VivenciasUSAenRD heads South
By Consul General, William Swaney
I recently had the chance to visit the southwest and was again struck by the beauty of the DR and by how quickly the landscape and weather can change. Our group left Santo Domingo in the dark and soon found ourselves on the coastal road south of Barahona. Each curve seemed to open up a more beautiful view of the bright blue ocean and white beaches as we rode south, and I thought that “Paraiso” was a particularly appropriate name for the area. As we passed impressive wind turbines near Enriquillo the green faded to brown and the temperature began to rise. Then came another stunning blast of green as we paused at Lake Oviedo to appreciate that striking body of water.
After a long and dusty ride across the peninsula we were again greeted by the stunning blue of Bahia de Las Aguilas, and could see the foothills of the Sierra de Bahoruco to the north. After a delicious meal in Pedernales we rode north into the hills and forest to spend the night at the Balneario de Rio Mulito, gratefully soaking our tired and sweaty selves in the cold pools.
The next day we headed out early to visit the Parque de la Sierra de Bahoruco, passing Cabo Rojo and leaving behind the heat and red dust as we climbed steadily into the pine forests of the sierra. Hawks and parrots spiraled overhead as we pushed along the increasingly challenging trail to our destination stopping on several occasions to push or pull a motorcycle up the steep and slippery track. My own faithful motorcycle got a flat tire at this worst possible moment, but emergency supplies filled it back up long enough to reach our camp where it could be changed with the help of several mechanically gifted members of our group.
Having climbed over 2,000 meters to the fire observation tower at “El Codo” the view was a breathtaking 360 view of the island, with Bahia de Las Aguilas to the south, and Lago Enriquillo to the north, and endless forest all around. Our guides showed us the unique plants, birds and animals that make the forest their home, and their passion to protect these spaces and share them with their fellow countrymen was almost palpable. They also discussed the challenges of illegal logging and charcoal production, animal trafficking, and forest fires. I was impressed to learn that the park director spoke fluent creole, and that brigades of Dominican and Haitian firefighters regularly operate jointly on both sides of the border to protect the forest. Despite the various challenges they face, the rangers were steadfast in their commitment, and as I woke the next day in the cool, wet morning I wished I could bring all my friends and family to see and feel these “lungs” of the DR in all their beauty.