Spanish, Sun, Sand, and Waterfalls

I am traveling this week to the East Coast to visit family.  I hope to do some nice hikes in the Adirondacks, but I’ll have nothing to report for a few days.  As I cram myself into a plane seat for the long flight, I recall my last flight and the wonderful adventures it entailed.   It’s not about the Northwest.  It’s not even about the Pacific.  Caribbean, anyone?

Denise and I flew to the Dominican Republic in March.  Our son Casey and his girlfriend Maya did a semester abroad there.  That was all the excuse we needed for a trip.  That and winter in western Oregon.  We had serious sun deficiency!

A very good day in a Welches winter

We spent nine days in the Dominican and had an amazing trip.  We went sightseeing, ate at great restaurants, learned about the culture and history of the country, but the trip’s highlight was spending time outdoors.  That included swimming in the ocean, kayaking, caving, and of course, hiking to a beautiful tropical waterfall. The trip started in Santiago de los Caballeros, the nation’s second largest city.  We saw cool parks, visited Casey’s and Maya’s host families, and even took a walking tour of the old town area.  We became hot and sweaty wandering the city, so we needed no excuse to have a cold Presidente in a bar Hillary Clinton had visited.   By night we ate at a couple great restaurants (try one on Calle del Sol) and hung out at Jazz de Lunes, a cool jazz club.  Casey had his 21stbirthday party at a Chili’s franchise with many classmates.

Famous Santiago bar.

After a few days in Santiago, we were ready to leave the honking and the haze.  Two buses brought us close to the beach, where we caught a taxi to our hotel.  We did not accept the offer from a man on a motorcycle to carry us and our luggage. Phew.

Las Terrenas is a beach village on the north shore, far from big cities.  We picked it because Casey’s group would arrive there in two days.  It had palm trees, a casual beach atmosphere, thatched roofs, the whisper of the waves, cute shops, good food, and hip bars.  In fact, it felt near perfect.

I had not swum in the ocean since I lived in Hawaii in the eighties, but it was a pleasure to do it in the D.R.  Denise was thoughtful enough to bring our snorkels, fins, and masks.  There is little to see as we dart about in the salt water, but it’s still fun.   Besides, we can order food and drinks on the beach—and we do.   Suddenly we feel like we are in a Corona ad.

Denise making her own Corona ad.

After the school convoy arrives, we join them for two trips planned by C.I.E.E., the company in charge of Casey’s exchange program.  For the first venture, the group splits.  Half visit a neighborhood that had historic roots in slavery, and the other half hike to a waterfall known as Salto Limon.  I love history, but if I hear of spectacular natural beauty, facts will have to wait.  A guide gives us a lot of great information about the area and the history—all in Spanish, of course, so I comprehend only part.  The trail climbs steeply but briefly, then flattens out in a scrubby pasture area.   Climbing again, we pass a house.   The group stretches out, some perhaps realizing they are really hiking, not just taking a stroll around the corner, although it is not especially tough.  We traverse an open ridge, descending from it slowly, getting great views of the palm forest, an unusual sight for an Oregon hiker.  Many leaves are tinged with orange hues; it feels like sunset.

The view halfway through the hike to Salto Limon

We lurch down a slick rocky section of trail to a muddy creek bank with roots poking up all over.  A makeshift bridge gets us across the water to a little green shack in the middle of nowhere.  The final descent involves a long set of primitive stairs.  Finally, after forty five minutes or so, the wispy waterfall appears around a corner like a movie scene involving Indiana Jones.  It is a tall, wide cascade with a broad pool beneath it, and a channel to more small falls downstream.   The water is silty from heavy rains the night before, but nobody cares.  It is still lovely.  We take photos and look around.

Salto Limon

Many of the students go for a swim. Some venture behind the veil of the falls where the rock is undercut. Both Casey and Denise take up that challenge.

On the return trip, people straggle apart even more, as we now know our way.  Our guide finds a coconut and tries to crack it open.  It doesn’t seem to work.  I tire of waiting and walk ahead, pleased to be hiking in a foreign land.  The views along the ridge are still impressive.

By the time we pile on the bus, people are ready to nap on the curvy ride back to Las Terrenas.  It has been a great day. And oh darn, we’re having dinner served on the beach.   (To be continued…)

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on July 16, 2012, in Family, Foreign Culture, General Hiking, vacations and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Beautiful. Love Denise’s Corona ad. 🙂

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