After all the theory about the traffic and road conditions in the Dominican Republic, it was finally time again for a road trip in the mountains. I was traveling on a risky route between Constanza and Padre Las Casas. In the middle of the two highest mountain slopes of the Dominican Republic. What an adventure! It was a real challenge, but seeing the beautiful landscapes in the Dominican mountains was just worth it.
Approximate reading time: 8 minutes
In this article, you will find out why you shouldn’t always rely on Google Maps and why you should allow an hour or two additional time buffers during such a trip.
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How I prepared this trip to the Dominican highlands
It is fun to get into the car and just pound off. Without a detailed planning for your route, you’re pretty much smitten. Especially with all of these trips through the highlands and the wild nature, there are some things to consider and plan before you blast off.
Don’t trust Google Maps blindly
What I was particularly able to learn during this trip is not to rely on Google Maps. At least not when it comes to the estimated travel time. In this case, more than 2.5 hours of driving time should be planned for 62 kilometers. It’s suspiciously slow for so few kilometers. However, it goes up to 1,200 meters above sea level and the route leads through a mountain pass between the highest two mountains in the Dominican Republic.
The route from Constanza to Padre Las Casas took me between Alto de la Bandera and Pico Duarte.
Overall, the trip took almost twice the estimated time. Of course, a few pee breaks and stops for photos included. But even with this half-hour tolerance in the time calculation, Google Maps has quite miscalculated. Because even the best route system cannot know what kind of complicated route conditions and tight hairpin bends can slow down the speed of travel.
Equip yourself in good time with what is necessary
Your provisions and enough water are essential during your journey on this route. You will drive under the hot sun for several hours and push the AC in the car to its limits. Take enough drinks with you and hydrate regularly with water while driving. Don’t underestimate the heat in the Dominican Republic.
The same goes for gasoline. Of course, you shouldn’t drink that (😅) but you should have enough in your tank. The best thing to do is to fill up the gas in Constanza. You will be on the safe side, because there are no more gas stations up in the mountains. And the constant driving in the mountains swallows a lot of fuel.
Consider the estimated driving time and include time buffers
Google Maps has miscalculated the time in a colossal way and 2.5 hours became almost 5 hours. However, Google Maps cannot know, it can only estimate.
Whenever you follow a vague estimate, plan at least an hour more as a time buffer. Something can always happen. A herd of cows can block the road, you might want to take a longer break or stop every few miles for a photo.
And in times of Covid-19 and imposed curfews, there is additional pressure due to a limited time window. You are only allowed to be on the streets up to a certain hour before traffic controls begin. That was very challenging for me, especially in 2020, and limited my travel adventures by car, very much. Especially on the weekends, when the curfew started at 5pm.
However, it is much more important to have reached the desired destination by the time it gets dark. When the sun is low and setting, driving a car is very challenging anyhow. In the mountains, the light conditions deteriorate much earlier and the routes are more difficult to follow.
When it is dark, the utmost caution is required while driving. In the mountains, driving at night can be life-threatening. There are nowhere street lights installed and I would not advise anyone to take the risk to drive in the dark. For this reason, it makes sense to leave the mountains behind you as early as possible and feel the asphalt roads under your wheels again by daylight.
Expect ‘Carretera Constanza – Guayabal’ as a rocky and uncomfortable road
You need a fit car with good working tires for the way from Constanza to Padre Las Casas. Driving the ‘Carretera Constanza – Guayabal’ is challenging. An SUV with all-wheel drive is recommended for such a slope. The road conditions are so bad that it cannot be even called a road.
As soon as you have left Constanza with the car towards the mountains, the asphalt ends. The street begins to become a narrow path. You are literally wandering over hill and dale, sometimes even through flowing streams. In the heavy rainy season, this route is impossible to go by car. You should remind that before starting your journey.
Many places are barely wide enough for a second vehicle. The few trucks, cars, motorbikes or horses on the way have to maneuver so that you can pass safely with your own car. There are an extremely large number of hairpin bends and steep climbs to cope with your set of wheels.
Beautiful landscapes in the Dominican mountains are worth the hassle
The very first thing you see when you leave Constanza, however, is your hair again. On the outskirts of Constanza, the Dominicans cleared the mountain slopes in order to place a wild garbage dump. Because of hot temperatures and the strong sunlight, the garbage ignites and leaves smoke and offensive smell.
But after you have left this unpleasant part behind you, you will be rewarded. You can expect pure nature and beautiful mountain landscapes.
On this route you are between the highest mountain slopes in the entire Caribbean. If you ignore the dusty gravel roads, you are surrounded by a blooming fauna that you could never have imagined to be so green. In many places in the Dominican Republic, the tropical fauna has been deforested to plant agricultural monocultures such as avocado trees. Within this area you can still see the Caribbean in its full bloom. This is roughly how it looked all over the island before the natural landscapes were exploited:
The special thing about this trip was being over 3,300 feet above sea level. Completely absurd to believe that these lush and green landscapes are actually belonging to the Caribbean. And yet this natural characteristic is also part of the geographic diverse Dominican Republic.
These mountains are so high and the clouds hang so low that you can almost smell them. And if a huge cloud tries to make it over the mountains as well, the entire valley suddenly darkens.
Nevertheless, I was happy when I was able to leave this challenging route in the mountains behind me. As beautiful as the view in the pictures was, I could hardly really enjoy it.
It was too dangerous to let your eyes wander for a few moments and look lost in thoughts into the mountainous area. Not paying attention for a moment can be dangerous on such a (off-)road. Therefore, it is better to have a lot of small breaks in order to be able to take photos and enjoy the landscape instead of doing it while driving.
Speaking of dangerous: Pretty much towards the end of the journey through the mountainous landscapes, after more or less 75% of the section, the brakes failed when going downhill. I could only let the car roll out and maneuver with the handbrake until the car came to a standstill at some point. Quite a challenge!
At some point the brakes ran hot and stopped working. This usually happens on trips that go downhill for a long period of time. Frequent braking will eventually make the iron glow. In that case, you should try to stop the car immediately, secure it with the handbrake and let it cool down for a few minutes before continuing.
So you can certainly imagine that I was relatively happy when I arrived. Everything went well and I made it safely to my destination. 5 hours of intensive car drive with maximum concentration with failing brakes driving downhill may not be the right hobby for everyone. I thought it was great!
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