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Thread: 2 weeks in the DR - Southwest, Villa Pajon, Jarabacoa

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    Default 2 weeks in the DR - Southwest, Villa Pajon, Jarabacoa

    Just got back a few days ago from 2 weeks in the Dominican Republic. Had a great time! Wanted to thank everyone on this forum for answering my questions ahead of time. The help I got on this forum was invaluable. I tend to be a bit long winded, but I'll try to keep this trip report a reasonable length.

    We flew into Santo Domingo on LIAT. LIAT is the caribbean airline. It stands for Leaves Island Any Time. Miraculously our flight only left Antigua an hour late. I was impressed. We rented a 4WD SUV from Nelly. Was a bit unsure about going with a local provider, but they were cheaper and the trip was close to breaking our budget, so I went with them. Overall, a very good experience. Car was in good shape, price was as promised. We did get stopped at a police checkpoint in the Southwest and were told that the tinting was too dark. Also, when we gave him the insurance card left in the car, it appeared to be expired. Since we spoke no Spanish and the police officer spoke no English, and maybe because of our cute kids sitting in the back, the police officer seemed to tire of trying to deal with us and just let us go. We were very thankful and fortunately didn't get stopped again. I'm not sure if I would rent from Nelly again or not, but it worked out for us this time.
    We left the airport and headed for Barahona with a stop at a supermarket along the way. Driving in Santo Domingo is insane. Motorbikes everywhere. Lane lines seem to mean nothing. But we survived. Were very happy once we cleared the city. After that, we thought driving in the DR wasn't a problem at all. Compared to Antigua, the roads were in great shape. We made it to our hotel - ApartaHotel Pontevedra in the evening and got settled. The hotel was very nice - clean enough, nice pool, very friendly staff. The price included breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was excellent (the same choices everyday). Dinner was nothing special, but it was decent and it came with french fries, so the kids were happy. Service was a bit slow at dinner. Most nights it took a full hour from the time we ordered until we got our food. Not a problem for adults - a bit more difficult for hungry kids to wait that long - but when you're in the caribbean, waiting is a part of life. Would definitely recommend the hotel.
    Ok, enough of the preliminaries, onto the actual vacation
    Day 1 - arrive/drive to hotel

    Day 2 - we were so tired from traveling the day before, we just hung out at the hotel, swam in the pool in the morning. In the afternoon we decided to take a drive. We took the road up to Cachote. We had heard that this was a really rough 4WD only road. We would disagree with that assessment. It was a dirt road and there were some rough spots, but there was never a need for 4WD. High clearance, yes - 4WD no. Anyway - it was a really nice drive, with some nice views. Unfortunately for us, the clouds rolled in and it started raining about 3/4 of the way up. It was getting close to dinner time, so we decided to turn around with out making it all the way up. No point driving up to look at a sheet of white and walk around in the rain. Something for next trip!

    Day 3 - Drive down the coast toward Oviedo. Amazing drive. I was really impressed with the fact that there were actual pullouts at various spots for people to enjoy the views. Stopped for gas at Enriquillo and noticed that one of our tires was a bit low. The people at the gas station directed us to a tire repair place just down the road. Turned out we had driven over a nail. Got the tire repaired. Cost 100 pesos and took about 20 minutes. Really nice people. Continued on to Laguna Oviedo. We had just planned on driving up, looking at the observation tower and then driving on. However when we got there the guide told us we couldn't do that and had to take a tour. I think he thought that we wanted to go walk around the laguna on our own, but either way, we decided to go ahead and fork out the 1000 pesos for a tour. Turned out to be great. We drove into the Laguna a ways with the vehicle, then stopped, got out, took off our shoes and started wading through the muck. My husband carried our 2 year old, but our 4 year old was supposed to walk on her own. However, she was very concerned about the water getting her pants wet and was starting to whine, complain, and generally make us all miserable. Fortunately, the guide saw what was going on and picked her up and carried her. After that, no problems - the older two kids thought that walking through the muck was just great. We got really close to a bunch of flamingos. It was really cool. After the walk, we got back in the car and drove to a nearby swimming hole. Beautiful spot - clear blue water. Really nice. Overall, we were really glad we did the tour. You can also do a boat tour there, but we didn't do that. We stopped for some empanadas and headed on to Hoya de Pelempito. That was also a really nice drive. Again, no need for 4WD, but high clearance a must. Got to the end of the drive, took the little path to the visitors center. Really amazing view. Fortunately we got there just before the clouds rolled in and turned the view to nothing more than a white sheet. Unfortunately my pictures didn't really do the view justice, but they never do. I think I was most impressed with the bathrooms at the visitor's center. They had to be the cleanest bathrooms of any national park type place I've ever been to. After that, we began our long drive back to our hotel. We arrived back around 7:30 very hungry and tired, but we had had a great day!

    Day 4 - Got up early (6am) to leave for Lago Enriquillo. The staff at Pontevedra had helped us set up a boat tour for 8am. We were supposed to have breakfast to go that morning, but when I went looking for it, it was no where to be found. The message must have gotten lost somewhere. Considering we were communicating mostly via gestures, I wasn't really suprised. We made it to Lago Enriquillo shortly after 8. The boat trip was very nice. Didn't see any crocodiles. I guess the lake is very high right now, so the crocs have dispersed. Oh well. Went out to the island and saw the two different kinds of iguanas. That was cool. It was neat island to walk around on as well. Overall, we really enjoyed the tour. The guide didn't speak any English, but they had brought along someone who spoke a bit of English to do some translating for us. I thought that was really nice. After the tour we drove around the south side of the lake. We headed into the mountains at Puerto Escondido. We stopped when we reached the bird watching camp at Villa Barrancoli. We just parked the car there, got out and walked along the road. It was a really nice walk, beautiful woods, nice river right there. Lots of butterflies and birds. Then we headed back to our hotel. Another long, but enjoyable day.
    That ends the Southwest portion of our trip. If I had to do it over again, I think I would spend at least one more day in the Southwest. It is really a beautiful region with a lot of wonderful things to see and do.

    Days 5 - 10 Villa Pajon in Valle Nuevo
    We were now on to the part of the trip we were all looking most forward to - 5 days in the mountains staying at Villa Pajon. We left Pontevedra in the morning and began the long drive. We stopped at San Jose de Ocoa and swam at the pool there ( i forget the name - something fransisco). Then we got back into the car and headed into the mountains. At first the road was great and the views were fabulous. A really great drive. When we got to the entrance of the national park, the road quickly deteriorated. It was downright horrible at places. We actually did use the 4WD on this part of the road. My husband claims that he really didn't need it, but I wouldn't recommend driving this road without 4WD. It took us almost 4 hours to make it to Villa Pajon from San Jose de Ocoa. We did stop at the pyramid thing on the way up - very nice. Needless to say, we were very happy when we finally arrived.
    Unfortunately for us,this part of the trip did not go exactly as planned. The day after we arrived it pretty much rained all day. That afternoon our 4 year old woke up from her nap with a fever and then she threw up. She and I didn't sleep much that night - lots of vomitting unfortunately. The next day, it wasn't raining in the morning, so the two older kids and I went horseback riding. That was quite nice. It rained again most of the afternoon and I came down with the same sickness my daughter had. The five days we were there, it rained every day. The owners said they couldn't remember getting this much rain before. Oh well. It didn't rain constantly, so the kids still got to go horseback riding, run around outside, etc. Villa Pajon is in a beautiful location - 7,400 feet, beautiful pine forests, great mountain views (when the clouds cleared up from time to time). The cabin we stayed in was amazing - 2 bedroom and a loft. Hot water, full kitchen, no electricity - but they provided a propane lantern and lots of gas hurricane lamps. It really is a dream location. We had planned on just relaxing, walking in the woods, horseback riding, and a visit to Aguas Blancas waterfall. We got to do all of those things except Aguas Blancas, just not as much as we had planned. Because of all the rain, we were told not to try the road to Aguas Blancas. You can actually hike there from Villa Pajon, but we were told the trail was also a mess because of the rain. So, I guess we have something to do the next time we come.
    I was only sick for a day, but my daughter was sick for three days. We were getting a bit worried and even thinking of heading into Constanza to take her to the doctor, but then she woke up one morning fever gone and feeling better. All in all, we had a good time there, but it would have been much better if it hadn't rained and we hadn't gotten sick - we'll have to go back I guess!
    Day 11 - 14 Jarabacoa. We left Villa Pajon and headed to Jarabacoa. We were staying at Brisas de los Alpes. It was a nice place. We rented a 2 bedroom apartment. It was a bit rundown, but clean enough and everything worked. For the price, I thought it was a great value. They had a nice pool which the kids loved. While in the Jarabacoa area we visited two waterfalls - Jimenoa Dos and Baiguate. Both were nice. We swam in the river a little ways downstream from Jimenoa. We had a great time there. We also waded/played in the river at Baiguate. We also took a drive to Ebano Verde Scientific reserve. We wanted to hike the trail there, but the gate was locked out. I guess you have to call the office in Santo Domingo to arrange for someone to open the gate. We were a bit disappointed about that, but there was a great swimming spot on the river there, so we spent the morning swimming. Kids had a great time (I don't think they minded skipping the hike at all).
    Overall we had a great trip. The DR is a beautiful country - very friendly people, lots to do and see. Hope we can come back again and see more of it. I don't know how to include pictures, otherwise I'd put a few in. Sorry!

  2. #2
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    Great report!

    You can either link photos if you have them posted on sites like flikr.com etc or you can add them to our media gallery. It works in conjunction with your message board login.

    Main Index - DR1 Media Gallery

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    Excellent post, thanks so much for sharing your story. You drove right by our place in Ocoa on that mountain road - you don't need 4WD for the road, but to get into any of the properties OFF that road, believe me, you do. We have to leave our car on the road and someone with a 4WD truck or SUV has to come down and pick us up.

    Were you able to find cigars for your husband in Santo Domingo? If so, did he enjoy them?

    AE

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    Default Cigars

    Yes, we did find cigars at the supermarket and he certainly did enjoy them. I think if I lived in the DR, I would definitely buy a 4WD vehicle. Some of the best stuff is off road!

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    Default pictures

    Ok, I figured out how to upload pictures to the media gallery. I think this link will take you to the pictures I uploaded, but I'm not really sure.
    hahm74 Gallery - DR1 Media Gallery

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by hahm74 View Post
    Ok, I figured out how to upload pictures to the media gallery. I think this link will take you to the pictures I uploaded, but I'm not really sure.
    hahm74 Gallery - DR1 Media Gallery
    Works fine.

    You can also post the photos here by using the link in the media gallery called "Linked Thumbnail". You cut and post the code here in the message window and it will automatically show a clickable thumbnail.

    See below:


  7. #7
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    Nice report

    The place with the pool in San Jose de Ocoa is Rancho Francisco, maybe on of the best "ranchos" in the whole country. Very, very nice.

    Too bad you missed Las Caritas just a few hundred meters and across the street fron the Iguana Nat'l Park on the north side of Lago Enriquillo. A really neat climb to some cave carvings by the indigenous Tainos.

    Come back again!

  8. #8
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    Great Report!

    I'm so glad you got to experience the South and especially Valle Nuevo

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    Default Great Report

    That was a very good report with excellent information. I am glad you enjoyed your trip. I am looking foward to taking a very similar trip in the near future. Thank you for taking the time to share your adventure.

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    Very useful report - would love to do the same. How bad is the road from San Jose de Ocoa to Constanza - I thought parts were impassible? Obviously you did it but how much is difficult?

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