On our first full day in the DR, we joined forces with Nick and Sara of SV Borealis and rented a car to explore. Papo set us up with a car for $25 plus gas (I’m pretty sure it was his brother’s car. There was a kid’s sandal under the seat, and some games in the trunk) Thank goodness Nick drove, because I’m pretty sure I’d have had a nervous breakdown navigating the construction zones, big trucks, and hundreds of motorbikes somehow sharing the narrow road.
First stop – the 27 Waterfalls of Damajagua. Although apparently there’s a drought. So we only got 12 waterfalls. Which was plenty. For $11.50 per person, we were given helmets and life vests and matched up with a guide. We hiked a couple of miles up the river valley which was a great chance to stretch our legs after so long in the boat. Then things got interesting. Sara and I both had the same expectations of this trip – we’d go on a lovely walk, take pictures of waterfalls, and cool off with a soak in a swimming hole. Well, not exactly.
Instead, our guides hearded us into the narrow river where we started to wade and swim our way back downstream. Through a few colorful canyons and next thing you know, we’re all standing next to a wooden platform on the edge of a 15-foot cliff. In broken English, the guide told the first person in line “stand here, hold here, let go, 1..2..3..jump far.” The first person does not jump. The guide tries again. Capt. Mike announces to anyone within hearing, “Jenn is never going to do this.”
I always rise to the challenge, so on my turn I only took two “1..2..3..jump’s” to gather up enough courage to “jump far.” A rush of adrenaline, a swoosh in the stomach, a slap against the surface of the water (note to self – next time keep your legs straight), a big gush of water up the nose, and I break the surface. Alive! I gotta admit, it was pretty exhilarating.
For the next hour and a half, we alternated between wading and swimming, jumping off cliffs, and sliding down natural rock chutes into pools of cool water. All in all, a great adventure, and well worth the price of admission! But 12 was enough. By the end, I told Capt. Mike “I’m getting tired of people pushing me off things.” And Sara thought she’d never get all of the water out of her nose.
Afterwards, we dried off and got back in the car to head to the touristy beach resort of Cofresi, near the Ocean World complex. Another cruiser recommended a Mexican restaurant near the beach, so we sought it out for lunch. A beautiful location, but overpriced compared to what we’ve become accustomed to in Luperon, and the Dominican interpretation of Mexican food is definitely not something to write home about. Good margarita though! Here in the DR, they make them with fresh squeezed juice from tiny little limes, and that alone makes them delicious.
Next stop on the must-do tourist path in the Puerto Plata cable car. In the US, we never ride the cable cars – we always hike to earn the great mountain views. But here, riding in a 40 year old Italian gondola – the only one in the Caribbean – was part of the experience. As was watching the faces of the riders as the car rocked and swung, and sometimes swooped straight up.
The botanical gardens at the top are lovely, and we thoroughly enjoyed walking through the cooler misty mountain park, soaking in the flowers and tropical vegetation and turtles and lizards.
here’s a concrete structure at the top of the mountain that used to be a military pillbox during the Trujillo day’s, and has now been transformed to an image of peace and topped with a replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Stunning!
I wish we hadn’t eaten too much mediocre Mexican food at the tourist restaurant, because a Dominican family was having a barbecue at the top of the mountain and they offered us heaping plates of chicken and rice that smelled delicious.
On the way back to Luperon, we stopped at one of the many roadside stands selling tropical fruit and loaded up on coconut, mangos, and bananas. I think we got slightly ripped off and charged the gringo tax, but everything was so ripe and tasty and still cost less that in a grocery store at home, so I barely minded. The next morning’s mango/banana/coconut granola was AMAZING!!!