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Published: August 6th 2007
Hugo's Home Port
Jarabacoa bus station
"How's you guys doin? My name is Hugo. Todo bien?" His pseudo-American accent was funny at first, this short little man. "Si", was our suspicious answer. Our bus had just pulled into Jarabacoa station after a scenic two-hour drive (which some of us missed). We were anxious to get away from the chaos of the city and Jarabacoa seemed perfect. This little mountain town had to be the nature capital of SDQ. We had actually come to visit Salto de Jimenoa and Jimenoa Uno - supposedly the best waterfalls in the country but our schedules were flexible.
Hugo was persistent. This time he showed us a dingy piece of paper with something that looked like a map. "I take you Pico Duarte. Three days in the mountains, camping, eating ..." The trip began to sound interesting and to cut a long story short, we ended up wrangling for a lower price. Mind you, we hadn't yet left the bus station. Hugo had to arrange "stuff" for our trip so he offered to drop us to La Confluencia - a park where the Rio Jimenoa and the Rio Yaque del Norte converged. After swimming, eating and Shanna's horsing around, we (ummm,
After 10 Minutes
Somebody missed most of the scenery
BOTH of us) climbed on to Hugo's motorcycle and hurdled back into town.
Jarabacoa is like any big countryside village on a Friday - people, vehicles, congestion and noise. But what set it apart for us was how many motorcycles there were and how they weaved among each other without signaling indicators. It soon dawned on us that the bike was as important and as useful to a villager as a car was to us. We saw EVERYTHING
being transported on bikes by both male and female - live chickens, 100-lb gas cylinders and dining chairs. "Motoconchos" (motorcycle taxis) were hustling at every corner. Meat was laid out on tables by the roadside, the market was small but the produce were big and somehow everything seemed in order and then not.
Around 5pm we hooked up with Hugo again and he loaded our backpacks on to a pickup and we grabbed seats outside in the tray. Along the way, more and more people climbed in and then a Haitian duo. The lady proceeded to cuss out Vibert - in patois. Apparently he had taken her usual seat on the siderail. The Haitian gentleman thought Vibert was a "Haitiano"
Before ... In the bus
All bright and cheery
who refused to speak his language and he, quite good-naturedly, tried to convince everyone else in the truck. "El Tigre es un Haitiano". Finally, with five more Haitian men hanging outside the moving truck, Vibert gave in and became "Haitiano por tres dias". They were really a fun, friendly bunch.
We were headed to the entrance of the trail and the scenery was utterly breahtaking. Lush green hills, cows and horses, a flowing river and a cool breeze greeted us as miles and minutes passed. We went thru Manabao and then turned off into an unfinished, dusty road which passed fields of strawberries, apples, hillsides of "tiyota" - a strange and popular fruit/vegetable and ox plowing a field. We passed rows of small, wooden and unpainted houses and children playing in the dusty road. The last stop was La Cienaga at 1110 meters/feet above sea level and home of icy-cold winds. Friendly villagers greeted and oggled us before Hugo showed us to the cutest mountain top room view a fabulous view. He gave us thick sweaters and flannel pants to sleep in.
Later, at about 8pm, we went by foot to the office of the Parque Armando Bermudez
The coolest and scariest place to ride
- the offical starting point and there we met Herman - the caretaker and Tiqua - our guide. Tiqua was an immediately likeable fellow. We also met a real hardcore backpacker named Lasse - a 20+ German lad. Lasse had spent the last five months WALKING
in SDQ and sleeping in a hammock with a mosquito net in the trees because he didn't have "many money". His feet were bruised from stones in the river, he walked only on rubber slippers but his spirit was high. Lasse had almost 15 piercings in his face and he said he was making this trip to find direction in his life. He joined us for dinner and was totally impressed when a big frog joined us too.
After dinner we went back to our room, piled into almost every piece of clothes we had and prepared to face the coldest night we had experienced in quite a long time. We slept early because early the next morning we would be headed to Pico Duarte and two days and one night on "the trail of Juan Pablo Duarte"
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