Friday, July 8, 2011

Luperon, Dominican Republic, Part II

Sunday, June 19 – Wednesday, June 29, 2011

As Rene said in a Facebook post, “Luperon puts the ‘tired’ in ‘retired’!” With yoga and water aerobics three times a week, Spanish classes twice a week, the vegetable market Tuesday mornings, the cruiser net Wednesday and Sunday mornings, Troy singing and playing guitar at JR’s on Saturdays, the cruiser swap meet on Sundays, and daily to every-other-day internet lunches or dinners at JR’s, Steve’s Place, or the Upper Deck, we’re wiped out. (And we haven’t even made it to the bi-weekly dinner/dances at Puerto Blanco Marina or movie night on Monday and Tuesday at Wendy’s Bar!) We’ve been on the go since we got here, and there’s no sign of it stopping. Not that we’re complaining! We’ve been having a fantastic time in Luperon, and are eager to see more and more of the island. A number of cruisers have stepped up to introduce us to their favorite spots outside of Luperon, and we’ve been thrilled to share the experiences.

Lisa from Sand Dollar organized another lunch to Olivo’s after Sunday’s swap meet, this time with her husband, Cade, and their friends, Derek and Esther, who own an apartment in town and some land up in the mountains. Eleven of us managed to cram ourselves into two vehicles, and off we went. That afternoon, Lisa, Derek, and Esther arranged for us all to spend the following Tuesday together at Derek and Esther’s property. We rented a car from a local outfit, and followed Lisa and Cade up the mountain. Only 14 miles away as the crow flies, the property took an hour to reach via the pothole-ridden roads. We’d been warned, thanks to Ann Vanderhoof’s books, “An Embarrassment of Mangoes” and “Spice Necklace” that we were almost assured of getting a flat tire when renting a car in Luperon. We just hadn’t expected it to happen so fast! Rene had been swerving to avoid deep holes in the road for 20 minutes; we weren’t even as far as Imbert when we felt the car begin to shimmy. “FLAT!” We pulled over to the side of the road, and the guys worked together to get the spare tire in place. An examination of the flat tire showed a crack in the rim, and we knew we couldn’t chance going all the way up to the mountain on our little bubble spare. Cade knew of a welder in Imbert, so off we went. Two hours and 2,000 pesos ($60 – nearly twice the cost of the rental car) later, we were on our way up the mountain again. We reached the property shortly after noon, and enjoyed breathtaking views as we walked among banana trees, avocado trees, and young coffee plants spread across the acreage. We could hear chickens scratching in the brush, and local boys would wave as they passed by on horses or donkeys. A local woman made a Dominican lunch of chicken, rice, and beans, which tasted great with a couple of cold cervezas. Even better, the 2500’ elevation made for temperatures 10-12 degrees cooler than in Luperon. What a perfect day!

Lisa arranged a girls’ day out later that week to Puerto Plata, where we hunted for sea glass on the beach, avoided a herd of cattle wandering along the main road, had lunch at a local hangout, and went grocery shopping at Supermarcado Tropicale and La Sirena. Once again, we stopped along the side of the road on our way back to Luperon for mangoes, along with key limes and the first avocados of the season. (By the way…where else can you buy an avocado for 30 cents apiece? Yep, still loving it here…)

The week also brought about a series of fund-raisers designed to raise money for Luperon’s town dinghy dock. The dock was repaired three years ago (again, by cruisers), and is now shaped something like a deteriorating roller coaster. Three people have been hurt in the past few months, one of whom broke her leg in two places when she fell through the loose boards. As frustrated as we’ve all been at the government’s refusal to do anything, we’ve also had to remind ourselves that we aren’t in the US anymore. (As some have told us, money earmarked for one thing often finds itself used for something else…like, perhaps, a government official’s new car.) Jerry, a new friend who lives on his boat, Nauti-ness, and runs JR’s Bistro Tropical in town, has been spear-heading the fund-raising efforts. A few of us had pledged money and carpentry skills for the new dock, and a bingo game-slash-bake sale was scheduled for Thursday night. Deana made mini-French bread loaves, and Stacy baked a coconut rum cake. The evening was a great success, and set the stage for Saturday night’s event: an auction to sell items generously donated by the cruising community. Rene and Troy each bought a boat knife, Deana bought an under-water camera, we got a beautiful brass barometer, and Anchor Management Steve (who’d recently arrived back in Luperon on a boat delivery) bought a float-turned-art object that we could all sign and hang under JR’s tiki roof. After the goods were sold, Troy followed up with a set on his guitar, and Deana and Stacy even offered up their cooking services with...what else? French bread, rum cake, and chili, of course! In the end, the event raised somewhere close to 15,000 pesos (about $400), and we were slowly approaching our goal. One of the other Luperon bars has scheduled a fund-raiser for July 4th, so hopefully that’ll clinch it. Thanks to recent trade winds that have bashed the local fishing boats against the dock, the boards are sagging more than ever and the dock is practically sideways. We really need a new one!

Perhaps the highlight of the past two weeks (but really, how can you choose just ONE?) was a motorcycle trip organized by Barbara and Dan on Another Way. It started out as one of those ideas you have over a few drinks…in this case, JR’s first dinghy-dock fund raiser, a poker-run/pub-crawl that was held a couple of weeks ago. Dan and Barbara have had a motorcycle here in Luperon for over a year, and just upgraded (from 125 to 150cc) to a new off-road model. The new bike is perfect for running around on the DR’s bumpy roads, and Troy has been awfully tempted to get one. Rene has resisted so far, but we figured a motorcycle tour would give us a great chance to see more of the island. Barbara talked to Manny (a DR local who lived in the States for most of his live and only recently returned), who arranged for us to rent bikes from the local motoconchos (young guys on 125cc bikes who take you around for a small fee). Apparently the excitement over a motorcycle tour spread like crazy, because we had quite the little gang by the time we met up in front of the Upper Deck restaurant on Monday morning: besides ourselves, there were Deana and Troy (Storyville), Barbara and Dan (Another Way), Ken and Glenis (Gallatea), Barbara and Gary (Pa’La O’La), Steve (Anchor Management), Ted (About Time), Manny, Jerry (Nauti-ness/JR’s), John (Bright Eyes), and Larry (Triton). Manny, John, Jerry, and Dan, all having their own bikes, held strategic points ahead of and behind our caravan, and did a terrific job of keeping us newbies from getting into trouble. We made a massive loop out of Luperon, with stops at the beaches of El Castillo and Punta Rocia. Ken and Glenis ran out of fuel, Steve got a flat tire, and there were a few sore bums thanks to a general lack of shock absorbers. Fortunately, everything was easily fixed, and no one got hurt. We had a fabulous time, and are talking about making this a monthly excursion. The only problem? The outing pretty much clinched Troy’s desire to get a bike, and Gary quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Now you know we can’t be left behind while everyone else goes out and has fun, right?? So…the boys are heading to Imbert over the weekend with Manny to see if they can cut a deal on three motorcycles. Before the moms get too nervous, we should reiterate: these are 150cc motorbikes with off-road tires and suspension. We won’t go very fast and will stay out of the big cities. Okay? We’ll keep you posted!

Please enjoy more pictures here.

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