Monday, January 7, 2013

The Samaná province, La República Dominicana

Before we left for the Dominican Republic my mother gave us a book called the ten most visited places in the Dominican republic. One of the places that definitely caught our attention was Las Terrenas in the Samaná province, (famous for being one of the breeding places of the humpback whale. Thousands of humpback whales come to the coast of Samaná from January to March) and the waterfalls of El Limon. El Limon is a municipal district of Santa Bárbara de Samaná in the Samaná province and situated on the north coast of the Samaná Peninsula on the Atlantic coast. 

Since we had a pretty long drive from the South to the North coast of the island, we started the trip early in the morning. We had no experience of driving around in the Dominican Republic so it took us a while to find the new highway connecting the Samaná Pensinsula to Santo Domingo. Not only did we not find it directly but we got on the wrong highway and had to make a detour in Santo Domingo and stumbled on a few cul-de-sacs on the way home. Nevertheless we somehow found a little tunnel under the road that led us to the right highway with a small Samaná sign and were finally heading toward the right direction. 

The roads were full of horses grazing.

Just driving to Samaná would have been a days worth of experience. The scenery was magnificent and there was no time to rest the eyes or the senses during the three hour drive. The roads were full of interesting huts and lovely cocoa plantations and rice paddies covered the sides of the roads. Horses were grazing everywhere and people were carrying their belongings around on donkeys, mules and horses.

This little fellow jumped over the barrier when I came around with my camera. 

The beautiful rice fields. 

Closing in on Las Terrenas.

The local swimming pool.

Playfulness and joy!

Some horses were in excellent condition. 

When we arrived in Las Terrenas we somehow found our way to the edge of the Atlantic ocean and played around in the sea for a bit. We had a light meal at one lovely little restaurant and listened to the sound of the waves breaking ashore. The sea seemed so much livelier and stronger than the sea on the Caribbean side. Almost like it was dancing.

Before getting completely soaked by a wave.

Some horses lived on people's backyards as part of the family. 

After the meal we started to look for a place where we could find horse treks that would take us up to the waterfall at El Limon. After driving for a bit a motorcycle showed us a way to a yard that would take us for the tour. The place was a bit off from everything else and there were only local people. We spoke with the owner of the company and he said what the ride would approximately cost (always make sure that you agree upon the cost before the ride and maybe check that the company has been used by some other tourists previously). 

Anyway, after a moment we headed off with two small horses and a mule. Ella was leading the herd and Benjamin was in the middle with the mule that was strong enough to carry him.

We started about an hours track up to the waterfalls and waded through pretty deep water and the horses walked in mud and on big rocks and steps. We all had someone that led our horses and the mule all the way so I felt safe letting Ella go first. I did however wonder how the animals stayed upright  all the way but it seems that it really wasn't much of a big deal for them. They are amazingly strong and resistant and used to very rough terrain.

I also paid attention to their hooves and most of them were shod and the angles of the hooves seemed pretty good. Many horses were skinny but they roamed freely among the same species and the people seemed to take quite good care of them. Some horses were in excellent condition that we met on the way so that was really nice to see. It might also be that the local roughage does not contain much protein, but I was not available to find that out during my trip. The Dominican horse is also a very small horse and probably built in quite a mince way. If anyone knows more about this horse race please fill us in upon it.

After the trek up to the waterfalls the horses and the mule had a rest with the man who was leading the group with a donkey. They stayed in the shadow under some trees while we continued down to the waterfalls. It was a short hike and first we reached a small waterfall, crossed some water and came to the big one. The water came tumbling down with force and even if the day was a bit cloudy we went for a swim in the fresh water. The current was quite strong and the bottom pretty rocky so we did not stay in for long. 

Here are the three fellows that took us all the way to the waterfalls and back. 

Crossing water and Ella making sure that my horse gets a pat every once in a while. 

A skirt and sandals isn't the best riding gear I know.....

The big waterfall seen from the top.

The smaller waterfall.

Arriving at the big waterfall.

After the swim we walked back up and started the journey back to the little village. On the way some abnormally handsome men were washing themselves in the water and I did get a quick snap shot taken. Out of respect toward them I will however not publish the pictures in my blog but I just tell you that much. 

The little village was full of friendly and joyful faces smiling at us along the way and children playing everywhere. The man that led the group asked us if Ella is my only daughter and I said that Benjamin also has a daughter. He laughed and said that they have no TV and that he has five children. 

When we came back to the little village the company owner put up the prize with more than half of the promised sum. We had to really talk ourselves out of it which did not leave such a sweet taste and hence my comment on always agreeing the price beforehand.

This particular trip was an absolute highlight of our journey to the Dominican Republic and if we wouldn't have had such a long drive back home we would have loved to explore some more of the Samaná province. The people were friendly, the nature was beautiful and completely different from the southern part of the island. We truly enjoyed meeting the local people and seeing the way of life at Las Terrenas. If I were to do the trip again however I would just pack proper hiking gear and walk up to the waterfalls by foot rather than by horseback.

If you do visit the Caribbean region this place is definitely a must see that I would rate high on my own top ten to see in la República Dominicana.

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