A Dominican Adventure Via Suzuki V-Strom

V-Stroming a Developing Nation

By Eric Putter, Photography by PutterPowerMedia

Lunch was at Mi Vista Mountain Resort just outside Jarabacoa. The property is dotted with intimate cabanas, a swimming pool and thatched-roof umbrellas. It offers scenic views of mountains punctuated by palm and fruit trees. We dined on traditional fare of rice, beans, goat, and chicken. Dominican cuisine is a mix of Spanish, Taíno Indian, and African influences. Neither spicy nor bland, it usually consists of simple meat and vegetable dishes, with the odd fruit thrown in to inject a contrasting taste and add some color.

Sampling some more tasty roads, another small cascada and a swimming area after lunch, the final treat of the day was touring a coffee-processing plant owned by Alida’s cousin. Other than sugar cane, coffee is the DR’s biggest cash crop.

Before dark, we landed back at Hotel Gran Jimenoa set above the Jimenoa River, which provides a soothing soundtrack as it roars past guest rooms and the al fresco dining area.

Kickstands were up before 9:00 a.m. as we headed toward the Grand Paradise Samana resort on the island’s easternmost point. A light rain dampened my enthusiasm for canyon carving on the way to a coffee stop in Moca. Approaching the road’s peak, I saw a studious-looking kid under a tree on the side of the road with his face buried in a laptop computer, one of the country’s estimated 3 million web-enabled netizens. The DR’s cell tower infrastructure is far better developed than its old-school landlines.

From Moca, it was a 45-minute ride to La Entrada for a first glimpse of the DR’s postcard-worthy beaches. Shaded by palm trees, we lazed by the Atlantic Ocean waves gently rolling up the beach before continuing up the Samana peninsula. Highway 5 was a moving picture show of ocean, palm trees, rice paddies, resorts and those ubiquitous roadside shanties.

In contrast to these bucolic scenes was a roadside reality check. While leading the group to Samana, I spotted a rope stretched across the 60-mph thoroughfare. Confused and flustered, I rolled the ‘Strom to a stop and the offenders dropped the line and reached their hands out expecting a toll. Less than 10 minutes later, another posse loomed in the distance. The 13 percent unemployment rate among 10 million inhabitants drives people to desperate measures, and this is just one way for some to survive. It was a reminder that despite the lush scenery and beautiful resort destinations, the country lives in degrees of economic contrast.

In contrast to the toll-collecting bandits, it’s estimated that one in seven citizens work at the Dominican Republic’s many resorts. After a stay at the Grand Paradise resort that night, we woke to the threat of thunderstorms. The DR enjoys a tropical maritime climate with little seasonal temperature variation. Rain showers

are frequent but generally brief. Luckily, we only ran into a few light, fast-moving showers. During MotoCaribe’s busy season, from December until May, daytime highs hover in the 70s and 80s everywhere except the mountains. The rain moved on and the moisture eventually burned off, providing a rich canvas for a day spent exploring natural wonders.

We went spelunking in a stalactite-rich cave and visited a blowhole carved out of lava rocks lining the craggy shoreline below. At low tide it wasn’t much of a blowhard, but when timed perfectly, it will launch a coconut into the stratosphere—or so the locals claim.

La Cascada El Limon was easily the most dramatic attraction of the day. We gained access to this 200-foot drop via a 30-minute donkey ride before an aerobic climb up and down innumerable steps carved into the hillside. Equal parts waterfall, swimming hole and informal Dominican Extreme Diving Championship precipice, it teemed with ecotourists who were there to watch locals precariously scale the rocky cliff through fast-moving water and then plunge into the pool several stories below.

The final leg of the trip focused more on the riding. Returning to Samana, we tossed the V-Stroms left and right over a mountain pass reminiscent of California’s serpentine coastal mountains. The Wee Stroms proved a good, if uninspiring choice for touring the island. Putting out adequate power, they enjoy pothole-avoiding handlebar leverage, a decent windscreen and a comfy seat. The V-Strom is a non-threatening ride that allows you to concentrate on the scenery.

On the way back to Jarabacoa, we bypassed the beach route taken to Samana and headed for higher, twistier ground. Soon, we found ourselves at Tourist Boulevard of the Atlantic. Connecting the airport in Las Terranas with El Catey, it is similar to California’s famed Angeles Crest Highway. This brand-new stretch of pristine pavement winds its way through canyons carved out of hillsides and drops down to the beach. Of course, motos are free on this toll road while cars pay $11.50. By this point, we were used to this luxury, and could instead enjoy the countryside.

In our six days of riding, we covered 745 miles; a 32-mile stretch of autopista being the longest straight road we traveled. We saw a depth and breadth of natural wonders, and gained a true sense of this developing country.

The MotoCaribe tours has been a well-kept secret among a loyal fraternity of riders, many of who are repeat customers, and I can see myself becoming one of them. Robert promised that his tours were just like riding with friends. He also said that I’d fall in love with the place just as he did more than 20 years ago. Yes, I’ll be back to this beautiful, diverse country of contrasts.

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