We dropped anchor in the harbor at Luperon on June 9th. We really didn’t know what to expect other than we had read somewhere you wait on the boat for the officials to show up. The way it actually works is that either Papo or Handy Andy will come by and offer their services. They can get you everything from water, laundry, fuel or a mooring ball. While it is possible to anchor out, we had planned to take a mooring ball since we’ll be here for the next five to six months. Papo showed up first so we agreed to take one of his mooring balls. The mooring fee for our boat was $60 per month but since we paid for five months up front, we got a discount – 5 months for $250 US. We pulled our anchor and followed Papo’s boat through the mooring field to what will be our new home. Attaching to the mooring went smoothly and we were set. Papo also informed us that we had to go into town to check in. So, we lowered the dinghy and headed into town. There are two dinghy docks, Puerto Blanca marina and the government dock. To check in, you tie up near the government dock then walk toward town. You have to check in with Customs, Immigration, the Dept of Agriculture and the Comandante. Customs, Immigration and Agriculture are all together as you get into town with the Comandante up the hill. If you don’t speak Spanish, you may want to download Google Translate on your phone before starting this process. Everyone was very kind and helpful, and we were soon legally in the country.
My first impression of Luperon is that it is very poor by American standards. This made me a little nervous. In the States, the unfortunate truth is that high poverty usually equals high crime. We’ve discovered this isn’t the case here in Luperon. Don’t get me wrong, there is crime here, but we haven’t seen it. We’re still careful and never flash a lot of cash, we lock our dinghy when we leave it at the dock and raise it on the davits at night.
My second impression of Luperon is how hardworking, helpful and friendly the locals are. We’ve since learned there isn’t a welfare system here, so everyone has to be self-supporting. Families and neighbors take care of one another, especially their elderly. When you walk down the street, everyone smiles and says hola (hello). As Americans, we could learn a lot from these folks.
My third was this is the craziest bunch of drivers we’ve ever seen!!! If there is even one stop sign in Luperon, I’ve yet to see it. There are cars and trucks here, but most people ride motorcycles. They carry the entire family plus belongings on these bikes. We’ve seen four people on one bike, people with infants, people with pets, people with boards, propane bottles, milk cans, even a mattress! There are motorcycle taxis (moto taxi). We watched a guy with a baby pay the moto taxi driver then hand him the child. The driver sat the child in front of him and took off. I guess you can have your kid dropped off somewhere if you want. We heard there may be a helmet law but around here no one wears them.
As we found our way around town and meet people, we discovered an active social life with the cruisers and ex-pats. There is something scheduled most evenings including movie nights, karaoke, poker and happy hours as well as free yoga three mornings a week. Some of the folks get together and go out for day sails or group motorcycle rides.
We spend a lot of time walking around town and checking everything out. There are lots of little local stores that appear to be a room in someone’s house that sell just a few items. There are also a couple of grocery stores, a butcher, an ice cream shop, clinic and pharmacy, cell phone stores, clothing stores and numerous variety stores.
There are nice houses and not so nice houses. Since most houses don’t have air conditioning, as you walk down the street doors and windows are open and you see directly into people’s homes.
The people here, for the most part, keep their houses very clean but don’t seem to see a problem with throwing trash on the ground. Unfortunately, there is plastic everywhere. They do sweep up in front of their home or business once a week when the trash truck comes by but otherwise it stays there until the wind blows it somewhere else.
The children here are absolutely beautiful. So friendly and full of life!
This area has been in a drought so feeding and watering livestock has been a problem. We’re told people have turned their animals loose to find food so there are cows, sheep and horses that roam the streets. Russell teases me about all the cow pictures I have. I’m just now beginning to get used to watching them walk by as I sit drinking my beer.
Walking around town isn’t an issue (other than being hot and dodging traffic and animal poo) but in order to see the country you either have to rent a car (with or without a driver) or buy or rent a motorcycle. We decided to purchase a couple of used bikes. We bought two Gato 200’s for a total cost of around $1300 US including the transfer paperwork. Cost for insurance was 600 pesos ($12) per bike per year. Not sure what this would cover but we were told it was very important to have!
Riding our motorcycles in town or in the outlying areas hasn’t been too bad even with the crazy traffic and the numerous speed bumps. We’ve taken a few rides to the beach, a resort and the Columbus museum in La Isabella.
We decided for trips to the bigger towns we would get a car and driver. Having a driver means when there’s a car passing on the left and a motorcycle on the right as you come into a curve with oncoming traffic you can just close your eyes and hold on! Believe me, it happens.
So far, we’ve hired a local guy, Nino, twice to take us into Puerto Plata for things we can’t buy here in Luperon. Cost is $40 US for the day and you can normally find another cruiser who needs to go so you can split the cost with them.
Now that we feel more settled in, we’re planning to get out into the countryside more. There are beaches, waterfalls and a boarder market to explore in our future!