s/y Nine of Cups
Dominican Republic
2002
From the Turks & Caicos, we sailed into the Caribbean Sea, arriving first in the port of Luperon, Dominican Republic. We used Bruce Van Sant's
"Gentleman's Guide to Passages South" as our guide and met Bruce and his wife, Rosa, while we were in the DR. This was our first real taste of
what we considered "exotic and foreign" and we loved every minute of it. Our Spanish was almost non-existent, but no matter, the people were
warm and friendly and more than patient with us. We spent a wonderful month in the DR exploring this beautiful country. Our travels in-country
included the cities Puerto Plata, Santiago, Santo Domingo and an ascent of the highest mountain in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte.
The island of Hispaniola is divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  Due to government
safety warnings, we did not visit the Haiti side.  Our route is noted in red above.
The island was first inhabited by the Ciboney Indians and later by the Tainos who occupied the
island when Columbus arrived on December 5, 1492.  He named the island “Isla Espanola”
(Spanish Island) from which the name Hispaniola was derived.  Columbus lived here for many
years until his death and his remains are supposedly buried in the cathedral in Santo Domingo.
Domincan Republic facts:

Official name
: Republicana Dominicana
Capital: Santo Domingo
Population: ~ 7 million
Land Area:  48,730 sq km (about twice
the size of New Hampshire)
Language: Spanish
Lowest point: Lago Enriquillo  -46 m
Highest point: Pico Duarte  3,175 m
Currency: Peso (RD$)17.20 RD$ = $1US
Local beer: Presidente, a pilsner type brew.
Cost for a large beer in a restaurant
was about  $30 RD ($1.74 US).
Local Rum:  Brugal’s - 1.75ml bottle of
Brugal’s was $RD118, <$7 US.

  • The DR is one of the ten top gold-
    producing countries in the world and has
    the largest single gold mine in the Western
    Hemisphere.
  • Baseball is the national passion; there are
    more baseball players  from the DR in the
    U.S. major leagues than any other
    Caribbean nation.
Our port of entry was an anchorage at
the tiny fishing village of Luperon on the
north coast.  
The view from the Comandancia's office
gives an impression of what the sleepy
town of Luperon is like.
It was not uncommon for cattle to be
herded down the middle of the
streets, stopping all traffic.
Puerto Plata was the closest "big" city and we
traveled there by guagua (gwa-gwa), a van
built to accommodate 10, usually carrying in
excess of 20 people...some hanging out the
doors or off the roof.
While we were there, a couple of gringo
ex-pats opened up a new little restaurant and
we celebrated its opening night.
Don from "Passion" and John from "Gingi"
played till the wee hours while the rest of
us sang along and danced.
Our first night was spent in this tiny  thatch-
roofed "casita". We had purchased some
cheap air mattresses, but had no sleeping
bags so we pinned blankets together. Not
the most comfortable arrangement.
We took the “teleferrico” (cable car) to the
top of Isabela de Torres.  Above a great view
of the harbor taken from the top moments
before a huge cloud totally enveloped us.
A visit to the local waterfall for jumping
and swimming was topped off by a stop at
the botanical garden.
The personal vehicle of choice in the DR is
the motoconcho. Whole families would ride
on them. They were ubiquitous, noisy and
very fast.
Ascending Pico Duarte
One of the highlights of our visit to the Domican Republic was climbing to its highest point, Pico Duarte. This also happens to be
the highest point in the Caribbean. We got in touch with an ex-pat Belgian, Dimi,  who acted as a tour guide of sorts and arranged
for the 5-day tour to climb Pico Duarte in the Armando Burmudez National Park.
We traveled in Dimi's truck for hours over
rough roads and narrow, one-lane bridges to
get to the park entrance.
We went exploring in the early evening in the
nearby forest and discovered a whole bush
full of butterflies.
We stopped twice each day for breaks and
to rest the mules (and our aching butts).
Above, Marcie shares a snack with her
buddy.
We all rode mules...a different form of
transport for us sailors and at the end of
each day our butts ached in distress.
A tough looking crew but in actuality,  sweet,
helpful, shy men whom we grew to depend upon.
We traveled through tropical rain forest, up
dried up washes and gulches (and back
down them where the mules were knee deep
in mud after a heavy rain), across sierras and
scrambled up boulders at the top.
A typical night stop was rustic at best...no
electricity; some had outhouses. The higher
we got, the colder the nights. We huddled
around a campfire for dinner and then
snuggled up on hard wood floors for
the long, cold  night.
We did eat quite well as Dimi was a
gourmet cook and in spite of having to
cook on wood-burning stoves, he did
quite well.
Mama, a diminutive (<5 ft tall) mother of 8 (!)
had the toughest job of all. She assisted Dimi
in cooking for us and made meals for the rest
of the crew.
She was also responsible for all the
clean-up which happened to be in the
local river.
It was also Mama's job to get the woodstove
going before each meal. Cold mornings must
have been the worst.
The last morning we were up and on the trail
by 0500. It was cold and dark and we used
flashlights to see our way.
We rode the mules for part of the way and
then for the last kilometer or two, we
scrambled up the boulders leading to the top.
Marcie's got that 5am, no coffee look!
The top of Pico Duarte where a bust
of Duarte and the Dominican
Republic flag flew in the cold, misty
morning.
The total trip was about 63 km roundtrip
including a sidetrip that Dimi insisted upon and
to which our butts complained immensely. We
were glad to get home to "Cups" and spend a
warm night in our own bed. All in all...a
wonderful and memorable trip and a great visit
in the Dominican Republic.
It was time to move on. We stocked up
on beer and wine and applied for our
"zarpe". Our next destination....
Puerto
Rico. Come with us!
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