This is part of the ninth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Puerto Rico
5/4/03 We slept on the floor of the Pullman chair lounge with most of the passengers being Puerto Ricans on holidays booking cabins. The modern ferry had us into Santo Domingo at 8.30 am and being last on we were first off. But here our problems started. As the bike was booked cargo and we're not returning to Puerto Rico we chased around after paperwork as we watched all the other vehicles slowly move through a thorough customs check and were given their 30 day free permit to drive in the DR. By 12.00 noon we were no further advanced and would have to return Monday when the main revenue office opens in town. After a lot of pushing and quietly stating we would set up camp for the weekend on the wharf we were allowed to take the motorcycle out of customs for the weekend, leaving behind passports, to return Monday. In hindsight a return ticket for myself and the motorcycle, not much extra cost, a few lies about going back to Puerto Rico, and the whole two day event in both countries would have been simple. Being different, not fitting in with the system the officials have created, not going along with the sheep causes most of our problems. The rash and swelling from the allergy had eased overnight and despite the first hotel with parking having only one TV channel in English "xtasy" and many attractive women in the hallway we were ecstatic after two days of wondering why we are travelling. Batteries recharged, in the afternoon we were on the streets, vibrant and friendly, street stalls, street cafe's, bands playing and people watching, A live interacting place.
6/4/03 Santo Domingo, the capital, was the first European city to be built in the new world. Started by Christopher Columbus it soon became the first capital city and the hub of trade with South America. Many of its early buildings survive and have been restored. Built in coral limestone they now house museums or hotels. The western world's first cathedral is also here on its central plaza surrounded with outdoor cafe's in the Americas tradition. Sundays are quiet, wandering the streets, looking at architecture and enjoying shore life. The 4 million people here now have outgrown the old city sprawling into cheap hot concrete boxes, their occupants often sitting in the streets for a breezeway.
7/4/03 We were at customs on opening and despite them allocating an officer to assist in the paperwork it wasn't until an importer, Carlos, took over the problem that things started to move. The ferry company had to reclassify the motorcycle from cargo to tourist vehicle and then customs had to bend the rules and give us special permission to import the motorcycle without duty, and a letter from the head of department to be allowed to leave and return to the Dominican Republic after a visit to Haiti. By 4.00 pm we could leave with the motorcycle but needed to return tomorrow for the final papers. In the end no payments were necessary nor asked for and everyone had gone to great effort to get around our problem. Dominican Republic vehicles need special permission to visit Haiti, issued by the local police, who can't give permission to foreign registered vehicles. So whether we can get the motorcycle into Haiti is still unclear but at least we can get it back into the Dominican Republic.
8/4/03 The last of the customs papers and a visit to the H-D dealer, our last before the mainland. Welcoming and friendly our reputation proceeding us. Apparently the magazine articles have caused some notoriety and with photos of us and the motorcycle, signing copies of the magazine and being given a local H-D T-shirt each we felt like celebrities. If this keeps up our heads will be more swollen and our luggage overweight with T-shirts. It is a great welcoming to a country in what we see as the final stages of our 100th anniversary trip. We dined out at the local Chinese, fourth night in a row, revelling in better food than we have been cooking on the boat. Then around the corner at the local outdoor bar. Surrounded by high-rise apartment housing kids play in the street, parents drink on a vacant lot, an overflow from the alcohol shop. Those unofficial bars, really just liquor outlets, spill into the streets with plastic chairs, music and atmosphere. Buy your bottle of choice complete with plastic cups and sit in the street, covering the cup when the wind blows to avoid the dust and rubbish almost unseen in the night light.
9/4/03 A relaxed stroll around the botanical gardens and eats and drinks with the local HOG (Harley Owners Group) at their Wednesday night hang out in the evening. Enough of their members spoke english for us to enjoy the conversation. It's a wealthy pastime, owning a Harley, in the Dominican Republic, and the industry seems to be doing well with an 80 member club.
10/4/03 Boca Chica is the closest beach place to Santo Domingo, just 25 km east, a mix of locals and tourists, package holidays and independents, mostly Europeans. The beach was over developed with restaurants leaving little room to sit on the sand. OK to escape a European winter but certainly not idyllic. Our friend Jimbo, from the USA, flew in to travel with us for the next couple of months. He will be renting small motorcycles in each country and travelling on the boat till we get to Cuba. We rode together in Central America a year ago so I guess it worked out as he has come back for more.
11/4/03 The Harley shop here puts on a free Friday evening drinks and small eats. Because of the special guests, us, we were told, they enhanced the occasion with a large table of local delicacies, fruits, cheeses and meats. We were given the 100th anniversary cap and shirt the HOG chapter had made for each of its members and were made feel incredibly welcomed. The riders moved onto the HOG bar, a small members only drinking house and later some of the younger members, after midnight, headed to the discotheque.
12/4/03 A dozen riders met at the local coffee shop at 8.30, some not having slept much, and after the photo session, rode us out of town and the 240 km's to the north of the island, to Luperon. Riding well and at 10 km/hr faster than most of the other traffic we weaved along the good roads stopping twice to eat. "Ride to Eat, Eat to Ride". Lunch in Luperon and a temporary farewell to a great group of riders, 10 of whom we hope to meet up with again as they are heading also to Milwaukee for the 100th Anniversary.
13/4/03 After checking out the wharf, this is where we load the motorcycle back onto the boat in two weeks to leave the DR, we headed east along the resort developed coast. Almost each beach has an all inclusive holiday resort where westerners can visit another country, yet have all the comforts from home. Playa Dorado is the pinnacle. 13 resort complexes around golf courses inside fences and boom gates, its visitors never needing to escape the security to visit the real DR as every conceivable entertainment is provided, except the real world. We settled in Cabarete, also developed but with small hotels. The place famous for windsurfing and kitesurfing, the beach packed with busloads of day trippers from Santiago at the beginning of the holiday season. In the evening a quieter ambience settles over the now litter strewn beach, the restaurants serving mainly Europeans. Not having heard much about the Dominican Republic before our arrival here we are amazed at the amount of foreign tourism this country has.
14/4/03 Jimbo rented an almost new 125cc trail motorcycle for the next two weeks, $US 16.00 a day, and we escorted him on a trial ride up into the central hill country to Moca. A good road cutting through pasture land and agriculture with small villages along the way. One favourite roadside food here is whole rotisserie pig or deep-fried pork ribs. We tried the latter today having indulged on the former yesterday. Luckily we won't be having a cholesterol count for a while as the fatty pork deep fried surely isn't artery friendly, but it tasted great.
15/4/03 Motorcycles are used here for almost every cheap form of transport. At each intersection there are a few bikes waiting for passengers. They carry chickens, gas bottles, timber, baskets of fruit, almost anything. They are also noisy, being mostly two stroke, and belch fumes from often unmuffled exhausts, We call them mosquitoes, buzzing and weaving around us, hopefully we will avoid the sting of an accident. Jimbo's first loaded ride on his motorcycle to Las Terrenas, a beachside town, like others grown quickly with the tourist boom of the last ten years. More away from large population centres it has kept its beachside beauty and our waterfront hotel fronts a coconut tree strewn sandy beach of warm tropical waters.
16/4/03 Such is the climate that a branch cut from a tree and put in the ground will grow. This is how they make fence posts. The fence post grows to cut more fence posts and the leaves are eaten by the cattle. We headed out for a day ride but stopped as the rain started. Had a coffee, then lunch as the rain continued. Not wanting to spend the whole day in the roadside restaurant we rode back in drizzle, rain continuing into the evening.
17/4/03 The bane of a motorcyclist, rain, with us again today. The morning sunshine on our way to La Galerias but by lunchtime a torrential tropical downpour. It never ceases to amaze me that in five minutes we can be soaked but it takes the water hours to leave our clothes dry again. Water penetrates so quickly yet escapes so slowly. This is the wetter side of the island and you can't have rainforests without rain. More beautiful beaches and limestone headlands with small islands dotting the ocean. Samana Santa (Easter) is hotting up, all hotels full and beaches packed. Windsurfers, jet skis and boating is banned for safety reasons yet almost anyone of any age can ride the small motorcycles, from about 10 years old and up, and up to five people to a motorcycle.
18/4/03 Left early while everyone was sleeping off yesterday nights party and rode 200 km's to Jarabacoa in the mountains. We discovered that the quad bike and dirt bike races are held near here at Easter, the motorcycles being driven through town, mufflerless to the race tracks, with police seemingly uninterested in the situation.
19/4/03 Jarabacoa's claim to fame is it's cool in a country of heat. At 1300 metres and close to the capital many people escape to the mountains when possible. DR claims the Caribbean's highest mountains at over 3000 metres and foreigners come here to climb. The other attraction is waterfalls, three main ones in the area, we visited two with high volumes after the rains, soaked up the negative ions and watched locals swim in the cold waters.
20/4/03 The holiday crowds and noise left this morning but the rain started and we heard caused flooding in the north of the country. Relaxed in cool temperatures and played pool at the local hall overlooking the main square.
21/4/03 Torrential rain all night delaying our departure, finally clearing once we were out of the mountains towards Santo Domingo. Rolando, one of the H-D club members, and Sub-secretary for Foreign Affairs, had prepared a letter of introduction for Kay and I to aid in us getting through the border without problems, and brought it to the H-D dealers. Many of the club members here are high profile people in the community including a Senator and ex-Chief of Police and offered us their assistance should we need it. The good road out of town towards the border at Jimani had little traffic and passed into dryer cactus landscape with pockets of cultivation where many of the more than 1 million Haitians come to the DR to work, mostly in agriculture. The rain had not totally left and we had our wet weather gear on and off three times in the 400 km ride, too hot to leave it on between downpours. Alongside Lake Enriquillo, 3 times saltier than sea water and 30 metres below sea level, children were out playing in the rain as it flooded the streets, a seemingly unusual occurrence in this dry area of the country.
22/4/03 It was Jim's 60th birthday with a planned trip
to Haiti. He could not take his rental motorcycle across the border so left
it at our hotel in Jimani. We were at the border opening at 8 am. With our
letter of introduction and special customs documents left the DR without
problems and payment of just $US 5.00 each at immigration.
Move with us to Haiti , or
go to our next visit to The Dominican Republic
Story and photos copyright ©
Peter and Kay Forwood,