August 13th, 2009- Luperon, Dominican Republic:
Look! It's a 360 degree rainbow! This ring around the sun was visible for a whole 30 minutes.
been floating at anchor for well over 2 months now, and we’ve
been doing our roaming by land instead of sea. We're all over the place, as a matter of fact! We’re
babysitting the wonderful, air-conditioned car of some friends who have
left town for a few weeks and taking full advantage of their gracious
loan. When we need a break from the usual routine on the boat, we
pack up some snacks and the camera and take off on long, winding drives
that sometimes end at a beach, sometimes in a cow pasture.
It’s so beautiful here that it hardly even matters where we
Apparently these rare babies are known as "whirling" rainbows.
Dominican roads, just like everything else in this country, are alive.
In the small towns, old people and kids hang out in front of
speed bumps all day to watch the cars slow down and wave at the
passengers. Herds of cows, scrubby rogue horses and chickens with
a death wish lurk around every bend. Oftentimes where smaller
roads connect to busier ones, the shoulders are packed with little
shacks selling fruit, goats, rag rugs, wood carvings, and our
favorite: coco fria. These are simply iced-down immature
coconuts gathered from the palms that grow wild here. You pay a
few pesos and the vendor lops off the top of the coconut with a machete
and pops in a straw. The silky, delicate water inside is full of
nutrients and electrolytes, and it’s completely addictive.
When you’re done drinking the water, you can crack open the nut
and eat the soft young coconut meat. It’s a struggle not to
pull over at every little stand we pass for one of these! The
boat may be packed full of green coconuts when it’s finally time
to raise anchor.
Brian with some coconutty goodness.
If we feel like doing something a little more hectic and expensive, we
venture out to Puerto Plata or Santiago, large towns that boast big,
American-style supermarkets, department stores and hardware
stores. We stock up on “fancy stuff” that isn’t
sold here in Luperon and marvel at the chaos on wheels that is a busy
Dominican highway. It’s always a relief when the highway portion
of the trip is over, when whoever’s driving can loosen their
death grip on the wheel, and whoever’s riding shotgun can lay off
stomping the imaginary brake on the floor.
It's OK to drive on the shoulder against traffic at top speed if you're only going a short distance.
Our most extensive inland jaunt thusfar has been the five hour drive to
the capitol city, Santo Domingo. It’s the oldest European
settlement in the New World, with a checkered history starring
well-known troublemakers like Christopher Columbus, Sir Francis Drake,
and France. We left the boat all by herself for the first time in 10 months, and spent four days visiting.
Columbus' first contacts with the indigenous Tainos, just before he proceeded to drink everybody's milkshake.
Mostly we roamed around the Colonial Zone (a UNESCO world heritage
site) being unabashed tourists: photographing the oldest cathedral, the
oldest fortress, the oldest this and the oldest that, visiting museums,
shopping for Christmas gifts, and eating great food. It was a
nice change of pace to be in a city again.
Here's a park in the Colonial Zone, with the oldest cathedral in the Americas behind it.
Is that guy pointing at me, or someone behind me? Do I know him? I guess I'll wave to be polite.
Our hotel room
was very bare bones, but we were captivated by its powerful air
conditioner and cable TV with several American channels. In the
evenings, we came home to our freezing cold room, scrubbed off the city
dirt with wastefully long showers, and curled up in bed to watch David
Letterman. Just like normal people! We felt so decadent.
Louie came with us, and captured the hearts of many cosmopolitan latin
ladies as we strolled around. One admirer dubbed him “El
Perro Marinero” when she learned he’d sailed to the
Dominican Republic in his own private yacht. We let him bask in
the praise, and didn’t mention to anyone that brave Sailor Dog
gets clingy and nervous when swimming in water more than belly-deep.
Click here for a little sampling of our photos from the rambling drives and our Santo Domingo excursion.
Louie on the drive back to Luperon.
Without a doubt, the most spectacular moments we’ve had thus far
have taken place less than an hour’s trip from the harbor.
Known as the “27 Charcos”, it’s a series of (yes) 27
spectacular waterfalls that cascade through the mountains as the
Damajagua river flows down to the ocean. We've gone twice now,
first only climbing the first seven falls with our good friends on GAIA
and ELLIDA. But when our friends on BEANNACHT sailed back into
town from the Virgin Islands, they would settle for nothing less than
all twenty-seven. We couldn't wait to go back, so we all went
To get to this attraction, you make your way through the giant
sugarcane field to a hut with a cash register, and plunk down fifteen
bucks. This secures you a helmet, a lifejacket and two strapping,
good-natured guides to show you the way up the mountain.
The first waterfall at the foot of the mountain.
Off we went into the woods. Jumping down twenty seven waterfalls
is a wonderful thing to do with your time, of course, but before the
jumping can start, there’s a stunning two hour hike to get under
your belt. We picked our way upwards along the river as it flowed
ever downwards, marveling all the while at the incredible scenery along
the trail. Seriously, you could blindly point a camera in any
direction, at any time on this hike and take a postcard-quality
Why can't we just live right here?
Finally, the path steepened and narrowed until we found ourselves at a
precipice looming over a limestone pool of deep turquoise water.
The younger of our two guides let out a whoop and swan-dived into the
water below. Then we all took flying leaps and cannonballs of our
own, crashing down into the basin of impossibly refreshing
Andrew watches Alicia take her turn.
Nothing refreshes like a waterfall to the face!
And so the rest of the afternoon went. We jumped and slid our way
down the mountain, pausing to float and play in the natural jacuzzi
under each waterfall. Our guides knew every inch of the trek by
heart, and amazed us with their graceful flips and trick dives.
We tried our best to soak in every detail and wished the
afternoon would never have to end.
Swimming from fall to fall.
A few of the
waterfalls were actually pretty high up (30 feet or so), allowing
several seconds of falling time between jump and splash. Enough
time for a quick ideological crisis to take place in one’s
mind! Hurling yourself off the slippery cliff, the Nervous Nellie
in you calculates the many ways to be maimed and broken doing exactly
this very thing, and you wonder to yourself, “Is this really
something I should be doing?”
you splash down into the beautiful fresh water, gurgle your way to the
surface and pop up to see the bobbing faces of your friends smiling and
giggling at you. As shafts of sunlight peek through the treetops
and an electric blue butterfly loops around your head, you grin and
answer your worrywart self, “Yes, this is absolutely something I
should be doing.” The afternoon was over all too quickly.
Brian drops into frame.
Beyond the roaming and the usual boat projects, we've also made good
our threat to hire a guard to protect our home. There's an
adolescent Dominican cat named Steve living here with us now, and
his only job is to keep snakes, rats and other undesirables at bay.
Ship’s cats are one of sailing’s oldest traditions,
and have crossed the seas in everything from reed boats to aircraft
carriers. Boats embarking
for long hauls at sea cannot afford to have their food stores or cargo
ruined by rats, so a good mouser is a valuable crew member. It's
old sailing superstition that cats bring a ship good luck, and they
even function as crude barometers, since they tend to go a little
bonkers when atmospheric pressure begins to drop. SARABANDE has
had several ship's cats throughout her history. Since felines
not native to Hispaniola, Steve is likely descended from the cats who
crossed the Atlantic from Spain hundreds of years ago, killing
predicting storms all the way over. We created a short powerpoint presentation to show him on his first day, detailing his onboard duties so there would be no confusion.
worried a little about how Louie and Steve would get along, but
apparently they are brothers under the skin. At first glance, it
was as if violin music swelled and everything moved in slow
motion. They rushed to each other, sniffed noses, and immediately
the cat began purring and delightedly burying his face in Louie’s
fur. Louie proceeded to happily slobber all over his new friend,
and they've been BFFs every since. It’s been years since he
lived with a cat that did anything more than barely tolerate him, and
suddenly he’s got a nap buddy, a wrestling partner, and a fan
club president all in one package. They had each other at
Louie and Steve enjoy the siesta together daily.
In an attempt to better ourselves, we enrolled in a twice-weekly
Spanish class. So far, we've learned just enough to compose our
own completely incomprehensible sentences, as opposed to just
memorizing pre-planned phrases. Our combined Spanish skills have been
enough for us to get by on, but when a conversation progresses beyond
the usual pleasantries, we get lost quickly. It’s
frustrating, and we’re tired of playing the Dumb, Insensitive
Gringos who only want to know how much those oranges cost or where the
bathrooms are! So our goal in the class is to become better
conversationalists. And we want to be able to tell one good,
slightly dirty joke en Espanol by the time we leave here.
We’ve been spoiled so far here in Luperon with a wealth of good
friends around us and a very quiet storm season. It looks as
though things are currently getting a little livelier out there in the
Atlantic, and we’re doing everything we can to keep SARABANDE
ready for a hit. In the meantime, we’re plugging away on
our projects and enjoying our surroundings.
to our friends Randy and Theresa on their beautiful new baby boy!
And to George and Donna keeping the faith in Oriental, NC,
we wish a swift comeback for ROCINANTE.
Alicia & Brian