Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Samaná, Dominican Republic

We left Great Inagua at sundown on Saturday the 25th after paying $7.40/gallon for 20 gallons of diesel. Yikes. The wind was light out of the southeast and we motor sailed to the east until Monday afternoon when the wind finally came up out of the north and we were able to shut down the motor just north of Luperon, D.R. Our original plan was to travel all the way to Puerto Rico and skip the D.R.  completely because we had a decent window to make it all the way and didn't feel like dealing with the  hassle and expense of customs and immigration. There are many stories of difficult officials looking for bribes and just being generally unwelcoming to us gringos. We continued along the north coast through the day and into the night. At 1:00 a.m. Staci came up for her watch and I went down to get some sleep. As I was just falling asleep she yelled out to me, "there's an alarm going off." The engine was overheating. About an hour earlier we had rounded Cabo Francis Viejo and the sea state changed dramatically. We were motor sailing into very rough 4' to 6' seas off a very inhospitable coast. I opened up the engine room doors and was about to open the raw water pump to check the impeller when I saw it was just a broken alternator belt. No big deal. It was swapped in 5 minutes and we were back in business.

When we rounded Cabo Samaná in the late morning we  could have continued on another 36 hours and made it to Puerto Rico but we looked at each other and said, "Why not go check it out? It's right here and there is a cheap marina with officials that are very easy to deal with." 

This turned out to be a great decision. We had a great, although short,  visit to the D.R. The check in was pretty painless despite the language barrier. The marina was in a beautiful resort and only $1/foot which is very cheap. We stayed four nights in the marina and made the most of our time. We rented a car for two days and toured around the country. The driving was absolutely insane. There are small motorcycles everywhere with at least two people on them and most have no lights. As far as we could tell there were no traffic laws. Basically everyone just worries about not hitting someone else and it seems to work, although 99% of the cars were covered with dents. We saw no road rage whatsoever. When the traffic slows or stops, everyone just moves into the oncoming lane and goes for it. People would pass uphill around a blind curves like it was nothing. The roads are a lot like the mountain roads of Colorado but lined with palm trees and banana plants instead of conifers.  

We visited a beautiful waterfall called Salto Limon on the first day. Most people hire a guide and ride horses or burros the two kilometers to the falls but since we're on the cheap we were just going to hike in. At the trailhead there was a guy who wanted to rent us horses and would not take no for an answer. He kept saying the streams were to deep to cross and the trail is very difficult. We finally gave in and negotiated a great price for the horses. The kids were very leery of the horses and did not want to do it but we talked them into it and they had a blast. We swam in the pool beneath the falls and watched the guides climb through the falls and do some crazy jumps from very high on the wall.

After leaving the falls we decided to drive to Las Galleras and see Rincon beach which is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the world. On our way there the fuel light came on and we started to look for a gas station. There were none to be found so we stopped at a place selling propane and a guy told us to look for people on the side of the road with green beer bottles and gallon milk jugs. They are selling gasoline. Sure enough about a quarter mile down the road we pull up to an old lady sitting in a little shack with the bottles. She pulls out her homemade funnel and pours in two gallons of gas. After that we saw that many of the people selling things along the road were also selling gas.
We had some good pizza in town and then drove out to Rincon, which did not impress us after being on so many beautiful beaches over the last couple of years.
Gasolina Grandma

The second day with the car we drove to Santo Domingo which made the previous day's driving look tame. We decided to take some back roads and at one point found ourselves on a paved road that had potholes like bomb craters every fifty feet for about five miles. We just slowly weaved back and forth trying to avoid them. I've been on four wheel drive roads that were smoother. Then we got into Santo Domingo where the driving defies description. 
We visited the Zona Colonial which is the oldest part of the city, had lunch, walked around for a while and headed back to the marina. 

The last day we were at the marina Staci did laundry on the boat and had it all hanging out in the cockpit on lines when a dockhand came over and told her she needed to take it down because it was the weekend and there were a lot of guests at the hotel. 
Checking out went smoothly and when the customs agent realized I wasn't going to offer a bribe he just said,"The port captain charges $20 dollars for the clearance papers." That was fine since they really made the process easy.
We spent our last pesos at the little store buying lunch meat and, of course, ice cream and then set sail to cross the Mona Passage toward Puerto Rico.

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