Trip to Dominican Republic (January 2006)
In the mountains of Jarabacoa (Thursday/Friday)
Lucinda and I were in the Dominican Republic (Republica Dominicana) for seven days: January 25-31, 2006. The Dominican Republic is on the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. It was around 85 degrees each day (in January), a bit cooler in the mountains. We arrived on Wednesday.
The adventure begins: We boarded a Caribe Tours bus from Santo Domingo to La Vega, trip that usually takes about an hour and a half. Due to horrific traffic problems in Santo Domingo, it took us almost two hours just to get out of the city, and it was well into evening. We finally pulled into what I thought was an interim stop at a tiny depot in La Vega. Not thinking that this could possibly be the ONLY stop in La Vega, I decided to take a short bathroom break on the bus. As I came out of the bathroom, the bus had pulled out of the depot and was on its way. About a quarter mile down the road, I realized that we had missed our only stop. I alerted the bus driver, who was not sure what to do. He and some of the other passengers were worried about dropping us off on the street at night. Shortly, the driver managed to let us off at a nearby police station. We didn't have to wait long for a taxi to take us the 20 km or so to Jarabacoa.
As we were traveling in the taxi from La Vega, going about 5 mph up the mountain to Jarabacoa (and now quite late at night), I noticed all the car's trouble lights were on, including the 'check engine' and 'out of gas' light. All I could think was if that taxi broke down, we would really be in trouble. Finally, we made it up the mountain.
Along the way, our taxi driver got lost and asked a local resident where our hotel was. We finally got onto the right track to find the hotel, which was down several potholed dirt roads, in the middle of the night. The hotel was a wonderful sight.
Lucinda pointed out to me later that the name of the taxi company was "Taxi Jarabacoa". We've never been able to figure out why the driver didn't know where one of the bigger hotels (28 rooms) in Jarabacoa was located.
Here is Lucinda at the Hotel Gran Jimenoa on Thursday morning, next to the Rio Jimenoa river. Our room was about $56/night.
The hotel had a great waterside restaurant, Restaurante Piedras Del Rio ('Stones of the River'). As recommended by the travel guidebook, I had goat stew for dinner one night. Fish and chicken were also good. Breakfast was wonderful, and was accompanied by mangú (plantains prepared like mashed potatoes)
Overall, the food in Jarabacoa was wonderful and homemade, cooked with local indigenous vegetables. We also enjoyed many 'jugo naturales' (natural juices), although I preferred them 'sin azucar' (without added sugar).
Here is the view from a hill above the hotel (seen on the lower right). (Click above for a larger picture.)
Thursday was officially Dia de Duarte (Duarte Day), although we found out later that it is actually celebrated on the following Monday. We walked into Jarabacoa, hoping that the residents would be celebrating. We didn't find much action, but did see this wreath placed in the main square of town.
Juan Pablo Duarte (1813 - 1876) was the leader of the movement that led the country to separate from Haiti, around 1865. He is considered the founder of the Dominican Republic, and his birthday is a national holiday. The highest mountain in the country (over 10,000 feet high), Pico Duarte, is named after him.
Jarabacoa was full of the constant buzzing of small motorbikes and scooters. This is a typical mode of transportation throughout the country, especially in the rural areas. It's not unusual to see a well-dressed office worker traveling around on a motor scooter. One could easily get a ride from a 'motoconcho', the motorbike version of a taxi.
We had planned to do some hiking in the Jarabacoa area, but unfortunately rain settled in most of the time we were there. Instead of wet-weather hiking, we rented a car to tour around the back roads. The car cost RD$1200 (about US$34), plus we bought just over four gallons of gas for RD$500 (US$14.28), which is over $3.50 a gallon.
When we first got the rental car, the seatbelt light stayed on, and we also shortly realized that the front left tire was very low (so we filled it up at the gas station). Eventually, the check engine light came on also, but having seen this trouble light on the taxi to Jarabacoa, I had learned to ignore it.
We drove up Highway 28 to Manabao.
Note the rock slide in this view of the highway going back to Jarabacoa.
During our driving day, we visited the famous Higher Salto de Jimenoa (Uno) waterfall. This is the most gorgeous waterfall I have ever seen. It was used in a scene from Jurassic Park. It is difficult to find (ask me how to find it if you want to go) and due to the rainy weather and obscure location, we had it all to ourselves. We stopped in a pueblo (a collection of modest homes) near the trail, and one of the local kids (Jonathan, age 8) was all too eager to be our guide. He led us about one-quarter mile down the canyon which comprised high cliffs on three sides, with water pouring out of the top, down 60 meters (about two-thirds the size of a football field) to a pool below. When we got to the bottom, I found that incredibly, I had forgotten my camera back at the hotel (doh!).
Pictures cannot really show the true beauty of this waterfall, but here