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Today marks almost a week that I am back home, having visited a country I knew very little about initially, before I stepped foot out of the aircraft that landed at Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo on August 14th. The 10 days I spent driving around the Dominican Republic’s busy and mostly chaotic highways, I got to see a lot of ugly but also some gorgeous parts of what I came to learn is a very diverse island.

I wasn’t quite sure where to start and what to write about first. My experiences were so many and I even learned a thing or two about myself on this particular trip. So I’ve decided to start with  one of the most magical days in the DR. The day I finally hiked up to a waterfall.

I’ve always been fascinated with water, whether it be the ocean, a gorgeous Caribbean beach or rivers and waterfalls. So naturally visiting one of the DR’s many waterfalls was very high on my list. Since our base was Santo Domingo and we were traveling with my 70 year old mother, we had to be careful which waterfalls would be A. within a two hour drive from the Capital and B. not too difficult a hike for my mom’s sake. After reading dozens of reviews we chose the Jima Waterfall, located on the edge of the town Bonao, a small farming community about an hour and a half drive outside of Santo Domingo.

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The road to the parking area was a bit rough and hadn’t we read about the 100 pesos parking fee, we would not have known since there were no signs anywhere, just a lady that appears with a fanny pack to collect as you are entering your vehicle ready to leave.

Unfortunately we visited Jima on a Sunday. Little did we know that half of the city travels to the falls for a swim and some family fun on Sundays. On the way up we would be passed by groups carrying pots full of Sancocho, a local soup, pans filled with other delicacies like empanadas and rice and beans, ice coolers filled with sodas and the inevitable, always present and very essential bottle or two of Brugal rum.

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The hike was not too hard but my backpack with my change of clothes and camera gear was heavy enough. I would not even want to think about carrying a cooler filled with drinks too.

Hiking up to the fall

We passed several swimming holes along the trail. Some were already full of locals enjoying the cool water coming down from the hills. The further up we went the more people we saw bathing in the river and having a grand time with loud music and sharing all the goodies they brought up. Somehow this was not exactly the scene I envisioned when planning to do this trip. I was hoping for peace, quiet and to be one with nature. Instead I got loud Reggaeton, screams and shouts and half drunk Dominicans waving plastic cups no doubt filled with rum or Presidente beer.

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For my mom’s sake we decided to stay in one of the first swimming holes while our family friend JJ and I went up in search of the waterfall itself.

There it was. In all it’s glory. A sight to behold. Majestic, is the word that came to mind. I didn’t even mind the dozens of people crowding around the main swimming hole in front of it although had I known it was so packed on Sundays, I would have definitely picked a different day to visit. I would have loved to be able to take some better shots of Jima in all of her glory. The waterfall is not big but it definitely is impressive.

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Salto de JIma

Jima Waterfall - I made it!

JJ and I at El Salto de Jima

So back to the first swimming hole we went. My mom and brother were waiting on our return and after all that hiking I could not wait to get into that cool water myself.

The water did not disappoint. I must say the cold temperature was very welcome after the hike and the water was so crystal clear. Just beautiful. I can understand why most of the locals would come here on Sunday to enjoy the river and the falls with family and friends. What I will never understand is how they could not show more respect for this beautiful place by not cleaning up after themselves. Being at the lower end of the river we would see the regular plastic wrapper, bag of chips and soda bottle float by. Nobody cared to pick it up but us. I think I spent the rest of our time at Jima picking up garbage discarded into the beautiful water by the same people who should have showed more pride in their country and all the beauty it contains.

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Man taking a nap on the river bank

Man taking a nap to the sounds of the running water of the river

I must say though that I think the trails are cleaned regularly because I did not see much garbage going up. The garbage was mostly towards the end of the day when the majority of folk would start to pack up and leave. The trails are also very well taken care of and properly marked, making the hike to the fall easy and beautiful. Wooden steps, some with ropes to hold on to would make it easy to stop and take pictures or just admire the rushing water below. Whoever is responsible for this nature park is doing a great job.

IMG_0080Trail to the fallsA well marked trail

Stay tuned for more on my DR adventures. I will be posting more photos and stories during the coming weeks. Have you experienced the Jima Waterfalls? Leave a comment about your experience below.

Always Live, Laugh and Travel.

Riselle a.k.a. The Traveling Island Girl