At first light we stashed our bags with Ariën and Diana, the Casa Valeria owners, and headed off to catch our first guagua. Any attempt to describe the experience will fall short, but I will make the attempt.
Build your own Guagua:
- Take One Minivan.
- Bald tires. Add brush guard front, rear and side. Decorate with colorful graphics and curtains if budget allows. Complete with a loud, but not necessarily good stereo.
- Pack as many seats as you think in your American brain will fit and then add chairs that flip down across all passages for extra seating.
- Pipe reggaetón as loud as the speakers will allow and then increase volume by two to ten decibels. Hire a friend to chófer, hanging sometimes in, sometimes out of the van's sliding door whistling and yelling at pedestrians to join the parties inside and banging morse code commands on the van's sides to the driver - a far more reliable method than using your words given the decible at which reggaeton must be consumed for successful guagua travel.
- Top with repititious horn beeping at anyone on two feet and cover part of the windshield with multiple stickers to Jesus and saints for the van's protection.
- Finally drive as if Jesus is indeed guiding the van's movements:
- Need to pass and a car is coming the other way? No worries they will get over.
- Car coming with motorconcho beside it? No worries car will get out of the way and the motorconcho will duck out (a motorconcho is a small dirtbike for hire with up to five passengers, really worth a separate entry to fully appreciate)
- Cars coming the other way and an oncoming driver also passing with motorconchos on both shoulders? Jesus will protect. Pass the truck before you anyway. Like the loaves and the fishes the road will expand to make room. And somehow it does.
And so we arrived at twenty-seven charcos (waterfalls) two guagua rides later. The second was somewhat less frantic and better yet air conditioned, but still included five gallon jugs of motor oil on board.
Veinte Siete Charcos del Río Damajagua (Twenty-Seven Waterfalls of the Damajagua River) is the site of twenty seven waterfalls you can with a guide scramble up through and around before jumping, sliding and swimming your way back down through chutes, falls, cliffs and pools all in a tropical rainforest.
Cannonball at the 27th
Sure I'll Take Good Care of Her Dad
Under the 16th?
Shel's Log Impression
Big Kid Slide
The day could easily have been beyond this world incredible, and is was awesome. It was unfortunate that Buco, our guide took much of the punch out of the experience. Taciturn, we had to work to break Buco out of his shell and even Shelly with her Spanish never really succeeded, save two short conversations about tipping well. He claimed to have had this job for twelve years, but while other guides were animated and all smiles in our brief encounters, Buco morosely trudged on as little more than a compass and timer hurrying upstream and rushing through the descent. As we halted one moment to enjoy the beauty he frantically waved us along quipping, "Hurry I am hungry." Hungry he might be, but in the DR being a guide for tourists is a very, very good gig. I doubled our tip out of pity not because he deserved any favors. The whole march he directed killed much of the enjoyment of what should have been a spectacular experience and that was a pity.
Many parts were memorable. You don't forget leaping fifteen meters into a canyon pool not ten feet wide. Judging by the other enthusiastic guides we met on our descent our experience was atypical and unfortunate.
Free from Buco, we worked to get our groove back on the return guaguas which went smoothly together, hitching a ride on the roadside and transferring in busy Puerto Plata. Returning to our bags at Casa Valeria in Sosúa we received some assistance from Ariën and Diana and booked lodging in Cabarete at Hotel Alegria for the next two nights. Another guagua ride took us nearly to the door, us and our three bags all piled into the back seat with us, one of which I balanced on my shoulder. The trip was our most aggressive ride yet with some passes defying physics and clearly completed by faith alone.
Hotel Alegria was very nice. No Casa Valeria, but there was a room available on the third floor with an ocean view (through the trees). The American owners are nice ex-hippies and the Dominican staff friendly.
We unpacked and restocked on water, soda and rum at the corner store. The sun's shadows were getting long as we heading out for a long four plus mile jaunt on the beach highlighted by hundreds of kite boards - each kite unique. Our walk was highlighted by the startling interruption of twenty horses driven down the surf past us.
As night fell we made our way back to the main beachfront bars in Cabarete, illuminated by torches and lights of every design. The moon challenged by the display rose to the occasion: first an orange mirage peaking above the clouds and finally a bright white pelota casting shadows of the palms on the sand.
We settled on Onno, a beachfront cafe whose large stuffed cushions surrounding wooden crates for tables enthralled Shelly and she lounged with her drink lasciviously. Were it not for her skort, her modesty may have been questioned in such recline. As it was my attention to conversational details was certainly impeded.
We ended the night back at the hotel, on the rooftop in the breeze. We shared some dark rum and diet pepsi and planned the next day's adventures on the iPod before retiring for night.
There's more stupidity out there!