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Los Haitises National Park, DR

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Lush growth and conical hills of Los Haitises.

From our slip in Puerto Bahia Marina, I can see the other side of Samana Bay where the Haitises National Park resides.  The park, established in 1976, was originally 80 square miles but was expanded to 319 square miles in 1996.  Los Haitises has very little road access and includes a protected virgin forest and home to a variety of birds.  The park is a fairly popular spot for ecotourism and the number of visitor each year is supposedly limited, although we did not have any trouble getting permission to take LIB across the bay for a visit.

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Birds in the air and in the trees.

Laurie and Ken of s/v Mauna Kea and Laura and Chris of s/v Temerity agreed to join us on LIB and head across the bay for an overnight visit to Los Haitises.  Ken and Laurie had already visited once so they were our resident experts for the trip.

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Laura and Laurie relaxing on the trampoline.

After a relaxing sail across Samana Bay, we anchored near an inlet that Ken told us led to a large ecolodge with beautiful surroundings and fair vittles.  Once anchored, we hopped into the dinghy and motored through one of the most beautiful creeks we have explored to date. 

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I wish I could share the sounds with you as well!

While the water was not the gin clear color we experienced in the Bahamas, the overhanging trees and lush surroundings were breathtaking.

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Village Weaver nests.

Nestled among many branches were groups of round bird nests.  I later learned that these nests are woven from leaves by the males of the “Village Weaver” species (Ploceus cucullatus).  The males weave a nest in the hope that a female will come along, appreciate his handiwork and choose him as a mate.  Once she chooses her mate, the female lays 4-6 small blue-green eggs.  Village Weavers are not indigenous to the Dominican Republic but rather were brought from Africa on slave ships around 1796. Originally the birds were only found in Los Haitises but recently some have been seen in the capital of Santa Domingo.

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This looks more triangular than round… wonder if some female found it exciting?

A short walk past horses, cows, chickens and other livestock roaming in fields was the promised ecolodge.  I am not sure what qualifies this as an ecolodge, but I can tell you it is beautiful.  We had to pay a small fee per person to enter the grounds and this allowed us to explore the area, have lunch and get in the water.  Pictures will do far more justice than my words…

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A water feature at the entrance to the lodge.

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The sound of waterfalls added to the ambiance of lunch.

Los Haitises has an average annual rainfall of 79 inches. In contrast, Dallas, TX has an annual rainfall of 37 inches.  I believe all of the water features are fed from fresh water mountain springs and runoff.

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The stonework reminded me of WPA projects from the 1930s.

Laura speaks Spanish very well and struck up a conversation with the gentleman in charge of construction of a new hotel being completed as part of the lodge.  All number of US agencies would have slapped fines on the builder for showing us around the construction site but we were thrilled to have a first hand view and he was equally pleased to show off the hotel.

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Numerous rooms and additional water features for the lodge.

I must admit that the way these accommodations have been incorporated into the hillside and how the rooms include natural features of the land is truly remarkable.  We toured for about 40 minutes and were allowed to see every room and planned space. 

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Stairways that seem to belong within the hillside.

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Use of indigenous materials made the hotel feel more like it “belongs” here.

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The view from the upper rooms.

In the picture above, the left side shows a water feature and to the right, the bare areas are the future home of a PuttPutt course.  I’m not sure how that fits into an ecolodge but I am sure it will be well liked by visitors.

The construction tour was truly a treat made even more delicious because we knew back home laws would have prevented us from having strolling through this construction site.

Next up was a visit to the caves used by the Tiano Indians way back before Columbus landed! There are two areas for viewing caves on Los Haitises; one is very obvious and is actually a little lame compared to the cave tour we had back in Thompson Bay.  But the second option is to hire a local guide who takes you to a more remote cave.  Our guide rode in the dinghy and took us through a meandering creek where we stopped at a nicely built wooden dock.  From there a quick walk along a path through dense trees led us to a cave used more than 500 years ago by the Tiano Indians.

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I just liked the light in this picture.

I was not supposed to take pictures of the hieroglyphics painted by the Tianos and I honored that request.  The images were painted with sap from a local tree and the only color used was black.  Still, it is interesting to see the “recordings” these people left behind.

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Hard to believe all this light is in the caves.

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Somehow this makes me think of the resurrection of Jesus.

We were told that the Tianos used the caves to hide and escape from Columbus.  Legend has it that they had a few entrances to the caves and the Tianos walked backwards from various directions to confuse their trails, then they escaped through a hidden opening.  Very clever!

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Looking out from the first caves.

A special thank you to Ken and Laurie who decided to skip the second cave and held on to Captain so I could explore the cave.

Once the cave tour was completed, we motored back to Puerto Bahia as the wind was in our faces.  The trip to Los Haitises was quick but it was also interesting and fun to share with friends.

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A peaceful bend in the creek leading to the Tiano Caves.

As always, thank you for stopping by to read our blog.  If you want to see what we are up to more often, check out our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44. We would love to hear from you. 

Las Terrenas and Santa Domingo, Sites of the DR

Well Hunter has flown back to the States, so once again I am away from my sons.  It is always so hard to say goodbye, but I am fortunate that my children are self sufficient and making their own ways in life. So maybe I shed a few tears, but I have no complaints.

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The open air lobby at Marina Bahia.

LIB has been in Marina Bahia in Samana Bay, Dominican Republic this week.  I have to say, this marina is very nice! The people are friendly and happy and the facilities are great.  It feels pretty upscale yet the fees are very reasonable.

Our friends on s/v Mauna Kea and s/v Temerity are in this marina as well, so we have gathered for cocktails and pizza a few times in the lobby, then met in the gym to work off the calories. We are all waiting for a good weather window to cross to Puerto Rico, but this is such a comfortable place that we are not in a big hurry.

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These pretty buildings in Las Terrenas back up to the beach.

Hunter, Frank and I explored Las Terrenas, a town about 45 minutes away by car.  Las Terrenas, with a population of about 40,000, is a visual blend of tourist and local areas.  There are not any apparent building or zoning restrictions in the DR like you would find in the U.S., so streets often switch between clean and well maintained to much less so.

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A board walk along one of several beaches in Las Terrenas.

Although this is a fairly popular area for kite boarding, the wind was insufficient for us to ride.  Instead we strolled along the streets absorbing the ambiance of the area, which was aided by Hunter’s ability to communicate and read in Spanish.

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Lunch in Las Terrenas

The weather was overcast and mild so we found an outdoor spot for lunch.  The owner was originally from Spain and Hunter was able to order some of the foods he ate routinely while living there this past year.  It was pretty neat to get to taste some of the food he loved while living abroad.

Frank has decided that having his hair cut in random places by unknown barbers is part of the adventure of cruising life, so we were on the search for a hairstylist in Las Terrenas.

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I love the name of the shop.

We hit the jackpot with La Matematica De Dios, the mathematician of God?  Not only was the haircut meticulous, the location was quite unique…

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Frank and Hunter up on the roof where the barber shop is located.

The international airport on the DR is near the capital city of Santa Domingo.  Santa Domingo is the first city of the Americas and the third stop for Christopher Columbus. Since we were going to take Hunter to the airport, we decided to go a few days early and learn a bit about the history of Santa Domingo.

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A typical street in Zona Colonial.

You might remember that we took our own self-guided tour of Charleston, NC way back on the ICW and “Tour Guide, Frank” decided to stop at a brewery after only three stops on our tour.  Well we decided to self guide again in Santa Domingo, but there just wasn’t enough information available on the web to learn much.  We ended up hiring a private guide named Juan Sanchez who took us on a walking tour of the old city of Santa Domingo.  Juan actually does tours for the US Embassy in Santa Domingo and he really knows his history.  If you have the opportunity to hire a guide, I strongly recommend Juan.

Zona Colonial is the oldest city of the New World and many building remain.  The influence of the Catholic Church is visible because many of the old city buildings related to the church. Juan told us that even today the majority of the Santa Domingo’s 4 million residents are Catholic.

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Franciscan Monastery built around 1508.

Notice the rope design above the door to the left in the picture above.  This rope was symbolic of the rope used to tie the waist of a Franciscan Priest’s tunic and identified the building as belonging to a religious order.  If you look in Zona Colonial, you will find other buildings with the same rope design above the door.

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The ruins of a private chapel.

It was a fairly common practice in the 1500s for wealthy families to have private chapels and perhaps even their own priest.  Even before Juan told us this had been a private chapel, it was easily identifiable as a church by it’s three bells on top.

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Each candle holder is the shape of a kneeling priest.

There is a stunning building in Zona Colonial called the National Pantheon that was originally a Jesuit Church constructed between 1714- 1746.  The building has a varied history but today it is a national symbol for the Dominican Republic and houses the remains of the countries most honored citizens.

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A view from the highest point of  Ozama Fortress.

Construction of Ozama Fortress began in 1502 and is the oldest military fortress in the Americas.  The castle, built to protect the City of Santa Domingo, faces the Ozama River after which it was named.

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Town Hall, another first in the Americas.

This pretty building, built in the early 1500s was remodeled in the early 1900s to restore it’s original elegance.  The ironwork and plants give it a Spanish or European flair.

These pictures represent only a fraction of the historic buildings in the old city.  To my grave disappointment, we were unable to tour the Basilica Cathedral of Saint Maria la Menor because I was wearing shorts.  Ladies must wear a skirt or long pants to enter the cathedral.  The Basilica was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1504 and Mass is still celebrated daily! I am certain we will visit the DR again and I will NOT miss Mass the next time we visit.

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Ojo, Spanish for eye or hole.

After a thorough tour of the old city, Juan drove us to Three Caves, Los Tres Ojos, a natural and beautiful area right in the middle of the city! The Taino Indians, who were the first inhabitants of Hispaniola, lived in these caves although I did not see any information about their history or lifestyle.

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Refrigerator Lake was not really cold.

In actuality, there are four lakes in the area but only three have names: Sulphur, Ladies and Refrigerator.  “Ladies Lake” received that name because only ladies were allowed to swim there, but I don’t know the reason for the other two names or why the fourth lake isn’t named.  Juan remembers swimming in the lakes up until the mid 1970s when swimming was prohibited.

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Guides pull the boats along with ropes to visit the fourth ojo.

Los Ojos are truly beautiful and I could imagine all sorts of long ago scenarios with Taino Indians living here or kids sneaking away for a swim to escape the heat or perhaps young lovers meeting in secret!

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I would need a wide angle to get the whole building!

Our final stop with Juan was the Columbus Light House erected in 1992 to honor the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival.  This was a huge structure, built in the shape of a cross.

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The remains of Columbus are in this mausoleum.

In addition to being the resting place for Columbus, the lighthouse is a museum which houses display rooms for each country that donated to the building. The exhibits are well done and as varied as the countries represented.  I could easily have spent several hours here instead of the 90 minutes we stayed. (I am embarrassed to report that there is not a display for the U.S. because we did not contribute.)

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Juan told us the lighthouse is only lit for special occasions, but when it is, the light forms the shape of a cross.  I would have liked to see that shining in the night sky!

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The courtyard at Dona Elvira Hotel

After a very long and informative day, we headed back to our hotel and enjoyed sitting in the courtyard outside of our room.  We covered a lot of territory in just two days!

Sunday morning we drove Hunter to the airport so he could fly back to The States.  I am very lucky to have had my sons visit us together and to have Hunter stay a bit longer.  I’m incredibly thankful that they are willing to travel to varied destinations to visit “home.”

As always, thank you for visiting our blog. If you are interested in seeing more of our everyday activities, please visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44

All Together ~ First Time In A Year!

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This is as close as I got to a “family photo.”

Considering there are only four in our family, we sure cover a lot of the globe! Our eldest son, Hunter, has been living in Spain for a year. Our youngest, Clayton, has been living in California and traveling any weekend he can manage to be away from work.  We, of course, have been moving about on LIB.

As a result of being far apart, it is rare for all of us to be together; but when we are, we have a great time and we get along very well.  In fact, although we are miles apart physically, we are a very close family and we miss being together.

So obviously, the apples didn’t fall far from the travel tree and being active is another trait the kids have inherited from us.  That means that when we are together, we generally stay very busy.  This visit to Providenciales, Turks and Caicos, was no exception.  Although Hunter and Clayton dislike my posting pictures, and I catch grief when I post a photo of them on any social media, I’m posting these pictures anyway.  Here is a glimpse into the week Clayton and Hunter were with us and the following week while Hunter was still on board.

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Clayton kiting.

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Returning from a kite trip.

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Hunter and Frank launching a kite from LIB.

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Clayton and Captain off to explore a bit.

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One of the pretty beaches we found while exploring Provo.

It seems like after I had moved away from my parents home, anytime I would return to visit, the absolute feeling of “home” and being completely relaxed often translated into a nap on the couch.  Apparently our kids feel the same tranquility when they are here.  I was especially happy to see them feel so comfortable in our boat since that is now our “home.”

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Nothing like a nap at your parents “house.”

I didn’t get a good picture, but Clayton went scuba diving with us off the western coast of Providenciales.  This is the first time we were able to go diving with Clayton since he and Hunter were certified back in 2014.  We saw a decent number of fish but it was not a particularly clear dive.  Still it was good to explore with him. (Hunter had a sinus infection and couldn’t go.)

After Clayton flew back to California, we had an excellent weather window to go to the Dominican Republic.  We thought it would be especially nice to be in the DR while Hunter was with us so he could act as our interpreter!

The passage was fabulous! We sailed most of the way with favorable winds and seas.

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A visual display of just how comfortable the passage was to the DR.

The topography of the DR is completely different from the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. The lush, mountainous land is a rich and an interesting change from what we have seen for the last five months.

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A double rainbow met us at the entrance to Ocean World Marina.

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Ocean World Marina

The name Ocean World made me think of an amusement park and indeed there is an amusement park right there at the marina.  The marina was clean and the people were really nice, but to me it felt too much like being in a very developed area.

However, Ocean World was an excellent place to use for exploring and, with Hunter fluent in Spanish, we were able to communicate well with the locals and we really enjoyed having that extra insight into the people here.

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Let’s go catch some waves!

Although there is a world renown kite beach called Cabarete here, the wind was not very cooperative.  So Frank and Hunter went surfing and I walked the beach. Check out those super cool, rubber loafers Hunter rented from the surf guy!

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Even along the beach there are many trees.

I enjoyed peaking into the trees and seeing the little areas where benches and huts were hidden. Many of the benches were made from discarded surf boards and other recycled items.

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Colorful huts right near the beach.

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Enjoying an afternoon snack along the beach.

The area where we surfed was pretty sparse with the huts and surf rental huts built under the trees, but we also found beaches that totally catered to tourists.  Even though it was nice to have plenty of options for drinks and snacks along the touristy beach, vendors approached often trying to sell us jewelry or cigars or pralines or lunch, etc.  They weren’t offensive, but it makes me uncomfortable to say no.  I could do without so many people asking me to buy things.

Fortunately the wind did kick in one day and Hunter and Frank went to Cabarete to kite-board. They said the scene was great for kiting and that there were many really excellent local kiters. Cabarete was a crowded kite area and probably not the best place for beginners so I was glad I had chosen to stay at LIB and have some quiet time.

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Hunter jumps from on of the falls.

Twenty-seven Falls is a must do event when visiting the northern part of the DR.  We spent one afternoon hiking up a mountain, then sliding, jumping and swimming our way back down.  This was a hugely fun day and I highly recommend it!  A guide is required and I would not have wanted to try to do this without one.  After all, we were jumping into pools of water and we would not have known their depth without a guide to help us.

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In addition to getting a little exercise, the scenery was beautiful!

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We look stunning in our protective gear!

Moving east along the northern coast of the Dominican Republic can be a challenge because of the easterly trade winds.  We wanted to move east to Marina Bahia in Samana and the weather forecast showed that we had to move quickly or we would have to stay in Ocean World for another 7-10 days.  There was definitely more to see near Ocean World, but we had to move.

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Sunset at anchor near Rio San Juan.

The weather didn’t look great to head east, but we decided to make a run for it.  This was not our best decision and after slogging in to the wind from 9:30 am to 4:40 pm, we decide to take refuge behind a mountain in near Rio San Juan.  We had a little trouble finding a good anchor spot but managed to get settled by around 7 pm.  We had a good dinner, then climbed in bed for a nap until midnight.

At midnight we upped anchor and again headed east. Our hope was that the winds would be less at night. Frank took the first watch and because it was so windy, he let me sleep until the winds settled – around 5 am!!!! Fortunately, after I took watch the wind fell and was below 10 knots the remainder of the trip.

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Marina Bahia is beautiful!

We arrived at the Marina Bahia around 1:30 pm and it was a welcome sight.  The trip was not horrible, but it wasn’t our best passage either.  The trees surrounding this marina are thick and verdant and I practically expect monkeys or parrots among the branches!

Hunter kindly pointed out that during his 25th year, we only saw each other for a total of maybe three weeks.  At least this year we had the chance to celebrate his 26t birthday while he was on LIB!  Nothing like a homemade cake to remind you of your childhood.

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Creative candles since I didn’t have 26 of them.

We have a few more days before Hunter leaves and we hope to spend a couple of nights in Santa Domingo with him.  It is really hard to say goodbye to my kids but at least this time we have plans to see each other again pretty soon!

As always, thank you for visiting our blog! If you want to know what we are doing more often, feel free to visit our FB page: Let It Be, Helia 44.

 

 

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