Looking at the white, frothy waves. Hearing the trilling of the fast-paced Spanish. Seeing the dark-skinned boys and girls running around. Feeling the rough, grainy sand of the beaches. I was in a different world. I was in the Dominican Republic.
The DR (as the hip teenagers call it) contains one thing that no other place in the world has: the Damajaqua Cascades, the 27 Waterfalls. As one of the Dominicans told me, “If you don’t go, you are missing out on the best day of your life.” I had been looking forward to this adventure since I had arrived in the Dominican Republic. And seeing how the locals are known for their honesty, I was sure that I was in for an unforgettable experience.
Bumping along on the dirt road, I began to think about what I was doing. Twenty-seven Waterfalls was highly recommended by almost everyone I had talked to, but I was scared. I have always been scared of heights, but where better to test my fear than to scale the side of a mountain and then jump off 27 Waterfalls to get to the bottom? It sounded crazy, but where else was I going to find something like this? Nowhere. Only in the Dominican Republic.
After embarking on a two-hour, hot, cramped bus ride, we discovered that we weren’t there yet. My group and I still had to hike a little over a mile to get to the main check area because the buses couldn’t handle the dirt road. No one had told us that hiking was required! But the hike just added to the anticipation of the adventure. Everyone was giddy with excitement and nervous about what we were going to conquer.
Our group had to get suited up for the adventure. The guides were extremely helpful; most of them had been guides since they were about 14 years old. As we were suiting up—as a safety measure, we were required to wear helmets and life jackets—one of the guides yelled, “Ay! Mira! Van a llorar.” (Roughly translated: “Oh! Look! All of these Americans—they are going to cry. What weaklings!”) My whole group looked terrified; we didn’t know what to expect, and here the guides were making fun of us! This was definitely going to be an interesting experience.
We pleaded with our guides to keep us safe, and then we were on our way. We trudged through rivers and rocky paths. We climbed up shaky ladders and got pulled up by buff river guides who thought we were silly for fearing the waterfalls.
At times, the guides let us stop and admire the beauty that surrounded us. Swimming through the winding rivers was truly an experience. The swimming was more like doggy-paddling, but it still wore us out. While we rested, we floated on our backs and admired the lush, green vegetation and the contrast of the dark, jagged rocks. Birds sang and insects buzzed a happy tune. The falling of water was a constant background noise. The vines snaked all along the rocks, and we were able to use them as anchors to pull ourselves along. It was a world that was too amazing to be true.
Screams of pure joy echoed throughout the canyons as we neared waterfalls. Excitement coursed through our veins as the guides continued to pull us up different waterfalls. And we could hear other thrill-seekers descending the falls. The shouts sent adrenaline running through our veins, causing us to climb faster to the top. The waterfalls were all differing heights, the tallest being 35 feet, and the smallest being 10 feet.
As I reached the top, I gazed down at the turquoise, peaceful, sparkling water, and I knew that I would never have this experience again. I took one huge breath and jumped over the rocky ledge toward the water and thought, only 26 to go.
- Guaguas—public transportation. Think your mom’s mini-van packed to the brim with as many people as possible—and chickens.
- Guineo—a banana; a staple snack for most Dominicans
- K lo K—a slang way of saying hello.
- La Bandera—the traditional Dominican meal consisting of rice and beans and some sort of meat (usually pork or beef)
- Mercado—a small market where you can get local meat and treats Papi Shampoo—a womanizer; many of the locals use it as a form of endearment
Start planning your trip to the DR: