PART 1: AS LONG AS THERE AREN’T DIRT ROADS
I lived in the Dominican Republic for the summer of 2016; there for my PhD field season to study one of the world’s most unique whale watching destinations. It was my first time really living on my own in another country (and perhaps my last), and between bouts of anxiety about bus rides and car accidents, I was primed to explore.
Hiking Pico Duarte, the tallest mountain in the Dominican Republic and the whole of the Caribbean, was on my bucketlist from day one. Having little experience with hiking in the tropics, I was thirsty for some new adventure, and interested in the ecological rainbow that was no doubt present as one worked their way up from the rainforest at the mountain’s base, to its sparsely forested top.
There was just one problem, most of the tours to the top of Pico Duarte cost between $300-$500,far outside of my budget as a graduate student. It seemed like the mountain was out of my reach, until my growing desire to plod up its slopes led me to ask my Dominican advisor if he had any ideas about making the trip happen.
“How are you driving on mountain roads?” He asked. I wasn’t concerned. I made a hobby out of driving up the Catalinas outside of Tucson during my undergrad, I spent a summer driving up and down the snaking roads of Mt. Graham, and I had just returned from a road trip through the Scottish highlands.
“If there aren’t dirt roads,” I replied. “I will be fine.” My vehicle for the summer was a small Nissan Versa Note, which I had duly named ‘Tina’ after my favorite character in Bob’s Burgers.
“Don’t worry about that,” he said. “Just be careful about driving on the winding roads. Honk at the corners, go slow.” Ah yes, driving in the Dominican Republic is notorious. Did you know that? The World Atlas rates the DR as the #1 country for car accident deaths in the world. After driving there for a summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if it just happens to be related to the motorcycles that are EVERYWHERE, or the fact that people casually drive drunk. Defensive driving is a 100% must in the Dominican Republic, and most people advise against you driving there at all. So, I got where he was coming from.
I was fairly confident that I could handle it. It was just those pesky dirty roads that little Tina wasn’t equipped to deal with.
So, he gave me directions to a small, small village at the base of the mountain, and told me the name of a man that my hiking buddy and I were to look for there…
Good luck with it! I really like your photos. Everything is so green.
I didn’t have the best luck on this trip, but it was fun anyway. XD Definitely very green!
Looking forward to reading how this goes! 🙂
Great! It was quite the adventure/misadventure. XD
This looks amazing! I’ve never been to S. America, but I really want to go!
The Caribbean is an amazing and every country is unique. You will love it.
What a cool place to do your PhD. Sounds like an adventure! Is there a part two? Can’t wait to read more!
There is a Part Two and Three! Coming in the next few weeks. And it was great to be there, I learned alot about a country that I think few people see anything but Punta Cana in.
Wow it sounds like such an adventure. Can’t wait to read more!
Thanks! It didn’t go 100% according to plan, but it was a great experience.
This looks amazing. I know you had a great time in the DR.
I definitely did. Loved the DR and it gave me the chance to see Haiti.
Its been year since my last hiking, and i think if am going to do it again, i need to practice it first. I like your photographs, and am happy to read more of your adventures.
If you like hiking, definitely get out there again. I started doing the 52 Hike Challenge and that really helped me get better.
I didn’t know the DR was rated one of the top places for car accident-related deaths! WOW! That is pretty scary. Definitely be careful out there. I think it’s really cool that you were able to live there and work on your PhD! Good for you!
I was careful, believe me. XD I survived driving there for two months, both in and out of the capital. I am proud of myself. XD
Wow! What a feat to accomplish. It looks like a beautiful place to visit.
Thank you! I am happy I had the chance to visit there.
Donah / SJB (@sweetjellybean5)
I love your confidence! And your Tina is awesome. Good luck and have fun. Now I know, driving on your own could always be an option especially when paid tours are expensive.
Thanks! It was a great experience; definitely glad we decided to try it on our own.
What an adventure! Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story: )
Thanks! The next few parts should be up soon. 🙂