Dominican Republic Land Trip
16 January 2013 | Ocean World Marina
Bert Dorrestyn / Fair and SE Wind 17kn
From the coast it is already clear The Dominican Republic is a beautiful country. As a flatlander born and raised in The Netherlands everything higher than a sand hill is a mountain. So I call The Dominican Republic a rugged country with 4 mountain chains and 3 large fertile valleys running roughly east-west. The Cordillera Septentrional backs up the north coast, the Cordillera Central runs in the middle of the country and 2 smaller mountain systems called Sierra de Neiba and Sierra de Baoruco lie in the south west. The valleys are very fertile and very suitable for agriculture. Although the tropical trade winds, the surrounding ocean and the high elevation produce a climate far from tropics. Many times we found it quite cold, especially at night. These climate conditions give the DR the richest flora in the Caribbean. In many cases it reminds us of Indonesia, the country which we believe is the most beautiful in the world. So we put the DR in that same category and could live here forever. However, this describes the country side and not the cities and villages. The cities and villages are dirty, stinking and full of trash. It seems that the people in the DR do not realize that they are destroying one of the most beautiful countries in the world. At the same time the people are very friendly, helpful, and gracious and are very hospitable. Please start cleaning the streets and stop throwing trash out on the streets. The main highways are in excellent condition and in many cases are 4 lane highways. The smaller and city streets are okay, but have many potholes. The sidewalks are horrible and for people like Dorothy and I who like to experience a city by walking through it, this is quite dangerous, especially at night. This is of course due to the problem in any developing country; the politicians find money for new projects but never for maintenance. We found beautiful parks in Santo Domingo just for exercising, walking and biking. In other words we love the DR and the people, not so much the cities.
Puerto Plata is just 5 miles east of the Ocean World Marina and is a very interesting city with a great history. It is the second oldest town in the New World but except Fort San Felipe, the oldest European fort in the New World nothing can be found about the history. After the Spaniards abandoned the north coast of Hispaniola they burned all the cities and forced all the people living in this area to move. This is all the fault of the Dutch since they had the 80 year long war with Spain and started using the harbors along the north coast of Hispaniola. Fort San Felipe is wonderfully restored and we had a great time to visit it. The other main attraction is top of Mount Isabel Torres. You can reach the top of this mountain with a cable car. The mountain is part of the national forest and the vegetation is beautiful with flowers and ferns, but you also find pine trees. The view over the city and the ocean is breath taking. The city has a very wonderful boulevard along the coast starting from Fort San Felipe to the east. Puerto Plata is a tourist town with many good hotels and resorts along the coast.
Santiago is just 65 km south from Puerto Plata connected with a very nice road over the mountains. The city is in the middle of the Cibao Valley with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. The city has a lot of history but the buildings are not maintained and have nothing attractive anymore except The Monument. It was originally built during the dictatorship of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1944 as "Trujillo's Monument to Peace." He ordered its construction in his own honor. Yet, symbolically the monument was built for the centennial of the Dominican War of Independence, which was fought in 1844 to gain sovereignty from Haiti. After Trujillo's assassination in 1961, the government changed the name of the monument to, "Monumento a los Héroes de la Restauración" (Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration). So it is now dedicated to the heroes of the Dominican Restoration War, fought from 1863 to 1865 against Dominican Colonist and Spanish forces. The monument is located on a hill in the middle of Santiago, with spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains. It also has a surrounding park and it is an attractive place at night where people go to relax. We visited the monument on Sunday and many families spend time in the park that surrounds the monument.
Continuing south through the valley and over the mountains for 135 km. we came in Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo is the capital of the Dominican Republic and is its largest city. It is the oldest European city in the Americas where people have been living since it was founded at the end of the 15th century.
Santo Domingo was the first capital of the Spanish colonies in the Américas. It became the starting point of most of the Spanish expeditions of exploration and conquest of the other Caribbean islands and the adjacent lands in the continent. There are still many buildings from that time (16th century) and part of the old walls. The city is big, noisy and in many places very dirty. The traffic is very crowded and the taxis make it very difficult to drive. Taxis are just junk cars that have no lights, fenders or any other parts that can be destroyed and due to that they make their own traffic rules. We did a lot of walking and found many nice places and we loved the parks and the boulevard along the coast.
We also visited the most famous beach east of Santo Domingo, Boca Chica. It is the largest reef protected bay in the Caribbean. The short distance from the capital city, the crystalline waters and the white sands turned Boca Chica into the most crowded beach of the Dominican Republic, especially on weekends and holidays. Boca Chica has two small islands and two marinas. Boca Chica beach has immaculate fine white sand. You can walk in the water and the depth will barely change, the water will be higher than your waist (or a little bit over) all the time. It is too crowded for our taste and the tourist guides won’t leave you alone and keep offering you unwanted advice and try to take you to every store and/or restaurant.
Back in the marina with improved weather we are waiting for an opportunity to continue our sail to Puerto Rico.