Sosua, Cabarete and Puerto Plata stand out on the map and are famous, but it's just Playa El Encuentro that we stop at.
They dictated the destination and a series of factors that the Atlantic unrolls over the north of the Dominican Republic in waves that surfers from all over are used to admiring.
A forest of dense trees shelters an initial area of sand.
A community of water sports schools share the shadow of this shore, the warm and delicious sea in front, the customers who visit the coast and, equally or more importantly, the opportunity to live a natural and elusive day-to-day, without the stress and hassle of so many other ways of life.
There we met, in full post-surf showers, friends Gabriel, (from Margarita Island) and Huba, also Venezuelan, of Hungarian descent, members of the Frescollective project and with some ideas up their sleeves for the surroundings of Playa El Encuentro.
Right next door, we enter the 321Take Off surf school, then represented by the Argentine Juan, but founded by Yahman Markus Bohm, also creator of the competition Masters of the Ocean which combines surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing and paddleboard.
Part of the entourage we follow takes on surf lessons. We wandered along the beach in search of other treasures.
Surfers from different generations try the most suitable maneuvers for the swell of the moment. Some throw themselves into the emerald Caribbean water, others leave it and disappear into the blackness of the forest.
Dauri Reinoso also comes and goes. Dauri trains on Del Encuentro waves and works as a surf teacher for 321Take Off. won the Masters of the Ocean 2019 held in Cabarete but, in a good surfer way, poses for us with a lightness of soul that only many ethereal hours between the waves grant.
Brugal. A Not Frugal Rum
Frank Vázquez welcomes us at the entrance to the Puerto Plata factory of the famous Dominican rum Brugal. Hearing that there was a predominance of Portuguese in the group, he informs us that he would guide us in Portuguese. The version is the Brazilian one but even so its competence amazes us.
“But you've already worked on the Brazil?” Not! I have a lot of curiosity. I like to learn, I don't sit still! I can guide this tour in ten different languages. Also, I'm a firefighter, rescuer, paramedic, lifeguard. I'm done with a little bit of everything, you know? Because I'm Frank and that's why they call me Frankenstein…
We hadn't touched the rum yet. The conversation already sounded surreal to us. Frank interrupts her to save us from the monstrous Caribbean sun. Inside, as he did time and time again, he describes the brand's history, shows us its most valuable bottles and gives us a taste of different productions.
Of the various Brugal rums on display, one Pope Andrés stood out, of whom only a thousand bottles remained, each valued at at least $1500.
By that time, the whole group had tasted some rum, the most modest, of course.
Photos of the brand's papal star were requested in all shapes and sizes. Afraid of breaking it and being banished from the congregation of the spirit that employed him, Frank embraced the museum box that protected the Limited edition 2015 with a blessed care.
In times of intense industrial espionage, we only had the right to spy on Brugal's production unit. No photos, no videos. It was supposed that no boldness.
Ascent to the Isabel de Torres Tropical Peak
The tropical heat of a pressure cooker that continues to make us sweat just to refresh ourselves has little or nothing since the sun's zenith.
We get ahead of the traffic in San Felipe de Puerto Plata, the city. we surpassed guaguas – vans for almost twenty passengers, carts – private cars that take taxis and we see them circulating with almost half the capacity of the guaguas.
E motoconchos, mototaxis that we accompany in their capacity, we don't really know if the maximum is: four passengers holding on to the driver. And each other.
Angel, the Dominican who led us with heavenly smoothness and rocked to the sound of bachata popular in the country, completes a final climb in a curve.
Finally, we reach the foot of Pico Isabel de Torres, named after the Queen Isabel of Castile, born in Madrigal de Las Altas Torres (Valladolid) and in force in the years when Christopher Columbus unveiled these West Indies to the West. Old world.
At 793m, the mountain of Puerto Plata is at a ¼ of the altitude of Pico Duarte (3.098m), the roof of the Caribbean islands, but, as it rises from the imminent seashore, it preserves an impressive coastal drama.
It's Thursday. Without the Dominican weekend visitors offshore, the cable car passengers are sparse.
The summit to which we were going to ascend was many meters short of the record-breaking peak of Pico Duarte. By way of compensation, the authorities of Puerto Plata emphasize the fact that the cable car that connects the city to its mountain is a pioneer.
The line was inaugurated in 1975. At that time, it didn't have identical ones in the sea and surrounding archipelagos.
From then until now, it was not long after a century. The cabin we follow, this one, takes a mere eight minutes to conquer the lush hillside.
At the window facing the Atlantic, we passed humble homes and an earthy, deserted baseball field. Little by little, we see the white houses of Puerto Plata shrink from the splashing green.
When we inspect the view from the landing platform, the forest overwhelms the urban area below with relief.
We appreciate a kind of sub-peak lined with an intricate mantle of small palm trees and other lush plant species.
To the west, the view made it evident that San Felipe de Puerto Plata had extrapolated the tightest of successive jagged coves on the Ambar Coast, where this precious fossilized resin is most abundant in the Dominican Republic.
We admire her for a few extra moments. Until the open-armed appeal of an unexpected Christ the Redeemer makes us turn our backs to the coast.
A first staircase leads to the foot of the monument, based on a half-sphere with windows. A second one passes between a waving flag of the Dominican Republic and another of Puerto Plata.
It takes visitors to the dreary interior of the white half-ball where a community of sellers of crafts and treasures attract them to your business.
All around, a botanical garden with endemic flora and the natural vastness of the PN Isabel de Torres, seemed to us more worthy attractions.
We skirted the sphere below the feet of Christ, overflown by flocks of parrots shrill, the same birds that Christopher Columbus would have observed, then, probably much more abundant and noisy.
Columbus sailed off the present-day Ambar Coast in 1492, on the first of his four voyages to the Americas. It reached these parts of the Caribbean after having crossed the Bahamas and traveled the eastern half of Cuba, with the coast always in sight.
After the failures of La Navidad and The Isabela, the north of Hispaniola would only receive a successful colony, in a year still under debate, between 1502 and 1506.
Whatever the date, the village was planned by Cristovão Colombo and his younger brother, Bartolomeu.
At the time, a note by Cristovão about the argent look of the persistent fog on that mountain that welcomed us will have served as an inspiration for its name: San Felipe de Puerto Plata. Where do we return in the meantime.
The Lives That Bring More Life to Puerto Plata
We disembarked from the van straight to its Independence Park, designed with creative geometry from the heart of La Glorieta, a two-story Victorian octagonal bandstand.
The architectural style of the bandstand is no coincidence. Around it, there are many other Victorian buildings built from 1857 onwards, influenced by European and immigrant boats that began to arrive in the port at the end of the XNUMXth century.
It is said, in fact, that the fashion spread as ships landed brochures and leaflets with images of Victorian buildings.
These buildings are still standing, each with its lines and colors that clash with the most modern constructions and the austere lines of the Cathedral of St. Philip the Apostle.
We head for the temple's tripartite entrance when a humble, unholy celebration catches our attention.
Sitting on a park bench, a girl holds a birthday cake. Behind her, a young Dominican woman ties an arrangement of balloons to a corner of the bench.
Charlotte turns three. The mother takes care of the adjustments for a photo session that will eternalize the moment. “It's not just Charlotte.” tell us the lady. "Anabela, the youngest, also just made the first one!" With the help of her grandmother and a friend, the mother sits her two daughters on the bench with the cake in the middle.
Angelic Anabela ignores the photos. Little given to ceremonies, he takes a big finger of icing from the cake and smears cream all over his mouth. Charlotte puts her hands to her head. The sister does not stop.
Attack the colored sectors of the cake. Charlotte asks her mother and grandmother for help but, amused by her youngest daughter's photogenic mischief, the adults ignore her. Charlotte loses patience. He screams at his sister and tries to stop her sugary terrorism. Too late and in vain.
We no longer enter the cathedral. Instead, we reversed our way to the bottom of Independencia Park and then to a new street in the city, the alley of Doña Blanca Franceschini, recently opened by the family of the Punta Cana tourist group, Rainieri Kuret.
The alley was repaired by the group and the family in honor of the 110th anniversary of her grandmother Blanca's arrival in Puerto Plata in 1898. Bianca (original Italian name) Franceschini and her husband realized that a hotel in Puerto Plata was needed.
Thus, they decided to found the Hotel del Comercio, later Hotel Europa, and laid a solid foundation for Dominican tourism.
We found the alley magenta from end to end. Decorated with benches, windows and mirrors that challenge lovers instagramers. We see Marielys and her better half struggle to come up with a creative photo that arrives.
Fifteen minutes later, when they noticed the hyperactivity of a bunch of photographers with cameras that seemed to them professional, they couldn't resist: “Can't you help us here? This reflex story is complicated… and you're used to it.”
We do the girl's pleasure. She peeks at the photo and looks at her boyfriend with a reproachful air of: “See? Was it really that hard?”
Just below, in the walk of the shades, we found Josefina Martinez, from Tortuga, an island north of Haiti.
Much more comfortable as a model, the three of us had fun in a short improvisation around the cotton candy I was tasting.
We went down a little further, towards the seaside. There we find the Fort of São Filipe. Until the middle of the XNUMXth century, Puerto Plata continued to develop around this fort.
Until, around 1555, it fell into decay and became frequented mainly by pirates, in such a way that in 1605, to prevent the expansion of piracy that harmed the Spaniards, Felipe III ordered the destruction of the city, which would only come to be repopulated after a century.
We found the fort already closed but, as always in Caribbean port cities, surrounded by life. Tomás Nuñez had reverted to his old habit of inline skating and, as far as we could see, was keeping fit.
At one point, he sat down squeezing his skates beside Lourdes and Darwin, both lying down watching the waves crashing along the length of the walls.
We came to think that the two family of Tomás but no, they didn't know each other. Dan, Lourdes' husband and Darwin's father, fished farther down, out of sight.
Confused? Maybe. Nothing much if we take into account the richness of what we had experienced in just one day in Puerto Plata. would follow the Peninsula of Samaná and its Haitises.