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Ungodly ordeal ends for mighty Neptune

NeptuneWith trident at his side, mighty Neptune rules the sea once again from his rocky perch just off the beach in Puerto Plata.

Installed in 1971 under the administration of longtime President Joaquín Balaguer, the 22-foot-tall bronze sculpture became known as the guardian of the harbor, the mascot of the community. Even so, the Roman god of the sea endured decades of indignities, including two falls and several amputations by metal thieves, before his recent return to grandeur.

Regional Tourism Ministry Director Lorenzo Sancassi and Ministry Architect Acalia Kunhardt provided a chronology:

Around 1979, Neptune fell but was soon righted, thanks to a generous expatriate (known only as Mr. Charlie) who footed the bill. It wasn’t long before he started a gradual tilt and in finally toppled again onto the jagged rocks.

The fire department hauled the fallen lord to its yard for storage, but metal thieves picked at the languishing sculpture like buzzards on road kill. Trident? Gone. Two fingers, amputated. The tail of the fish on which he rested a foot also vanished. Someone even lopped off Neptune’s manhood.

He found some respite after his transfer from the fire department to the more-secure police department headquarters. As his adoring public grew impatient for his return, Neptune was trucked up to the foot of Mount Isabel de Torres. There, at the base of the scenic Teleférico (cable lift), the long-awaited repairs began.

Neptune stands 22 feet tall atop his craggy islet off Puerto Plata's malecón. Photo by Matt Bokor

Neptune stands 22 feet tall atop his craggy islet off Puerto Plata’s malecón. Photo by Matt Bokor

Metallurgists from nearby Santiago, the country’s second-largest city, worked for five months to replicate Neptune’s missing parts, patch gouges, fix dents and install durable, spine-like supports (namely, three steel pipes filled with concrete). The Teleférico operators, Tourism Ministry and community donations covered the roughly $30,000 repair bill.

Restored and reinforced, Neptune rode down the mountain by truck to the sprawling seaside resort of Playa Dorada for his triumphal return. At five tons, however, Neptune was too heavy for the military helicopter that was enlisted to whisk him home. After being trucked to the city’s port, he traveled by barge to his craggy islet in September 2013.

Secured by four cables and bolted atop a sturdy mount, Neptune underwent another month of adjustments before a festive lighting ceremony formally ended his ungodly ordeal.

Playa Dorada

Playa Dorada is an area just east of Puerto Plata city with the largest concentration of resorts. It offers a country club setting, with hotels spread out through a very lush and appealing garden-golf course setting. The 18-hole 72 par golf course was designed by Robert Trent Jones

All the buildings on this complex are low-rise, maximum three stories, so the natural vegetation dominates. The whole setting is done really in quite good taste. There are some 15 different hotels in this complex, located about 5 kilometers from the edge of town. But it doesn’t feel dense because of the low rise building code. Some are on the beach, others are around the golf course but all in all you are basically on the beach. The golf course hotels all have their own oceanfront beach clubs and even though it’s walking distance they have golf carts and other means of shuttling those who don’t feel like walking.

When you’re in Playa Dorada you’re basically in a controlled environment. There is a shopping plaza in the middle of the complex with reataurants and pubs and shops, and you can explore up and down the beach. Most all inclusive resorts restrict admission to thier own guests, though.

There’s plenty to do and you don’t really ever have to leave to have a good vacation. But, it’s not the “real” Dominican Republic, so if you want to explore a bit, you’ll have to go beyond your resort.