DR Day 5: Horses, Dirt, Water…and the mouth of the devil

Today was a pretty active and interesting day. Breakfast was buffet, but with omelets to order, and with fresh OJ/naranja, always welcome, plus I've started having coffee in the mornings while here, or 'kaffe con leche' and they heat the milk up..it's pretty good.

We got to ride through town again and play in the 'obstacle course’ (always a good time!), and it was turning out to be a sunny, warm day. We passed through the small coastal town of Las Galaras and stopped off at the beach for a quick stop, and waited for the van, while checking out the small beach. A single place that roofed combination restaurant/refreshment stand/bar adorned the entrance, and the beach was nearly vacant. A few small boats were anchored close to the shore, used often for what I was later to find out about - taking people to the even more secluded Playa Rincone, which could be reached by a 15 minute boat ride, or a single 'non road' less road-like than most.

This area, unlike many of the others we'd see, was a bit touristy - rental small motos were to be found, along with a few signs for things like kite boarding (I so have to try that sometime!), and it certainly had a touristy feel to it...apparently, cruise ships pulled in nearby, and this was one of the beaches and areas they brought the cruise customers to. Indeed, we ran into a handful of Americans on the beach, hailing from New Jersey...although they were nearly the only ones there, outside of a few locals..apparently we're not 'in season' right now, although I can't imagine why not.


We headed out, rode for a bit, then turned off into a single lane wide 'road,' heading towards the water again. This pretty much amounted to a small, likely unnamed, semi-paved path, with large potholes and missing asphalt in places; again, great fun. We saw a few locals on motos, and a very few walking, and passed a few Dominican houses along the path, then heard some noises off to the right, where through the foliage we saw some cows or steer, followed soon after by a half dozen in the path, a few with horns included!

They were walking away from us, and I tried to get the camera out to take a picture, but they started to trot, and turned off of the road, so I only caught one on film off in the distance (a few hundred feet).

Thirty seconds later, random cow noises were accompanied by the herd of cows trotting out of where they'd gone off the road, right towards us, in a mini stampede! That was pretty wild..they were coming down the right side of the road, with Ed on the left, and me pretty much in their path on the right. Nearly all of the animals, either loose or tethered on the side of roads, seemed to pay the motos and even people no mind, but looking at the horns on one of the steer, I really didn't want to rev the engine and move as they closed in on us, lest they do something unexpected, like attacking the 'big noisy cow,' AKA us on the motorcycles.

The pictures don't do justice..they passed within a few feet of me off to the right, where they entered into the bushes, presumably to a field on the other side.


The path clear once again, we laughed and rode on, to come to a bit of dirt, which here meant some DR red clay-like dirt, with some mud puddles thrown in for good measure.

Riding through it wasn't much of a problem, although on the Trailwings and the DLs, it was often better to go straight through the puddles under throttle where they were across most of the path, versus trying to navigate through the mud at the sides. We pulled off and walked a bit to a very cool sight..

DR Ocean View 1
DR Ocean View 2
DR Ocean View 3
DR Ocean View 4

Just gorgeous..this was the stuff greeting card pictures are made of, and used for travel ads..it's much more fun being there, versus glancing at pictures, obviously! :-) There was an underwater cave somewhere below, as when the waves came in, we could hear the roar from a blowhole below.

After a quick game of 'launch the coconut into the water,' we walked back to the bikes. This was not a well kept tourist area - look at the number of untouched fallen coconuts below this tree!

Riding further on, I passed a small herd of what I at first thought were deer, Bambi sized fawns, but turned out to be some wandering goat/chivas, one of which you can make out in the center of the picture.


We pulled off into a small circular area off the main trail, and amazingly, the van made it in (sans trailer) later, and we were at Boca del Diablo ("mouth of the devil"). A single small family of a Mom and two kids were there, with a small stand of trinkets, including half coconut shells with carvings, and the usual assortment of myriad semi-junk but interesting stuff. There was a large blowhole out in the middle of what looked and felt like sharp coral, with a weird hatching pattern on it, cut over time by running water or other forces, and you could walk out to right next to it, over the sharp mystery 'ground.' This was not stuff you wanted to fall on, at all! The waves would come in, and a hole in the ground, like a miniature cave entrance, a 4-5' across or so, would roar, and bellow out with a huge gust of wind...which I wasn't quite prepared for, as I got a nice shock when I stood in front of it, and had my hat blown off my head, several feet into the air!

One of the little kids came out, and 'fed' some palm or coconut leaves/fronds into the maw of the blowhole, to watch them come shooting out minutes later with the next big 'eruption.' A cool sight, but sadly, one I wasn't able to capture with a picture.  Walking further out on the sharp ground gave a pretty spectacular view of a section that somehow had been formed into a neatly cut rectangle, with a long, and likely painful, drop down to the water.

Loadinf up blowhole
Beautful - looking down at water

Getting ready to leave, another pair of locals came in on a burro, and looking around a bit further, a bathroom (banya), of sorts, was also seen, although we were all pretty hesitant to use it. Note the 'garage' with a single small moto in it behind the burro.

We rode back through the red dirt and mud, with the next stop being a large waterfall at El Limon, which had to be reached via horseback. Ok, it didn't have to be, but I'd expect there are very few people that would want to walk a few miles in loose, rocky, sloped terrain, as well as the hike down to the base of the waterfall, let alone all the way back up as well.


Time to ride…horses

The restaurant on site at the start of the trek showed us what to expect, with a bit of artistic license..

We all saddled up, and were led by guides, who actually did walk it, and kept the somewhat tired horses moving forward, down some pretty rough, rocky, terrain.


The ride was around 30 minutes or so, down rocky, muddy hills, that if I owned a horse, I likely wouldn't put them through, but the horses knew the way and were pretty sure footed. I've ridden a lot before, and was hoping for a few stretches of open land, to do some cantering or galloping, but it wasn't to be - the horses might as well have been mules, and the terrain was pretty rough. At the end of the line with the horses, we hiked down some fairly slippery dirt and cement steps, until the falls came into view, an amazing sight, with four individual streams pouring down from the cliffs above. Gorgeous!

At the base was a small freshwater pond, with a handful of people swimming in it. Ed had mentioned bringing throwaway shoes, and I suppose I didn't pay it too much mind..it's hard to find comfortable sneakers or shoes that fit me well, so I brought a pair of Rockports that fit me as well as any sneakers I've had in recent years, but...made for mud hiking, they were not, and now I saw how sharp the entry and exit into the waterfalls outlet pond was...if you do this, bring water shoes with a thick sole, or a real pair of hiking boots...most people wore their shoes into the pond with good reason! I took them off, as the only pair of shoes I had on the trip besides my riding boots, and very carefully walked my bare-footed self into the water...that was cold! Ed and Chris made it all the way in, and I bailed at waist level, mostly due to it taking me way too long of a time to make it that far without tearing my feet up, with the freezing cold water helping a bit as the deciding factor as well. Ahh well, next time, a pair of water shoes and I'm there. :-)

Getting readfy to ride to the falls

The hike back up the steps was...surprisingly tough. Not difficult like climbing a rock face difficult, but enough so between wearing a pair of casual dress shoes, slippery mud, and smoking, I was happy when we made it back to the top, to jump back onto the horses, and get a late lunch at the restaurant.

We had lunch back at the sole building at the start of the trail, a good big lunch of what had become 'standard fare' - fresh fish and chicken in some form, along with them cutting down a fresh coconut. I'm not a fan of coconut, mostly thinking of the 'coconut slices' often found on cakes and such, but the coconut milks wasn't too bad fresh from the coconut itself.

A few random chickens and roosters roamed around while we ate..


We were told a few locals had 'heard the big bikes were here,' so they'd stopped off to check out the DLs while we'd been at the falls, which is pretty amusing..but there really are very few larger bikes in DR, with many of the small DR mopeds, scooters and bikes costing under $1k USD or so, versus the $11k or so each DL650 cost in DR, so it's the equivalent of seeing a Countach pull up in the middle of a small country town..once we finished lunch, a few local kids were looking at the bikes, so we put them on the bikes for a few, note the smile in the first picture!


After gearing back up, we rode through Las Terrenas, and through a mountain road to Sanchez.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped at another beach, although I don't recall which one.

We stopped off at the 'Multi-Brenda' for a Coke, on the way back to Samana, and saw someone we assumed was Brenda, while trying to figure out the 'multi' part. The best non sexist comment we came up with was that it was a restaurant, bar, and supermarcado/supermarket, thus 'multi'! :-)

Beach on way back

Coming back through Samana on the way back to La Tambora, we had an interesting experience. We were doing the usual 'dart and weave' around locals and road hazards, when suddenly the road in front of us was full of cars and motos, all stopped or going quite slow. There is some traffic going through the area regularly, but nothing like this, it was like a roadblock. It seemed to be some sort of celebration - people were happy, just not moving down the road normally, with some 80-100 vehicles sitting still or moving at < 5MPH. We sort of looked at each other, wondering if either of us could sort what was going on, shrugged and I took off doing the dart and weave along the right side of the 'almost road' (this wasn't in Samana proper along the water, which is decent pavement, but the section being ripped up..the fun part :-) ), figuring Ed would follow. I saw him start off along the left, so went on for a mile or so, alternating between pavement, dirt, gravel, and the occasional 6" strip of pavement, around the cars and motos, then pulled off as I didn't see him any longer. Just when I started to wonder if something bad might have happened, there he went, on the left, right by me, so I took off again, and caught up to ride in our 'sorta formation,' staggered and normally trying to not let too many locals zip in between us.

We came to the head of the 'procession,' still clueless as to what it was, and saw that an ambulance was leading it, and there were two policemen (La Policia) on the side of the road at the front. Police in the DR seem to be a lot more 'on their own recognizance' and hmm...questionable, usually openly armed, so we slowed way down and sort of took them in for a second..they didn't seem to be stopping anyone, or looking at us funny, so we then zipped past them and onto the relatively open road, and enjoyed the regular dart and weave the rest of the way to the hotel.

We asked Alida when we saw them again later, they said there was a lot of traffic, but not stopped like it was for us, and it was possibly a political demonstration/celebration - in the DR, when a new president is elected, it's not just the immediate staff that's replaced, but all officials, down to post office, Dept of Transportation equivalent, everyone. Sadly, that seems to lead to even more corruption, with no sense of continuity of plans; instead of thinking how they can help the people, it seems some take it as 'how can I make myself rich in the next few years?' instead. :-(

La Tambora had more people there than at Gran Jimenoa, but still, very few. Apparently, there was a largish party coming the following week, but it was relatively unpopulated for the moment. We saw an older (50s? Early 60s perhaps?) guy at dinner, with what I could only guess was his 'special Dominican niece,' a pretty stunning early 20s (at best) light skinned Dominican girl. We're all quite sure she was uhh, 'paid for,' probably the equivalent of $25-$50 USD/day or so. More power to them, I guess, as long as no one's getting hurt..and she gave us some more 'scenery' to occasionally look at during dinners. :-)

We ate, drank, and chatted, with Robert and Alida being the 'early to bed' ones among us consistently, the rest of us usually staying up anywhere from 10pm-1am depending on the night, before retiring off to our rooms.

The next day was supposed to be the 'early morning ride,' which for them, was the ungodly hour of 6am departure or so, doing a few hours of riding, then taking the van to a beach that's rather difficult to get to, either off-road and over sand, or taking a 15 minute boat trip to reach it. I'm still amazed where the van managed to go to. In this case, with the trip re-scheduling for the other group, we had some flexibility, and decided that 6am just really wasn't for me, but we could ride out instead, do a bit of riding in the am-ish, then just meet them at the beach later on..which would mean no drinking at the beach, but so be it.

I went up to reception and managed to get an email off, sitting next to the Spanish speaking security guard, and realizing my Skype subscription expired while on the trip, before turning in for the night.