You can’t ask for clearer, more beautiful water than you’ll find in the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos, but sailing into the Dominican Republic reminded us what was missing from those landscapes – greenery and mountains.
Since numerous sailing web sites warned against corruption among officials, we were a bit hesitant to stop in Luperon, but recent reports had suggested they had cleaned up their act and we decided to chance it. The adventures started immediately as we took a stricken vessel in tow at 3 am in the morning and brought them 25 miles to the entrance to Luperon harbor.
On arrival at Luperon, we found a beautiful anchorage and a small marina that welcomed us with warmth.
Check in was made simple by Leo who runs Marina Puerto Blanco and not one official asked for anything more than the posted fees for entry. For our fellow cruisers, please reconsider Luperon; it is a wonderful location and perfect distance for visiting the DR’s natural wonder “Damajaqua Cascades” (27 waterfalls). And while you are there, stay at Leo’s marina – you can’t beat the price.
Taking a leap faith became the theme of our time in the Dominican Republic. At Damajagua Cascades, hiking up the trail to the 27th waterfall seemed simple enough and working up a sweat would be perfect for cooling off in the water. But when we saw a guide bringing a guy with what appeared to be a broken leg back down the trail via donkey, Sophie, Pete and I glanced at one other with an unspoken “what have we gotten ourselves into”.
The path back down consists of sliding through and jumping over all 27 waterfalls, and in between slogging through the river to the next descent. At the jumps, the guide uses a very technical jump location technique where he tosses a pebble down into the pool below to show you exactly where to jump and then throws another one to show you where you will break your legs …gulp, talk about a leap of faith. Sometimes you slide down the falls on naturally smoothed grooves in the rock. I’ve never been so happy to have on a safety helmet. I’ll confess I only did 26 of the 27 waterfalls as the highest jump from 30’ left me shaking in my water shoes. Pete and Sophie fearlessly conquered all of the high plunges. Our GoPro was acting up so the footage is not great, but this video gives an idea of what it is like.
We also spent a few days at the kiting mecca of Cabarete, where Pete braved the kiting hordes. Seems air traffic control is needed out there.
We put our well-honed local travel instincts to the test when we puzzled together 5, yes 5, forms of transportation, some more questionable then others, to get us the 150 miles from Luperon to the capital city of Santo Domingo. This hilarious adventure included riding on a motoconcho (that’s a tiny 125cc motorcycle with driver, Pete, me and our luggage),
Guagua car (car meant for 4 passengers but crammed with 7), Guagua bus (little bus with actual seats to ourselves this time, but still full), larger deluxe bus (complete with wifi and extremely violent Denzel Washington straight-to-DVD movie that the 7 year old kid across from us was soaking in like a sponge) and finally a taxi whose driver spoke worse Spanish than we do. Grand total: $25 total for us both, 6 hours of travel, views of the country side, small towns and local characters priceless; proving once again it is the journey not the destination, although Santo Domingo was full of interesting history and well worth a visit.
But perhaps the best part of all the Dominican Republic and on the top 10 places we’ve been to on Neko is Los Haities (High-tee-sis) National Park. Los Haities is a Dominican national park located on the remote northeast coast consisting of a limestone karst plateau with conical hills, sinkholes and caverns, behind which is a large area of mangrove forest perfect for exploring by kayak or dinghy. Think Jurassic Park meets Survivor. It is only accessible by boat so tourism exists there but only for people willing to make the effort to find the small boat in the grimy city of Samana and brave the rough one-hour trip each way.
Needless to say, we had the anchorage all to ourselves and spent two days winding deep into mangrove rivers with birds swooping overhead exploring the numerous caves, some complete with petroglyphs and pictographs left by the Taíno Indians who were there long before old Columbus arrived. Imagine, actual humans were there before the Europeans 😉
All in all, we found the DR an adventure wonderland. It’s not the greatest sailing place in the world but it was a huge pleasure to experience this wild and wonderful land up close and personal.