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Expedition Pico Duarte The Dominican Republic

Av: Lifeforce1


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Inland
I woke up very early even the village was still sleeping and it was cool, nice. But unfortunately the taxi sharks were not sleeping and they were aiming in on their only morning prey "us". No, No, No. Thank God that the "Rancho Baiguate" bus soon came and picked us up. So now we only had to ride this "refrigerator" to Jarabacoa we thought, but we were not their only "guests" others had to be picked up at several resorts for the "white water rafting". So the journey actually took four hours in total, but on the other hand it was "free" and we got a good sightseeing tour of the silver coast of DR.

Once at the Ranch we got a quick breakfast buffet while watching the video instructions for white water rafting and before we knew it the video stopped and all the tourists disappeared in a big truck. Since we had the day off we could explore the ranch peacefully. I even walked up streams in the "Rio Biaguate"? The water was cool and clear, I love walking in riverbeds.

Then we spoke to some Dominican tourists, they were very friendly it seems to be an entirely different atmosphere here in the "countryside" even the staff has been amazing. I was even allowed to use the receptions own bizniz computer behind the desk to check my e-mails.

Since we were not allowed to "climb" the mountain on our own we decided to buy a package for the project, we even had the luck to find two others that wanted to go for the "Pico Express" at the same date (so instead of paying 385 dollars per person it was now 285 dollars per person). So we had dinner with the other two team members. It was a nice British couple. I think we have a good team.





Challenge

Up at 06.00, breakfast and then jump on the truck. It was a fast and bumpy ride through the beautiful country side with Yake river on the right side. Once at the starting point the mule drivers started to load the mules and we started to walk in a quick pace. We followed our primary guide which I nicknamed "Superman" (George?). But we also had a secondary "guide" he was supposed to be a real "guide" after only one practice trek. I nicknamed him "Macho man" (King?) he really seemed to like that! The landscape was beautiful, but it was also hot and humid. I guess all four of us was trekking close to our limit although no one wanted to admit it?

It was a though trail with a lot of loose stones, but we had a unlimited water supply since we could drink water from the river. I guess it was even better than the standard bottled water that we started with (I guess with almost zero life force in it). We stopped for a quick and simple lunch with white bread, cheese, ham and orange juice. Before we continued to struggle up to the highest point for today 2650 meters. Here we could see the impact of the fire seven years ago. It lasted for 26 days according to our guide, but amazingly the entire area seemed to be recovered. It was green everywhere. Then we had to walk down and up several times to reach our destination for today "base camp" or "Comparticion". It was a very green and peaceful place with a perfect temperature. It was a good place to recover after this days exhaustive dehydration process.

I guess we all were tired and just wanted food and sleep, not necessarily in this order.

I took an ice cold shower in the "sink" before I sat down and waited for food. It seemed to take forever, everyone started to get a little cranky. The dinner was served in three stages, it was served in this order, coffee wait 1/2 hour, chicken soup wait 1/2 hour and lastly rice and chicken local style, finally some food.

After that it was time to prepare the bedroom. It looked like a large barn, luckily we got a mattress and a sleeping bag to put on the floor.
It was amazing to see how clear the sky was I could see a lot of stars.
I think I fell asleep quickly although the crew was having lively discussions in Spanish just outside the barn + a dog that was barking.












Pico Duarte
Then I woke up at 01:00 I think, not many hours of sleep, but I felt supercharged maybe I had connected to the mountain? Too bad it wasn't time to go yet and unfortunately I couldn't sleep any more so I had to listen to the others guys snoring/:(

The funny thing was that everyone was claiming that they hadn't slept? (according to the British couple it had been around 10 degrees during the night) Everyone got up at 03:30 (the classic walk in the dark to be up at the top at sunrise) breakfast was white bread, cheese, ham and coffee...

Then to my surprise I found out that Superman had severe knee pain and wouldn't go with us (so I gave him some of my painkillers to ease the pain). So instead Macho man was now in charge, we started to walk about 04:00 in the pitch dark night without any light. I had to stumble after the flickering light of my travel mate (he was so thrilled that he could use his super expensive headlight for the first time ever he didn't even want to turn it off when the daylight came). So we followed Macho mans quick pace to the top were he never had been before. I guess the only one who knew the right way was the mule and the mule driver walking behind us. The good thing with this early time and the height was that the climate was a lot cooler. So it felt a lot easier to move on to the top at 3087 meters.
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pico_Duarte

It was beautiful watching the sunrise and see the different climate zones. Once on the top the mule driver shared some oranges with us (I am not sure if this is a Dominican tradition were the orange symbolizes the sun and the new day, just kidding, I think?). It was a wonderful viewpoint with a beautiful surrounding. I tried to capture some of it on photo and on a short video clip.

But I also knew that it was a long day down so we better get started...

So we went down quickly to base camp while the temperature was quickly rising.
Finally down at base camp it was time for a real breakfast? Dominican style, pork chops and potatoes. It wasn't really what I had wished for but I needed nutrition and the dogs too.
I gave them some of it and they were not picky they seemed to appreciate it a lot more/:)
Then we walked down and up and down it was a really though trekking trail and with the combination of tiredness in the body and the feet. Now both Macho man and Superman used the mules to get down. We told Macho man he should walk down too, he happily responded "this is my first time". Then I told him "it is my first time too". It was just fun teasing each other.
We just made one longer stop for lunch (oranges and watermelon) on the way down.

Then while walking I started to ponder if we should give tip to them. I guess they expected it, even though I liked all guys I thought no way, it hadn't been that professional. As soon as I finished that thought Superman rode up to me and stretched out his arm towards me and held a totally smashed "Snickers" in his hand and he was smiling. I quickly changed my mind, of course they should get some tip/;)

But then it suddenly started to rain a little, I thought maybe I should get my raincoat from the mules, but which mule? Then I thought a little rain can't hurt can it?

The rainfall increased, the lightning and thunder started to get really close, it was an amazing feeling to experience this. But when I thought that we only had 2 km left I asked Superman if I could try a mule it looked really fun to ride one. My travel mate thought I was "cheating". I knew that I could walk the rest if I wanted, but for me new experiences is more rewarding. So up on the mule without further instructions. It was amazing where they could walk, even when it was very steep and slippery, they even crossed wild rivers without any problem. It was an amazing viewpoint from the mule (it gave another perspective) to see the green lush jungle and at the same time experience the rain pouring down. It was also amazing to see how quick the rain changed the trail turning it to pure mud and the rivers started to rise quickly, too quickly? I had to concentrate fully on staying in the saddle and at the same time avoid getting knocked down by branches. Then Superman turned around and told me that he had to get back to the others because if the river rose to quickly they would never get over it. Great now I was alone with a young boy that only could speak Spanish and they also forgot to give me the "mule manual handbook". I also couldn't stop noticing that the rain was very cool and I started to get hypothermic, it was not a good situation any longer. So I was in Paradise (the fantastic surrounding) and in Hell (how far is it really to my dry clothes?) at the same time. At the same time I couldn't recognize the trail any longer. I just realized that the mule trail was not the same as the trekking trail. What happens next? the boy in the front of me jumps of his mule and disappears. Great, now I have one "empty" mule leading my mule. So I had to put all my faith in the mules. It was sometimes very scary riding on extremely narrow, slippery and muddy trails while there was a precipice just a few inches to the right were I could look down maybe 10 meters to a now roaring river (at this time I also remembered that my grandmother died when she fell from a mule). This would make a really good movie (too bad that I didn't have my camera with me). Then to my surprise I just noticed that my mule was very warm. So I squeezed my legs tighter around the mule to absorb more body heat, it actually helped a lot. After a while the boy came back running and jumped up on his mule without ever stopping.

I started to recognize the surrounding again. I guess the last distance was a little bit longer than 2 km? Once back at the starting point I ran for my dry bag that was on one of the mules and then I ran under a roof. Tearing off everything wet that I had on me and then putting on all my dry clothes layer by layer. I was seriously hypothermic now. I asked Macho man if he could make some coffee and to my surprise he just went into a neighboring house and was soon back with a large cup of sweet black coffee. What a blessing, that really saved me, I was now getting warm from the inside again. Then the rest of the group arrived totally soaking wet.

It all felt very surreal when we drove back with high speed in our roaring kamikaze truck while watching the wild mocha colored rivers that was flooding. It had been a very brutal 33 hours (48 km) with a dramatic ending...

I just passed out when I saw my bed, when I woke up 2 hours later for dinner, I felt like my body was 110 years old. I was walking like "Zeb Machan" from the western movie "The Machans" except I was walking a lot slower, Cuba Libre, Sleep/:)
















Recovery
 
Fuck I can walk! It even felt hard to walk 50 meters to the restaurant. I felt a very strong urge to try to write down the latest episodes from the trek to Pico Duarte. It felt so nice to have a slow morning zipping coffee, writing and watching the daily busload of rafting groups. I knew that I would love to do that too, but not today...

Then Superman walked by looking fully restored, relaxed and happy, he came by and greeted us. It was nice to see him again.
This day I felt that laying in a sun chair for one week without moving around on an all inclusive resort would be a great idea...
And even my travel mate who is known to speak 24/7 (yes, he even speaks while asleep) was silent this morning.

I had a long and relaxing afternoon conversation with a French couple, before I decided to check out the swimming pool again. What the fuck? the swimming pool was totally empty today for some kind of restoration work. I guess things really change quickly here.
We got amazing service from the boss, we even got discount without asking for it and written directions in word for our next destination "Bayahibe".




Travel day
I woke up, still with a sore body, but I also felt it was time to leave this place. The staff arranged a truck to take us to the bus station in Jarobocao. Once there I proudly ordered a bus ticket in Spanish "Hola, dos billete, Santo Domingo, Gracias" the lady who sold the tickets were just smiling. Then we went with "Caribe Tours" to Santo Domingo bus station. I prepared myself mentally for a non English speaking taxi driver. But life is full of surprises, he spoke perfect English and he didn't try to trick us with the price and he took us straight to "Parque Enriquillo" he even stepped out and spoke to the bus boys, so that they would know where we wanted to go, amazing. The best part of all, he got really surprised when I gave him tip (that's the first time in this country).

It was great timing, we just waited a few minutes before the bus left for La Romana.
This was actually the first time I saw private persons with guns on them and of course they sat on the seat just behind us. But the really funny thing with that, was that the man that looked the most dangerous of them, was the one that helped us to get off the bus at the right place. It seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, a mc driver wanted to take us both with full packing on his bike. But we chose to try the local "Guago" which was really a pleasant experience although totally jammed with people.



Cut...

Reflection
Some advice for climbing Pico Duarte; Water, drink plenty of water, the spring water is freely available at many places along the trail. Water is also good for keeping yourself cool if you wear a cap you can soak it in water several times. Even though I don't often promote sport drinks, for a really hot day, I think something like "Poweraid" could be very beneficial and refreshing, helping you to keep the spirit up and the electrolytes in balance. 

Sunglasses were not so useful since the sun was almost in zenith, but it wasn't a problem. To bring you own snack bars could be a good advice, something substantial with protein, sugar and salt would be good, maybe "Snickers".
Good rain protection can be important since the mountain rain can be a lot cooler and it can also rain for a very long time. A good raincoat or even a rash guard 3 mm if you want to try something different/;)
Do I even need to mention good footwear, that is up for the challenge?

I guess I had to find out the hard way that tropical rains can be very cool. If I had known that before I would have brought my 3 mm rash guard that was in my bag, back at the ranch. It would have been perfect for these conditions + an extra battery for my camera. The ironic thing is that it would probably been a better option to walk the last part of the trail, since that would generate more body heat to keep me warm, instead of just sitting still on a mule.

If you want to read the entire travel journal go here:
http://www.resdagboken.se/Web/Apps/User/Profile.aspx?id=147&epslanguage=sv&uid=183760

If you want to see the video version look here:
http://www.vimeo.com/user4472829

This was another www.lifeforce1.se adventure.

100513-100517

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Summary

This is an excerpt from my Travel Journal "USA (NY) + Dominican Republic" with focus on my climb of the mountain "Pico Duarte" in the Dominican Republic.

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