Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Trip to Waterfalls

El jefe, lower right
Trip to Waterfalls
Originally uploaded by S/V Raft.

Everyone who visits Luperon or Puerto Plata seems to talk about the waterfalls. Either they did the tour, wished they had done the tour, or saw the waterfalls on Jurassic Park. We had talked to many of the boaters in the harbout who definitely recommended going. We booked our tour through Rosa Van Sant (Bruce's wife), a full day tour including the falls, a trip to a coffee farm, a chance to sit on the Brahma bull, tour a soapstone carving factory, lunch and drinks for $30US -- a lot of money here, but apparently worth it. We booked for Thursday with our friends from Island Dreamin', V'jer, and Orion. It rained Tuesday and Wednesday, and we were warned that the water would be high in the river. Some people had cancelled their trip due to the rain, but it wasn't raining Thursday morning, and we thought it would be okay, we figured we were going to get wet anyway!!

We loaded up the truck at the marina, and then went to the hotel and picked up 6 young Dutch people (age: twenty something) before heading off to Imbert and the backcountry. (Un)Fortunately for us the bull was busy in Santa Domingo so we didn't get to sit upon it, missed another photo op. So it was off to the coffee farm, where they didn't show us how it grows, but we did get a re-enactment of how the women ground the beans in days gone by, and how cigars are made (the museum in Puerto Plata was better). One of the antics at the coffee farm was the placing parrots and snakes on volunteers (guests/tourists), and a chance to buy some local "art". The soap stone carving factory was more interesting. Here they mine petrified wood which they call soapstone, and then carve, and polish it into statues and other small handicrafts. The cost was minimal for the manhours that it took. They also gave us a demonstration of a mock cock fight. No blood was spilled. The roosters were wearing tiny boxing gloves on their feet. Lunch was excellent, and then we were off to the FALLS!! Restaurant Kitchen-- Typical

The first indication, that the rain was going to make this "interesting" was the river we had to ford from the parking lot to the start of the waterfall trail. Usually this river is about knee deep, but for us it was waist deep, and we crossed diagonally, holding hands kindergarten style so as not to be swept away in the current. Then we had about a half hour hike through the forest, crossing the stream several times, but the stream was only a few inches deep, and our 2 guides ensured that we did not lose our footing. We approached the first falls. Here we left our camera, because we would be swimming, and climbing around the falls from here on up. There are 21 waterfalls in total, but the guides only do the first seven.
Fording Streams to Get to the Waterfall
At Falls 1 & 2, you swim, climb a ladder and scamper up the rocks, this was fine. We were glad we had worn our wetsuits, they kept us very comfortable, and the helmets and PFD's (rented for $1US) looked after our safety. It was great swimming in the fresh clean water. At Falls 3, you had to swim and pull yourselves along a rope to the base of the falls. At that point, there was a 10 foot climb in the raging falls. But to help us, we had to put our left foot in guide #1's hand, and give "el jefe" (the head guide who spoke English) your left hand and he would pull you up...right!! One of the Dutch girls refused to go on, and Bev was glad that Rhonda from V'jer went ahead of her, because she was thinking about chickening out. But "el jefe" was incredibly strong and pulled us all, even the big guys, up the precipice and had us stand on his feet to steady us, and get us safely on the rocks.

Then we were off to Falls 4, where you had to hold the guides hands, and climb up the rock face with your feet, until the guide could pull us to the top. It wasn't pretty, but all of us continued on. We clambered over some rocks and back into the raging stream, clawed our way along the edge to where we could see the base of Falls 5. At that point we sent our strongest swimmer, Jim from Orion, to see if it was possible to continue on. When Jim was unsuccessful at overcoming the current, we retreated.We would make no attempt to get to #7.

We thought that now we had done the tough ascent, going down would be fun "el jefe" told us to hold onto him (he was next to the rock wall) and we would walk down the stream until.we started down but the current was so great that Ross was swept away down Falls 4. Bev was screaming to "el jefe", and he pushed Bev against the wall and went after Ross. Bev could not see where Ross had gotten to, but imagined the worst, just like in the movies. However, Ross had gotten himself stopped at the next level, before the guide had gotten to him, and only had a scaped leg and and lost watershoe to show for his adventure. Meanwhile the other guide had come to rescue Bev, walked her to where you were supposed to jump into the pool below. That first jump was quite an experience, even with a PFD on, you did wonder if you were going to come back up.

We did the remaining jumps but at each level, the guides were extremely careful because the currents and whirlpool action of the falls was increased due to the higher water. It was fun, but we were very apprehensive. Both of us said, they would like to do the falls again, but only when it hadn't rained for a week, hopefully then it would just be fun and not so scary.

When we returned to Luperon, Roy Keith on Renaissance, who had gone to the Falls on Tuesday, not on a daytrip, just with a group and a rented van, wrote and shared this poem when he heard our tales.

The Luperon Waterfall Trip

Last Tuesday some friends and I took a trip to the waterfall.
We waded a stream, strolled and swam - a good time was had by all.

On Thursday other friends went on a trip to the self same place
But the stories we heard regaled by them made my heart absolutely race.

They swore they forged a raging river and stood on death's dark door,
But midst the danger they waved their fists and hollered bring on more.

I gather they had to scale some cliffs using only their fingernails
They suffered from rain and snow and sleet and even a bit of hail.

The ladies said they wouldn't have made it without the guide to push
Their eyes glazed over as they recounted that the push was on their tush.

They talked endlessly about one guide, a Dominican Adonis no doubt,
And how his muscles rippled and how his Speedo filled out.

Our intrepid group finally reached the falls and how their hearts did quiver,
For now they beheld the roaring majesty of the terrible cascading river.

They said the sound was deafening, it rattled their very bones,
The ladies said they began to jiggle, the men lost their cajones.

But big bad Bob rose to the occasion and urged them further on,
He puffed his chest and clenched his fist and looked bad to the bone.

There's some question of just how far they got, one said level seven,
Another said he didn't know but heard angel music from Heaven.

I then got lost in all the tales but at last I think I got 'em,
Something about the head of the Nile and a lost bikini bottom.

National Geographic filming our intrepid group got everything all wrong,
Something about a three headed alien and Elvis in a thong.

I also heard about a deadly python between one person's legs,
And a bird atop another head dropped something that wasn't eggs.

There was also something about an alligator, though that part wasn't clear
And some recounting of buzzards and wolves and even a grizzly bear.

Then to my amazement I discovered their bus served Rum and beer,
And it caused me to wonder about all the tales we'd been caused to hear.

But whether true or whether false or somewhere in between,
I know that their experience had been more than I had seen.

And though we'd enjoyed the company and had fun with our first little troupe
The next time there's a trip, we're damned sure going with this other group.
Jim & his Python

Roy & Wanda are a lot of fun, and he is always writing these great poems. He wrote on in Georgetown, his version of "The Night before Christmas" and one about Mic on Escargot fishing seminars. His latest was about Bruce Van Sant and was read at the Pot luck at Puerto Blanco Marina.