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Getting to Pico Duarte: The town of La Ci?naga is the principal gateway to the Parque Nacional Armando Berm?dez , the protected area in which Pico Duarte is situated. The summit of Pico Duarte is 23km from La Ci?naga. Gua-guas run from Jarabacoa to Manabao and from Manabao to La Ci?naga. If you are doing the trip independently, stock up on food and provisions in Jarabacoa. You will need to buy a permit to enter the national park and arrange a guide (which is obligatory) at the National Parks Office. The quickest way to the top and back will take two days. There are rudimentary cabins with cooking facilities en route, and you are also allowed to camp with a tent ? which, given that most of the cabins are rat-infested, is perhaps preferable. Having scaled Pico Duarte by the La Ci?naga route, you might prefer to avoid retracing your steps. The most popular alternative descent crosses the national park to its northern entrance/exit at Mata Grande. The distance between Pico Duarte and Mata Grande is 45km and will take roughly three days to cover.

Other places to hike: Good hiking opportunities exist in the some of the country?s other mountainous national parks. One of the best ? both in terms of things to see and ease of access - is El Choco. Monte Cristi is another easily accessible ? although more off-the-beaten track ? option, while the climb up to Loma Isabel de Torres , the mountain behind Puerto Plata, is an easy hike for those who don?t want to venture too far from the beach.

Equipment: Much will depend on where you chose to hike and whether or not you are on an organized trip. If you go with an adventure company, most of the equipment required for overnight trips (cooking utensils, tents etc) will be provided. Mules will also normally be on hand to carry the equipment, leaving you free to enjoy the walk. If, however, you are hiking independently, all of this is up to you to arrange (and can be expensive). You should also note that for some hikes - Pico Duarte, for example - hiring a guide is mandatory. One thing which is obviously very important is comfortable and sturdy footwear. Boots which give adequate protection to the ankles are best for the more demanding routes.

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Article: To Ride a Mule or Not to Ride a Mule?

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