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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by cavebiker, Jul 14, 2007.
Hi Tom & Heidi,
When are you guys leaving for Columbia...
Hey guys........ Just maybe someday ---- we can resume the exciting life again! Maybe a 2 bike ride?
It was soooo neat seeing you guys in La Paz and Wisconsin!
Had short trip to Bolivia with Grandson... rode the road of death on bicycles.... but not the same as having the old R100GS to get around!
Wonderful story telling and great photos to go with it. Sad to see it come to an end, but all stories do. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us.
It was my pleasure meeting you both at the first ADV Central rally. Best wishes to both of you.
A dream never dies..
Hey! We miss all our ADV inmates, it has been a long time, one year in fact when No Return Ticket ended after I scored my dream job.
Anyway, this is not a personal blog, so Im not gonna fill ya in on what we have been up to, except to say we did successfully escape from the big city and are now living large in the nort woods.
This is what I come home to every day
(oh, and cavegirl of course :)
The reason for this post is because I cannot get that last ride out of my head, The Border with Haiti. That was one cool seven-day ride. I tried to write about it but the more I wrote the less enjoyable the report was. Looking back at all the pics of that ride made me realize the pics are what make the report (da).
So, just for the fun of it (and inmate pay-back), I am re-posting -The Border with Haiti - ride report, with the whole enchilada of pics. This is gonna be fun, enjoy!
- The Border with Haiti -
(cavebiker) - A Motorcycle Ride Report -
- The Border with Haiti - Early in the twentieth century, the US military had built a stone road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in an attempt to better define the border. No maps Ive ever seen show the entire route. I read that most of this road or trail is unpaved and rarely used, covered with jagged tire gouging rocks, pockets of mud, and areas washed away from heavy rains. Also, its rumored that areas along the border are haunted by the wailing ghosts of dead Haitians who had fled there during the colonial era in order to escape slavery.
That all sounds good to me. I have been living on this island with my wife for the past 5 months, exploring the country by motorcycle. Before my old and abused motorcycle completely falls apart, I need to attempt the Haiti border run. The time is now. I have no excuses.
This is not an 'all-inclusive' Dominican Republic report.
Motorcycle adventuring is serious business, for the Haiti border run I need to be very serious. Heidi is my solid partner in every adventure I do, solo or 2-up with her. While getting ready we talk about my gear, its a mental shakeout; camping gear, survival gear, safety gear, first aid supplies, motorcycle tools, world-phone. Check.
The motorcycle is a 1984 Yamaha DT-125, a one cylinder, two-cycle enduro, striped down and painted black. This is a small but serious off-road bike, it has disk breaks and is water cooled. My only concern is the rough shape the bike was in when I picked it up five months ago and all the hard riding we have done on it. Wrenching on motorcycles has always been a joy of mine, but lately I have had too much joy.broken shift lever, break linkage, radiator twice, headlight, flat tires, and a blown head gasket. I hope the problems are done.
This ride starts at a village called Cabarete Beach, once a small fishing village on the north coast of the island. Heidi and I lived here back in the 90s and its a great base camp for exploring the island.
Only six miles into the ride and my new shift lever is loose again. Luckily there are motorcycles repair shops everywhere in the Dominican Republic. Out of 2.1 million registered vehicles, over 1.3 million are motorcycles. With all these motorcycles there appears to be a strong brotherhood among the bikers. As a solo foreigner motorcycle traveler, I am 'one' with this brotherhood. Riders look out for fellow riders here making it an enjoyable place for motorcycle adventure travel. I never feel alone, and thats a good thing especially in the more remote areas.
Dominican Republic motorcycle repairs happen out on the streets, the sidewalk or anywhere where there is a spot to do it, tire change to new piston rings. And best of all, 'while you wait' service. I have been to a lot of shops here and all but once I received immediate service, absolutely incredible. My bill this time is only 50 pesos, a dollar forty US. With a 50 pesos tip, everyone is happy.
The shift lever seems good, all right! My goal today is the extreme northwest corner of the country, the village Monte Cristi. This is great off the beaten path route through real Dominican Republic. However, the route is not new to me, so today riding hard and fast feels good.
Monte Cristi is the end of the Dominican Republic and the start of Haiti on the Atlantic side, the start of the border run. Monte Cristi was once an important trading port used for shipping sugar and valuable lumber. Today the village is dusty and feels a little run down. The town supports farming, fishing and salt mining today.
South along the border are scattered farms on flat arid land. The gravel road is rough and passes through small border villages.
Soon the gravel road improves and runs into a greener region with roadside stands selling fruit.
A motorcycle is parked along the side of the road with a rider working on it. I ask if he would like to use my tools (?querers herramientas?) With my wrench he takes off his chain guard and throws it off into the weeds saying !no neccesato! (I dont need it!) What a great feeling helping out a fellow rider, and around here, it is simply part of the culture. People help each other.
In the Dominican Republic, if you ride off the main freeway at all, you can expect to see cows or horses at any time.
Only a half an hour down the border road and my shift lever is loose again and I am having a hard time shifting. In the next village at a motorcycle shop, I explain my concern. The mechanic is on it in seconds and confidently starts hacking on the shift lever with a hacksaw. He is trying to widen the gap where it clamps, making the lever clamp better, or at least thats what I think he is doing.
Riding further the traffic increases with trucks loaded down with huge sacks of potatoes and there are coconuts sold roadside. I am always amized as to how fast the scenary changes here, you never have a chgance to get boared.
In a small village a women is frying empanadas on an open fires on the outside of a small store. An empanada is a meat, cheese or egg filled pastry found everywhere in the rural countryside and can be bought for between 30 and 60 cents.
Theres a group of men playing dominoes in the shade behind the store. The atmosphere is like some of the small farming communities in Northern Wisconsin I ride through, a familiar feeling.
Pineapple quartered and bagged for 20 pesos.
Pineapple is great road food packed with active enzymes and go fuel. ---motorcycle adventurer paradise---
A train passes. I did not think there were any still in operation. This train is carrying sugarcane looking like long sticks.
The border city Dajabon
At the largest of the border cities, Dajabon, my plan is to buy some packaged cookies for passing out to kids in the rural areas. The delight on their faces is priceless. Oddly, while stopping for gas, a man on crutches is waiting to sell me cookies. I couldnt believe the coincidence. I buy all the cookies he has while Im injected with a feeling of magic.
Gas stations are a fun place to practice Spanish, and I rarely pass up an opportunity for that.
In town, it is hot, several Haitians are walking with overflowing bucket of stuff they hope to sell, all of it effortlessly balanced on top of their heads, (at least appearing effortless) this gives the city an exotic look and feel. In Dajabon, Haitians cross the border to sell wares of knock-offs; shoes, clothes, or almost anything. Dominican entrepreneurs travel to Dajabon with truckloads of food used to trade for these Haitian wares.
The Border with Haiti continued
After Dajabon, the border road quickly rises in altitude twisting past small farms and tropical forest.
My time machine is a motorcycle.
It is getting late. The border road continues to climb into the mountains passing homes selling tropical nuts and fruits.
A modern looking fire engine at a crossroads village in the mountains.
Another small village on the Haitian border, Loma de Cabrera. Stopping at places like this to check out the street food is often a highlight of my day.
Seeing motoconcho riders parked around street food is frequently a sign of a good place to eat, this time is no exception.
Practicing my Spanish with the motoconcho dudes, always a pleasure.
I say el mundo total verá la foto en mi sitio Web (The whole world can see the photos on my website)
The border road continues to climb yielding a noticeably changing climate. The palm trees look different here with pine tree forests and wooden homes.
Homes are noticably more primitive and basic the higher the road climbs
The road continues up. While stopping to oil my chain near a river, a teenage local walks over and strikes up a conversation. Strangely, he asks for soap ?tiena habon? motioning washing his armpits. No problem--- what a refreshing change compared to the kids pestering for pesos in the tourist areas.
There are more small villages along the border with nice clean streets lined with palm trees and mountain views.
With only an hour of daylight to spare, I pull into the village Restauracion, the last village before the carretera internacional. Restauracion is a small but beautiful mountain village with churches and a large central park.
The village Restauracion is located just before a rough section of border road known as the carretera internacional. The carretera internacional is said to be lined with Haitian villages and huts painted with symbols of voodoo deities and is noted to be an extremely isolated section of road. I am spending the night in Restauracion so I can start this section of road early.
Looking for the Central Park after entering a new village is good protocol. Experience drives my inner voice Look for a place to chill and get your bearings first Tom
I check into an $8.00 hotel where Im told I can park my motorcycle down a stairway next to my room.
Halfway down the stairway with my motorcycle a police officer starts holler at me in Spanish from behind. He asks how long Ill be staying in town. Only one night solo una noche. After telling him my ride plan and solo status, he gives me a very serious look. I ask the dumb question ?es carretera seguridad? is the road safe? He says si but continues his serious concerned look. What the heck was that all about?
Its fun riding up the narrow steps the next morning.
Overnight, the street in front of the hotel exploded into a market that stretches for blocks in both directions.
In no time, half a dozen kids offer to shine my boots. I make eye contact with one kid and point Lo sento, est mi numeral uno amigo
(Sorry, this is my number one friend and he will be doing my boots). They all like my moto (motorcycle) and have fun hanging around me while I practice Spanish.
I ask one kid, ¿Vive en Restauracion? (Do you live in Restauracion?)
He tells me si he lives here, but then teases his friend and says that hes from Haiti. Everyone laughs, but the kid.
Restauracion has a military fort and a large military presence. A mile out town is a military roadblock and checkpoint at the start of the section of road that leads into Haiti. I tell the two military dudes on site who I am and where I plan to ride. Of course the first thing they ask is, am I alone ?solo? si, solo Yes, alone. Their eyebrows rise. They tell me to go back in town and get a permit from the police. Back in town the police tell me that I need my original passport to get this permit, my photocopy isnt cutting it.
Panic sets in for just a second before a new plan is developed; ride back north around the central mountains, then south to the other end of the island where the border starts on the Caribbean side. This is a huge detour indeed but hey, that is adventure. I will take as long as it takes for this ride, the only way to do it right. (Heidi and I always engage in post-ride discussions about safety and how number-one, we vow to never be in a hurry, even if things dont go as planned.) Having no schedule is motorcycle adventure euphoria
The detour brings me through more lush and tropical mountain scenery which only adds to the ride. I push on all day long and finally at the south end of the island my route turns off the paved highway and onto another rough mountain dirt road. This will lead me up and over the southern Central Mountains range and toward Haiti again.
I am in a hurry but I know the importance in proper nutrition and hydration. I constantly look for road food while in route.
At times, the road turns to nice pavement, but that never lasts long.
I pass many mountain streams
My road passes primitive wood homes along mountain streams and people fishing.
I am surprised to see a logging truck.
Sensing the gain in altitude and thickening vegetation feels cool.
It is starting to get late and I need to find a place to stay. The next small village has one weird pink hotel, I keep riding. It soon is apparent that my daylight is almost gone. A personal rule of mine is to not ride after dark. If there are no hotels in the next village, I will be sleeping on a park bench or behind a gas station tonightnot a great plan.
Passing over a high bridge spanning a river gorge I spy a trail leading out onto the flood plane of a river. The trail is very rugged and twisty, just the way I like it.
Down the twisty trail I burry the motorcycle straight into some weeds along the river. After a survey Im confident the bike is hidden from the road. I have food, water, shelter and two beers--- I am good for the night.</b>
I make a mattress by gathering a pile of large green leaves and covering them with my camouflage plastic tarp. The sounds of the rushing river fills the gorge as I study my maps, soon a cloak of a billion stars fill in above me. This is good primitive camping.
Its a rough morning that started at 2:00AM when the temperatures quickly dropped. I get a campfire going and put on more cloths. That does the trick some but it is still cold. Some of my earliest memories are of my father stressing the importance of being able to start a campfire if caught out in the wild. I eat, hydrate and study my maps while waiting for the sun.
This is my favorite type of camping, primitive. Heidi thinks I'm weird...
I'll take Heidi's word for it as I am sure she is right...but it's a good weird
Thanks for the update & hope you are both well.
Tom, good to see you posting again. Missed you.
Where are you living now?
Thanks. I missed you,
The Border with Haiti
The ride out next morning
Still high altitude, even with the sun out its still cold. Sometimes its hard to believe this is a Caribbean Island.
It doesnt take long before it feels warm and tropical again.
I never get tired of driving rural roads here
There are surprises every day.
Tooling along, my shift lever loosens again making it hard to shift. This is not good, but at least the problem is now and not in the remote mountains. Its easy to locate a repair shop. I explain the severity of my situation and that this is the third time in four days with the same problem. The mechanic seems to understand whatever the heck came out of my mouth and assures me he has a solution. He adds a piece of shim material to the shift lever, then proceeds to pound the lever onto the shaft using a vice grips to transfer the force of the pounding.
While watching him its obvious he has done this before and is confident of the repair. The cost is again very cheap: only 50 pesos, ($1.30) plus 50 for the tip, another enjoyable Dominican Republic motorcycle shop experience.
Some villages are surprisingly busy
There is a Lamar mine close to here. At a gas station, someone came up to me with a handkerchief filled with raw uncut Lamar stones. This is the only place in the world with Lamar, a semi-precious stone used in jewelry.
Fresh pineapple and cashews sold roadside.
Cashews are great motorcycle road food.
Three bikes, all carrying propane cylinders
The smell of salt air and a feeling of lower altitude.
Riding toward the Caribbean coast then on toward Haiti. The rolling hills, arid terrain, cactus, and seaside cliffs resemble the California coastline, perfect for riding.
At the south end of the island, the road skirts west along the Caribbean Sea. Its nothing but warm air, seaside cliffs and turquoise waters.
The most beautiful white sand beaches are on this side of the island. Nevertheless, for some reason, tourists rarely visit.
The roads here are above average most of the time, but in the DR, a good rider assumes a road hazard around every corner.
Having a great time flying along the Caribbean coast toward the Haitian border, is all-good. My hope is that there will be a motel or two in the border village Pedernales, what kind of motel is the question. Pedernales is the southern start of the border trail not found on any maps. My only account is a few sentences in a guidebook mentioning an extremely steep and rocky remote trail That is what Im looking for, I can feel it. More thought goes into my route now, contingencies plans are a constant part of my being, supplies, personal presentation, packing. Scenarios and solution play out in my head. This is what I call living.
The nicest hotel in town, $11, not great but it has secure parking and a restaurant.
Pedernales sits on the Caribbean Sea at the Haitian border
With a motorcycle or jeep, you can get to some of the most remote beaches on the island from here.
The motorcycle is packed and ready to go early. The hotel has great breakfast and strong coffee, a great way to start the day while studying the maps. Today the ride starts with 50 miles of unknown then 30 miles of road that is on my map. The thought is to allow 3 or 4 hours for the ride but the conditions are unknown and navigation could be a challenge. The ride today starts at sea level, then leads up and over the Sierra de Bahoruco mountain range, the second highest in the Caribbean. My guidebook says the Sierra de Bahoruco area is an uninhabited place and it is very inaccessible. I like the way that sounds and at the same time, it sends shivers up my spine. The map I am using indicates a couple villages in the area, just no roads leading to them, that is a main ingredient to adventure.
The Border with Haiti Continued:
I push the motorcycle out onto the street. There is a flatbed truck bulging at the seams with items for sale, plastic buckets, mops, shoes, TP and who knows what. I assume the items came across the border from Haiti and can be purchased for pennies.
Yesterday, both filling stations in town were out of gasoline. Today they have gas, and big crowds of motorcycles trying to fill up. You just have to be aggressive and keep pushing your motorcycle closer to the pump when there is any movement. It is surprisingly how smooth this works. It is like an orderly mayhem.
My gas tank is full, I stop at a fruit stand to fill my tank with bananas.
There are no road signs anywhere in Pedernales so I ride to the end of town and follow the only route out. I waited a few times for road construction. Large dump trucks are dumping loads of gravel and sand. Armies of workers are building drainage ditches by hand using picks, axes and barrels of water for making cement.
The road quickly turns steep. There are breathtaking views of steep ravines, gorges, rivers and dense forest.
It isn't long before the road turns very steep and rough. The riding is a technical slow speed balancing act while closly looking for the best line of travel. This is real dirt biking.
Climb, climb, and climb often in first gear for long stretches. While taking a rest break I notice a hissing sound coming from the radiator. After a few minutes to cool the bike down I look at the fluid level, no coolant in sight. My mind works a hundred mile an hour, 'could the coolant problem be from a leak in the tank?' It has to be the long secessions of steep climbing and hammering it in first gear is overheating the engine, boiling off the coolant. My backpack has several 12-ounce bottles of purified water. The radiator needs a bottle and a half to fill it, so glad the motor did not get fried. At the same time my new focus turns to finding a new water supply to refill my bottles. Carrying water purification tablets has been my protocol for as long as I can remember so any water collected can also be used for emergency drinking water, if needed. That is a good feeling indeed.
It has been well over an hour into the ride as I pull into a small village that has a simple cemetery near the entrance. Most graves are wood crosses. Few are stone.
Entering a new village, Its fun to photograph flowers and plants around peoples homes, especially in the isolated villages. People sometimes go all-out.
This village is a dead end. I chat with a couple motorcycles riders who are sitting at a street corner under a shade tree. I ask them how I get to Lago Enriquillo, a huge saltwater lake where I plan to spend the night. The lake is a landmark, I think everyone would know it. They tell me I need to ride back, back down the hill, and then turn right somewhere. I am not sure if they were telling me I need to go all the way back to Pedernales or if there is a turnoff somewhere that I missed. I did not remember any turnoff I missed. I am afraid I need to ride all the way back. Not good, my spirits sink low. I am already fatigued from the tough climb and now I have to go back down the steep trail I just rode up. This was all for naught.
I ride back down the steep hill I just rode up. It is not as difficult to ride down steep hills but it is still fun. I was concerned that I did not I miss a turnoff. I am determined to find the correct road, even if it takes all day. I still hope I dont have to ride all the way back to Pedernales.
I pass a party of people four adults, a young girl and a mulewalking out of town toward Pedernales, almost two hours by motorcycle. The adults each carry a bucket or large sack on their head. The mule carries a saddlebag. This is a big hike, and I wonder what theyre carrying and what they hope to do when they get to town. I wonder what their journey will be like. Im in a different world here.
What is my problem, feeling sorry for myself having to ride my MOTOTCYCLE back down the mountain!
I feels like I rode all the way down the mountain when I see a fork in the road. I can see why I did not take that route. That direction looks much less used and not like the main route. I turn onto this road. It seems like a legitimate road.
Soon, I ride across a military outpost building, a small faded light green brick building. There are two people sitting in plastic chairs in front. One is wearing camouflage pants and a cutoff T-shirt. The other wears a polo shirt and tan pants. I stop, greet them and ask if I am riding toward Lago Enriquillo. I receive a strong affirmation. I am going the correct way. It is hard to describe the relived feeling knowing that I am now on the right road and am no longer lost. It is a lightheaded feeling, a rush. Again, these guys are surprised when I told them where I started and where I am going, solo. They got a kick when I said
Sí, pero mi reverso está roto (Yes, but my ass is broken)
The new road is very steep and littered with large rocks, crushed rocks and washouts. I call it gnarly. I am having a great time. I am riding the perfect machine for this and I am riding it well. Up and up and up, I am running in first or second gear only, nothing but fun.
Soon the road turns into more of a trail and the riding is more technical. The motorcycle performs like it was born for these conditions but I know it has to be taking a beating and probably is again overheating. I need to cool off the bike and inspect the coolant level, maybe add water. As long as I keep water in the bike, I am confident I will not blow the engine.
While waiting for the engine to cool, I block up the motorcycles rear wheel to oil the chain. I am using STP oil treatment to oil the chain. I am a freak about oiling my chain. I never broke a motorcycle chain and I never want to.
The radiator again needs almost 12 ounces of water, ouch. I knew it. I need to find another water supply before I have no more water.
The road continues to turn bad, very bad, boulders, contorted hard pack, and slippery rocks. At least the trail was less steep. I do not think the radiator is boiling over anymore, even with the slow speed at which I was riding. I can sense the strain on the engine is much less.
Finally, I ride cross a river. I stop and fill up all my empty water bottles and again check the fluid level in the radiator. Having water on hand speeds up the radiator inspection process to a fraction. I pour the entire bottle of water onto the cap and cooling fins of the radiator. I do that three times. After, I can immediately open the cap and add water, if necessary. I need less then a half a bottle of water this time, I feel good about that. As long as I keep my water bottles full and continue checking the coolant level, all will be fine. But at the same time, I just want to reach the top of this mountain range. I know the bike will have no problem once I reach the top.
I ride up to another ranger station. There is only one person there. He is dressed in full military camouflage. Like always, I attempted to strike up a small conversation after I answered all his questions. After, he asks me if I have any food. He says he is hungry but I had none to spare. I am only carrying emergency supplies. This outpost is so isolated they dont even have food for their soldiers guarding the border, wow! He is a nice young kid and helped me confirm I was still riding the correct direction.
I am in the middle of the Sierra de Bahoruco national park. This area has the highest environment diversity and ecological gradients of the country. The combinations of very complex geological elements starting at below sea level to high elevations results in 27 different climate zones here, and I am riding through all of them. I ride through areas of pine forest that were half covered with what looked like giant snowflakes. I figure it is some type of ground moss. The vegetation continues to turn greener and greener. The contrasts I saw and felt in the different microclimates are startling.
The trail continued to point up and continued to produce more large rocks and difficult terrain. The trail did not get any steeper, just more technical. I feel I could ride faster but I remind myself to be nice to the motorcycle. I am not to the top yet and I am a long way from anywhere. My mind likes to play through recovery operation scenarios. I think about what it would be like if I had a flat tire, what it would be like if I broke a chain or the engine quits. At my present location, a motorcycle problem could put me spending 2 or 3 nights up here in the wild. It is a calming sensation knowing I have a plan, knowing I gave it a dry run. To me, being solo, this far out while beating on and depending on a little motorcycle, puts a lump in my throat. It is like getting a shot of survival adrenalin that can last the entire ride. Sometimes I am concerned that I am addicted to it. I have to remind myself that this is serious. I should not put myself into more danger then I already have. Be cool cavebiker
The Border with Haiti
The temperature feels noticeably cooler while the motorcycle guides me up into a cloud. The trail improves with crushed stone and fewer boulders and gullies, still climbing continuously.
It isnt long before the trail leads me through lush tropical rainforest. Long strings of moss are hanging from the trees. There are palm trees and broad leaf plants all over and fog continues to thicken.
It is hard to see through the fog.
After a long stretch, the trail passes a military border outpost. Again there is only one person stationed here wearing full military gear complete with army boots, an M-16 rifle in his lap and the look. He is a pleasure to talk with and gives quite a reaction after describing my ride.
"?solo? "ir la moto!" (you are alone! you are traveling on a motorcycle!) A big thumb's-up.
The trees are covered in Spanish moss giving the trail an eerie look, cool!.
A babbling spring is shooting up next to the trail and looks like a good spot to check the radiators coolant level. Looking around this place it reminds me of scene on a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' ride at Disney. This is fantasy ride through tropical island rainforest paradise.
It is a good feeling not boiling off anymore radiator fluid. This means it not a leak in the radiator; its just me over stressing and overheating the engine. And the road seems to be getting better, meaning the motorcycle should survive the rest of the way and get me back to civilization, eventually. At times, it is easy to think about getting the hell out of here now, in one piece, as soon as possible. Surely, this must be a common emotion with any adventure or struggle. I get over it and carry on but use it as a reminder to be smart.
Finally, the trail reaches the top of the mountain pointing steep downhill fast. I shut-off the engine and coast to save fuel, gravity gives me all the power needed. The rainforest is gone now and the trail is back to light and dry scrub brush and vistas of far away mountains and valleys, way cool.
While riding down it is easy to see Lago Enriquillo off into the distance, the largest lake in the Caribbean. Lake Enriquillo is 25-40 meters below sea level. I started this ride today at sea level, I passed the second highest peak on the island and now I am descending to below sea level. How cool is that.
Steep down hill to another official type building with a roadblock across the trail. A downed tree is the roadblock. My dirt is tall so it's no problem hopping over the tree. The noise I made jumping the tree attracted the two people working the building. It looked like a park forestry building and was. Again, both guys 'wow out' when I tell them where I just rode from, solo! They tell me I needed to get a permit somewhere. The way I came in is not the normal way into the park. They make it seem like it is no big deal that I am riding without a permit.
At the bottom there is water. A check of the radiator fluid I proceed to circle the lake. There are over 6 villages on the shores of this lake, there has to be a motel or two. My first choice is to get to Descubierta, a village on the Haitian border closest to where my trail starts tomorrow.
After reaching Descubierta with only a half an hour of daylight to spare, I check into the only hotel in town with adequate motorcycle parking. At least it's cheap, $7.50 a night. Shopping for adventure supplies for tomorrow's ride after is a problem here, finding water is no problem but there is no good road food, and I'm not fussy, I can pack and eat almost anything. The stores look like no supply truck has been here in months. Enough food for an evening meal, all is good. It is weird because there were many people cooking along the road when I first pulled into town. An hour later, everything is shutdown.
In the hotel, I'm taking deep breaths thinking about todays ride and make a big 'wow!' face in the mirror. I have ridden dirt bikes on conditions similar to this but only for short bursts. This type of extreme off-road riding for 10 hours straight is new to me. It is like I just completed a marathon. Like I just experienced something culturally significant. I will never feel the same about the Dominican Republic or Haiti again. This is good...
The Border with Haiti
Up before the roosters, what is up with that? My body is physically toasted from yesterday's ride, Sleep should come easy. Maybe it's like overtraining where you have trouble sleeping, I'm sure! Or maybe it's the excitement of today's ride, or the apprehension, <I>'I need to be on my toes today', 'I need to navigate well'</I>. Thinking about what to do if I have a flat tire, I should be more prepared with an air pump and a patch kit. If the tire goes flat in an isolated area today, the tire will be filled with towels, socks, T shirts, leaves or grass, not air. A flat is not the main concern, its that the bike keeps running. If the bike quits, the only option will be to push it, downhill, whichever way that may be.
I miss the trailhead turnoff and end up in some small village. A good thing, I pickup three loafs of bread and two more bottles of water, more emergency supplies incase a long hike or push is necessary. I must be prepared at all times. Anyway, there is only one turnoff outside of Descubierta so that must have been my trail I missed.
The trail is steep leading high above the lake behind me.
There are stunning views of rugged tropical terrain
The road is steep but nothing like what I rode yesterday, not bad, not good.
There are a few homes along the trail and people are walking with donkeys. The road is carved into the side of the mountain and at times, the mountainside facing the mountain is covered with flowers.
A guidebook talks about one type of bell shaped flower, yellow with blue strips. It says the Taino Indians use to make a strong hallucinate tea from the flower. Reports are that there is still religious (and recreational) use of the tea today, although it is highly illegal. The bell shaped flowers are everywhere on this stretch of trail.
On a steep section of road, A motorcycle passes me riding 2-up. I stop to take some pictures and they stop to stay hello. The driver is weaing a small tight black leather jacket and a helmet. The passenger is wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap. They look out of place here for some reason.
Riding through the center of a small village is a small counter outside at a rustic colmado. Standing at the counter are the two bikers. They are fun to talk with. They just rode up here for the day, the boy on the back is originally from this village and the driver is from a town on the lake. The driver shows me his ID badge to prove he is Dominican. Not sure what that is about, maybe he is a spy, maybe CIA. He knows too much about Wisconsin. I consider everyone a spy and up to no good until proven different. I have fun with that and it serves a purpose. I study everyone I come across well, I want to know what his or her deal is ASAP. There are bad people everywhere, I want to know if I am close.
Standing at the counter, this is the hub of the town.
While drinking a coke at the colmado, a kid from the village walks over and tries striking up a conversation with me in English. He struggles with English but he was having fun. He asks me
Are you going into Haiti?
Where are you from?
That is Haiti right over there pointing across the valley.
He is from Haiti, he told me while he makes me feel at home here in this micro border village. The center of town seems to be this fifteen foot counter I'm standign at.
The two guys on motorcycle are eating a plate of sliced sausage, cheese and yucca the colmado served up. They tell me that this is as far as they go. They are surprised to hear my plane to ride further up. I'm not sure why and wonder what they are really doing up here. The atmosphere in this isolated village is true Wild Wild West. It is for sure the most primitive village ever for me, to hung-out at. Buildings all looked like they are just thrown together with whatever material they could get a hold of. One small home is made of what looked like metal strips from large tin cans. One person inside the front door of a brick home with a sturdy tin roof motioned for me to take a photo. He states that it is a buen casa (good house). I agree and tell him so.
At the end of another building, there are five or six people huddling around a pile of stones with a fire in the middle. They are starting to cook something and look as comfortable as if they are in the middle of their living room, they probably are. They give me nothing but smiles. This was an enjoyable stop for sure, a rest, a coke and a small talk with the locals. This is living to me, feeling the pulse of the culture and the scene from up close.
Oh my! Is it that time again!!!!
Go tom go!
The Border with Haiti
Haiti is constantly on my left hand side defined by the ridge I am riding along.
After the village I rested at, the road turns extremely technical. I am right in front of peoples homes just hammering on the throttle to continue forward progress. That is weird to me thinking I must have missed a turnoff somewhere, this cant be right. There is no other road in town, this has to be the right way.
Home with a great view
Soon the trail is less beaten down, much less. At times grass is growing across and it is difficult to distinguish the trail. Bouts of panic shoot through me. "<i>Am I lost and have wandered into Haiti?</i>"
I pass a few homes with tarps laid out in the sun drying coffee beans. One home is flying a Dominican Republic flag, good!
With the camera zoomed to a Haitian village across the valley, the deforestation is extremely evident. It is a dramatic landscape with steep and sharp hillsides and little vegetation.
The trail continues to change form, there are long sections of mud and water with areas hard to distinguish where the trail is, and areas that are so narrow there is only room for a single track, too narrow for a jeep. At times the trail darkens and engulfes me in a canopy of green wet jungle, other times the trail runs up a hillsides almost straight up on bowling ball size rocks. Its a constant surprise, changing all the time, no time to get bored because soon it will change and usually to something completely different. This trail is an absolute motorcycle dirt riders dream. But, at the same time, I am just waiting for something major to go wrong with the motorcycle, this is way too much fun for it not to be bad.
Going up and getting greener
I wish there was someone along to photograph a motorcycle pounding up these trails. I am sure it would look cool on video.
Oh Yeah! I just swam the bike through this. You can still see my 2-cycle engine smoke from standing on the throttle trying to keep it moving. That is fun.
The trail narrows
Around a corner under a dark canopy of green pops out a massive bull. Pulling the bike over as much as possible I stand still and let the bull pass. Soon after, a man and his young son are walking with another bull. Everyone on this trail has had generous smiles and waves for me, like always being among friends.
The Border with Haiti
There is no way a four-wheel drive vehicle could get through here, not without a chainsaw, a winch and a way to move large boulders. The trail is too narrow and the gullies are too severe. Ultimate for a small dirt bike though.
After climbing for over four hours the trail finally reaches the top of the mountain. This motorcycle always surprises me with the gas mileage, but with only a 2.2-gallon tank, I take precautions and ride down the mountain without the motor running. This is a fun way to go, a silent technical sport. The ride still takes me through all the severe drop-offs, boulders and gullies, there is just no need for extra power, gravity gives me all I want and more.
Stealthing down the side of the mountain I pass a few very isolated homesteads and some very isolated people living in them. The homes are primitive, usually one room. The roofs are often made from palm tree bark and sticks. The windows and doors are simple openings, uncovered.
A young child is riding a donkey packing a heavy load, another teenage boy is carrying a huge plastic buckets atop his head. Everything feels so mellow and natural here. People along the trail light up when I stop the motorcycle to just say hello. It seemes like many do not speak Spanish but a polite hola, buen dia! (Hello, nice day) from me always works well. Every area makes me feel like staying longer, to just hangout.
The trail continues on and on seemly for hours. Finally, a valley pops into view with what looks like civilization.
The homes are looking more modern now
The riding continues to be technical and I am taking a physical beating. I try to rest often and eat the bread I am packing.
What an ultimate ride
The Dominican Republic Rocks