Only a day after arriving in Luperon we meet another family on their way around the world aboard s/v Dee, Joao from Portugal and his wife Nae from Thailand. They met in Honk Kong and moved to live in Macau once a Portuguese colony, where Joao, a journalist, worked for the Chinese government. They recently purchased a boat here in Luperon, a Gulfstar 45, and have been fixing it up for almost 4 months now. Together with Maria, their one-year-old charming daughter, and Noel, a French bulldog, they are about to begin sailing and visiting all the countries worldwide where the official language is Portuguese before completing an around the world voyage, “to celebrate the five centuries since the Portuguese navigators connected Europe to Asia by sea, to promote our culture and the name of Macau” .
Their route will include the city of Malacca in Malaysia, Goa, Daman and Diu in India, Mozambique, Angola, Sao Tome and Principe, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Portugal, Brazil, East Timor and Macau, China. It is truly a fascinating conceptual journey and we will be following their voyage through their blog www.sailingdee.com
Joao and Mae invite Evo and me to accompany them to Puerto Plata, the regional capital, where they have to pick up some boat part from FedEx (there is no FedEx in Luperon). We are happy to go for a ride with Joao, Nae, and Maria in a rental car to the big city, to do some real shopping for the first time in months in the WalMart-like store La Sirena (there is no such big store in Luperon), and to just spend a day chatting with friends and traveling. On the road again.
From Luperon to Puerto Plata is 44 km (less than 30 mi). Yet it can be an epic journey getting there by car. The first part of the road, to Imbert, is on crazy, narrow, broken-up asphalt, through small villages with unexpected inadequate speed bumps, sharp turns, and huge trenches on the pavement, where cows and donkeys graze on the side of the road, sometimes crossing it for fun. But the scariest part, potholes and cows aside, is dodging motoconchas , the motorbikes with the entire family, father, mother and two kids on it, riding as fast as they can as if they are immortal, and so many of them! Then from Imbert to Puerto Plata is a kind of a highway without rules. Madness.
Anyhow, we stop midway at a roadside restaurant and have lunch: fried fish, plantains, rice and beans, and yucca with cold beer Bohemia, very tasty and very cheap. Finally we are in a country where we can afford to eat in a restaurant from time to time. A meal is usually less than $5, and the beer is $2.5 for a jumbo 1L bottle.
As we get closer to Puerto Plata the traffic becomes insane, a sort of an urban jungle where only the law of the jungle applies.
San Felipe de Puerto Plata, founded in 1502, is the capital of Puerto Plata province and as every big city this one is roaring, polluted, and hectic. Old ruined buildings stand next to freshly-renovated brightly-painted ones. The city attracts many tourists with the beautiful beaches and resorts all around it and its many sites of tourist interest: the cathedral, the town square, the Amber Museum, the 16 century Fortaleza de San Felipe, and the Mallecon. A cable car ride bringing people to Pico Isabel de Torres, 800 meters tall mountain within the city, is also on most visitors’ list of things-to-do in Puerto Plata.
Our first visit to Puerto Plata is brief, but we get many more chances to pass through there and get to know it better in the next days, on our way to other Dominican Republic destinations.
Puerto Plata in Pictures