Saturday, March 29, 2014

Dream comes ashore at La Hispaniola

The original text was written in Thai and translated to English by NaE.
La Hispaniola means “The Spanish” in the language of Cervantes. The land where Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492. La Hispaniola combines two countries, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Our Sailing Around The World trip starts here, in the Dominican Republic where the purchasing documents were signed. While we still in preparation mode, checking the sails, engine, communication and electric systems, water filters, food stocking and, of course, adjusting to our new kind of lifestyle, we spent the last past three months in Luperon, Puerto Plata. Luperon it’s located on the North coast of the Dominican Republic, known as the heaven for sailors because of the natural safety which shelter many sailing boats during the hurricane season, it’s the safest port in the Caribbeans. In terms of earthquakes, the last one in the Dominican Republic was in 1930. 

Probably, if we ask the young generation where the Dominican Republic is many, or even all, may put a frustrated face and ask you back where is that! Or, at the best, will be mistaken with Dominica! However, for people who are interested in History, the Dominican Republic is well known. Everything started here, the discovery of New World, La Isabela where Christopher Columbus first arrived, the first mass in New World, the first European settlement in New World, the first Catholic church in the Americas or even the first capital city in the Americas and, nowadays, Santo Domingo still remain the capital of the Dominican Republic and also the biggest capital city in the Caribbean’s. 

Dominican history and culture is remarkable. The culture is a mix of European and native, which resulted in “mestiços” (the mixed persons), the Dominicans have a mixed appearance which contrast with that of their neighbor, the Haitians who have darker skin. Nowadays, Dominican Republic has a population of about 10 millions persons. The Spanish is the only official language. The main industry of the country is tourism, naturally because the Caribbean islands are the dream destination for sea lovers. Yet, its pure nature and long history are attracting more and more tourist to visit. The main exported products are rice, banana and chicken and the market it’s the neighbor country Haiti, where the land is dryer and not suitable for agriculture. United States and Venezuela are the second main destinations for their exports. After visiting many places around the country, we have to admit that the landscape is breath taking; the fields are so fresh and green that even the breeze smell like grass. The banana trees are all over the country, it’s one of the main produces, and naturally it’s an important staple food in the daily diet of the Dominicans, the same way the potatoes are for Europeans and rice for Asians. As a result of this abundance and variety, bananas are always part of the meals as side dishes partnering with beans!  

What made me more surprised were the local people. Every single person is helpful and always ready to give you a hand. In the first few days after we arrived I asked Joao if they help us sincerely or because they saw that we are tourists and try to take advantage of us. When I asked some of the local why they are so helpful I got an answer that impressed me and which I hope our readers can learn from it the same way we also did. “Our country is a tourism destination. We don’t ask where you came from, and we believe it’s not necessary to ask you where you come from, as long as you are a tourist we all welcome you. Our country maybe is the only country in the world where you know a local person and in the next day you may be invited to their house for dinner or become best friends”.

The Dominican government tries to promote the tourism industry and makes efforts to improve the security of the country. They try to protect the nature as much as they can, for example all the mangrove is protected. In Luperon bay everyone is aware of the pollution problem and the authorities make very clear that is strictly forbidden to dump garbage or any other products that cause pollution into the waters for the simple reason that they don’t want to ruin the natural cycle and disturb the marine life. Yet, if anyone tends to harm the nature, it may find themselves with problems with the authorities and have to face the local laws. 

The Dominican Republic is rich in food, fruits and vegetables and other natural resources, however, the water is a serious concern. The government put efforts to make the people aware about the public water quality, promoting the consumption of treated water instead of the water that arrive in the houses thru the public network.

Since we arrived we always had to buy drinking water. Yet, we met some experienced sailors that told us, as rule of thumb in the Caribbeans, usually they will drink water from the tap if the locals also do it, if not, stick to treated and bottled water. We have been following this advice until now. This is the reason we see so many different brands of treated water, nationwide brands and even some local ones. The choices and the prices vary widely. We had the opportunity to visit one of the Luperon-born brands to see the whole process of treating the water, which we will be probably writing about in a future post.

The North part of Dominican Republic face the Atlantic Ocean and the South the Caribbean sea, an extensive shore line with many fishing ports and facilities. Luperon, where we spent most of the time in the Dominican Republic, is located in the North coast. A village with not so many inhabitants which with the high prices of the diesel and gasoline all over the country, makes commercial boating and fishing being too expensive, giving too little benefits for the industry. In result of this, the port in Luperon only has six fishing boats and they only go out two times a week for extended periods to maximize the margin of profit. There is a bigger commercial port in Puerto Plata, which helps the economy in this North coast but is not enough to supply all the region. This problem with high fuel costs, small fishing fleet, justifies the lack of fish choices even if we live on the water! 

Now s/v Dee is nearly perfect to sail in the high open sea. Everything is getting in shape and we stop going backwards. If things go according to our plan, we will be waiting for a weather window to leave Luperon to the East of La Hispaniola and crossing to Puerto Rico, one of USA states, any time soon. 
Sea View, Puerto Plata
Sea View, La Isabela
Cathedral, Puerto Plata
Colonial area, Puerto Plata
Luperon Bay, view from Marina Tropical
The first church in the Americas; Las Americas, La Isabela
fruits stall, Puerto Plata
Sunday activity, sailing school at Luperon bay
Noel with sunset, Luperon bay
Father and daughter sailing, Luperon bay
Fish fillet with fried banana
street in Luperon village
"our" local vegetable stand, Luperon
Luperon bay, view from Marina Luperon 


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