Porridge with honey and fresh fruit for breakfast to set us up for another long climb – this time up the flanks of Maderas to a waterfall. The road around the island (78km circuit) is paved between Moyogalpa and Altagracia but the rest is metalled and very variable in quality so we had a bumpy ride! At one point the road crosses the airstrip which is rather odd.
We passed through several settlements of varying sizes and our driver seemed to know everyone as he waved to them all and tooted at every vehicle! Life seems very simple here, in some ways very modern – technology such as mobile phones, internet cafes and free wifi in every cafe and hotel, and every home has a large television in the living rooms which have dirt or concrete floors and uncovered walls. However, we also saw women washing clothes by hand in the lake and streams and men mending fishing nets and laying them out to dry.
Horses seem a common mode of transport especially for herding cattle. In fact, horses, carts and cattle share the road quite happily and congruously with scooters, 4WDs, quad bikes and cars. There are dogs and cats EVERYWHERE! Some are clearly cared for others are clearly strays but they all seem docile enough. House and churches seemed, at first, to be half built but then we realised that windows are often half unglazed in large buildings and troofs are elevated above the walls, presumably to let the air flow through and keep them cool. Looking into some houses from the street, doors are open so it is difficult not to, many of them have no flooring or wall coverings, plastic chairs and tables and, at this time of year Christmas decorations, and a large television that the family would be sitting watching. People seem to watch a lot of TV; in all the houses I could see in to two or three people would would be sitting watching television, they may also have been preparing food or sewing. In the hotels we have stayed in TVs have also been a constant; the girls have delighted in finding music channels and the hotel staff, often an elderly member of the family, will be sitting watching TV all day.
The church in Moyogalpa is impressively positioned at the top of the hill as you walk up the street from the port. It is painted the same deep yellow that reflects the sun so beautifully as the cathedral in Granada. It has no windows but has white drapes that hang from floor to ceiling in all the alcoves. It made me think of a whole row of giant four poster beds, but it is quite beautiful.
But back to our walk. It was uphill, steep, exceedingly hot, 3km that seemd like 30km, but on terrain that was variable enough to ease the monotony of the “uphillness”. We started in full sun on an open track which was unremitting but turned into a more shaded track in the forest after about one and a half kms and then into a dry river bed with huge overhanging cliff – a real gorge. Although the river was dry we could hear water and only needed to climb a little more along a narrow track to emerge at the waterfall. Reminiscent of Bridal Veils Falls but a wider span that seemed to spray out more. We guessed that in winter there would be a much heavier fall but it was very refreshing to stand underneath and cool down.
The girls had started the day quietly. They seemed rather down and struggled to motivate themselves after the big walk yesterday. the heat and the climb had not helped and a few struggled. The water was a godsend. After a happy half hour splashing in the knee deep pool at the base of the waterfall and standing underneath the spray they were rejuvenated. Going down was a cinch and they all but flew down, pausing only to look at the spider monkeys in the trees.
Our next stop was the “Ojos de Agua” which the Lonely Planet guide says is a short walk through banana groves to natural mineral pools formed by underground springs. Well, either there is more than one place called Ojos de Agua or, since the guide was written, what sounded like a quiet natural beauty spot has been highly commercialised! Never mind, we had a blast there; the girls were quite happy about being driven directly to the pools which have been “captured” with a concrete wall to create a sort of swimming pool. We spent a happy hour swinging off the rope swing, teetering on the tight rope and generally gaining the benefits of the minerals which, according to the guy at the entrance taking our money, would make me look 40 years younger and cure all my arthritis and rheumatism!