What an experience! During this trip you will witness breathtaking views from the highest point of the Caribbean. The view from the summit is absolutely incredible! Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes, to everyone! But be warned, it is extremely tough for inexperienced hikers. Although it is difficult, you will be absolutely blown away by what nature has to offer – Amazing flora and fauna and it doesn’t just stay the same. The landscape changes along the way as well as the vegetation. You will walk through the clouds and watch the sun rise over the highest point of the Caribbean while looking over Haiti and Puerto Rico. We headed out at four in the morning from the base camp. I have never seen stars so clear and bright! Besides the natural beauty, the sense of satisfaction from doing the climb totally made the tough hike worth the effort.
This trip can be shorter or longer depending on your preference and we did the express version (two days). From Extreme Hotel on Kite Beach, Cabarete, we passed through Moca to get to Rancho Baiguate in Jarabacoa (www.ranchobaiguate.com/). Watch out when you drive down to San Victor as there are some sharp u-turns going downhill. Also watch out for holes in the road and drive very carefully. Take a phone that has Google Maps. This app can help you out big time when you get lost which is more than likely – it’s all part of the adventure!
When we got to the ranch we ate a very nice meal at the buffet. The guides explained what we would be doing the next day and afterwards we went to bed early to catch some good sleep in one of their nice cabins (you will need this rest for when you wake up at 6 am the next day!). The following morning you drive to La Cienega de Manabao. This is a very cool 1.5 hour ride in an open truck. You will see a lot of nice villages, beautiful landscapes and friendly people greeting you. The hike starts with the journey to the base camp, la compartición, which will take between 7-9 hours. It is there that you will eat and catch some sleep because the climb to the summit begins at four in the morning. After that you return to base camp where you will have another much deserved meal. Then begins the decent all the way back to La Cienega de Manabao.
Very important tip: phone beforehand and ask if the track is muddy or not (Ranch Contact). I would recommend to go only when it hasn’t been raining a lot and to book through some kind of agency unless you are a very experienced hiker. My friend and I practice a lot of sports, but our knees were hurting a lot on the way back because they were simply overloaded. We climbed the mountain without using one of the guides’ mules. In retrospect, it would have been better if we had taken the mule for at least two hours on the way to the top. We did have sufficient energy on the way back, but if your knees are hurting, going down is especially difficult! So in the end, we sat on mules on the way down for 4 hours. All in all, Rancho Baiguate took care of everything very well!
What is essential to bring?
– Warm clothing, a hat and gloves are needed at the top! (we did the tour in March and it was about 5 degrees Celsius at the top … other months can even be colder)
– Good quality hiking shoes and socks
– High energy snacks like muesli bars
– Sunscreen and sunglasses
– Flashlights (iphone will suffice, make sure it is fully charged!)
– Rain gear
Y ahora, vetepalla!
Written by Jelle Boekema, the Netherlands (29) and Billy Gonzalez Capellan, La Republica