Friday, 20 April 2012

El Limón

Having spent some time in Puerto Rico now, we are taken aback by the cultural differences between here and Dominican Republic. Clean streets and beaches, courteous people including law abiding drivers and  a mindful boating community, and above all a healthier natural environment. Our last port of call in the Dominican was Boca Chica. There we found more of the familiar Dominican ruckus. The only place to stay in town is Marina ZarPar, incidentally owned by the author of the cruising guide which has lead us there along the south coast of Hispaniola. Centrally located between town of Andres and Boca Chica, it was a great place from which to explore the area, and from which to appreciate it for the prime tourist destination that it is. Boca Chica beach was teeming with activity all through the days and into the nights. Power boats carrying exuberant passengers zipped across the harbor and slalomed between our moored sail boats, elevating the wake and our frustration. But despite all the activity the marina was a much needed refuge, allowing us access to proper showers, laundry and a shuttle to and from town where we could do provisioning. We also rented a car from a nearby airport and set out to explore the interior and the north coast of DR. Still in the company of our friend João Paulo, we drove towards Las Terrenas to see Dominican Republic's most beautiful waterfall, El Limón. It took us a little under 2 hours to cut across the country. Our little rental car climbed up the highlands that flank the south coast, flew pass the plains that followed and got into the mountain range of the north. The steep slopes there were covered with lush vegetation that in places revealed rich, red clay soil underneath. Wide sweeping highway serpentine took us between the peaks and towards the north coast. There we rolled through town and toward the hotel lined beaches of Las Terrenas. After grabbing a quick lunch of fried fish, chicken creole, rice and beans with tostones, we headed for the base of El Limón. There were two ways to tackle the 700 foot climb: by horse or on foot. The horse back trek would get us there in half hour, but would set us back $50 each. On foot we still had to pay for a guide, but it was a more reasonable $30 between the three of us, so we chose to do it by foot. The latter option was insistently discouraged by the base camp personnel, who tried to persuade us to do it on horse back. We watched a procession of grinning tourists click clack their way into the forest on horses, ornately outfitted in colorful, hand woven wool saddles, and I must admit it looked like fun, but we had made up our minds. Escorted by Juan, a middle aged local villager, covered in lean muscle head to toe, we slipped into the hot, moist air of the forest. There we followed the horse trail, into a ravine, across a stream, up through a canyon and into the highlands. The foot path, or hoof path rather, was soft and damp rain forest soil, strewn with horse dung and rocks. Juan wore knee high rubber boots, we tackled the slippery slopes in less appropriate foot ware. I don't know how we did it, but we flew up that mountain in less than half hour. Blood was pounding in my ears and I could barely catch a breath. Though once we reached the peak and caught first glimpse of the waterfall the looming cardiac arrest was forgotten. El Limón was falling down moss covered rock face of an adjacent cliff in a cascade of lime green water. We then eased our pace and began to make our way down toward the bottom of the falls, where we took a long, refreshing swim in the fresh, energized pool fed by El Limón. Full of new pep we dashed back up and down the mountain towards the base camp. Back in the car we devised a plan for the rest of the afternoon which included finding a hotel room for the night, taking a nap and later heading to town for drinks and dancing. We found all that and more in Las Terrenas. 

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