North to Santiago
The Autopista Duarte, a four-lane highway, runs northwest from Santo Domingo to Santiago de los Caballeros, with the Cordillera Central on one side and the Cordillera Septentrional on the other. From there it reduces in size and follows the length of the Cibao Valley alongside the Río Yaque del Norte to its outlet on the coast at Monte Cristi. This is the main artery through the country, used by cars, trucks, motoconchos, cows, horse-drawn vehicles and others. The first town of any size just west of the Autopista Duarte is Bonao, 85 km from the centre of Santo Domingo and surrounded by rice paddies. To the east is the Falconbridge ferronickel mine, a large employer and major contributor to the region's economy. After Bonao on the Autopista Duarte, on the left, is the main road to Constanza.
High up in the mountains, set in a circular valley formed by a meteor, is Constanza. Dubbed the Alps of the Dominican Republic, the mountains provide a spectacular backdrop for what is a fairly ordinary town with no buildings of note. The scenery is some of the best in the country, with rivers, forests and waterfalls and there are lots of good hikes in the area. In winter, temperatures can fall to zero or lower and there may be frosts at night, but during the day it is pleasant and fresh. The main street is Calle Luperón, which runs east to west. Most of the cheap hotels and restaurants are here or nearby. La Isla gas station is at the east end, where taxis and motoconchos congregate.
At Conuco, 5 km east of Salcedo, just before Tenares on the main road towards San Francisco de Macorís, is the Museo Hermanas Mirabal. The house of the Mirabal sisters, is one of the most popular museums in the country. It was built in 1954 by their mother Doña Chea, and was the second family home. The sisters and their husbands were active in the resistance movement in the late 1950s, but Patria, Minerva and María Teresa were ambushed and murdered in 1960 on their return from visiting their husbands in prison, and are now icons for both liberty and the rights of women. The day of their assassination, 25 November, is remembered in many Latin American countries as the International Day Against Violence Towards Women. Their murder helped to lead to the downfall of General Trujillo, who was himself assassinated in May 1961. The fourth sister, Dedé, is still alive as she did not go with them that day. The bodies of the three sisters and Minerva's husband, Manolo, are buried in the garden, which has been declared an extension of the Pantéon Nacional, where national heroes are buried.Jarabacoa
In the Cordillera Central near Jarabacoa and Constanza is Pico Duarte, at 3087 m the highest peak in the Caribbean, but only just. Its neighbour, La Pelona, is only 5 m lower at 3082 m. During the Trujillo dictatorship, when Pico Duarte was inevitably named Pico Trujillo, one of his geographers erroneously added to the height of the mountain, allegedly to impress his jefe (boss). To this day, most maps have Pico Duarte at 3175 m. There are several popular hiking routes, requiring differing degrees of stamina. Some of the routes take in other mountains as well. You will see a wide selection of native flora and birds, rainforest and pine forest, and pass through several different ecosystems. It is very beautiful landscape and a great experience. If you are not shrouded in cloud there is a fantastic view looking down on clouds and other mountain peaks.
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