The adventure begins
Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a time when practically all of the Dominican Republic shuts down for 7 days in observance of Easter. A group of intrepid Peace Corps Volunteers, me included, took advantage of the time off and gathered from distinct points of the country to meet in the idyllic mountain town of Jarabacoa. Our goal was to hike up to the country's highpoint--indeed all of the Carribean, Pico Duarte at 3,087 meters or 10,128 feet. We had understood the trip would take a few days and certainly felt this generous window of time would allow plenty of time to return to our respective towns in time for work the following Monday. We were psyched. It was great to see each other after weeks or months speaking just Spanish. Sometimes it feels pretty good to speak in your native tongue as all Peace Corps volunteers eventually discover..
We arranged crowded transportation from Jarabacoa to La Cienaga, the jump off point for our adventure.
Pico Duarte is in a National Park and any group intending to climb must hire a guide, park rules. Its just the way it is, we didn't protest too much. The guide came with a donkey or mule, so that could be viewed as a bonus. We could spoil ourselves and hike pretty much unencumbered. Seemed OK to us!
Los TablonesThe first several hours were quite laid back as we meandered along next to small, tranquil rivers. In the late afternoon we arrived at a shelter called Los Tablones and dinked around in the river before making supper
On the way to La ComparticiónThings became a little more serious the second day. At first full of energy and ambition, we ooohed and aaahed as we slowly started climbing and entered a gorgeous cloud forest.
The shade of the cloud forest eventually gave way to a pine forest. Our energy seemed to give way too, a little bit. At least mine and Jay's did. We had ascended the better part of 1000 meters I imagine, a good part of that over steep muddy trails
In the late afternoon the donkey structure representing La Compartición finally came into view and we crashed, our faces very revealing of our collective state of energy.
Rest and quiet conversation eventually revived us and we cracked jokes around the fire well into the night
Next morning, to the summit of Pico Duarte!We awoke to the sounds of another party arriving and even daring to pass us and get there first! Though it seemed early and chilly, we ate a little smashed bread and scrambled past La Aguita Fria (a very cold spring). Soon the others were in sight. Where did they come from? A few of us in the lead roared past them and didn't stop until the obvious summit block popped into view through the last of the pines. It was a speedy morning walk to the rocks. Non stop, if i recall, an exciting two or three hours. The final little bit was an easy Class 2 scramble, so I guess you could say we used our hands and climbed a mountain after all. I don't know if we could see the Carribean or not-- the island is probably the size of South Carolina, and we're in the center of it. It was undoubtedly hazy in the distance.
The descent, a pure joyWhen your lungs aren't burning you certainly notice more beauty around you, isn't that always the case?
One more night at La Compartición and look at the sunrise we were treated to the following morning as we continued down!
This trip had all the all the necessary elements working together---great friends, physical challenge, sublime views, interesting flora, scorched popcorn and tons of smoke in our eyes. I highly recommend it and would love to do it again. Tons of fun.