Trip from Barahona to the Lago Enriquillo (a crocodile lake).
Road quality: Asphalt route of varying bumpiness.
National Park – the entrance to the National Park, where you can hire a boat to reach the island
Isla Cabritos – an island inhabited by iguanas.
Kamping Place – a wonderful place on the seacost, where you can cook barbecue
Guarocuya Hotel – a hotel in Barahona, the first line; reasonably priced and decent enough
When leaving Barahona, you will see a part of the remaining railroad. It was formerly employed by the passenger train service; now, it is only used to transport cane to a near sugar mill. The track presents one of the two routes between Barahona and the lake with crocodiles and iguanas. This region belongs to the National Park. Two iguana species, Iguana Rinoceronte and Iguana Ricordi, naturally inhabit this place. Therewith, the latter is endemic and entered into the International Red Book as an endangered species (less than 2,000 animals remain in nature). You may see iguanas as early as you approach the lake along the road. Moreover, there are special signs “Caution! Iguanas crossing the road!” The iguanas avoid people, since the natives hunt them for food or because of the superstition that they are dangerous for the livestock. Though, within the National Park iguanas are protected; you will see totally different iguanas, as they come to people in hope of treat. There, the tourists and the Park employees entertain them with fruit (sometimes they simply feed out of hand). Though, there you can see Rhinoceros Iguanas only. To meet the Iguanas Ricordi, you will need a boat to get to Isla Cabritos, an island in the center of the lake (the boat costs 3,500 pesos, i.e. almost 100 dollars; it can transport up to 15 passengers). The length of the isle is 12 km, the width is 3 km. The area of the Lago Enrikillo amounts to 400 sq.m.; the lake is 40 m below sea level. The water salinity is threefold as that of seawater. If you depart by boat early in the morning (at 6-7 a.m.), it is much more likely that you will see the crocodiles. That is why we recommend you to arrange the excursion with the guides beforehand, by phone. Since if you come out of the blue, you will meet with the guides not earlier than at 9 a.m., when it is much harder to see the crocodiles. Again, even if you have departed early in the morning, it is not so easy to see them, as there are about 400 crocodiles in the huge lake. Still you are sure to see the iguanas. Beside the familiar Rhinoceros Iguanas, Iguana Ricordi also live on the island. They are featured by red eyes, a high spinal comb and a thorned tail. Unlike the Rhinoceros Iguanas, they are not recommended to be hand-fed. Beside the iguanas, the guides will show you many cacti (there are more than 10 species), iguana holes and even a brood nest of wild bees. After the excursion you may stop by a small cafeteria in the Descubierta Town, to refresh yourself. Actually it is not a cafeteria, but an outdoor hearth, where they serve the typical Dominican meals: chicken, rice, vegetables. So, you can have a snack before the way back. On the map, we have marked a seashore spot near Barahona, where you can cook barbecue on open fire. Though there are some restaurants in Barahona too, we never neglect an opportunity to have a rest and a snack outside.
What should you take with you?
Money, binocular glasses (to see the crocodiles better), fruit and nuts (to treat the iguanas), a photo- and a video camera, an insect repellent.
Guides' phone numbers:
809 816 7441 (English, French)
809 880 0871 (Cap)
829 930 0141 (Guide Association)
Journey to the mountainous region of the country, visiting Jarabacoa and Constanza (the national agricultural center), trip to the pyramids.
in this case, there are two tracks presented. One of them (the shorter one) involves only one road from Santo Domingo to Constanza: an asphalted route, suitable for all cars. The second track (the more long and difficult one) offers a real journey to the center of the country, visiting Jarabacoa, Constanza and two waterfalls; a trip on a mountain road to the country center – the pyramids. To pass this track you will have to take a real 4x4 offroader with good tyres.
Piramids – the pyramids, the geographical center of the country
Airport – a local airport in Constanza
Hotel Mi Casa – a reasonably priced hotel with a restaurant
WiFi zone – free access to the Internet
Electronic chargers – an office dealing with recharging cells for photo and video cams.
Car Xenon Bambumusic – car parts, minor car repairs
Hotel – a middle class hotel
Pajon – a Constanza district near the mountainious area
WaterFall Gran Salto Jimenoa – a waterfall
WaterFall Aguas Blancas – a waterfall
Constanza – a town
Jarabacoa – a town
The route with the populated places (PP) indicated:
1st Day. Santo Domingo – Villa Altagracia – Piedra Blanca – Bonao – La Vega – Jarabacoa – Gran Salto Jimenoa - Constanza
2nd Day. Way up to the geographical center of Dominicana. Constanza – Colonia Japonesa – Sabana Quelizo – La Nevera (from Spanish - ‘Refrigerator'. The place where the pyramids are located, representing the geographical center of Dominicana) – Los Manaclares – Sabana Larga – San Jose de Ocoa – Llano de los Refugios – Bani – Paya – Yaguate – San Cristobal – El Cacique – Haina – Santo Domingo
First, we go to Jarabacoa. In the heart of the Cordillera Central mountain range, you'll find Jarabacoa. This town has been a popular summer place for wealthy Dominicans for some time but adventure-sports tourism has made it increasingly more so. It's a natural hub for those wanting to participate in these types of activities - the surrounding nature offering mountain fresh air, tall pines, huge waterfalls and many river rapids. It's also a starting point for those wanting to hike Pico Duarte, highest peak in the Caribbean, at 3087 meters (10,128 feet). Tour operators provide river rafting, kayaking, canyoning, hiking, climbing, paragliding and horseback riding trips in this area from all over the country. The town itself is quite enjoyable whether you participate in these activities or not, offering a nice temperate climate, good restaurants and hotels, and nightly baseball games at the field on Calle la Confluencia.
After Jarabacoa we immediately go to the Gran Salto Jimenoa Waterfall. Its cool water is good to have a swim and refresh in it. The Great and Terrifying Solenodon is said to live there. Will you believe in him or not - it is up to you.
Finally, in the evening we get to Constanza. Along the road, there are vast fields of the cabbage, potato, onion and other vegetables. This is where most crops of Dominicana are cultivated. From there, planes take them to the capital city and other regions of the country. During the colonial age, this valley was explored by several discoverers. In 1750, one of the colonists, Victoriano Velano, brought first cows and mares there; by 1783, they considerably expanded their habitat, proliferating happily. In the geographical article printed by Cayetano Armado Rodriguez in 1915, a well-known geographer of that period noted that “in the Constanza valley, they propagate peculiar dwarf breeds of cows and horses of the size of goat”. Though, we have not seen such species there.
When the British Consul in Santo Domingo Robert Schomburgk visited Constanza in 1851, he found only one inhabited house. 20 years later, in 1871, the Noth-American geologist Willian Gabb saw as many as 12 huts in the valley. In 1887, Baron de Eggers, when visiting the Cordillera Central, counted about 100 persons living in 30 huts distributed throughout the valley of Constanza.
Until the middle of the XX century, Constanza was a quite underpopulated valley, as the lack of roads prevented access to this truly unique place.
In his report, Baron de Eggers also wrote that all families populating the Constanza earned their living by breeding horses, horned cattle, bean, batata, yucca, corn, and one more uncommon plant that was omitted by Baron. And the main commercial crop was tobacco. It was rolled into small cigarillos to be successfully sold in San Juan.
In his work “Reflejos de ayer”, the writer Garrido Puello spoke about severe cold he had had to bear during his visit to the valley in 1910. “I visited this wonderful nook of Dominicana – Constanza – in 1910, when going to the west, to San Juan. A small settlement that would be a town.” But times change…Nowadays, Constanza is the national “garner”.
At the Mi Casa Hotel, we stay overnight. There, you may also have a meal, if you like.
In the evening, before sundusk, you may have time to go to the water reservoir near the town. On the track, it is indicated with the corresponding mark.
In the morning, we go on with our journey; the next stop is the Aguas Blancas Waterfall. The height is about 50 meters. Just like in the case of the Jimeona Waterfall – please do not swim under the water streams. According to GPS, it is 1703 meters higher than sea level. This is the largest waterfall of the Caribbean Islands. The water temperature is about 12 ?C.
Then, we move through the mountains to the very heart of the country, the pyramids. Thus, we are about to meet the clouds. We enter Parque nacional Valle Nuevo. The average speed of the way up is 14 km/h. The route is quite long and complex, but the mountain peaks covered with the clouds refresh the traveler's eye. Finally, we reach the destination. It is not Khufu, yet… Actually, the zone hosting the pyramids has been called the Refrigerator (from Spanish ”La Nevera”) for a good reason. They were built in 1957; they have been the geographical center of Dominicana.
We are not going to return by the same road. It is decided to proceed the journey going on through the mountains, fog and rain. Fortunately, the road is not too wet. Moving through mud would be unbearable. You probably will not believe it, but we have passed just all the way with our auto heater on. It is really cold in the mountains. Sometimes, the temperature drops lower than +5?C.
Finally, towards the evening, we reach the route connecting San Jose De Ocoa and the capital of Dominicana. The journey is over.
What should you take with you?
Warm clothes, flashlights, something to drink (water) and eat, personal care items, money, swimming suits or trunks, an insect repellent, a rope, a spare wheel (just in case).
Trip to Las Terrenas, a natural aquarium in Las Galleras.
Road quality: Asphalted highway
Samana Puerto – the port of Samana. There, you can hire a boat for an excursion to the whales (between January and March) or to the Los Haitises National Park (the park of thousand isles).
You should depart from Las Terrenas as early as about 11-30. It will take you about an hour to reach the town of Saman. Then, about 40 minutes to reach Galeras. A little time will be required for preparation to the sail. At the aquarium reception you will be given water slippers, masks and snorkels (unless you have your own ones). The entrance ticket costs 500 pesos (about 14 dollars) per person. The boat departs daily at 14.00. In fact the distance to sail is very short (about 200 meters); you can see the aquarium from the coast. The fish, accustomed to feed there, are waiting for a meal already. As soon as the boat stops, quite big tuna specimens gather around it. The depth of the aquarium is 1.5 – 2.5 meters. But even those who cannot swim will have a good time. A huge black rubber ring is designed for them. The son of the aquarium owner tows it. Simultaneously, he feeds the fish. That is why everyone near him is literally put in a fish soup. You may even pet fish or try to hold a fishtail (it is not so simple though, as the fish struggles out: for some reason it dislikes its tail grasped).
What will we see underwater? Kayo, the aquarium owner, has told us that after a serious storm in the end of the XX century all staghorns along the Las Galleras coast were ruined (so, until recently, it was not very interesting to dive there). He decided to assist the nature. He used to bring the staghorn fragments to the same place, piling them up so to construct something like shelters for crawfish, morays and various fishes. Everyday since then, he has fed the fish that have come to those shelters. Thus, Kayo and his team has recreated the subwater world of the coastal waters, and now we can enjoy watching numerous fishes, octopuses, crawfishes, morays, and marine invertebrates. This is a true natural aquarium.
After the excursion, the boat returns to the coast where Kayo gives to each of the glad tourists a gift shell, and wishes them a happy back trip.
What should you take with you?
Swimming suits, a mask, slippers to walk on the staghorns, a snorkel. You should not take flippers (it is prohibited to fin there). Never mind if you do not have anything of it. You will be given everything necessary. Money for ticket (500 pesos per person).
Trip from Las Terrenas to the Playa Jackson Beach.
Road quality: a 4x4 jeep is required. Even a motorcycle may skid to a halt.
The way to the beach partly runs on the route under construction that is to connect Las Terrenas with the Al Katei Airport with a direct road (not the serpentine through the hills that has to be used now); another part of the way runs through a tropical forest. When you go on the hilly route you may enjoy most beautiful views of the Atlantic coast. The beach itself is nearly always deserted. In the spring and summer sea turtles swim there to lay their eggs. The river coming from the hills to the ocean is inhabited by crabs and freshwater prawns. It is an excellent place for barbecue and a calm rest with one's family and friends.
What should you take with you?
Some water, coal, a barbecue grill, meat or sausages, swimming suits or trunks, sun protection.
Remarkable sights of the Pedernales Peninsula
Road quality: asphalted highway.
Pedernales – a town on the border with Haiti;
Hoyo Del Pelempito – a geological depression, national park;
Deadlock – a deadlock turn of the route;
Laguna De Oviedo – a national park;
Laguna Cabral (Laguna Rincon) – the largest fresh water lake of the country;
Barahona – a town;
Duverge – a town.
In this journey we went across the Pedernales Peninsula visiting its places of interest. We started our travel in Pedernales, a town near the border with Haiti, and go towards Cabo Rojo. There, on the coast we cooked barbecue and pick up shells after the Rally Frontiera. It was a very beautiful coast with emerald-green water, but we failed to swim because of the rocky bottom.
In 30 minutes after the departure from Pedernales we turned to the Sierra De Baoruco National Park. Having arrived in Parque El Pelempito each of us paid 50 pesos and went to behold the geological depression. You may spend a night in the park in your own tent, if you like to. Though, you have to send a request to the Environment Ministry:
Telephone: (809) 472 7170
The Bahoruco Sierra Park hosted about 1400 species of plants; 439 of them are endemic. Going on narrow paths one was to get to the observation platform opening a view on the whole “depression”. “No music”, "No smoking", and "No drinking" signs were mounted in the left and in the right. The geological depression had been formed there many years ago. A huge ground layer had lowered. The depth of this “hole” amounted to 700–800 meters. The view from the observation platform was simply admirable. On the platform, there were the photos of various birds and plants living in the park.
The next point in our great journey was Parque Nacional Jaragua. We started on the road to Oviedo. In the certain part of the route, there was a turn which we wanted to follow in order to reach the coast and find a boatman to sail to the Beata Island with. But on the midway, the path became too narrow for our off-roadsters and we did not have horses or motorcycles with us. We had to return to the route.
We approached Laguna De Oviedo. I warn you: at the reception they will flog you a necessary guide for 700 roubles. I think it is unnecessary to say in what languages you should give fluff to those super helpers. 200 pesos and that is it.
In fact, the lagoon was not worth visiting: it was a waste of time. The views with mangroves like those might be seen anywhere. It was supposed that we would take some fancy horses then. But there were no horses, even though we did our best to imagine them.
They say, crowds of pink flamingos hid behind those bushes. They were always trying to step on your foot. Mind your feet…
When you depart – do not hurry. Having moved to the asphalt, wait for a while. There, a very amicable iguana lives there; or there may be more of them. You may even treat it with a banana or nuts.
Then, the highway led us through Barahona to another lagoon – Laguna Del Rincon (or Laguna Cabral). This was the largest lake in the Dominican Republic. Though, we could not swim there. The lakeside looked rather like a swamp. We did not even decide to drive closer. On the other hand, the view was amazing. And the sunsets there were marvelous.
Then we went to Duverge (spelled in French manner). We decided to spent a night there.
You may note an interesting addition of the French morphological roots to the Dominican language both all along the border with Haiti and in the near towns; for example, in that one. The accent was so strong that it seemed that they had degustated a couple of dozens of hundreds of thousands of barrels of free rum just several days before.
Short of the town, on the left side of the road, there was a simple “cabana” (a motel) with a large red heart in the yard. In the evening, it was easier to see it – there were a couple of green neon tubes. We failed to find something better than that in the town.
The owner of that dissolute shelter was named Rodrigo: a normal fellow; he rented us two rooms for 70 dollars. Everything was clean; there was a TV set, a pillow for each human being, and a shower with no hot water.
Besides, in Santo Domingo, that business (motels or “cabanas”) was controlled by the Chinese. Just to observe formalities you should, at least once, prefer a night in such place to All-Inc. It is funny. Indeed.
What should you take with you?
Probably, you will need some water and food. But on most parts of the way there are stores. Anyway, take your swimming suits and trunks, and an insect repellent for the evening time.
Rally Frontera 2010 Route with our participation
Road quality: off-road, 4x4 required.
Rotonda – the beginning of the route in the end of the highway, on 27 February;
Hotel Mi Casa – a small hotel in Constanza;
Constanza – a town;
Fortaleza de Fuerzas Armadas – a military fort in Constanza;
Padre Las Casas, Batey Dos, Galvan, Neyba, Duverge – small towns on our route;
Aguacate – a military fort on the border with Haiti;
Pedernales – a regional center in the Pedernales Province;
Cabo Rojo – a small settlement on the Caribbean coast. The end of the route.
The official sponsors of the rally were Petroleos Nacionales S.A. Petronan; Pinturas Tropical, Brugal, Bonanza Dominicana, Mitsubishi Motors, Jorliz, Esca, RJ Lubricantes, ARB 4x4 Accessories and Garcia Frenos. During the three days of the rally we travelled about 1,400 km in total.
http://dominicana.ws/images_ilya/Rally_frontera/putev_list.zip – the link to the Rally waybill.
The participants were numerous indeed. As many as 170 vehicles were registered at the first conference already. At the second one, their number increased up to 253.
On 25 February, at 17:10, rallying point on the Rotunda. We put the sticker “DerZkie” (the name of our team): Andrey Solopov (the Rally-Raid Champion of Ukraine) on a Jeep Wrangler and us, on a Mitsubishi Montero Sport
The rally takes place soon after the earthquake in Haiti; therefore, taking the opportunity, we have decided to pass there the medicines that we bought beforehand. Bondages, syringes and various antibiotics. Against that disaster, it is not a significant aid; still we hope to help some part of the Haitians.
At 17:30, we start and reach Constanza as early as by the evening. In Fortaleza de Fuerzas Armadas. The tent camp is deployed under the protection of servicemen. Brugal has supplied all pirates with the rum enough for a night and organized a musical background for the event. We do not sleep in the fort but rent a couple of “habitacion” in the cozy hotel Mi Casa.
In the morning, the rally starts from Constanza on a serpentine to the west, to the border with Haiti. Several off-roadsters are really up-to-date equipped. You can do nothing here without a four-wheel drive. We rush on the serpentine crossing small rivers. The pine views of Constanza gradually change to the arid desert steppes of Barahona.
The Desert Storm Operation begins. The speed is about 90 km/h. On such track segments, the main racer's goal is to gain the lead. Much dust and no vision cause loss of time. Along the road, there are several stops in small villages, such as Padre Las Casas. It seems that the economic upturn like that when we come will be repeated in a year only. 250 vehicles, when most towns contain of not more than seven streets… ;)
By the way, you'd better book hotels beforehand, by the same reasons.
We move toward the next night stop on the border with Haiti, in El Aguacate. Meanwhile, we try to distinguish the scenery; when you are flying on a dusty road it is not so easy though. The dirt glass also hinders.
Finally, we reach the today's destination. Fortaleza del Aguacate is behind my back. A very cold night is coming…
Everyone settles with their tents, folding seats or even gas torches and musical instruments. The border with Haiti is in front of us. The difference between Haiti and Dominicana is enormous. In order to cook meals, the Haitians have cut over everything that could be cut…
We settle on a small lawn between our vehicles, drink some rum, have a rest after a long way. Tomorrow, the last stage of the rally is coming, so we should have a good night's sleep.
Next morning, after the breakfast, we sing the Dominican Republic Anthem all together. It is time to leave for Cabo Rojo. On our way, we meet a caravan with provision for Haiti. Again, the road runs through the mountains covered with pine forests. In Cabo Rojo, there are excellent beaches; so, we decide to provide ourselves with good dry firewood for the barbecue. The meat for the barbecue is still to be bought in Pedernales.
The track mostly runs on the border with Haiti. Children are shouting something like “Give me a coin!” in Creole.
Finally, we arrive in Cabo Rojo, where the racers plant beach grapes. We should take care of green planting in order to prevent the mistakes similar to those of Haiti.
The rally is over.
In about 300 meters eastwards along that beach, we find a quiet place for barbecue amid the cacti, right on the Caribbean coast. We fry the meat. The pork is delicious ;)
Further, we see many beautiful sunsets.
We go to sleep at a hotel in Pedernales. The rally is over but we want to stay and see the sights of Barahona. But this is a story for another track.
What should you take with you?
A GPS-navigator with an extra set of cells, radio sets, a tent, sleeping bags, lanterns, store of food and water, extra clothes and shoes, a spare wheel, a kit-bag.
Journey from Santo Domingo to the Larimar Mines in the Barahona region, visiting a thermal spring
- secondary road to the thermal spring – a rough road, a 4x4 required;
- the way up to the Larimar Mines – a rough road, sometimes 4x4 is required.
Termal Water – a thermal spring (brook);
Agua Termal – thermal basin (swimming is available);
Guarocuya Hotel – a hotel in Baraon, on the first line; reasonably priced and decent enough;
Hotel so stoyankoy – the only decent hotel in Асуа, with own parking. Other hotels in the town are of the “7 bucks a night” class; the service is of corresponding quality;
Motel – a motel in Асуа (Cabana), optional, a bit worse than the hotel, but if there are no vacancies in the hotel – an appropriate place to stay overnight;
Syezd k Agua Termal – turn from the highway (by the bridge) to the thermal spring.
If you want to reach the Mines of Larimar, the semi-precious stone produced only in the Dominican Republic (in fact, in only one region of the Dominican Republic), then you have to get up early in the morning. The Larimar is one of the sorts of the pectolite, either pastel blue or dark blue. If you depart early you may manage to cover the route within one day. If you are not in a hurry, on the track, you may even find several hotels to sleep or just have a rest there.
It takes you about three hours to drive from Santo Domingo to Barahona on the smooth asphalted route. You will be amazed with various landscapes from tropical forests to desert savanna with numerous cacti.
The thermal spring may be visited on your way back, but in the morning you'd better visit the mines where the Dominicans quarry the stone with pickaxe, buckets and coarse physical strength without using any mechanisms. The average depth of the mines is 15–20 meters. There, you see the quarrying procedure and may buy safe-faced Larimar.
When returning you should not miss the turn to the thermal spring. The turn from the route is near the bridge (see the photo). The road here runs by banana plantations and fields of tomatoes and other vegetables. Further towards the spring, the fields change to dry bush, in which one can easily go astray. Be careful and follow the track strictly; otherwise it would be difficult to drive out of the narrow path designed for motorcycles, when you had no space to turn the car. The road is stony and narrow there; some areas may demand the 4x4 activated.
In 150 meters to the spring you have to stop the car and proceed on foot. At first, you will see a warm brook; further on the track, there is a pound with an artificial dam.
Having swum in the thermal basin you may return to the route and continue your way to Santo Domingo.