When you make a wrong turn on the way to El Parque de Tres Ojos, when you are completely and abysmally disoriented, and when you’ve had Google Maps reroute you so many times that even the computer is confused–that’s when you’re “Getting to know your town!” I hate to admit how commonly it happens, but think of it this way: I am qualified to give solid advice on turning “lost” into a positive experience.
It’s not that we set out in a haphazard way. We identified the section of town adjacent to Parque Mirador del Este where the Park of Three Eyes is located, checked for named cross-streets, and one-way roads. But one missed exit (which can be very unforgiving in a city dedicated to una vias) led to a series of wrong turns. Google Maps rerouted us umpteen times–and we always take its advice–even if it says to drive down a nearly vertical, curving one-way street with no sidewalks and the houses closing in on both sides.
Lost in a Slum
My friend had scheduled a 9:00 o’clock telephone consultation for when we arrived at the park, but at 9 am we were definitely lost in a slum (by any definition). I found a place to pull over and decompress while my friend counseled a stressed client. (I thought I qualified for a little therapy as well.) Leaning back in my seat and gazing up at the palm trees and azure sky, I gradually realized that the same beauty I’d photographed at resort hotels and gorgeous beaches elsewhere in the DR arched over this inner-city barrio.
Please know I wouldn’t think of doing this after dark in any city! But on a slow Saturday morning I enjoyed watching the people. I’ll long remember the image of a young woman with rich chocolate skin, about six feet tall who waited on the sidewalk opposite my car, the toned athleticism of her carriage, her stillness. Despite the ramshackle condition of the houses, the people who emerged for their morning tasks seemed well groomed and purposeful.
To the left upon entering the park, you see a circle of totemic-type religious sculptures meant to echo Taino pictographs. The Taino peoples were the first inhabitants of the caves, so the wooden sculptures seem like an important dedication. But I’m puzzled by the exhibit’s lack of signage. I’d like to know the artist’s name and how the figures came into being. If they are replicas of earlier pieces, I’d like to know that because it would help position the sculptures historically. For example, are they anachronistic in depicting Christ’s birth, death, and early church figures whereas pictographs would be pre-Christian?
The only sign says to beware of thorns on the trees next to the path, but even that sign is highly incomplete. Apparently that particular tree has a grim history as a torture device in early Hispaniola.
The Three Eyes
The park consists of a network of three limestone caves and underground lakes, thus the name “Three Eyes.” A fourth lake has an opening to the outside, so is not considered one of the eyes. The fact that three different chemical compositions (sulphur, saline, and fresh) occur in lakes that are fed from the same river seems quite unusual.
An initial descent down a rock staircase originally carved out of the rock by the ancient Taino people marks the entry to the caves. Actually, if you want to see stalagmites, these are not the caves to visit. Some were no doubt destroyed when they built the tiled viewing area and others appear to have been broken off over time.
The first lake (re-discovered in 1916) is named Lago de Azufre (which translates as Lake of Sulfur) And it truly smells of it! The cave is very wet with a continuous sweat of water dripping into the lake. I wondered if it was fresh water or sulfurous. Here you can see a photo of it taken from above.
Sulphur, Fresh Water, Saline
Beautiful foliage surrounds the second lake, Lago La Nevera (the refrigerator), and we saw fish of all sizes in the greenish water. From there, the visitor moves to the fourth lake, Lagos Los Zaramagullones, which is saline. (The word might be a proper name because I can’t find a translation). You can pay a few more pesos to have a boatman pole a raft through one part of the lake into another opening. It’s dark and a little spooky like a lake of death would be, but quite a fun ride.
The hike to the lovely third lake, Lago Las Damas (the lake of the ladies) comes next. You can see the rock wall we passed by, but none of my lake photos turned out. Sigh.
When you look back from the first cave, Lago De Azufre, the curve of the hand carved rock balustrade along the steps has a certain elegance, don’t you think? I’ve used this photo as one of the rotating headers for my blog, so if you click on other sections, a larger version of the curving wall might appear.
A Creepy Video
Now that you’ve seen how pretty Lago De Azufre looks, I have a totally creepy video to show you. It demonstrates how much water flows down the rocks and into this cave, whereas only slowly forming drops create stalactites and stalagmites. This video looks like there is some kind of insect invasion going on! I promise it’s just water.