DR Day 7: Back to Gran Jimenoa

I woke in the morning relatively early for me, and realized I'd gone to sleep before really packing up much of anything for the trip back, so threw some of my stuff together, remembering to collect my clothes off the back patio that had gotten another improvised washing in the shower a day or two before, and grabbed an omelet, some fresh fruit and OJ for breakfast. The OJ in DR is a bit odd...very good, but apparently they like sweet things, so even though it's fresh squeezed, they add some small amount of sugar to it as well, which is fine by me!

I realized I hadn't really taken a single picture of La Tambora, so took a few, starting with a rooster walking around the grounds..

La Tambora also is ocean-front, with a very nice beach easily walked to from the rooms..I wish I'd gotten a few pictures there, but the only one I did take came out blurry (was a night shot).

Note our covered parking for the bikes :-)

Today's path was going to take us westward away from Samana (which is on the eastern peninsula), to Lago Azul, a natural spring, Rio San Juan, and back over/through the 'Tail of the Iguana,' before heading on back into Jarabacoa.

I packed up, with the usual concern about being sure I must have been leaving something behind in the room, but at least fairly confident that I didn't...and threw everything in the van minus gear, camera, wallet, hat and a Gatorade, and off we went. The weather was calling for rain more than likely, but there was a chance we'd manage to avoid most of it if we were lucky..

We rode out thrown the dart and weave with the locals and the roads, and through another small town, before winding up on the closest thing to the Autopista I'd seen yet - on the way out, we rode criss cross a bit, but were now on a strip of Dominican highway, where a handful of Mack trucks/semis and a few busses were barreling down on the slower local motos. It wasn't a highway by any means, just one lane each direction, but the traffic through there made it feel more like one than elsewhere, and indeed was called the Autopista del Norte, or The North Highway.

Still, no accidents occurred, and we stopped off at one of the small buildings/shacks selling fruit and other miscellaneous stuff that dotted the roadside here and there.


Note - Different countries and cultures have different views on taking their picture, always ask someone if it's ok to take their picture. We did, and managed to mostly get across to the fruit vendor that we were riding across the DR, 'homed' in Jarabacoa, and we had an amusing half conversation when his friend walked over and we all wrote down our ages on a piece of paper so we could understand each other. This guy's 53YO friend looked great for his age, and was riding a little Super Cub. After buying a few bananas, and our attempted conversation, Ed tried to let him know they'd be back in the future, and we said our goodbyes to get back on the road.

We stopped along the way at another small bar/open restaurant, with a fair number of locals hanging out, at least one of which spoke English, as he saw Chris' tattoo of Alice Cooper, and asked who it was, then told us he plays guitar. I'm not sure where exactly we were then, but it was surprising to see Dominicans speaking English in general, at least outside of a larger city like Santiago, or one of the few tourist areas we'd passed through.  It’s all in where you visit, I suppose..

A house behind the place had it's livestock wandering around, as was the norm..

A younger kid was outside, with shoe shine kit in hand, something we'd also seen back in Jarabacoa, and looking down at my boots, seeing them the color of the red Dominican mud, I figured it wasn't a bad idea to let him go to town on them. He did a good job, for roughly a dollar or two, which of course served to make the rest of my gear look completely filthy by comparison, but hey, it's not a fashion show! :-)

rooster roaming around
Getting filthy boots shoe-shined

Lago Azul

We arrived at Lago Azul not much later, after turning off and riding a bit of hard pack, which had a single large, open but covered patio, that looked like it could be used for dancing or picnics. The hike down to the water was a no-brainer compared to hiking back up from the waterfalls days earlier, and the place had a really cool feel to it, almost like some small slice of untouched prehistoric jungle..

Lago Azul
Lago Azul

The water was crystal clear, and had some smaller fish swimming in it. It was also cold as hell, but Ed and I jumped in regardless, after a bit of hesitation, and the cold shock on jumping in made it obvious there just wouldn't have been any way to 'ease into it.' Some seriously cold water...will leave it at 'the tortoise retracted into his shell.' :-) But, it was a very welcome respite from the warm day. We lounged in the water for a few and took a few more pictures before heading back up towards the bikes and van, a few of which are among my favorite pictures from the trip.

Lunch in Rio San Juan

Beaches, shacks, nicer homes, and pens for livestock, along with untouched raw land, intermingled nearly everywhere on our coastal rides, except for when a small town would pop up now and then. One of several beaches we passed on our way to Rio San Juan, completely deserted as many of them were..

We pulled in to Rio San Juan, to eat at a French(!!) restaurant across from Laguna Gri Gri, where locals were renting out glass bottom boat rides to the small number of tourists passing through. The restaurants food was pretty surprising..while most DR restaurant food had enough ''American like' food that eating was no problem, here they brought out salad, fish, chicken, and...lasagna! With a helping of Papas Fritas (french fries), of course, and they had the only 'competing beer' to El Presidente, along with Budweiser..I think the 'other beer' was El Brahma, or similar...we were riding, so the beer wasn't of much consequence, but it was the first time I'd seen someone offer a competing local beer so far, as El Presidente has quite the market share of 90% or so.


We'd been meaning to get both Dana and Chris some riding time in, so Dana threw on her gear and jumped on the back of Ed's bike for the next stretch. Ed offered a few times to let me lead, which I enjoyed doing through the towns, but I was all good at the pace we were doing, especially back through the mountains.

The Iguana was fun..I was feeling good on the bike, and we were taking turns faster than I'd been doing on the way out to Samana..not excessively or dangerously so, but comfortably. The road had it's usual 'obstacles' and uniqueness, beeping twice as we'd enter into blind turns, to notify people coming the other way, some small amount of road obstacles, and occasionally someone wanting to pass or coming from the other direction, but a really good ride. You could feel 'pockets' of temperature changes as we'd go up and down in elevation, spanning a good 15-20*F temperature change within minutes at times, very cool!

At one point, we passed a pair of La Policia, in fatigues and armed, on the side of the road, looking like they were looking for someone, and the few cars and motos slowed down as they passed, so we did likewise, and waved as we passed. We later found out that Robert had also waved, but they decided to stop him and the van..we're still no sure what they were looking for, but, no harm, no foul..

Unfortunately, while it had felt like my clothes had nearly flash dried on leaving Lago Azul, this was apparently not the case, as I started to get the first case of serious monkey butt on the entire trip...I was squirming like my butt was on fire towards the last leg of the ride before stopping off at Rancho La Cumbre once more, and quite glad to stretch for a bit, and uhh, air things out!

It was much clearer out today going through the mountains, at least at Rancho de La Cumbre, so I got to re-attempt a few shots that had been a bit cloudy on the way out.

Rancho de La Cumbra
Scenic View

I really liked the natural candelabra on the left, made from a bush or small tree, similar to the 'chandelier' in the picture on the right..

As we were going to finish down the mountain, then get back on the Autopista, Dana was relegated back to 'van duty,' but at least she'd gotten in a good ride on the mountain roads..the Autopista isn't somewhere most would want to ride with a pillion..it's not really bad, but traffic is significantly faster than elsewhere, and getting on and off can certainly be a challenge, needing to really roll on the throttle to merge from a standstill.

Inside Rancho de La Cumbra

With my monkey butt feeling a bit better (we did a longer stop than usual, and I was glad for it at the time!), we rode down the rest of the mountain road, then got onto the Autopista, Ed warning me to go when comfortable and not to follow him if I wasn't sure, but we jumped on the throttle together and all was well, and fun in it's own way, before turning off back towards Jarabacoa. Ironically, we'd gone through changing altitudes, and a few sections that felt like it was going to rain, but had escaped it all day, so of course, the skies opened up on us hard just before making it to town for 15 minutes or so...we rode through it and ignored rain gear, as I think we were both soaked pretty good pretty quickly, rode through town which was fun...more 'complete' roads than Samana, but still the 'cluster of bees' swarming around you in the form of local motos and traffic, then pulled into the gated MotoCaribe HQ, to find there was a local power outage. Not the end of the world..I'd wanted to check email quickly on my phone, but we really didn't need power for anything, and the gates were on battery or generator backup power, so we de-geared and waited for the van to catch up.

Toby, Robert and Alidas' Great Dane, was quite happy to see us, and I wondered how the puppy would fare once they got back - she'd been a good travel dog, and had gone from the submissive undernourished puppy from a week ago, into much more of a normal puppy with personality...maybe she'd wind up being the alpha dog one day?


Gran Jimenoa at night

The trailer and van were partially unloaded, and I gathered my stuff together to throw into the SUV for the few mile drive back to Gran Jimenoa.

After checking in, ensuring we had hot water (we did, yay!) and grabbing a shower, we were going to head into Jarabacoa for dinner tonight, and spend a little bit of time in town. We jumped in the van, and went back to the place we'd had lunch at previously, Restaurante La Lena ("wood stick"), right in the town square of Jarabacoa, where I had the churrasco again, which was as tasty as it was the first time.

Churrasco at Restaurante La Lena (‘wood stick’)

Downtown Jarabacoa on a weekend night was interesting..the locals passed in and out, riding their motos down the street, or driving cars with seriously loud stereos, while others hung out around the central park with the huge tree in the middle.

When we were finishing up dinner, a trio of trucks pulled in, and stopped on the main street right below us, with a few people in the back of one pickup, who turned out to be busts, or prisoners, of the DNCD, roughly the equivalent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency/DEA. A minute later, a dozen or more armed and kevlar vested officers came walking down the other street, to converge on the trucks. Nothing much changed in the demeanor of the locals, although they gave them a wider berth than normal traffic, and it appeared to be a 'display of power' or a reminder to the locals to 'Just Say No To Drugs!' It was different, from an American perspective, so much so that while I had my camera ready, I wasn't sure I wanted a camera flash to go off with 20 or so armed DNCD agents within 20-30' of us, although I highly doubt there was any real danger, short of being stupid. I did try to get a picture as they were pulling away, but unfortunately, I 'missed' the group of trucks in the shot...so much for my stealthy picture taking skills at night! :-(

Once they left, we did a walk around the square, then headed back to the Gran Jimenoa, a few drinks at the bar, then eventually wandering off to sleep..

My last night in DR…..