j133.JPG j12.JPG Got back this evening from a great trip from the mountains.  We went to Jarabacoa, about 40 minutes southwest of Santiago. Jarabacoa is a beautiful valley located high in the mountains.  We got there late Thursday afternoon.  There were 3 hotels to choose from, the Rancho Baiguate, Gran Jimenoa, and Hotel Pinar Dorado.  Saira, at Ocean World, had suggested Gran Jimenoa, but Dan wanted to check out the other two first.  Hotel Pinar Dorado was highly recommended by the guidebook, but when we drove by, it looked like a rundown apartment complex.  Check that off our list.  Next we tried to find Rancho Baiguate.  None of these hotels are right along side the road.  We started down a pothole filled road, that eventually became a pothole filled mud hole.  At this point we decided to turn around and take Saira’s suggestion.  We were very glad we did. Hotel Gran Jimenoa is beautiful! j4.JPG a1.JPG

j11.JPG  j31.JPG        j222.JPG

j444.JPG  j2.JPG hgg.JPG

Our room was a junior suite, and our balcony overlooked the Yaque del Norte river.  This river is used by whitewater rafters, in fact on Friday, we saw two boats go by.   After checking in, and unpacking, we decided to go into town for snacks and drinks.  In this beautiful mountain town, few people spoke english, but we were able to piece together enough spanish to communicate.  We had a relaxing evening Thursday night, spoiled by the air conditioner and a huge room with lots of hot water!

The next day we were off to the falls.  There are two major waterfalls in this area, En Salto de Baiguate and En Salto de Jimenoa.  En Salto de Jimenoa is the larger of the two, while you can swim in Salto de Baiguate.  Swimming didn’t interest us so we decided to find en Salto de Jimenoa.  That turned into an ordeal.  The directions seemed straight forward, signs were supposed to be obvious, but somehow we missed it.  The paved road, major road, we thought we were  following, turned into a pothole, one lane, gravel road, leading to who knew where.  Rancho Baiguate offered guided tours, so we swallowed our pride and decided to get with someone who knew where they were going.  Now trying to find Rancho Baiguate turned into a problem.  A sign pointed off the major road, onto a gravel road that wound behind a neighborhood, and some kind of flower farm.  The road was narrow and in disrepair, and we seemed to drive forever before we found it.  Rancho Baiguate is an adventure center.  They have horseback riding, canyoning, rafting, obstacle courses, just about anything you wanted to do.   There were usually two options for the falls, horseback riding or jeep.  the kids and I were all for the horses, but Dan who is allergic to them wanted the jeep.  Unfortunately for him, they informed us that only the horses were available that day. (Yes!) 

j10.JPG                                 j111.JPG

The horses looked as if they could be better taken care of, but looked better than the working horses we had seen in downtown Puerto Plata.  (If I didn’t mention it before, when you drive in Puerto Plata, a major city, you not only have to watch for people, big trucks, cars, motorconchos, you also have to watch out for horse drawn wagons, or people riding on horses.)  Tristan and Tessa each shared a horse with a guide, while Dan and I rode alone.  My horse desperately wanted to be the lead horse, while Dan’s horse had trouble keeping up.  In fact, as we were getting our horses, one of the stable guides kept pointed to Dan’s horse and giving a no signal, but that one was the last one available.  We crossed a river as we headed out, and Dan’s horse almost went down.  Not a good start!  The ride to the falls was about an hour, and the view was incredible. We passed some beautiful, expensive looking homes and ranches gracing hillsides with amazing views. 

 vbvb.JPG                               bb.JPG

These were obviously owned by well to do Dominicans.   Dan’s horse was really lagging.  Every once in a while he would get this small burst of speed and try to overtake us, but then run out of steam.  The guides kept looking at the horse and talking to themselves in spanish.  I was afraid they were saying “Dead horse walking”.   We would come back from the falls and find “Horse no more.”  

Once we got to the entrance to the falls, it was a short walk, on foot, over a suspension bridge to the falls themselves.  This gave the horses a chance to rest.    It was pretty, but I guess I was expecting something more.  Since this was supposed to be the better of the two falls, I guess I thought it would be a taller falls, but it was nice.  We spent a few minutes enjoying the view, and a cold drink.  Our guide was anxious to get back, so we didn’t stay too long.  We came back to find Dan’s horse still alive where we left him. That was a good thing.  The rest did the horse some good as he was more animated on the way back.  Dan would come racing up from the back of the pack yelling “Left” as he came along side of us, but my horse would have no part of letting him get in front.  He would soon slow down and bring up the rear.  A while later the kids and I would hear “Left Left” as Dan would come charging up again.  We laughed all the way back to the ranch.  Even though we were sore, and soaked with rain, by the time we got there, we had a great time!

The next morning we had a really good breakfast at the hotel.  The kids and I took another horseback ride from an elderly man who had brought some horses to the hotel.  Dan stayed back at in the room for this one.  We rode the horses on a tour through town, seeing some really nice houses on wide boulevards to shacks on narrow dirt roads.  It was quite the tour.  A majority of the houses were well kept, modest, smaller homes, with ornately carved mahagony front doors.  Most houses had their front doors open and inside we could see gleaming tile floors.  Dominicans really seem to take pride in their homes, and we often saw people sweeping off their driveways or the streets and gutters in front of their houses.  Flowers and flowering plants were in abundance with spectacular fuchsia colored blossoms.   We rode by a school that was just getting out.  The children were so cute in their uniforms.  Here, the younger kids went to school from 8am to noon and older kids from 1pm to 4pm.  They use the same school and same classrooms and it works.  This cuts down on the need for two separate schools.  I wonder if that would ever work in the US?

 That afternoon we headed back home, after a quick stop in Santiago at Pizza Hut.  Sometimes you need a little bit of home. 

 j1.JPG                               j134.JPG

j8.JPG                                vc.JPG