Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | June 1, 2011

Still in Luperón – Puerto Plata & Visit with Friends

N 19° 53.9296′     W 70° 57.1537′

Traveling on a boat gives a thorough perspective of your immediate location, but not much depth into what lies away from the harbor. We can’t leave the boat for any extended period of time unless we develop a good relationship for boat and dog-sitting. We wanted to see Puerto Plata, the nearest large town, and some of the countryside. We explored renting a car, and were adamantly advised that it was much wiser to hire a driver since we were new to the area and not familiar with Dominican driving.

Bus service is different but practical. If you want to take the bus from Luperón to Puerto Plato, you go to the taxi area and get into a taxi car. They depart every 15 minutes or when they have 6 passengers. Four people pile into the back seat of the small to mid-sized vehicles, and two in the front seat. You might then have to change vehicles in Imbert, the next town, unless your taxi-bus goes on to Puerto Plata.

We wanted to stock up on provisions, so for us the driver option was best. Nino was highly recommended, and charged $1600 pesos, or about $42 for the day. That was more reasonable than renting a car, buying gas and having the associated liability. Nino grew up here, speaks good English, and patiently answered our questions during the drive. His wife was educated at the University in Puerto Plato and teaches elementary school. They have two children. Nino has relatives in Boston, and would like to visit them one day, but said the visa process takes 7 or 8 years since we Americans are not very open to Dominican visitors, who might try to stay in the US.

The roads were nicer outside of Luperón. Not exactly like home, but paved. Turns out that the Luperón roads had been dug up to install utilities, and then money ran out and repaving could not be completed. Maybe this year, they say.  That explains why there are sidewalks and unpaved streets. 

There are no speed limits in the countryside, and people drive fast. Technically they drive on the right side of the road, but practically, they drive on whatever side has the smoothest surface. Cows, horses and dogs are frequently seen along the roadside, and they seem to know to stay out of the way. The countryside is green and gorgeous, with many farms, very few intersecting roads, and much undeveloped land.

Small scooters are widely used, even though it rains a lot. Multiple people pile onto the scooters, and it is common to see them loaded with bags and supplies hanging off the sides. “Moto-taxis” are everywhere in Puerto Plato. The drivers can be identified by their yellow vests, and they take passengers for hire like a taxi. Waiting outside of the supermarket, Bob saw ladies hailing a moto-taxi to haul their groceries home. The driver and passenger would each juggle several bags, with the ladies in skirts riding side-saddle.

Moto-taxi in Puerto Plata

Puerto Plata is a busy port town on the north coast of the DR. They don’t have the facilities to deal with small private boats and discourage anchoring in the harbor. They town was pretty and much cleaner than Luperon. They have nicely landscaped areas including a waterfront park and a well preserved fort that we visited. There are tourist areas nearby, including Ocean World, a small Sea-World type resort with marina facilities and a casino.

The commercial harbor in Puerto Plata

 

Downtown Puerto Plata

La Sirena was similar to a small Walmart, but nicer, I thought, and less crowded with no waits at check-out. They had security gates to monitor the entrance and exits to the parking lot. There is a cafe upstairs where we purchased lunch, with a selection of freshly made hot and cold items, a deli and salad bar.

Grocery prices were pretty reasonable compared to home, with great values on locally produced items: eggs $1.80/dozen, ground beef $1.55/lb, coffee, $3.50/lb, tomato sauce, $.67 per large can, small head of fresh cauliflower, $.92, Bohemia Cervesa, a local beer, $3.50 per six pack. Imported items such as cheeses, crackers, potato chips and chocolate were charged at typical US prices.

La Sirena was a pleasant shopping experience

We also visited Tropical Super Mercado, a smaller market, where we found Bermudez Ginebra (a local inexpensive gin that Bruce recommended) and Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, which we had run out of, and didn’t care to pay the hefty price in the Turks & Caicos. Looked everywhere for Rotella motor oil that Bob wanted for the boat, but couldn’t find that brand.

We felt safe everywhere we visited. Prostitution is supposedly rampant in the DR, and as a couple traveling together we didn’t see any obvious signs. One of the bar/disco/car wash businesses we noticed in the country turned out to be a “nightclub” , or a front for prostitutes, according to Nino.  Our friends Doug and Glen who stayed in the beach resort of Cabarete reported a different experience. They were accosted by a woman offering sex, and when they declined, she tried to rob them. They were also approached while walking with us on the street in Luperón by a woman offering “massages”. Perhaps Gringo guys wearing pink wrist bands from the all-inclusive resort are magnets for trouble? Prostitution is not illegal here, as long as there is no third party benefiting. The government tries to control the issue, and often arrests prostitutes for “loitering”.

Consistent electric service is problematic throughout the country. Per Nino, one can expect to be without power for 4 – 6 hours each day, at unpredictable times. Most businesses and many individual homes have elaborate battery and inverter systems to deal with these challenges. We didn’t experience any power outages in our visits ashore, although one of the internet access problems we experienced was supposedly related to a failed inverter.

We were glad to see Doug and his brother Glen, who drove over from Cabarete during their kite boarding visit to spend the afternoon. They overcame the poor signage, inaccurate Google maps and lack of cell phone communication and found us at our remote location.

Was great to catch up with our friend Doug

 

The guys enjoying lunch at Captain Steve's

  We are ready to leave Luperón and complete the two longest and most challenging passages that remain before reaching Puerto Rico. The North Coast of the DR, as well as the Mona Passage between the DR and Puerto Rico have reputations for generating rough sailing conditions. There might be a small window to leave if we go tomorrow. If we stay here, we may be locked in by a possible developing tropical system for another week. Being a wimpy sailor, I like Bruce Van Sant’s philosophy of being particular in selecting weather windows to enjoy a comfortable passage South. We will check the weather tomorrow morning and decide.

 

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Responses

  1. Your blog is fun to follow…..your trip sure sounds like fun and very interesting as well.
    Take and I will keep following you & Bob on your expedition.
    Stay safe, Pattie

  2. Hello Bob & Elaine!

    It was great to meet you! Visiting in Luperon was an experience I will not soon forget! Lunch at Captain Steve’s was delicious! And I really enjoyed the tour of the town! Doug & I watched from our resort back in Cabarete to see you pass on your way to Samana, but you must have snuck by late at night! I’ll be sure to send the pictures from our visit via e-mail. We’ll look forward to meeting again in St. Maarten next February (2/11 – 2/25/12). Enjoy your adventure and I hope you hook up with more dolphins for Lady! Thanks again for a great time! Bob, I’m still in awe of that engine room! Talk to you soon! glen

    • We were glad to meet you too, Glen! Luperon so far has been the most memorable stop on our trip, and we are glad you could join us there. We passed Cabarete between 3:30 & 4:30 pm on 6/1, and would have been about 1 – 1 1/2 miles offshore. We waved!!! Will look forward to those pictures. Take care – Elaine & Bob


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