POSSIBLE KITE SPOT – LAKE ENRIQUILLO
Where do you want to kitesurf? Here’s a good question. I imagine that each one has its preferences and will choose some conditions or other, as well as its dreamed destination
Perhaps some of the readers here dream of going to kitesurf in Hawaii, or on Dakhla, or… Greenland … who knows.
I also have some ideas, but, in reality, this blog entry is the perfect excuse for what at that time, many years ago, left me touched, touched with desire, because it was something I would have liked to do very much, and that in the end I didn’t manage to do it. I mean to navigate in that place, a big lake in the west part of the Dominican Republic.
Why? someone will ask… well, because at that time kitesurfing had not been invented, but this is not the excuse, I would have wanted to windsurf there, not kitesurfing, but windsurfing, which is what was possible at that time, if I had been able to windsurf back then, why not kitesurfing now?
Actually, there was a problem and it’s not just that kitesurfing wasn’t invented, the problem was an old “friend” of mine, one of my ancestral traumas. Those who knows me, know what I’m referring to? … those who know me a little, can begin to imagine it. I’m talking about… crocodiles.
Which could be the reason to go kitesurfing where there are crocodiles? None!, none at all, this it’s cristal clear, isn’t it? … then … why this absurd interest?
In addition, where there are crocodiles, there is usually little or not wind at all, so we have always seen in the movies, when the monster crawls a few meters and stealthily dives into the water, if you notice it, the surrounding grasses are rarely seen moving in the breeze.
The waters where crocodiles usually live are usually stagnant waters, dirty waters, ugly, waters in which there would be no reason to get into.
But it is not those waters that I am referring to, I mean, the typical stagnant waters that encourage crocodiles to be found, no. I am referring to the clear waters of Lake Enriquillo.
Lake Enriquillo, was named after the Taíno cacique who ruled the area long, long ago, and is a lake, the largest lake in the Caribbean, located in the big island of Haiti and Dominican Republic.
And those waters, although hyper salty, are not so stagnant, either because of the size of the lake or because of the breeze, a good breeze, bordering on the category of “strong breeze” that blows in the area, and the area is a large valley that runs between the Neiba and Bahoruco mountains.
What was special about the mountains and the lake? Very simple, every time I went there, and for the record, this was very far from where I lived. Always when I went there, I saw the sunrise over the lake, and the panoramic effect it was top notch.
Imagine some mountains in front and behind, but important mountains, tall, and large, I mean long, a mountain range, on each side with the lake in the middle, and to that, add the colors of the sky, of the clouds, of that rising sun and of the force of the wind that entered at that very early hour every day. This was something that a sailor’s spirit like mine could not be left unnoticed.
In fact the reason why I went to the lake I was not to enjoy the sunrise, actually, I was going there to film crocodiles, but for this delicate task, not without some risk, you had to go very early, among other reasons, so that the sun did not cook you , and above all, to be able to catch the crocodiles out of the water and also because it seems that this was the time that best suited to the Park guard, who was the only one who could take you to the island in the middle of the lake.
Before that time -sunrise-, probably, and may God forgive me if I’m wrong, the good man must have gotten lost in the back part of some bar in the area to drink rum, as is characteristic of the inhabitants of La Descubierta, the nearest inhabited place to the lake. So, as was he the one in charge of the trip and besides all, the park guard was the only one that had access and control to the boat, in fact more a dingy than a boat, to take the trip to the island
It was a small boat, known as “Yola” with an offboard motor that must have been from the time in which the Titanic was built, it was necessary to submit to those innocuous demands, although this implied, as I said before, the contemplation of the sunrise… and the generous breeze that at that early hour it blew over the lake and that, inevitably, made me dream of a 4-meter windsurf sail -and even smaller- and me sailing those waters propelled on my windsurf board at full speed.
Nor let us imagine some waters infested with crocodiles, which, if you had to go until the park on the island in a yola -or small boat-, was precisely because the crocodiles were not just everywhere, they were mostly rather in the area known as “la caimanera” and that was on the other side of Isla Cabritos. , this island that was in the middle of the lake.
And, on arrival at the island, the man should left me on land with the firm promise to pick me up several hours later. He, to be honest, and despite being the guard of the island and the National Park, he didn’t care much about the crocodiles. I would say, the crocodiles didn’t impress him at all.
I imagine that among his occupations would be monitoring them, but me, in the 5 or 6 times I went to the area, never saw him show the slightest interest in the beast, though, during the journey and over the unbearable noise of the engine , he sometimes told me this or that anecdote, but not the kind that make your hair stand on end, just anecdotes, I mean, which for him was normal.
Example: Hey, -I ask him- and, those crocodiles have never attacked anyone?
Man’s response: No, that bird -they call anything that moves with the word “bird”- that bird is mostly only on the island…
moment of silence…
He continues: well, except then, that time when an alligator took Felito’s arm
Felito? I say… yes, Felito, he answers.
Felito fished for tilapia, another inhabitant of the lake of very little scientific interest, since it is a fish, and they eat the fish after letting it dry in the sun until it has the texture of a shoe sole.
and… so, Felito was there -the guard continues with the story- with the water up to his waist, casting his net when that bird came out of the water and… took his hand… well, his hand and until his elbow.
New silence … ah! … I say, and this happened to Felito?
… yes, to Felito -he says- …
and he followed piloting the boat waters ahead under the deafening noise of the offboard engine in the direction of the island.
Actually, it wasn’t anything too special either, the lake, I mean… I would go until there, film the animals and return the almost 250 km back to my home, and that was always the case… except on that occasion, the third time I went there, when was I left on the shore of the island with the promise to pick me up within hours.
But… “hours” passed and the bastard didn’t come back for me.
The next day, when he did come back, he told me that the engine had broken down on his way back to Dominicana and that part of the way back to the mainland shore he had to do it by propelling himself with his arms, that is, sticking them out on each side of the boat -imagine how narrow the little boat was- and propelling himself with the help of his hands, in the absence of any sort of paddle or any other deviced which could have him allowed rowing.
Luckily the wind must have been helping from the stern because if not… I can imagine the dire situation and the effort necessary to be able to reach the shore.
Well, so, he left me on the island all day -and night-. That was really when I gave free rein to my imagination, because I had plenty of time for it, for various reasons.
Firstly because of remembering how good it would have been to have had my windsurf board there, to return to the other side of the lake, in the first place, and why not? … sharpen my wits and see how I was going to spend the night in the middle of an island inhabited by crocodiles.
Actually, the island was not so small. I was going there to film crocodiles and it was supposed that apart from some iguanas, maybe some snakes and tarantulas -the big open hand size spyders so frequent on the area, and some more of the same type of creatures, and apart from some wild donkeys -which I never saw but I did hear that night- and yes, one and half trillion mosquitoes and the aforementioned crocodiles, there was nobody and nothing else on the island.
Anyway… in the end, the lake was and is one of those places where I wouldn’t have minded windsurfing or kitesurfing -despite the crocodiles- and which I will always carry in my mind.
I want to point out that the breeze did not last all day, in fact it started at dawn and around noon, or shortly before, it ended little by little until things were “calm dead”, that is, 0 wind, with which the air temperature should rise from 40 to near 50 degrees Celsius, at least.
And with it, the crocodiles, all went into the waters and me, just there, wondering what might have happened with the boat and the lake’s guide and also in order to avoid the sun I built and search refuge under a shelter that I made with the branches that I cut with my travel knife, which although almost the size of a machete, I call a knife because the handle it was of the horn type, and not plastic like the machetes that were sold there. The history of the knife was as follows:
The knife was a gift from my friend Marco, a Swiss German guy with whom sometimes we went together to film “cacatas” -that’s what the Dominicans call- that is, tarantula spiders the size of an open adult man’s hand, in which Marco was lifting stones with one hand and grabbing tarantulas with the other hand, with a refined technique that contained an almost suicidal risk … in my opinion.
While I was filming the whole process, we became such friends that when Marco got tired of living in the Dominican, and knowing that he was not going to be allowed on the plane back to Zurich with that kind of sword, he gave me as present.
And meanwhile, me, stuck on the island, I remember how the afternoon was falling, the incredible colors of the sky and the incredible number of mosquitoes that when the afternoon fell, they – the mosquitoes – got up, although, accustomed as I was to the precautions needed that such a case deserved, they did not hassle me too much.
For those of you who see me now on the beach, you should have seen me with my anti-mosquito equipment- You couldn’t see a millimeter of skin on me, all of this at a temperature like Pedro Botero’s Hell, I mean, in full summer month heating of July.
The problem was, most of all at the time of urinating, since then, you had to show some skin out in the open, but, nothing that did not have a solution, though, something funny, shocking is the word.
How else to describe a guy on his back, pissing, pointing a gun at some bushes while clapping with both hands, not for the enjoyment of the same urination, but to avoid the peck of the daring bug in my urinating parts.
Well, that night it seemed eternal to me, without any light, I didn’t have my flashlight, because the original idea was leaving the island and be back again in the small boat, rocked by the wild roar of the engine, on my way to the other bank, of the Descubierta -the small town where I stayed the two nights of the trip- and where except to sleep, anything could be possible.
And, I am not saying this because of the infinite variety of possibilities to hang out, I am saying this because of the infernal scandal that formed two sort of bars, on the same street and one in front of the other, competing healthily to see which one was capable of breaking more eardrums of the people who dared to choose getting drunk on their premises – and to anyone who was within a kilometer of distance from the place.
So, without a flashlight, without a radio to hear something, without a tent, without a blanket or a sheet, without anything, well, not without anything, because I still had my knife, the bag to carry the video camera, the mosquito net under the camera, to protect it from any low blow and to protect me as well when I had to spend the night, wherever I went.
Add to all this, the tripod, my bottle of mineral water and… two more bottles of tap water inside a plastic bag that the park ranger always, every time, filled at the tap of the pension where he would pick me up with his motorcycle at 5 in the morning and at which I, always, internally laughed about.
Yes, what do you think?, that I’m going to drink those four liters of tap water, c’mon, you must be joking! … Wow, it was so terribly hot on the island that I drank them, my own mineral water bottle first, and the four liters, and four more liters of tap water that I had …
Incredible how hot it got to be on the island. Ever since the wind died down that was an like an oven, and with the passing of the hours and the fall of the afternoon, even more so, because, once the breeze had ended, not a hair moved until the next day when it dawned, I mean, an authentic plot of the universe so that the mosquitoes would work more comfortably, without any breeze annoying them on their blood suckin goal … I couldn’t find any other explanation.
And with not much else to do, I just wandered around to the point of boredom, getting as far away as I could from the “caimanera” -the area where the crocodiles choosed to rest, and as far as to the opposite shore of the island.
The interior of the island, with its semi-sandy soil, was mostly the domain of only the hawthorn tree, about two to three meters high, well-fed cacti and some other bushes, and that’s it, no path, besides the one that led from the pier to the caimanera, and little else, except yes, the donkeys that I heard quite often but did not arrived to see.
I can’t imagine what those animals would live on, nor can I imagine how you can be so foolish as to think that things will always go well. Since then, if I go somewhere, I take some things with me that no one would think of taking with, unless you’re a tough guy in all kinds of situations, -like me- and therefore you’ve realized that there’s always to put yourself in the worst of situations.
When I realized it, apprehensions aside, it was already almost midnight, under a starry sky unlike anything I have seen before in my life, and the heat was already somewhat less intense and it even the whole story had some magic.
Deep down, I knew that the park guard could not have forgotten about me and that something have had happened, but surely the next day he would come back… or else, I could see myself making a raft with my knife and the mosquito net I always carried wherever he went, cut into strips.
It was not necessary. In the end, when I got tired of going around and convincing myself that the crocodiles would be on the shore doing their thing and not looking for me in the interior of the island, I ate 80 percent of my supply of cookies that I always carried for possible need to feed myself on an emergency situation at any time
And once the improvised dinner was over, with four branches I made a kind of box from which I hung the mosquito net and lay down on the sandy ground with the camera bag as a pillow and the knife in my hand, after spreading all terrain around from my improvised shelter with dry branches and fallen leaves that would sound if something came creeping up… until sleep overcame me.
Say as an epilogue that things have now changed, it seems that nowadays there is even a visitor center on the island and the visits are daily and in a boat in good conditions, of course. What I am telling you here it dates from 1988.
Anyway… I’ve never sailed on the lake but the lake, in recent years, has gone through a series of abnormal water level rises that have wreaked havoc in the region, and I must also say that on occasion, in the future, if I have the chance to do it, I want to return to the area, even if it is to relive the beauty of those sunrises -as sunsets, I think I don’t want to relive again-.
And a last point, the attractiveness of the mountains was such that I have to mention that, among my plans then, there was even the possibility of organizing an all-terrain motorcycle excursion and offering it in Europe to experienced bikers with a desire for adventure.
All that trip mostly off road from the north to the south of the Dominican Republic, following the border with Haiti, in which, leaving from up North in Montecristi, it would go down to Pedernales, crossing several mountains and entering Haiti on several occasions, since part of the route would pass through what it was known as: the international highway, from when the time of Trujillo, the dictator which ruled the country before, and the neighboring mountains.
That, in fact, it was a dream, because despite my good contacts with the Dominican authorities – in my wallet I carried the personal business card of the Minister of the Interior, given to me by him personally, I did not dared after all to follow my plan and created the infrastructure to make possible the motorbike trips.
At that time -and even now- Haiti is and was a very unsafe country. It was the post Duvalier era, Baby Doc, his successor as his son was known, who was also said he like to eat parts of the bodies of his personal enemies, and who founded the Tonton Macoutes.
It was that, his personal guard, some real butchers, who with the fall of the regime were hunted down by the population and executed, by the rather unorthodox method of putting a large car tire over their heads, trapping their arms to their bodies, spraying them with gasoline and setting them on fire.
And of course, they, unwilling to be hunted, used to roam through the mountains near the border with Dominican Republic, probably armed and living like animals, making the idea of promoting the motorcycle tour, unfortunately not an affordable goal, to say the least.
A few links about the area, the mountains and the lake
News about renect floods in Enriquillo – Dominicana