A day trip in the mountains.
Had not been so long in the Dominican Republic when my friend Bertil suggests that we go up into the mountains and look at a piece of land that was for sale. I thought it was interesting so said and done. The car to be used was Bertil’s old Toyota Landcruiser which lacked most of the comfort, springs and brakes. The mountains, in this case Cordillera Central was also known as the Dominican Alps, stretching from Haiti in the West to San Cristóbal in the Southeast. It is the highest mountain in the Caribbean with Pico Duarte rising 3098 meters above sea level.
Said and done. We loaded the car with an initially empty 50 liter plastic barrel which we filled with ice, rum, cocacola and beer as well as some other things that could be chewed. To help carry this barrel with life-sustaining contents, a carrier named Bienvinido was hired. His task was also to act as a carrier of our folding chairs and to guide us so we did not disappear forever in the deep, dense, damp, fluttering hot jungle up in the mountains
Well, Bienvinido, Bertil, Cecilia, me and my girlfriend Rosa, Yes she spelled her name so before she came to Sweden and found out that Rosa was a common name for our Swedish suppliers employed in the milk industry, embarked us in Toyota with Bertil who drives. The direction was suggested by our carrier. At first, the journey was calm and pleasant, we rushed forward on the highway without major problems other than the occasional horse or policeman getting lost on the road. In its time, it began to go uphill on narrow serpentine roads, you did not see as much of settlement in these areas as before further down in the valleys. There could be a small bunk-like home here and there that looked like it could drop its anchors at any time and slide down into the abyss.
The old Toyota, on the other hand, had an absolutely fantastic ability to lean against the rock wall to avoid plunging us down to the bottom of the earth’s interior. I do not know if it was God’s providence or Bertil’s good ability to convince Toyota not to cause problems that saved us from a disaster a little further up the mountainside. We had passed a floral stick on which hung a crumpled paper fluttering in the wind on which was written PELIGRO and something else that was unreadable. We already knew that it was a bit dangerous to travel on this narrow crooked road that was carved out of a mountainside, so we did not take much notice of this message. Or rather Bertil, who was the driver, did not. The rest of us were probably more terrified, except for our Bienvinido who snored calmly, just right intoxicated by nature’s own medicine made from sugar cane. It could hardly be more dangerous, could it?
Well, it could, A couple of hundred meters after the stick with the warning, nature had decided that people should not drive or even walk here, the road had disappeared down into the valley where it now rested in peace like a huge stone cairn. It had even had time to grow one or two flowers in the cairn so it was probably not yesterday that that road disappeared.
Backing far on a narrow crooked road is not fun, luckily there was a small plateau with a wider section of road where we could turn. Now began the great challenge of waking up our rum soaked assistant to get help with an alternative route to our destination that was somewhere out there in the bush. The problem was not so big because he explained that he still intended to wake up right then. He kept a close eye on where we were so he could quickly choose another path. He knew that the road we were on had collapsed, so if he had stayed awake we would not have had to risk our lives at that time.
We bumped happily for another hour or so and eventually entered a wonderful environment. The serpentine road turned into a narrow winding jungle road up on a plateau and into the tropical jungle. It felt completely right to stop and unload our supplies to just sit down and enjoy the scenery (and the contents of the barrel)
Yes, it felt right and proper, because we had come as far as we could with this incredible Toyota, so it was probably more the car’s choice than ours to stay right here. There is no off-road car as widespread and used as this one across the globe, it digs its way into the deserts of Saudi Arabia, runs almost like a submarine in the rivers of the Amazon and here it has now taken us into the heart of the dense jungle of the Dominican Republic.
But now it had decided that was enough. The toyota simply does not want to take us further into the jungle. Despite all the persistent attempts to get a bit further, it is a dead end in the mud. Although it does not sound like the Toyota has given up, it smokes and bubbles something that sounds like blurpkomigenblurpblurp but in addition to it it snorts like an old tired horse. then nothing more happens, it is, as I said, a dead end.
After a proper review, we could see that the frustrations that seemed to recover from Toyota’s terribly strong fighting spirit were due to the fact that the coolant water had partly run out via a bad hose so it boiled over properly, as you can sometimes do when you have let out a little too much and taken in too little, or was it the other way around?
Well, our dear Bienvinido had now woken up properly and promised not to take more medicine than we found the final destination for our excursion and to be a little restrained with the portioning so that he would not be too unreachable before the trip home when we would get out of the jungle and down the mountain’s serpentine roads.
He testified that with that thing there was no problem The recipe for how much could be ingested of this fermented and distilled sugar cane medicine was carefully calculated by an old friend of his many years ago. His friend had tragically one day turned completely yellow and died of something that our guide perceived as yellow fever, despite his friend’s substantial intake of the sugar cane medicine in question. In the name of truth, I probably lean more towards hepatitis due to long-term alcohol abuse.
Enough about this. So we are standing here on a small path inside a tropical jungle. For me, it was something fantastic, something you have only seen on TV before. One thing that feels a little good is that there are no real venomous snakes here, however, there are plenty of boa and pythons and it can be just as unpleasant. Scorpions of course and really nice bird spiders you can see.
Then there are fun animals as well, such as hummingbirds, which you have probably also seen once a year at 3 pm on Christmas Eve’s Kalle Anka’s adventure for as long as you have lived. By the way, I hope that it does not work for the hummingbirds as it did for the little negro doll in the Santa Claus workshop that disappeared so quickly and uncomfortably. Haha, now discovered that the misspelling program in the computer wants to replace the negro doll with the casper doll, so she has disappeared from my computer as well. Faväl little doll, maybe we’ll see each other on the other side.
Ok, dangerous animals, but what, we have a fifty-liter barrel with all sorts of life-sustaining things in its interior, some of the content acts as real courage boosters. With a number of Presidente strong beers inside the vest, no Boa constrictors and spiders are intimidating. We also have our eminent guide Bienvenido with us who knows everything about the jungle life when he is not over-medicating. By the way, Bienvenido means Welcome and it is a fitting name for someone who introduces us to this natural paradise on earth.
So with running in the legs we conquer the path extension forward, the path leads through a pleasant jungle, not so convoluted and dense so you have to fight your way forward with machetes, here and there you can even pass small glade where the sun reaches. Sometimes a bird flies up and scares the shit out of a Swedish son of a Viking, but on the whole it is a quiet jungle and the underpants are still dry.
When we have trudged for a while, you can distinguish water as bubbling, no waterfall but a quiet bubbling, almost as if you were just filling the bathtub at home in Svedala. We get closer and closer to the gurgling sound and the jungle now opens up before our eyes. There a quiet river flows down the mountain, you can follow the meandering water up the ridge and also a good distance down.
It is as if the jungle has understood not to disturb the small still nice river, but stays nicely away for a short distance so that the river’s sand bed is exposed both here and there, together with slightly larger stones and gravel. Of course, the explanation is completely different. The jungle is not kind completely voluntary. It can rain an awful lot up here in the mountains when it rains. Fortunately, we are here for a period when it rarely rains as much as it can. During such rains, the small innocent river that did not look like a real river, is no longer small and innocent but has turned into a 5 to 10 meter deep roaring river that now looks like a river and takes everything in its proximity including the poor jungle that has been foolhardy enough to grow too close to the river.
Well, we knew nothing about that so we choose to follow the river which is not really as you think a real river should be, it is winding and here and there it divides and flows on each side of larger and smaller stone blocks . The mountain does not slope very steeply so there are no major rapids that look dangerous. The water is about 30 degrees warm and absolutely crystal clear and the bottom consists of almost white sparkling sand.
The heat is now noticeable as no shadow falls here (Sounded almost like a song I heard). A look back at poor Benvinido, who is struggling with the barrel on his back and our recliners, makes me suggest a break right here as the river that does not look like a river gets wider and looks like half a meter deep. In the middle of the river, which does not look like a river, is a large rock about a meter long. The water gushes around the stone and the bottom sand glitters like real gold.
Here we sit down in the largest bathtub with bubbling bubbling water I have ever bathed in. You who have a whirlpool, throw your wall. Almost immediately when I get in place with my back comfortably tilted in the shade against the large stone, the same kind of fish appear as I had in my aquarium at home in Sweden. All the colorful little fish I can think of swim around my feet and taste my toes. Nowadays, there are such health resort here in Sweden where you can get your toes cleaned on loose skin cells if you can afford to pay. Those fish seem to have a high hourly wage, so to speak. Haha, I got that treatment for free already in the early nineties in a river that did not look like a river in the Dominican Republic before the method was even invented.
So there I sat now, in the crystal clear waters of the river, watching the little fish that grazed on my old spent skin cells on my toes. Fascinating to sit in an aquarium’s warm water and get health treatment for free. The sun-glittering water sprinkled calmly and quietly and time seemed to have stopped completely at the moment. The sun was at its zenith and the sky was blue that only blue can turn. Not only did time seem to stand still, no all life paused and just waited to be enjoyed.
But everything that is in one way must finally change, nothing is forever. Here high up in the mountains, the weather can change very quickly and the calm river could quickly become an inferno of deadly hydropower if the forces of the weather want to fuck you. Where we were now, there was no immediate danger, but one could imagine that the sky began to assume a darker tone further up the mountains. In order not to be surprised by a deadly flash flood, we decided (or more precisely our eminent guide) to leave the river and move on to the land we intended to buy.
So, straight into the bush then. A little way down we followed our river (it was part of the land we were going to buy) so it turns out three beautiful “nymphs” who sit at the edge of the river and wash clothes in the old fashioned way. They beat the clothes against the stones of the river so the water splashes and the jungle is filled with the clattering sound of the lovely nymphs’ energetic exercises, yes it was almost as if you could sense the colors of the rainbow in the water cascades they caused with their splashing. They sang and laughed and seemed to have a very nice time sitting in the sun and washing their clothes in the most amazing environment imaginable.
In any case, We cross them on the other side of the river and they greet us with all sorts of cases, We cross them on the other side of the river and they greet us with all kinds of arm waving and laughter. It was probably not yesterday that the pale faces unknown to them passed in their hidden world out in the jungle. A little further down we passed a family who took their weekend dip, you can imagine, The whole family is glimpsed in the upper part of the picture..The little girl has chosen a calmer puddle.
It was practical to sit soaked below the washing nymphs, then you got the detergent on the purchase, so to speak. We all feel elated by what we have experienced so far, yes, except for our eminent guide / carrier who seems starting to get worn out significantly, so after a short deliberation we decide that we have seen what we need to make a decision to buy or not buy a piece of paradise and thus we begin our journey to more civilized areas.
Once at our indestructible Toyota, preparations for our journey home begin to show color. After packing our life-sustaining, now almost empty 50-liter barrel and a half-unconscious Bienvenido at the back of the car, the ignition key is turned, and now the shit hit the fan. Right here in the middle of the jungle on a muddy path, there was only an indestructible Toyota without a hint of power in the battery.
Ok, all cars with self-respect have a crank, so does our dear Toyota. Another plus was that it was a diesel engine, so it did not need power for the ignition system. So on with the crank, start cranking. After a lot of cranking, finally the diesel started with a wonderful growl and everyone cheered except Bienvenido who had drunk too much of his sugar cane medicine and did not care much just then.
Well, now we’ll go down along the meandering hooks that took us up here. A big problem we had with our faithful Toyota was that it was not possible to use the engine to slow down, the gearbox jumped out to neutral as soon as you tried to brake with the engine. On our winding narrow road down the mountain, we were thus relied on to the car’s brakes, which unfortunately only consisted of a working brake on one front wheel and one on the other rear wheel.
Yes, our dear Toyota was not of the last year model if you say so and service it had only seen on postcards from Japan, but down the mountain and home we would after all, we all agreed, yes except Bienvenido which you did not could get no answer from because he now almost looked like he had gone into a coma.
Another thing that was a little or maybe very worrying I do not remember in retrospect how worried I was. But the fact was that our dear Toyota did hum without problems, it was just that the generator did not charge the battery at all, the engine, yes it spun and went, so far everything was under control.
The thing was that the sun goes down at 18:00 and then it becomes carbon black. Without a generator, we have no light either in the back or front of the car and how fun can it be on the highway in a country that has the most fatal accidents in the whole world. Shit in it now. The sun is shining, life is playing and we are just going down the mountain almost without brakes, it somehow fixes We have stowed the provisions barrel and our recliners that our brave Bienvenido dragged around for us on our journey of discovery in the jungle.
We folded Beinvenido behind the barrel in the back of the car, where he got a good place to sleep, he had done his job for today we thought. Yes, he had actually done an eminent job. On our way back to the car, he led us through various cultivated but today dilapidated parts of the land we were speculating on. We passed large groves with trees that swelled with both ripe and immature Grapefruit, where there were large plantations of Chocolate, no, Marabou Chocolate did not hang in the trees directly, but large fruits from which you could extract chocolate. There were palms crouching under the weight of large clusters of coconut and banana sticks glistening yellow like the sun itself. Yes there was a veritable paradise of different fruits, we could certainly have spent the rest of our lives here to discover all that nature gave and never had to go to the supermarket to shop anymore.
But everything nice has an end and the seriousness intrudes, much due to our dear guide who now really looked used up under the pressure of our recliners and provisions / beer barrel. So it’s time to end this jungle adventure and to descend the same narrow winding serpentine roads that we previously balanced ourselves for before.
The big difference was that when we went up, the speed slowed down so to speak automatically, Now that we are going down, we are completely dependent on being able to brake when it goes too fast in the turns and brakes, yes they were of a particularly extinct variety. due to poor maintenance. We had some water bottles with us to fill the engine with cooling water if needed, the water in these would certainly come in handy to cool the brakes with when they overheated, because they would, we were pretty sure of that.
To begin with, the journey was calm and pleasant, we had a bit to travel on the plateau we were on before the descent started in earnest. The sun was shining, Beienvenido was snoring quietly there behind the beer keg and we just enjoyed life. We had a heavenly view of the valleys down the mountain and you could distinguish small farms here and there interspersed with nature. One wondered a little about how the people who lived their somewhat isolated life here among the mountains felt. What their everyday life looked like.
My thoughts come to an abrupt end when I hear Bertil driving the car start swearing so it oozes. Back to reality, the road had started to tilt very worryingly straight down the mountain and it had caused the brakes to overheat and lose their braking effect. We knew that it would happen, the problem was that it came as a surprise after all. Luckily, the road flattens out here and there in the serpentine turns, it did just in time. The Toyota stops with a hissing sound from the brakes and everything becomes quiet, we are still on the mountain and alive.
Forward with a water can to cool down the red-hot brakes, however, it turns out to be completely impossible to get the water from the can to sprinkle in behind the wheels to the brake drum itself. We would have needed a beam of some kind that could be aimed at the right place.
We next came at the same time that a urine stream would do the job. Said and done, it had been a while since the last urination and a lot of beer had been consumed so it was no problem at all to cool down the brakes on the two wheels that had working brakes, by emptying the bladder on them. Yes, of course the girls could not participate in this exercise, it would require too much acrobatics for them to target. We guys have a more directional equipment, so to speak.
Yes, after a successful recruitment, we now had to make a tactical decision. Since it has now been shown that the question of our survival depended on how much we could urinate in order to cool down the brakes, we must come to a conclusion as to what is best to fill the bladder with. The choice was between the river water in the plastic cans or the cold beer in the beer keg. Of course, all the accumulated life experience pointed to the beer. The water could make us sick to our stomachs, in addition we were completely sure that you will be more needy of beer and also have a lot more fun. When we finally got home, we could also brag that we urinated down for the biggest mountain in the country. How many can boast about it?
We thought we might as well start Bienvenido on a corner as well. He probably did not mind helping with brake cooling on those terms. We never had to ask him. It was enough to stir a little on the beer keg and he was wide awake. He was not an amateur, he had taught this trick to everyone who is up on the mountain and going down, he grinned. Well then, there were three of us who could cool off when needed and it did.
Of course, we came down the mountain unscathed after having basically emptied all the barrel’s resources and urinated liters of coolant on the brakes. Because of all the beer, we were a pretty happy bunch who set out on, the highway at dusk with Toyota’s front facing our home areas on one of the most accident-prone roads in the world.
Before the trip out on the highway, we stopped at a miniature roadside restaurant and got some other food than just beer. Of course, it would never happen that you drove drunk in normal cases, but this was not a normal case. Without our selfless beer drinking to be able to put on the brakes, our days would have ended already up on the mountain.
It was not completely dark yet but it started to get dark and it soon became pitch dark. The battery was completely empty and the generator did not charge so we were completely without lighting on the car. According to Bienvenido, the alternative of parking the car by the roadside and hitchhiking home was not an option. We would be robbed and, in the worst case, killed, the Toyota would be stolen immediately. That being said, taking us home on the pitch black highway was the only option.
It did not go fast but it went forward, we could with the help of the light of the oncoming cars helpfully orient ourselves forward. The biggest risk was to be hit from behind for any speed limit did not exist in this country. When we have traveled a few miles, we are stopped by a road police officer on a moped. He is completely insane and explains that we should be taken into custody at the nearest police station. The worst thing he really points out is that we do not have backlighting. It affects other road users. This is where our eminent guide Bienvenido enters, he explains the whole chain of events with an absolutely incredible vocabulary both physically and verbally. The arms go like windmills on the little man and a Spanish root waltz that I did not understand many words of completely squirted out of him. I think in my quiet mind that soon he will lift and float his way into the darkness with flapping arms.
The constable probably thought the same thing, it seemed like, he looks almost mesmerized when he offers to ride in front of us with his moped the last 30 kilomters and light up the road for us so we will surely come home. Once we get started, I find that our dear constable did not have a taillight on his moped either. While we were traveling home at moped speed, there was a lively discussion about what this would cost. This was at a time when police revenue largely consisted of bribes. We thought it would surely cost a kidney. We were also a little curious about what Bievenido had offered the constable so as not to take us to the police station and imprison us for our incurably stupid company. He explained that that bit was very simple.
The nearest police station was 20 km away so he had only asked the constable how he would solve the transport issue of five people with his moped, which also lacked taillights, 20 km to the prison in the pitch black. This would take up half the night and he probably had a wife waiting for him in the bed straw at home. Once home, we thank the helpful constable and ask him how we can compensate him for his efforts. He then replies that it has been a pleasure to help and says he does not want any compensation at all. He salutes, sits on his moped and pulls out into the night. We never got from our dear Bienvenido what he really said to the constable, who was so quickly transformed from Mr. Hyde to DR. Jekyll out there in the pitch black night on the highway. It is and remains a well-hidden secret between our eminent signpost and the country’s most non-corrupt police constable.
This was the end of this story about how it happened when we were speculators in a piece of paradise. Unfortunately, for various reasons, it did not turn out to be a deal, but it did give us a little adventure to remember. Everything I wrote is of course true and has happened in reality and I have reproduced it as well as I can remember.
Thank you for wanting to share this adventure with me and have fun. In conclusion, I show a picture of a small village school we passed at the foot of Cordillera Central ..
Keep your eyes open, in due course I may write and tell you about when I was temporarily appointed a prison guard to be thrown in the central prison in Santo Domingo the next day.