Caribbean Islands | Dominican Republic | Central DR | Jarabacoa – Pico Duarte – The Summit
I watched the sun come up through the trees this morning. There must be no better feeling than waking up to such intense sunlight, walking down the the stream and washing, and coming back to camp feeling like beauty surrounds you from every side.
We didn’t start the climb to the top until 10:00 am. We all collectively decided that we wouldn’t split up this time. Reaching the top is an 8 kilometer walk, and when you get to the top, it was worth the 30 kilometer hike up. On sunny days you can see the bredth of the island and as far a Cuba. You can lay up there in the sun and just watch the clouds float by, knowing that you are 11,600 feet closer to them than you’ve ever been. I wanted to make sure that I had made it to the VERY top of the highest point in the Lower Antilles, so I got on top of the statue of Juan Pablo Duarte and yelled ‘I’m on top of the world!’
We got back down around 4pm and Santos had made us lunch. The rice and beans we had were the national dish, and the best food we had all trip.
After such grueling climbing and sleeping in our clothes, we all put on our bathing suits and went to the river for a bath. The water was freezing, but clean (you could drink it if you had iodine drops or tablets). We came back to camp and Santos had started us a fire to keep warm. We had a supper of macaroni and mushroom soup. Night sets in quite early on the mountain, so after supper we sat drinkin wine laying around the camp fire. As the fire died out the sky was filled with fireflies and more stars than I’ve ever seen. The sky was almost devoid of black, there wasn’t a spot where a star wasn’t. Warmed by the wine, I laid outside many hours…until…I heard the rats scratching. Then I ran back to the tent.
At six am we woke and ate a breakfast of ichiban soup and pork and beans. We started our descent shortly afterwards.
The trek down was absolutely…unbelievable. It was a cloudly day and the clouds, mist and grey was all around us, so we told stories as we slowly crept down the path. One of our team twisted his ankle going down, so the guide put him on the back of his mule and went ahead to get him help. The rest of us were caught in the ensuing monsoon.
It poured for the last 14 kilometers down the hill. Just when you didn’t think that it could rain any harder, it poured down in gushes. From the brim of my hat, I could see a sheet of water descending…it was like being behind a waterfall! The climbing down was tough because of the torrent streams running down the middle of the path. (For the path was in truth a water way) We slipped, slid and sloshed through red clay and mud. There was thunder and lightning all around us…once it was so deafening it actually threw us to the ground with it’s power and force. I thought, ‘hey it must be close,’ as I screamed. We forded currentous steams, and had to cross 1/4 of the river. It was al very adventurous. We had to create a large chain to cross the river for the bridge ended 3/4 of the way. Many places the current was strong and the undertow grabbed at you, so holding on tightly was reinforced. We made it through the river and were met with our wounded party, the mules and our guide. I was soaked and cold, but not unhappy. We were still 4 kilometers from the office and the guide wanted to wait for the rain to stop. We figured if we made it this far without him…what was 4 more kilometers. We pressed on, our spirits high as we sloshed knee deep in swamps. All of us were cold but kept moving. It was a hilarious trip down! Lightning and Thunder crashin over and around our heads, Pourin rain, mud, rivers – everything you could imagine. We made it to the office at 4:45pm. On our way to Santos’ house we saw a troupe of about 25 Americans just heading up. We were soaked, dirty, and quite miserable looking. They laughed and took pictures of us.
3 days. 5 hours of sleep…this required some serious drinking to fix. We sat at a cafe at the bottom of the mountain, and drank Presidente beer until the mountain was only a faint memory. Thus ended our fantastic voyage.