Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Luperon Weeks 1 & 2 Feb 1st-15th

Now that we are all checked in, we are learning the ins and out of Luperon. There is quite a cruising community here, over 100 boats, and at times 150. Of that, about half have been in Luperon for a year or longer. This harbour is as good a hurricane hole, affordable and safe as anywhere in the Caribbean, so has become another "velcro beach". But it is different than Georgetown and the long term cruisers want it to be that way!!
El Commandate's House
There is a cruiser's net, twice a week, where the usual boat problems, social activities and commercial ventures are discussed. The harbour monitors 68 and any other channel that has been mentioned on 68.

Because eating and drinking "off the boats" is so inexpensive, most cruisers spend more time off their boats, than on them. Current exchange rate 34 pesos for $1 (at this point we don't care if US or Cdn) Daily activities include the trip to the local bakery for fresh bread (10 pesos for large submarine roll), finding the fruit/vegetable truck for whatever is in season, walkabout town to find somewhere for lunch (100 pesos or less), then back to the yacht club for happy hour (grande Bohemia 40 pesos and free popcorn). Sometime in there you might find time to take your laundry to be done (200 pesos for couple weeks of stuff), go to the internet café (30 pesos an hour), and sit in the park and talk to the other cruisers as they do the same. The availability of fruits and vegetables is such a change from the Bahamas. Right now in season are pineapples, oranges, tangerines, eggplant, squashes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce and whatever we buy costs about 100-200 pesos and will do for a couple of days.

We have met back up with Joe and Wendy (Off Call) whom we met on our trip down the US intercoastal, and in the Bahamas last year. They have been here since last April and have taken us and a couple other boats (Bohemian 2 and Equinox) under their wing to show us around. Our first adventure was to Puerto Plata. Wendy and Joe go there about once a month primarily to get money. There is an ATM in Luperon, it rarely works for Canadians and even some Americans can't get money from it. (Verizon will change US into pesos in Luperon and will do cash advances). There also is an ATM in Imbert but it often "eats" cards, so Joe and Wendy go to Puerto Plata and we will follow their example.

Puerto Plata is about 20 miles east of Luperon, along the northern coast of the DR, but to get there you have to go to Imbert (inland) and then back to the coast. As described in Bruce Van Sant's book (we are trying not to call him God, since he lives here), we walked in town to the guagua park, got into a guagua (van), which took us to Imbert (35 pesos), where we crossed the road to get on the bus (really a minibus) to Puerto Plata (20 pesos). The entire trip took about an hour through beautiful hilly countryside. The roads are paved, and just wide enough for two trucks to pass, and used by large commercial trucks, buses, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, horses and donkeys with riders, and cows, chickens, goats, dogs, and pedestrians. There is no way we would be driving on those roads, but the guagua and bus drivers are used to the congestion, pass with care and use their horns liberally.

In Puerto Plata, we found the Scotia Bank and our card gave us pesos, toured a couple of good sized grocery stores, saw where we could get fabrics and craft supplies, walked a bit, had great ice cream, before reversing the transit process back to Luperon. We didn't have time to do any of the touristy things, like check out the Fort, the beaches, cruiser docks, amber museum but there will be another trip.

Over the next week, we had water, diesel, and propane delivered to RAFT. Again, it is very affordable and easier on Ross's back to have Handy Andy bring everything out to us!! Luperon Harbour Looking North to Turks & Caicos
Luperon Harbour Looking South to Imbert

There are lots of places to walk around Luperon. From behind the yacht club (or marina), we walked through the partially developed "estate" area. More livestock than homes at this point Downtown Luperonand up the hill to enjoy a fantastic view of the harbour, the reefs we had passed at the entrance, and beach along the north shore where the all inclusive hotel sits. The beach did not compete with what we had enjoyed in the Bahamas, but the hills, trees and flowers are a nice change. Then we walked down to the beach, apparently the beach is public, despite the hotel's efforts to control access. We also explored the small beach at the harbour entrance. Here we had a weiner roast, organized by one of the cruisers, a good chance to meet more of the crowd here.

The only negative that we have discovered so far about Luperon, is the water in the harbour. It is not the beautiful, clear blue we had in the Bahamas. It is green, turbid, polluted and after rain, it gets worse with the runoff. Somedays, you can see the mud shoals, but most times even our depth sounder has problems knowing what is below RAFT.

We have decided to remain in Luperon until we go home in March. That means we can space out our sightseeing trips, just doing one a week. We did Puerto Plata last week, and Joe and Wendy were going to Santiago in our second week , so we tagged along. This time we hired a guagua and driver for the day. Split between 4 boats, the cost including the drivers lunch and tip was 500 pesos ($15). Santiago is a large city (think over a million people), about 30 miles away as the crow flies, but of course the roads don't go that way. It is a really pretty trip through the mountains, tobacco and fruit farms, rushing streams and small villages. Fruit, food and beverages are readily available along the way if you dare to pull off the road. The main reason you go to Santiago is for engine parts and groceries, 8A called ochaA is like a Home Depot, and PriceMart just like home! Of course there is a Scotia Bank, so we topped up our cash reserves. We lunched at a North American styled food court in a mall (Burger King US prices) and toured the cigar museum which was really interesting. Trip back at rush hour, and we were all glad we had hired Umberto, our careful driver!! Stray animals seem to jump out from around every bend. Weaving between the goats, cows, donkeys and horses coupled with potholes while sight seeing is more than we can handle.

After being here almost a week, El Commodante came and told us we had to move. They had decided that we were anchored in the channel and interfering with access to the government dock. We also heard that one of the salvage boats was carrying explosives, and that would be a good reason to keep out of their way. Regardless of the reason, we upped anchor and moved over closer to the yacht club. This is better, since we seem to be at the club every evening for happy hour.