Page 31: - Dominican Republic Again - Tropical Adventure /w Pics - From the beginning
The Border with Haiti Continued:
I push the motorcycle out onto the street. There is a flatbed truck bulging at the seams with items for sale, plastic buckets, mops, shoes, TP and who knows what. I assume the items came across the border from Haiti and can be purchased for pennies.
Yesterday, both filling stations in town were out of gasoline. Today they have gas, and big crowds of motorcycles trying to fill up. You just have to be aggressive and keep pushing your motorcycle closer to the pump when there is any movement. It is surprisingly how smooth this works. It is like an orderly mayhem.
My gas tank is full, I stop at a fruit stand to fill my tank with bananas.
There are no road signs anywhere in Pedernales so I ride to the end of town and follow the only route out. I waited a few times for road construction. Large dump trucks are dumping loads of gravel and sand. Armies of workers are building drainage ditches by hand using picks, axes and barrels of water for making cement.
The road quickly turns steep. There are breathtaking views of steep ravines, gorges, rivers and dense forest.
It isn't long before the road turns very steep and rough. The riding is a technical slow speed balancing act while closly looking for the best line of travel. This is real ‘dirt biking’.
Climb, climb, and climb often in first gear for long stretches. While taking a rest break I notice a hissing sound coming from the radiator. After a few minutes to cool the bike down I look at the fluid level, no coolant in sight. My mind works a hundred mile an hour, 'could the coolant problem be from a leak in the tank?' It has to be the long secessions of steep climbing and hammering it in first gear is overheating the engine, boiling off the coolant. My backpack has several 12-ounce bottles of purified water. The radiator needs a bottle and a half to fill it, so glad the motor did not get fried. At the same time my new focus turns to finding a new water supply to refill my bottles. Carrying water purification tablets has been my protocol for as long as I can remember so any water collected can also be used for emergency drinking water, if needed. That is a good feeling indeed.
It has been well over an hour into the ride as I pull into a small village that has a simple cemetery near the entrance. Most graves are wood crosses. Few are stone.
Entering a new village, Its fun to photograph flowers and plants around people’s homes, especially in the isolated villages. People sometimes go all-out.
This village is a dead end. I chat with a couple motorcycles riders who are sitting at a street corner under a shade tree. I ask them how I get to Lago Enriquillo, a huge saltwater lake where I plan to spend the night. The lake is a landmark, I think everyone would know it. They tell me I need to ride back, back down the hill, and then turn right somewhere. I am not sure if they were telling me I need to go all the way back to Pedernales or if there is a turnoff somewhere that I missed. I did not remember any turnoff I missed. I am afraid I need to ride all the way back. Not good, my spirits sink low. I am already fatigued from the tough climb and now I have to go back down the steep trail I just rode up. This was all for naught.
I ride back down the steep hill I just rode up. It is not as difficult to ride down steep hills but it is still fun. I was concerned that I did not I miss a turnoff. I am determined to find the correct road, even if it takes all day. I still hope I don’t have to ride all the way back to Pedernales.
I pass a party of 5 people walking out of town. They are heading toward Pedernales, almost two hours by motorcycle. There are 4 adults, a young teenage girl and a mule. The adults are each carrying a bucket or large sack on their heads. The mule is carrying a saddlebag. This is a big hike for these people. I wonder what they are carrying and what they hope to do with it when they get to town.
I feels like I rode all the way down the mountain when I see a fork in the road. I can see why I did not take that route. That direction looks much less used and not like the main route. I turn onto this road. It seems like a legitimate road.
Soon, I ride across a military outpost building, a small faded light green brick building. There are two people sitting in plastic chairs in front. One is wearing camouflage pants and a cutoff T-shirt. The other wears a polo shirt and tan pants. I stop, greet them and ask if I am riding toward Lago Enriquillo. I receive a strong affirmation. I am going the correct way. It is hard to describe the relived feeling knowing that I am now on the right road and am no longer ‘lost’. It is a lightheaded feeling, a rush. Again, these guys are surprised when I told them where I started and where I am going, solo. They got a kick when I said
“Sí, pero mi reverso está roto” (Yes, but my ass is broken)
The new road is very steep and littered with large rocks, crushed rocks and washouts. I call it ‘gnarly’. I am having a great time. I am riding the perfect machine for this and I am riding it well. Up and up and up, I am running in first or second gear only, nothing but fun.
Soon the road turns into more of a trail and the riding is more technical. The motorcycle performs like it was born for these conditions but I know it has to be taking a beating and probably is again overheating. I need to cool off the bike and inspect the coolant level, maybe add water. As long as I keep water in the bike, I am confident I will not ‘blow’ the engine.
While waiting for the engine to cool, I block up the motorcycle’s rear wheel to oil the chain. I am using STP oil treatment to oil the chain. I am a freak about oiling my chain. I never broke a motorcycle chain and I never want to.
The radiator again needs almost 12 ounces of water, ouch. I knew it. I need to find another water supply before I have no more water.
The road continues to turn bad, very bad, boulders, contorted hard pack, and slippery rocks. At least the trail was less steep. I do not think the radiator is boiling over anymore, even with the slow speed at which I was riding. I can sense the strain on the engine is much less.
Finally, I ride cross a river. I stop and fill up all my empty water bottles and again check the fluid level in the radiator. Having water on hand speeds up the radiator inspection process to a fraction. I pour the entire bottle of water onto the cap and cooling fins of the radiator. I do that three times. After, I can immediately open the cap and add water, if necessary. I need less then a half a bottle of water this time, I feel good about that. As long as I keep my water bottles full and continue checking the coolant level, all will be fine. But at the same time, I just want to reach the top of this mountain range. I know the bike will have no problem once I reach the top.
I ride up to another ranger station. There is only one person there. He is dressed in full military camouflage. Like always, I attempted to strike up a small conversation after I answered all his questions. After, he asks me if I have any food. He says he is hungry but I had none to spare. I am only carrying emergency supplies. This outpost is so isolated they don’t even have food for their soldiers guarding the border, wow! He is a nice young kid and helped me confirm I was still riding the correct direction.
I am in the middle of the Sierra de Bahoruco national park. This area has the highest environment diversity and ecological gradients of the country. The combinations of very complex geological elements starting at below sea level to high elevations results in 27 different climate zones here, and I am riding through all of them. I ride through areas of pine forest that were half covered with what looked like giant snowflakes. I figure it is some type of ground moss. The vegetation continues to turn greener and greener. The contrasts I saw and felt in the different microclimates are startling.
The trail continued to point up and continued to produce more large rocks and difficult terrain. The trail did not get any steeper, just more technical. I feel I could ride faster but I remind myself to be nice to the motorcycle. I am not to the top yet and I am a long way from anywhere. My mind likes to play through ‘recovery operation’ scenarios. I think about what it would be like if I had a flat tire, what it would be like if I broke a chain or the engine quits. At my present location, a motorcycle problem could put me spending 2 or 3 nights up here in the wild. It is a calming sensation knowing I have a plan, knowing I gave it a dry run. To me, being solo, this ‘far out’ while beating on and depending on a little motorcycle, puts a lump in my throat. It is like getting a shot of survival adrenalin that can last the entire ride. Sometimes I am concerned that I am addicted to it. I have to remind myself that this is serious. I should not put myself into more danger then I already have. ‘Be cool cavebiker’
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