Today was our final full day in Las Galeras, and we used it well. The moment we stepped onto the patio for breakfast, we ran into two enormous, glorious dogs, and were happily waylaid by doggie affection for a few minutes.
After breakfast, we climbed into a private car (which the Chalet proprietress had arranged for us) to head to El Salto del Limón. This is a waterfall and tourism hotspot outside El Limón, a town about 25 minutes’ drive farther west of Samaná. Our driver Pedro was chatty and amiable; the conversation varied from his young-adult children and their university studies, to the huge, gaudy expatriate mansions up on some of the hillsides.
We drove from Las Galeras, through Samaná, and into El Limón, keenly watching the pueblos and naturaleza (nature) pass by through the window (as always). Once we arrived, Pedro led us over to two guides with two horses (standing amongst a whole mess of horses and guides), and we mounted up to ride to the waterfall.
Initially, as we headed up the stony path, the guides led our horses by the bridles, but once we were on the trail proper, they gave us free rein (as it were). The path crawled up and down hills, passing through shaded forests and baking-hot clearings, all surrounded by palm and banana trees. At times, the path grew muddy and boggy (the guide noted that it was quite dangerous during the rainier seasons); at other times, it was bouldery and uneven, but our horses marched solidly onward. As we went, we passed many tourists on horseback heading in the opposite direction, which required a little path-shuffle between our horses each time.
We reached a muddy, shaded area that had a few booths selling tourist goods, and we dismounted here. Then, we walked down a long series of mud-dirt, wood-reinforced trail-steps, descending into a small sort of valley, until we reached the waterfall.
El Salto del Limón was beautiful, backed with moss and lush, dangling plants, with the force of the water breaking itself into tiny soft rivulets around the rocks. There was a noisy mob of tourists clumped up nearby it, but I tuned them out and attempted to take human-free nature photos, while Elana waded bravely into the pool by the waterfall and cavorted around behind the waterfall’s curtains of splashing water.
Once we had had our fill of waterfall, we headed up the many muddy steps, and climbed up on our horses to ride back. We got to trot quite a bit on the return, perhaps because horses are smart creatures and they knew they were almost home.
(Tangentially: the horseback ride set-up made me somewhat uncomfortable. I’m accustomed to interacting with horses in contexts where they’re not left saddled and are given plenty of space and shade. I could not tell how well-treated the horses were here, but they were definitely not as well-treated as many I’ve interacted with. I know that the quality and humaneness of animal care can vary pretty widely within developing countries, and I have little right to judge as an outsider/tourist, but it nonetheless gave me pause.)
After a lunch of la bandera dominicana (“the Dominican flag,” which signifies a typical meal of rice, beans, meat, and perhaps salad), we climbed into Pedro’s car and headed back toward Las Galeras. While we had managed well enough with just public transportation, thus far, we were really glad we’d tried using a private car this one time, as it gave us some exploration flexibility we could never have had with public transport. Once, Pedro stopped so that I could snap a photo of an important sign. Later, still thirsty from the ride, we asked if we could stop for a coconut if we passed a stand—and indeed we did, so all three of us sat in the cool car and sipped fresh coconut water from the shell. Elana and I also bought some fruit: a squishy-ripe guanabana, and two new-to-us fruits: sapodilla (Manilkara zapota) and mamón (custard apple, or Annona reticulata). Fruit adventure!
Back at the Chalet, we relaxed for a while, tired from a day of humid sunshine and jostling horses. I stretched out in one of the hammocks, and wrote in my notebook, while a gentle tropical breeze brushed over me. Such perfection.
We grabbed dinner from town (more tasty rice and meat), and brought it back to the Chalet to eat. During the meal, we were joined by Darling (a Dominican employee of the Chalet whom we’d chatted with for a few minutes every day), and over dinner, our conversation turned to the Dominican dance bachata. Elana has become quite good at it, but I knew nothing of it—so after dinner, Elana taught me the basic steps. Then, we rejoined Darling at the hotel office, where we played dance music off YouTube on a little laptop. Darling taught me some more bachata, as well as merengue and salsa, then he and Elana danced a few dances quite impressively.
After Elana and I were danced out, our bare feet dusty from the cement, we wandered back to our room to pack up, preparing to leave the Chalet. As a bedtime snack, we sampled the sapodilla we’d bought earlier, which was sweet with a strange, grainy texture. To me, it tasted almost exactly like quince paste.
Tomorrow, we brave 8+ hours of bus travel, as we journey to Elana’s home in Dajabón.