Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Exterme Waterfalls

One of the greatest life experiences was climbing the 7 of the 27 waterfalls in the rainforest after the heavy rains with LeoCat. When checking in, they asked how old the kids were so we were thinking “child rate”. In hindsight they were considering if they might be traumatized for life or just not make it back. Our guides were Jorje and Roberto. What ever Jorje lacked in English language skills, he would make up for in lifesaving strength. Roberto was a fascinating motivated DR college student with great English. So with our guides, helmets, lifejackets we were outfitted for the grand sum of $7 each. Why do we need helmets the kids asked? Minon traded her heels for a pair of rental bright red shoes. We had a lovely hike crossing streams, and walking through the lush forest.
The series of waterfalls was carved out of soapstone and limestone to form a gorge that was 3-8’ wide with vertical rock walls rising up some 10-40’. With all the rain the water was roaring down the gorge. To advance upstream and up the falls, we shimmed along the eddies near the walls, pulled ourselves along using ropes where the current was trying to suck us downstream, climbed up the footholds carved into the falls and in many areas were lifted up by the guides. Angie and I both slipped once and found ourselves grabbed by Jorje. The guides had fun keeping track of Parker and my crocs that kept floating away, forced off by the current. The kids lacking the necessary strength were instructed to just latch on to the guides backs and told not to let go. The combination of fear and exhilaration had everyone’s hearts pounding and eyes popping out of their heads. After reaching the 7th fall we had the option of upgrading to ascend all 27 for an additional $5.

Lolo, the 8 year old on LeoCat was ready for more, but Sabrina and others had had enough so down we went. Down ment jumping into the base of the waterfalls. “But I don’t want to jump off this 20’ ledge and plunge into a safe zone the size of a bathtub”. Not to worry, you will jump or we help you! For one waterfall we had to spider man forward some 8’ between the walls and then pull your arms and legs in to plunge into the “hole”. Since the kids couldn’t reach both walls the guides would just hurl our children off the raging drop and land them into the pool below. Usually by the count of 3 they would pop out from under the falls like a cork and go floating down the gorge. This would never fly in the states, but what a blast! When we returned to the bottom we met “the tobacco man” who helped each child prepare, roll, and clip their very own cigars for free! For something to do that night, I suggested we go and find a good local cock fight where all the kids could smoke their cigars and gamble away their allowance money… the wives were not amused.

Robert, LoLo, Parker and I returned to the falls to hike up to the top of the gorge and come down ALL 27 falls. Kewl. Jorje was there and was able to move up the que and take us to the top. We made or ascent winding through the cool rainforest and eating fresh bananas growing along the trail. There were spots walking along the hillside where hidden behind the leaves next to your feet the hill was actually a vertical cliff. The excursion was absolutely exhilarating and the most beautiful place on earth I have seen yet! Pictures of the falls, the above ground stalactites and stalagmites, the greenery, the blue water, etc cannot do it justice.

Angie, Sabrina, Minon, and Romaine opted to spend their afternoon horseback riding. They walked and trotted through beautiful forests and along the beach. Sabrina particularly enjoyed taking her horse, Michael Jackson, into the ocean almost to the point of swimming.

Parker and RoMain, Ocean World

Sabrina finally getting to swim with the dolphins

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Ocean World! The Sea World of the Dominican Republic

For the pictures that compliment the story, go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/johnsonsailing/DominicanRepublic

The night sail transported us to what seemed like another world. As the sun rose, we were awed by the lush forested mountains jutting up into the clouds and descending down to a golden sand coastline with emerald green water. Bienvenido! We are in Hispaniola. The boat had to dodge tons of debris in the water which really concerned us. Two days of record rains and washed out roads and caused mud slides. We entered the brown debris ridden Ocean World Marina with LeoCat and pulled out the Spanish dictionary. Angie got us through the “departmente de narcotico” inspection and offered a Coke vs. the bride that was asked for. We were undaunted by the rain as we donned our foulies for dinner of Pollo con Curry y una cerveza Presidente. No more dry peas and rice, baked mac and cheese and greasy fried chicken of the Bahamas.
The Ocean World adventure park, like a mini sea world was “free” while at the marina. The kids and adults enjoyed dolphin shows, swimming in the tiger pool with glass separation, feeding the love birds, watching the silly sea lions (many times), and more. Eventually we’d just let them go on their own as they were regulars with the staff. The Ocean World highlight for Parker and Sabrina was the Dolphin Experience. They got to swim with, pet, ride, shake fins with, feed, and get kisses from the dolphins. To see the giddy smiles on their faces was so worth it!
What’s not to do in this beautiful place is what we started asking ourselves. There were real towns with real shops and streets that were abuzz with activity. Prices we SO much lower than in Bahamas or TC. The temperature rarely hits 90 and there is always a breeze. Hurricanes on the north side our rare. Poverty is an issue but the people were very friendly. We visited “kite beach”, dined in local restaurants, visited the city of Santiago, climbed waterfalls, raced go carts, toured the country side and towns and had a grand time despite the stalled low pressure system over our heads for over a week (aka rain).