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The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti. It covers the eastern 48,671 km2 of the island, and is the home of 10.736.000 citizens, which are quite mixed: 58% Mestizo, 15.8% Black, 13.5% White and 12.4% Mulatto. 95% are Christians.
Christopher Columbus landed on the island on December 5, 1492. After more than three hundred years of Spanish rule the Dominican people declared its independence in November 1821, but no longer under Spain's custody the newly independent Dominicans were forcefully annexed by Haiti in February 1822. Independence came 22 years later after victory in the Dominican War of Independence in 1844.
The Dominican Republic has a tropical rainforest climate in the coastal and lowland areas, while the mountains are colder. Besides from the rich marine life, here are quite some interesting land animals. 300 species of birds, 19 reptilians and four frogs. The most interesting might be Ricordi's Ground Iguana; Cyclura ricordi. Not that impressive, but the 6.000 species of plants are. Around 2000 of these are endemic.
It have taken quite some time to get the car, and now, I have to drive the 35 kilometres back through the busy town centre, and then some, to find my hotel. Compared with Haiti, this look like USA - until the GPS take a shortcut under the highway. Then it look like Bangkok 30 years ago.
I have a GPS point from the hostel, an address and
a spot on a map. Neither is the right place, but a local recognises the
photo of the house, and show me the way.
I find a nearby Villa Capri, and get an apartment for US$70 negotiated down to 44 with tips. I saw some restaurants around the corner, and the first is Burger King, serving a bacon salad without bacon. Then it is back to write a few of the impressions of the day.
23. After midnight, I looked at the planned route for tomorrow. It turns out, I might have miscalculated how few roads here are. From my last sightseeing point to the booked hotel, there are 260 kilometres, which should be possible to drive in little les than six hours. I thought the first 170 kilometres should be the main advent. To add to the exiting, my GPS does not have the shortcut road GoogleMaps uses. I make a few waypoints, and hope for the best.
I hardly sleep, and due to the fact I don't have any breakfast, and here are only cold water, I get an early start. The first part of the tour is along the coast, dominated by ancient corals. Here are some impressive blow-holes and the corals are dotted with succulents.
The road is one of the main roads; a four lane highway.
Here are a few breakfast restaurants, but all based on the cremated animals,
and I soon give up. On the land-side of the road, cane dominates at first.
That said, not that much is actually farmed.
It is Saturday morning, and the traffic is real light. I see a few long roadtrains, but only with two trailers. Then I turn off the highway, and cross through Higuey. I find a supermarket with water, breakfast for the coming days and biscuits for brunch. Outside the shop, I find an ATM willing to pay out 10.000 pesos, better than the firsts offer on 3.000; around 300 DKK/US$45. The town have a strange looking modern church and a lot of small shops.
The road head inland, and it start to be hilly and more
fertile. It is easy to see the hills have been cleared for cattle farming. The
entire area reminds me so much about Ecuador. Well, the small wooden houses
newly painted in bright colours here.
On the other side of the mountains, it turns
significantly dryer, till I reach lower ground. Here start to be coconut
plantations, when I meet the coastal road. I find the little gravel road,
leading down to Playa Lemon, and it is a perfect but completely empty
I follow the RD-104, which should be the entire tour worth. Well, it have been a great tour so far, and I don't find this bit especially better. Here start to be almost cloud forest, and the huge tree ferns dominate the side off the road in some stretches. I head in to RD-107, and the locals use the stems of the ferns for potting pots.
In Miches, I turn inland towards El Seibo. The green hills turn huge and are probably mountains here. Only a few trees are remained on most slopes. It is a lovely area, but I have a long drive ahead of me - or a real long. I gamble and try to follow the road GoogleMap have from Hato Mayor west towards El Puerto and then Bayaguana. Should this shortcut fails, I have to use the southern coast highway! My GPS know nothing of this shortcut road.
The first part is a real smooth and 20 meter vide
gravel road. Here are several new bridges, and I got a good feeling. It is a
beautiful area, but mainly cattle land. Then around halfway, a bridge is not
made finish, and on the other side, the road turn real bad.
In some parts, the car runs on the button, in others, I
have to cross the river within the river. Here are tiny sheets scattered
along the road, and people are smiling and quite some have guests for lunch.
The last part of the road is the worse, but now, I'm not turning back!
Here are several protected forests like Parque de los Haitises. The road cut through the tall gravel mountains, and then I meet a huge plain. Here are mainly rice on endless patches. I turn into the huge peninsula; Samana, and it seems more rich and developed.
At half pass five, I find my hotel, after around 450
kilometres adventures driving. I kind of find the hotel in a real shitty
area. But it is the back side. I have to do a tour around the block - still
on a one lane gravel road, to find the entrance for a strangely nice building
in this neighbourhood. It seems like the city-people come here to party and
do the beaches. I have not seen any tourists at all!
It is dark, when I have eaten, and apparently, I have not been drinking enough during the day. I have made way too many photos, mainly while driving, but that will be in the morning. I have two nights here, and not that much to explore. The eastern part
24. I spend the night feeling sorry for my self, suffering for yet another heat-stroke. I get up at nine, although I don't feel that fresh. I spend some time on the 350 photos of yesterday, but they are not individual tagged. At one, I'm out of water, and head out to explore the peninsular.
I set the GPS for the bigger city, but take it slow. It is a hilly landscape, but most of the steep hills have actually been cleared in past times. I cross over to the northern side, and here, the sun shines from a blue sky. Here are quite some small restaurants along the road, and I get the feeling of, here might come strangers.
The area flattens out a bit, and the fields are fenced
for cattle. Some of the fences are flowering beautifully. Here are small
villages dotted along the road, but it is hard to tell from what they make a
living. Well, until I reach the bigger town of Sanama: Here it must
be tourism. A huge hotel oversees the bay, and the promenade is colourful
wooden houses with art and restaurants.
I make a loop around the promenade and the town behind, looking for tea. They don't get it. Then I look for a souvenir, and find a cool one: A polished Chitons; Polyplacophora, placed on a coconut shell. It is a luck-charm for the ancient people here; Tainos: One end the sun, the other the moon and the eight days of the week in-between. And it look nice too.
There are still some peninsular to be exploded, and I head on towards the end. The road follow the coast, and the south and eastern is dominated by rocky bays, one called Playa del Diablo. Others have some sand and locals bathing. I had hoped for a remote area and a little fishing village, at the end of the road, but other tourists have found Las Galeras as well. Well, at least ten, but the facilities indicate way more are expected. It is a perfect and vide beach, and here are a lot of boats for tours into the sea.
The sun is getting low, and I have quite some distance to home. But the restaurants lures me in, and one promises me a Spagetti Carbonera without meat. Considered what I will go home and cook, I try it. Well, I could have cooked something twice as fast, and pretty much as dull.
head straight home - except for the one of many police controls, that pull
me over. They are not happy about the copy of the registration papers and especially not
about the lack of number plates. I suffer from real bad Spanish, but tell
them to call the company, and growl of them. Finally, I get to drive. I
reach the hotel within the five minutes of dusk, and start working right
25. The only plan for the day is the 210 kilometre drive to Puerto Plata along the northern coast - and enjoying it. Here are a lot of nature - or what you call former forest, chopped down to grassland. Small huts are lining the road, and bigger towns are found on the road from time to time.
Then I reach the planes, so well fitted for rice patches in huge scales. I leave the peninsular, and just as I entered, I have to pay 571 pesos (US$11) in road fee for the 50 kilometres of nice road. Here start to be a lot of coconut palms along the coast, and I stop at several beached - all looking perfect.
I enjoy the single surviving huge trees on the grassy fields. In one stretch, some silk-trees are planted within the last 20 years, and will look great in 50 more. I see a sign, showing off to Playa Grande, and why not? It is a real nice beach, and they are even prepared for tourists. I find a little sheet, willing to serve me some bean-soup, fried plantains and salad. Well, they were out of plantains , and I get fries. The food is all right, the view awesome!
I head on after quite some time, and with a little statue, based on the original inhabitants; Tainos, and made in polished ironwood. It is still through coconut and cattle farms, and here are so lush. I stop a few times at some beaches and great inland views, but at three, I reach Puerto Plata.
The address I have for the hotel is "Unknown Road", and I am prepared to do some searching. The house should be pink, but I have no photo of it. The owner have given me a phone number, but it is disconnected - again?. I ask around, and walk around two blocks. Then I get my computer, and ask people. Several try to call the number, one guy walk the entire neighbourhood with me, but still no bed for me. I pay the young man 100 to charge his phone, and additional 200 for his guided walk in the area.
Some more people are engaged, and I end up being guided to a nearby hotel by a young man and a woman. I can get a room, but apparently, she is determined on making it a double. She get 100 pesos for a moped back. Then the young man get a call from my booked hotel, and I'm more than willing to head back. One of the other guys, who called the hotel owner, have heard from her. "Disconnected" turns out to mean switched off. They get 100 pesos for their effort too.
It is a private house I have walked bye, at least three times, and it is sure not pink, more salmon. I get a small room and the excitement of a cold bath later. It have taken way over a hour to find it, but I want to see a bit more. I set the GPS for the harbour, but it is a commercial one, and I can't get in.
Then I go for a beach outside town. The first one is a huge resort - and fenced in. Then next is a almost black sandy beach with a few shells and locals, bathing in the lagoon. I do a long walk, and then I return to town in the low sun. A bit naive, I head down-town to find some supper. The first place have deep-fried cheese, brown rice and some hot, greenish stew. Way better than what I had ingredients for. Back home, I catch-up on e-mails and alike, and work to way too late. The north coast
From here, I continue exploring the north coast in Diary 2