DR Vacation Climaxes at Damajagua Falls Excursion
DR Features Caribbean Getaways
Let me just start by saying that most of the thrills I ever needed on vacation have been satisfied by roller coasters. But this was altogether different. In fact, it's not even a theme park ride at all that gave me this thrilling but all out fear-inspiring vacation experience. It was an all natural ride of sorts. Furthermore, if you are on vacation in the DR, and somebody offers you a crash helmet and life vest and says follow me, just say no, or be prepared for the vacation experience of a lifetime! That is what happened to my family, a few friends, and host of about 10 other clueless individuals one day while vacationing in the Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.
Panoramic Beauty of a Day in the DR
It seemed almost a shame to get up so early when we were perfectly content to sleep until the sun pierced through the narrow crevice between the curtains in our unit. But one of our friends had scheduled an excursion away from our comfy quarters at a local resort in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. We had to get up early to meet what looked like a bean bus cut in half to serve as an over-sized safari jeep. This vehicle had a man at the wheel and woman standing in the rear, shouting instructions, then history, and finally humorous stories while serving as our tour guide along the way. This journey would go from the city, into the villages, through the jungle, and finally to Damajagua Falls. It was like a panoramic snapshot of DR life in a day.
Off we went into a day that boasted temperatures over 95 degrees and gave a balmy feeling that neared breaking a sweat. We were in a third world country, so I am not sure why I was surprised at what we saw. Call it culture shock. Call it naivety. Call it downright silly, if you will. But I will never be able to complain about the infrastructure in any city after visiting one that has little to none. It seemed that everyone was able to call their own shots on the roads, and whoever seemed most commanding got the right of way. Oh, in this situation, cabs, vans, or any vehicle carrying tourists seem to pull rank, or at least that is what we felt safe to believe, and as it did turn out to be so for us. There were sometimes 3 or 4 people on 1 moped. You could tell this was a normal scene and not a rare exception because, as many people as there were out and about, we were the only ones staring.
Imagination Meets Reality Head-On
We zipped past shops, markets, and people everywhere, beautiful people of smooth tan to brown skin tones with beautiful dark hair. There was calmness in the peoples' eyes that you often miss in US city dwellers whom you may glance at on a train or subway, but you better not stare. Anyway, we rumbled along as music blared from block to block. Many vehicles spewed emissions that would exceed any state regulations in the US. In fact, a few vehicles sported no hoods at all. That was not a problem.
As we left the city and entered the villages, we crossed a very narrow bridge that shook as though it would give out under the weight of our vehicle and the one that shared it with us. This seemed like a close call on both counts. We then visited not an art museum but a carving hut of sorts where the villagers made statuettes of people and animals from nearby stone. It was cash and carry for these objects soon to be souvenirs.
After speeding on further, we were given a demonstration of how coffee is processed in the villages, complete with song and dance. Then on to the rum shack where we received a simple lunch and, of course, rum and coke was offered there. Rum is served in the Dominican Republic as much as coffee because the sugar cane used to make it is very plentiful there. The villages popped with bright-colored tiny houses that had no windows, only shutters if that. Power outages are frequent, as we were reminded by our tour guide, and so it was peculiar to see a full hooded hair dryer set up in one small home. I imagined that its use could power down the entire village, but "Hey a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do!" We relaxed a bit and then boarded the safari bus and headed for Damajagua Falls, the highlight of our day. I pictured getting there to find a 2 to 3-story waterfall with a shallow basin at the bottom to frolic and cool off. Perish that thought. These falls were not like that!
After a 30-minute hiking trek over shallow streams and rocks, through jungle passages, we arrived at Damajagua Falls. This was a serene location but no frolicking here. Even though you could not see the full height from this point, the falls went upward for 27 levels, we were told, and these spilled over each level downward into the next with pool at each level. One guide said we would only climb to the 7th level. Did that guide just say climb? What? Surely, he didn't think we are going to climb against current in these spectacular waterfalls! Well, that's exactly what he meant. It would be just 7 out of 27, he said. How hard could it be? I bolstered my confidence with thoughts like these: This must be a cinch, right? It's got to be easier than it looks from here, right? People do this every day, right? Oh, I couldn't have been more ambivalent at that point. We looked like pretty sound specimens, yet nobody here seemed to be a superhero. I don't think any of us had a clue of how demanding it would be. Admittedly, some of us were more up to the challenge than others. Even so, I must add that without the experience, strength, and direction of our guides, I think it would have been impossible for all of us!
Hyped Up for both the Thrill and Living Through It
What I really needed was a reality check but, since I didn't get one, it was off to the vacation challenge of my life. We started out together, walking towards the first fall and, suddenly, it was sink or swim time. The water suddenly became very cool and deep. Even at the outset my heart was racing, and I was thinking, "Are we really going to make it all the way up and back down safely?" You see going up was against the waterfalls while literally climbing rocks. The water was crashing into our faces and bodies, as we mustered the gumption to keep going. With the pep rally of the fellow climbers and the encouraging guides in this strange but exhilarating experience, we pressed on level after level to find each beautiful fall different from the previous one. By level 6 of the falls, I was getting tired but thought I should be able to make it for one more level. I remember reassuring myself mentally by thinking how well the guides were working together for our safety and at times verily pulling, throwing, and hauling some of us like sacks of potatoes. As I looked around, everybody seemed to be doing okay. I tried to keep my eyes on my family and friends, in particular. I asked them if they were okay. They all said they were fine. Three of them were particularly strong and made me nervous in their lack of concern for the unexpected. My daughter, my son, and the others went on to the 7th level. I reminded my daughter to keep her brother very close by. Both of them are good swimmers and they went on. Fear had become a big factor, as it drained adrenaline and needed energy. A friend stopped here and refused to go on. I stayed with him. Besides, I figured I might as well save what reserves I had left for getting back. So we sat there together on the rocks and waited and psyched each other up for the trek back. We couldn't see the others after a few minutes. We could only hear them laughing in the echoes because the 7th level had what looked like a cave showering water at its entrance. In a short time, they were back. We were very glad not only to hear them but to see each one of them when they got back to the 6th fall. We were all together again. That may seem like nothing important to you but, trust me; it was a huge happy moment for us!
Did These Unsuspecting Souls Experience the Thrill and Live to Tell It?
Then we had to get our minds set and come up with nearly the same grit to get back down again, level by level. The delightful thing is that going back down was like being on water rides in an amusement park, only without the inflatable inner tubes for cushion and protection, and nothing like the carts of roller coasters. This is the way we went back down: We got right on our butts, put our arms over our chest, and scooted until we slid with the waterfall or were shoved gently, if we got stuck. It was much easier going down and it was a lot of fun landing in the pools below! One after the other, we made it all the way back down to the first level. Here you had a choice to either jump off a cliff of about 20 feet or slide back down into the pool where we started. Which one do you think I chose?
Call me a wimp if you want! I slid! I figured if I had made it this far without killing myself, I surely wasn't going to end it now by hitting my head on a rock, and neither was I going to let my 10-year-old son jump! He was not happy about that, but something in me just would not allow him to do it; even though he had managed just fine up to this point. If I had known how challenging it really was, I would not have permitted him to go. Heck, he was probably thinking the same thing about me! With great hesitation, my daughter jumped. She was somewhat terrified but did not want to miss this thrill for anything. She was old enough to make the call for herself, and she took that leap with great success! As for the rest of our clueless crew, about half slid down, half jumped; all survived, and I just had to tell you the story. What an experience!
Attention Thrill Seekers:
In all seriousness, this was the most thrilling vacation day spent there in the Dominican Republic but not without some element of danger. You must remember as well that emergency response in the Dominican Republic is not what it is in more developed lands. So risks are certainly greater when doing an activity like this. That would be true if only because rescue would be difficult if not impossible, if something went wrong. It is surely noteworthy that it is considered unsafe to go into these falls after any significant rainfall. Some consider it never safe to do so. Having gone into Damajagua Falls myself, I would have to side strongly with caution and being well informed about conditions and expectations. We had a perfect day in a week that had very little rainfall and very high temperatures. Also, knowing that almost everything presents some risks, it is a personal choice for one to make whether to experience these falls or not. Parents should exercise even greater caution regarding any children, if they allow them to go in at all. These falls are truly awesome but do present real risks just like rip tides in the ocean while swimming, swelling rivers after rain when whitewater rafting, horseback riding in the mountain passes, or any other activity that takes you out of the norm.
Dominican Republic Offers Many Options for Enjoyment
You will have to make your own call regarding whether to go into Damajagua Falls, after getting the facts, and not someone else's opinion. As for me, I just wanted to share with you the most unusual, awe-inspiring, seemingly life and limb-threatening and challenging thing I have ever done on vacation. This happened to be in the Dominican Republic. Besides the exhilarating Damajagua Falls, though, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy in the Dominican Republic like all-inclusive resorts, beautiful beaches, site seeing, botanical gardens, snorkeling, windsurfing, and shopping. So you will have plenty of options for enjoying a fantastic vacation in the DR, just as we surely did.
If You Are Thinking of a Trip to the DR, You Might Find These Websites Helpful
- Dominican Republic has it all
Welcome to the Official Website of the Dominican Republic Tourism Ministry, godominicanrepublic.com. This site offers visitors in-depth information about the country, its wonderful destinations, diverse activities, accommodations, travel information,
- PlanetWare Travel Guide - Hotels, Attractions, Pictures, Maps & More
Your Unlimited Travel Guide to the World. Plan a trip using in-depth tourist attraction information, do-it-yourself tours, maps, photos & more. Find the best deals on hotels, flights & car rentals.
- Dominican Republic - Home
The official internet portal of the Dominican Republic. General info, News, Chat, Booking Engines