
Monday, April 10 - Luperon
Then we saw the second waterfall. The approach was a thirty foot over-your-head swim through a canyon against a stiff current, but a rope made this feasible even for the kids. The problem was getting up the cascade itself. In an amazing feat of strength and acrobatics, the guides were simply reaching down and hauling their clients up by brute force. Since I was allegedly a mountainista, I swam over and attempted to get up on my own, but the force of the water made this a difficult prospect. Humbled, I finally hauled myself up through the water by stepping in a loop in the rope, getting a face full of water in the process (now I understood why one of the guides was carrying a swim mask). There was no way the kids were going to get up this one smiling, guide or no guide.
Since I was already up I followed the group ahead through another deep-water canyon (this one had handholds in the wall to pull yourself along) to the third cascade, which I was able to chimney up. From the top I watched another group, large and small alike, being lifted by the shoulders of their life jackets up the chimney. One of the guides was videotaping the entire thing and had somehow managed to get the camera up there with only a plastic grocery bag for protection.
Walking back down the creek, we met the guide who had told us we wouldn't make it past the first waterfall. Even though his words had been proven true, we had a great time and will no doubt consider what we did see as one of the highlights of our cruise. The scenery is lush and incredible and except for the mosquitoes just walking up to the first cascade is worth the trip.
After changing into dry clothes, we drove about thirty minutes further over a 2,600 foot mountain pass and down the other side into the city of Santiago, making one stop to see a cocoa plantation (please note that I said cocoa, not coca) by the road. The last half of the trip was on a four-lane almost as nice as an Interstate highway, although even there the driving habits of the Dominicans are quite impressive. If there are two lanes, you can bet that somebody will try to squeeze three cars through the space. Scooters, motorcycles--we saw one with an entire family of six aboard--and occasionally cars use the edge of the road to zoom past, honking a warning as they go. The city itself is a contrast between modern structures and beautiful landscaping, with hints of desperate poverty around the edges. I attempted to bargain for an inflatable "Hello Kitty" for Laura with a street vendor at the General Luperon monument, but the man got disgusted at my inability to understand that his prices were already reasonable (come to think of it, there is probably a heavy royalty on official Hello Kitty merchandise). On the street downtown, a beggar got equally disgusted and started shouting "Money! Money!" as I walked away, as if I had simply been too dense to understand what he wanted previously.
And yet the city, like the country itself, had many charms. We ate in a very nice restaurant then shopped at not just one but two El Sirena stores, which appeared to be the Dominican version of a Super Walmart. It was nice to have a wide selection of goods, from wine to hula hoops, but the traffic and all the people rushing about started to remind us of why we left our own country.
We have some more sightseeing to do before we leave Luperon. Pi Squared is headed north later this week, while our other friends are headed south...eventually. Mike from Fretless has decided to stay here at least through hurricane season (it's one of the best protected harbors in the Caribbean and a good choice for that). Although we had hoped to go further south and see Puerto Rico and perhaps the Virgin Islands, we will probably have to head north soon.
Wednesday, April 12 - Luperon
We had to walk the last eighth of a mile because the road got too rough for the taxi, but it was a beautiful stroll. Thick stands of caucus sometimes twenty feet tall formed fences on each side of the road. At Hacienda Melodia they raise everything from chickens, peacocks, horses, kittens, rotweilers, bananas, pineapple, and squash. A serious motorcycle accident slowed down their plans to build the main house, so they currently live quite comfortably in the workshop/garage that was completed. Nearby is a swimming pool that doubles as a water storage pond and a guest house under construction. You can see the ocean off in the distance, with only the sounds of the wind and an occasional cluck from a chicken to disturb the absolute peace.
Thursday, April 13 - Luperon
Update on the waterfalls: I talked with Gary on the catamaran Rainbow Rider, who told me his group had done all 27 cascades. It turns out that the second waterfall, which turned our group back, was the hardest. Gary said the upper falls weren't all that difficult, but there was a fair amount of hiking, some of it along the side of the steep hill. The last cascade, he said, was the most impressive of all. Coming back was easy, since they slid and jumped down most of the falls.
Friday, April 14 - Luperon
Another busy day...that is, by Luperon standards. We topped off the diesel tanks (ten gallons, 464 hours) and purchased 50 gallons of water by calling "Handy Andy," who delivered all of this to our boat for $1,600 pesos or just over $50.00. A quick visit into town to get more money changed, a stop by Pi Squared to say goodbye, happy hour at the Yacht Club...a Good Friday. The photos below are of our visit to the public beach near the entrance to the harbour.
Saturday, April 15 - Luperon
The park was interesting, but we were even more impressed by the Miamar Hotel, where we had the most incredible meal with almost a dozen (yes, a dozen) side dishes. The owner, Eugene, took us out to the caves he purchased which were filled with Arawack artifacts and bones from pre-Columbus times. In a passionate labor of love he has built steps and carved out walkways, building fires to heat and then break off the rock, all while American universities brought in teams to study the site. Back at Miamar, while Eugene cooked our lunch, his wife gave us a tour of the most impressive private musuem of artifacts I have ever seen, all of which have been cataloged and will one day belong to the Dominican people. To experience the cave tour and the beautiful hotel that this hard-working Belgium couple created out of the jungle was a humbling and inspirational experience.
It was interesting meeting and talking with Les and Lindy Bissell (Belle Ile VII), who had shared the van with us. I'd read about Les in the sailing magazines some time ago, but I was even more impressed when I visited his website at www.voyageofhope.org. After suffering a stroke at the young age of 37, Les set out to sail around the world raising awareness about strokes, and got as far as Australia before meeting Lindy, who was circling the world solo herself--but with an airline ticket instead of a boat. They were married in December, purchased a larger boat (a beautiful Beneteau 36 center cockpit), and set out again, carrying on the original mission. With the help of a friend they made the 1,100 mile jump from Charleston, South Carolina to Luperon in a single bound. Meeting neat people like this is the essence of fun cruising.
Easter Sunday, April 16 - Luperon