Page 27: - Dominican Republic Again - Tropical Adventure /w Pics - From the beginning
Cavegirl and Cavebiker do Baharona, Dominican Republic southwest
OK, time to shift it into high gear. There are still parts of the island I need to ride and I want Heidi to come, she is a great riding partner and fun to be with. I have a momentum going with now that I need to continue. I figure that I should test the idea while we are still filled with endorphins from our Punta Rucia ride. “Do you want to ride to Jaraboca next week? We could spend a couple nights at a nice place” Then last night I suggest we ride to the island’s southwest section, the Bahanona region. I said “The area has a lot of nice Caribbean beaches, cliffs, desert,….cactus. It will be warmer, we will need fewer cloths” That works. Our guidebook lists some hotels and the roads should be paved, all good. Cavegirl is in, great! I did not mention that this ride is just about the longest one-destination rides we could do on the island. Whoo! I have to do this right. I look at the maps hard and it determine an ‘out and back’ route is the best. Not my first choice but I have to be smart with Heidi on-board, no back roads and not getting lost will help.
OK, we are off to the extreme southwestern side of the country, the Barahona region. This area sees few foreign visitors but has some of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches, cactus filled desert and scenic cliff lined roads. Sounds good. Our plan is to ride east to Sabaneta, then south over the Cordillera Septentrional Mountains to the main highway autopista, south along the autopista to Pedro Blanco, then southwest to the Barahona region.
A month or so ago I discovered a great empanada stand in Sabaneta.
Heidi says these are the best empanadas she has ever had. I agree. I say this thread should be called ‘The Dominican Republic empanada tour!’ She agrees.
We pass small village after small village crossing over the Cordillera Septentrional Mountains. We stop to hydrate and stock up on water. I asked these guys if they would mind taking a photo of us.
Heidi and I haven’t been down this road since 1995’. The scenery is still beautiful but it seems like the number of villages have tripled.
The ride over the mountains is beautiful
We ride into Moca, a large city at the foothills of the mountains. We have a little trouble navigating through the city but I am use to that. At the first intersection, I ask a couple motoconcho guys which way to turn. The next intersection I ask a person in uniform for directions, all good.
We make it to the autopista, a double lane freeway running down the middle of the island north to south.
The Barahona region is too long of a ride to do in one day. I pick a city half way where I know there is a nice hotel. I want to pick a nicer hotels and treat Cavegirl right, anything to help her enjoy these Dominican Republic motorcycle adventures more and continue coming along.
The city Bonao has a nice hotel, hotel Aquarius. My friend Tom C and I tried to stay here on our ride a few weeks back but the hotel was full. While Tom C and I tried to check in I could tell that it is a nice place. We are hoping there is room today.
Super, we checked into hotel Aquarius. We are pleasantly surprised that it has a pool. Cavegirl is happy and so am I. Our guidebook talks about the city Bonao being a place where foreigners rarely visit. We found it to be a quiet and friendly Latin American city complete with a beautiful Central Park. I head out walking and picked up a small bottle rum, chinola juice and a bag of ice while Heidi waits poolside. We play cards, talk and enjoy poolside cocktails, all good…
The next day we continue our ride down the autopista. We are shooting for the city Pedro Blanco where we will turn off the autopista and ride southwest toward the Barahona region. We study a few larger cities along the road to Barahona looking for other hotels closer to Barahona. Our guide talks about these cities being in a mountain setting but the hotels are basic and no frills. The ‘mountain setting’ description concerns me. I have never been down this road before, I am hoping that the road will be in good shape and most of all, paved. I relay my concerns with Cavegirl. “It will be a full day ride down this mountain road and if it is not paved, we will have to go to plan-B” The only problem is, we have no plan-B.
Nice homemade panniers
In Pedro Blanco, we need to ask directions twice to get us out of town and on the road to Barahona . No problem, everyone was over the top friendly and helped us find our way through town and to the road we want.
The road quickly turns rough
The further we ride the more potholes we encounter. At times, there are more potholes then pavement.
As soon as we reach the end of town, the road turns to all dirt. After our last ride together to Punta Rucia, I vowed never to take Heidi down any more dirt roads, especially mountain dirt roads in the Dominican Republic. I stop the bike to talk about our situation. Immediately Heidi starts apologizing for not wanting to go any further. I try to assure her that I am not willing to go any further either. I suggest that we ride back into town, find coffee and come up with a new plan.
At the highway intersection, we find an open-air café. We get out our map, guidebook and start talking about our situation.
“Caribe tours rides to Barahona , they do not ride dirt roads, there has to be a paved road to get there.” We study the map hard. There is no other route to Barahona unless we ride into Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo has a population of over three and a half million people. The traffic there is crazy. While we ride, our number one priority is always safety. There may be an easy way to get to the Barahona road but we do not know it. The last place I want to ride around looking for an unknown road is Santo Domingo. We reluctantly cancel our Barahona plans. I will ride to Barahona next week during my Haitian border ride. Dirt roads are of course no problem for me riding solo.
The mountain village Jarabacoa sounds like a good alternative. Jarabacoa's main attraction is the natural beauty of the area due to its location in the center of the Cordillera Central Mountains. Jarabacoa has several waterfalls, hiking and good hotels. Heidi spots a hotel in our guidebook that has a pool, a bar, restaurant, rooms with large patios and it is only a kilometer outside of town, perfect.
We ride back up the autopista to the turnoff to Jarabacoa. It is a steep climb. I am again surprised how well our 125cc Yamaha enduro climbs with two people aboard.
We climb and climb
We pass fruit stand after fruit stand. The grapes here look like they are on steroids. The strawberries are also huge.
I know Jarabacoa well. This is my third visit here. We find the hotel without much trouble. The hotel was a little more expensive then I anticipated. The hotel clerk must have noticed me flinch when he quoted the price. He quickly comes back with a lower quote, $15 a night less. We sign up for two nights. Life is good…
View from our patio
We set off for a hike. Cavegirl and I like to take off on two or three hour hikes after a long ride. Hiking is the best way to explore a new area and it feels good on the body and spirit as well.
I spot a watch similar to one Heidi has been looking for. She has seen several surfer dudes in Cabarete wearing them but has had trouble finding one at a reasonable price. $7 sounds good. They are asking over $30 in Cabarete.
February is carnival month. Every Sunday in February there is a carnival celebration in select cities around the island. Jarabacoa is one of the cities. Near Central Park, they are preparing for the event.
A tradition for carnival in the Dominican Republic is to blow up cow intestines like balloons, tie a string to them and whack fellow carnival goers with the cow intestine. Today they also have colorful synthetic balloons used for whacking.
Heidi getting whacked at a carnival event back in 1995’
Heidi sees some bracelets that will look good with her new watch
After several long hikes our legs feel tweaked, all is good. We like Jarabacoa, we like the scenery, we like the village, we like the vibe here. We are disappointed we did not make it to Barahona but at the same time we are glad we did Jarabacoa. If there is one thing Cavegirl and I have learned while traveling together is to change plans on the fly without hesitation and make the best of it. For sure, that is what we did here. As always, it is not all about the destination but more about the journey and enjoying the time we spend together. I love this woman.
OK, no spectacular photos, no big adventures, nothing but a good time and a good ride through a tropical Caribbean island. We can live with that.
Again, I am a freak about oiling our chain. Halfway down the mountain I ask Cavegirl to help tip the bike over onto its kickstand while I spin the tire and oil the chain. We are a team. And I think Cavegirl looks good handling the bike.
Today is Sunday, Carnival day. We think about riding through Moca, the same way we rode down but decide against it thinking that our route may be interrupted by the Carnival. We take the longer but more straightforward route through Puerto Plata. I forgot that this route brings us through Santiago, the second largest city in the country, no fun. I also forgot that this route brings us along the super rough highway between Santiago and Puerto Plata. Heidi is not a happy girl. The road sucks and the traffic is heavy. Of course, I tried to blame Heidi but then had to eat it. I picked the route. I am the one that screwed up. I apologize.
At least the route we are riding is scenic. Heidi gives me the ‘I see a photo opportunity’ signal. We pull over.
Tobacco hanging out to dry. The Dominican Republic is known to have some of the best tobacco in the world.
We ride through Puerto Plata and rest along the malecon.
Only 30 miles to Cabarete now.
We are tooling along, all is fine when all of a sudden we loose power and coast to a stop. The bike is not starting. Crap. We have gas, we have spark but it feels like the compression is low. Kicking it does not start it. I try to push-start the bike and that also does not work. The bike pushes way too easy while in gear. I am thinking we blew a head gasket or cracked or broke a ring or something. This is not a good thing.
I am bummed-out but at the same time ecstatic that this happened here and not somewhere up in the mountains or further away out in the middle of nowhere. We are in the village Bella Vista, 12 or 13 miles from Cabarete. While we are sitting on the side of the road, several motoconcho guys offered to push us. I decline all offers because I want to push it home myself. Heidi thought says I am nuts but she is not surprised. I tell her the story of me pushing our Yamaha XS650 10 miles while we lived in Minnesota. She still thinks I am nuts.
I hand our tank bag to Heidi and start pushing the bike
Heidi carries the tank bag, her backpacks and her helmet. We fend off motoconcho after motorconcho offering to push us with their motorcycle. That is really nice but we still had to get through two more villages with congested traffic, Los Charamicos and Sosua. I do not want to be pushed with a motorcycle through that, it is too dangerous. Pushing the motorcycle myself is safe. Plus, I am a little goofy that way, I like the idea of a physical challenge. I know I can push the motorcycle all the way to Cabarete if I need to. I suggest to Heidi that she jump on a guagua and wait for me at home. She wants to walk with me and finish this out together. Again, where did I find this woman!
I push the bike through Bella Vista, Los Charamicos and Sosua. Heidi’s was taking a beating carrying the tank bag in her arms. I strap it back on the bike once I realized she is not going to hop on a guagua and wait for me at home. She is going the whole way with me. While resting we enjoy talking about our situation and about how lucky we are. If this were not happening, I would have never believed a woman like this existed. I am one lucky dude!
It is getting late. We have been walking for almost 3 hours in tropical heat and sunshine. We are both starting to feel it and we are starting to loose daylight. Time to ask for a push. In no time, another motoconcho stops by to offer us a push. Super! Heidi jumps on the back of the motorconcho. The motoconcho guy pushes me using his right foot on my rear foot peg. Three miles or so later we are in front of our motorcycles home. We drop off the bike.
Heidi and I go back out to the road to wait for a guagua to take us to Cabarete. This is not exactly the way we want to end this ride but at the same time, we cannot believe our luck. The bike is exactly where it should be waiting for repaired. We are just a short ride from our home in Cabarete. The cold beer waiting in our refrigerator is going to taste good.
We hoped you are still enjoying the ride
Continued: ---> Page 28 <----