Day Two of our Road Trip took us to Jarabacoa. Jarabacoa is a mountain-resort town, very popular with Dominicans and overseas visitors. The locals come here for the cooler weather in the summer, the tourist come for the adventure-sports.
The town is on the banks of the Rio Yaque de Norte, a fast flowing river that hosts a number of water-based activities. Rafting, canyoning, kayaking are all available to the adventurous. Jarabacoa is also the main starting point for various treks up Pico Duarte – at 3087 metres the highest peak in the Caribbean. None of these adventures was on our itinerary, but Jarabacoa was well worth a stop on our road trip.
There are two options for the journey from Constanza to Jarabacoa. The direct route involving a cross-country road that our guide books said to avoid. So we went the long way round – 42km back to the Duarte Highway, 20km north, then 25km back into the mountains. (As it turns out, the cross-country road was repaved last year and now offers a fast and reliable route between the two towns. Oh well)
Fast food, Dominican style
We arrived around 11.30am. Not planning on stopping in Jarabacoa for the night, we chose to eat early and then explore. We’re getting more and more confident with our food options so, not seeing our preferred ‘Pollo Horneo’ (whole spit-roast chicken which they will cut into rough pices, bone & all, for you to take away), we chose a local ‘Pica Pollo’. This is similar to a Kentucky Fried Chicken, but Dominincan style. Deep Fried chicken in a batter (not to the Colonels secret recipe, but very yummy). Boiled rice (we could have had Papas Fritas – chips, but even the children prefer rice now). A salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, splashed liberally with vinegar). A side order of Mangu (mashed boiled plantains, see here for recipe). All served in the ubiquitous white-polystyrene trays. Plenty of food for 6 – all bought for about £7.
We chose to eat in the Parque Central. This was notably different from other town-centre parks in that it had a large tree growing right in the middle, with a raised boardwalk running all round it. So not only did the kids eat well, but they also got the chance to let off some steam haring round the tree, much to the amusement of the locals.
One of the main attractions near Jarabacoa are the four large saltos (waterfalls) that encircle the town. With a few hours available before heading on to our overnight destination, we decided that a walk to one of these would be a fine way to spend a few hours.
Higher Salto Jimenoa
The most spectacular of the Jarabacoa waterfalls is Higher Salto Jimenoa. This 75-metre cascade was used as a backdrop in one of the opening scenes in Jurassic Park. So it was for this one we headed. A short drive out of town, turn left by a small comedor (restaurant) and down a very steep driveway to the car park. Park the car, pay the entrance fee ($100 each), pack some water into a rucksack and we’re off.
There was a small, very rickety viewing platform at the start of the trail. Looking down onto the distant waterfall through the trees it was clear that the path to the waterfall was going to be (a) steeply downhill and (b) a fair trek.
As we set off we met a group of very weary looking walkers coming the other way. All were carrying long sticks. One had a shirt covered in mud. In our very best Spanglish (they were Mexicans), we deduced ‘the path is very steep and slippery. Take these sticks, you will need them for the walk’. Undeterred (‘skin is waterproof’) and with newly acquired sticks, we set off. Zach’s stick (as they all are) was variously a sword, a tree-basher (when he thought we weren’t looking), a rifle (I was shot many times), a light-sabre and very occasionally for balance as we walked down the increasingly steep and muddy path. Steps had been cut at the steepest points and there were a dozen large notice boards with useful information at various points (I now know, for instance that there are no poisonous snakes in the Caribbean and that the Green Ebony Tree is a very much admired and very endangered species that is native to the cloudforest we were walking through).
From half-way down we heard the sound of the waterfall. Through the dense forest we started to catch glimpses of the crashing water. Then, safely at the bottom we clambered over some rocks and there in front there was the waterfall, surrounded by a small pebbly beach.
Hmmmm. The water crashing through a craggy fissure in the rocks above, plunging 75m(ish) to the pool below was very impressive. The beach at the edge of the pool was sadly much less so, being litter-strewn (including part of an old car that clearly had taken a plunge over the falls). Alison was distinctly unimpressed – by the scales (but then she’s seen the Niagara Falls and I can understand that any other falls are mere dribbles by comparison), but especially by the litter.
Matthew on the other hand, was having a whale of a time. Naked, he was prancing about on the rocks like the mad bridge-keeper from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. (“Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see…..what… is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?”)
Half an our later we began the trudge back up the hill. Zach’s legs suspiciously always trouble him whenever we have to walk uphill, so it was no surprise when, about a third of the way up, he could go no further. Daddy Packhorse (the hidden middle name of all fathers of small children) was called into action and mule-like (or maybe llama-like) I trudged even more slowly up the muddy track, with Lester Piggot urging me to greater efforts (until his stick/whip/sword/light-sabre sadly snapped under my foot … ooops).
Approaching the top we passed a party of Americanadians (sorry, not sure which!) on their way down … in flip-flops. “You might need these” we suggested, gallantly offering our walking sticks.
Back at the top, panting, we recovered our breath as a fantastic butterfly fluttered around us. Does anyone know what type it is – please do tell me if you do? It was a good 3 inches across the black and yellow striped wings.
Then it was back into the car (muddy shoes in the boot), and off to our overnight destination of Santiago, which is for the next episode.