Friday, July 18, 2008

Life in Luperon

The water is calm. Very brownish, dirty and with a lot of stuff growing in it, but as flat as we like it. Soon enough, the first ripples will appear, then those turn into chop and before anybody realizes it, white capped and almost breaking waves will take over Luperon Bay. But, not yet. It’s 7 o’clock in the morning. We have a little bit of time left to move about the water without getting wet. This is also the perfect time to do work on the higher parts of the catamaran or under it. Early starts are very important here…

At a slow pace, our dinghy moves toward town. We have to save some gas. Even in this part of the world, a gallon costs about $6. The same price as a bottle of rum or a small Taino painting. The sun is already beating upon us. She and/or her friend Humidity make us sweat from the moment we get up, sometimes even at night. We swat some mosquitoes and no-see-ums – the wind is good for some things – and enjoy the sight of the green hills around us. Then, we tie the dinghy to the crooked floating dock near the concrete pier and walk a few minutes before reaching the gate. We greet the group of people, officials and others, that always seem to hang out here, and continue on.

The town is slowly coming to life. Some stray dogs are up and about, while others are still sleeping, comfortably spread out, dotting the sidewalks. A group of short haired sheep wander by in search of something to eat. A little girl approaches one of the dogs. A guy comes out of his shack and brushes his teeth above the gutter. He’s not totally dressed yet. The tooth paste joins the waste water, garbage, oil and dog droppings sitting stagnant along the street. Further up the road, we notice a stream of blood on its way to join the other substances. Fresh chickens are now ready to be sold. We hear some cows in the distance. A baby cries. A couple of people leave their modest houses. With a big smile, we wish them a good day. Their response: “Bueno dia!” They don’t like to pronounce the last “s” here.

Most of the restaurants and stores (about every other building) are still closed, but the vegetable truck is in town. We join the chaos of locals and browse the merchandise on the ground. A couple of pineapples, a melon, a pound of tomatoes, some local peppers, onions and potatoes, a head of lettuce, and –hey- broccoli. It all gets weighed, some extra stuff gets thrown in and we pay. Six dollars.

We hang around for a bit, talk to a few fellow cruisers, and try to find some other stuff in the stores. This activity always proves to be a little tough and time consuming, especially when things to fix boat parts are needed. We walk along the noisy traffic, get offered rides by the moto concho drivers (these are motorcycle taxis), and avoid potholes and broken sidewalks. Smiley, the town’s friendliest dog, approaches us with a smile, a wagging tail and a personal greeting that sounds somewhat like a bark, yawn and cry combined. She deserves all the loving she can get. Villagers are now roaming the streets or sitting in the shade in front of their houses. Later on some will go play dominoes, visit neighbours or get groceries. By the time we return to the dinghy, our clothes are drenched in sweat and the wind has picked up substantially. To get home, we have to head straight into wind and waves, with wet clothes as a result.

The most beautiful and special event of the bay – and the day – happens at night, when it’s dark. The water is full of phosphorescent, creating a wonderful and colourful display when disturbed. Driving the dinghy, for example, illuminates the area under and behind the engine in such a way that it almost blinds the eye! As if we’re a space shuttle getting launched. All around us, fish shoot in all directions and become little yellow stripes and flashes. Our own private fireworks. The tops of the wind waves glisten and glow. Amazing! With a rope or stick you can draw bright figures in the water and the men love to create their own artwork with body fluids.

The other thing Luperon has to offer is its immense social scene. Being a hurricane hole, it brings in a fair amount of cruisers, which whom to share your boat adventures, plans and experiences. A whole bunch of expats provides useful information and offers their services. Then there is the group “in between” that lives here semi-permanently and organizes all kinds of activities, while figuring out whether to stay or to continue on. If they ever get their anchors out of the sticky, claiming mud of the bay. And, naturally, there is the local community. By visiting the small businesses, sitting at a loud bar, trying the chicken, rice and beans in the comedores, watching a baseball game or joining one on Saturdays, or just taking in the village scene, you get to know the Dominican people and its culture.

From Luperon it’s also possible to visit some of the sights in the area. With a guagua (small bus) or caro publico (car jam packed with passengers) you can go run errands in Santiago, shop and stroll in Puerto Plata and visit the nearby waterfalls. Renting a moped will let you explore places beyond the reach of other transportation. If you dare to join the other mad drivers...

Of course, there is much more to say about this place, but now I’m going to find a spot in the shade, observe the lush scenery and let the wind cool me down. If only I could jump off the boat without being covered in grossness. Poor Irie. Her bottom is turning into a slimy forest of barnacles, shells, and green hairy things. I gotta say – and I speak for the four of us - we do miss the clear waters and sandy beaches…