Dominican Republic, 1991
Samaná is a pleasant place to while away the days but hurricane season was approaching and we would soon want to hoist the sails and be underway for the Mona Passage and Puerto Rico. Before leaving Samaná we wanted to visit the waterfalls about which other cruisers had spoken, so we boarded a moto-concho and told the driver to head for the hills.
The Samaná moto-concho is a luxurious mode of transport compared to the hazardous multi-person pillion ride of its namesake in Puerto Plata. Here, a motor cycle tows a trailer with upholstered seats and a fabric sun awning – bliss.
The views were breath taking as we wound our way uphill, the little Japanese engine buzzing like a demented wasp. From up here the ocean looked vast and empty and the brisk trade wind whipped the tops off the waves, sending white horses galloping to the horizon.
The driver left us where a path led off the roadside into the jungle and mimed that he would return for us in two hours.
We set off into the bush and found that the path followed a small stream, and here and there were signs of human habitation: a chicken-wire fence, some planted vegetables and, standing right in our way, an enormous pink pig. It was tethered to a tree but had enough rope to allow it to wallow in the stream to the left of the path and to nose hopefully at the mesh fence protecting the vegetables to the right of the path. There was no way we could skirt the pig and I didn’t like the way it was looking at me. Carol was all for strolling by but, having suffered a pig scare earlier in life, I was a little reluctant.
The stalemate was broken when a young man dressed only in khaki trousers stepped out of the jungle and announced he was Arturo, a guide. I couldn’t see why we needed a guide to walk along a clearly defined path but he did seem to know the pig and that alone was enough to justify his modest fee. The pig’s eyes never left me as we passed and I had a feeling it was in cahoots with Arturo.
On we went at a brisk pace and soon the steep path petered out to nothing and we took to the rock-strewn river course, criss-crossing the fast flowing stream on boulders and fallen logs. We stopped at a small spring to drink clear icy water and to sample a tamarind picked from a nearby tree.
We eventually emerged from the jungle onto a meadow where horses were grazing and a few rustic shacks had been erected. A spectacular waterfall plummeted down a tall escarpment. Arturo apologised, with elaborate hand signals, for the fact that a recent lack of rainfall had diminished the splendour of the scene but it looked pretty impressive to me. We were soon frolicking in the cool, clear pond at the foot of the falls, being pummelled by the thundering cascade. We couldn’t complain about the pressure in this shower, and I bet we hadn’t been this salt-free for months.
The return hike went quickly and we found the pig standing in the stream surrounded by a group of apparently amphibious chickens. This time the pig ignored me because, of course, Arturo had collected his fee.
We ate wonderfully sweet bananas bought for a few pesos by the roadside while we waited for the return of the moto-concho. Then we were on our way, the landscape a blur as we hurtled back down the hill to Samaná, the fringe of the sun awning crackling like machine-gun fire, the whole contraption swaying alarmingly as the driver skilfully avoided the potholes and obstructions in the road. Chickens, goats and children scattered before us as we rocketed into town. A little shaken by the unaccustomed velocity we repaired to Samaná Sam’s for a much-needed reviver.
We’d soon be on our way down-island taking happy memories of Samaná with us.