Published: August 6th 2007May 25th 2007
22 May 2007
It was 10.30 pm when the Caribe Tours bus pulled into an empty station in Santiago. We had just wasted four valuable hours in a bus after we missed our stop at La vega. There were two taxis and a gua-gua. We grabbed a taxi and in 15 minutes we were at Hostal del Cibao. Room 10 was reserved. The room was clean, bright and had cable tv. About two feet from the bed, on a raised platform, was the bathroom and toilet. It was unique to say the least but the practicality of it all, and because we had seen worse, won us over.
The next morning we asked Anna-Maria, the housekeeper at the hostel, to wash our dirty, smelly Pico Duarte clothes. She charged 200 pesos (USD 6) and then we set about exploring the city. It was founded by Batholomew Columbus, Christopher´s elder brother, in 1495. Around the first corner was a breakfast spot where we had the breakfast of champions: sandwiches and jugos naturales. The city itself was cleaner, more organized and friendlier than Santo Domingo. Neat city blocks and brightly painted houses added an "Oldschool" warmth. At the centre of the
city was Parque Duarte - a big square where oldtimers and youngsters alike congregate under the trees and where pigeons refuse to move when humans pass. Shoeshine boys and men resurrect lifeless zapatos with skill and dexterity and ladies rock babies to sleep. It was the kind of place to which you would go to escape the buzz of the surrounding streets.
The busiest street by far was Calle del Sol, the undisputed shopping location. Everything could be found on Calle del Sol: food, clothes, shoes, jewellery. You could sell gold and buy gold, buy knock-off baseball caps and ripped dvds, fake Lacoste and RayBan sunshades (we bought 1 each for USD 10 total and you can´t tell the difference) and surf the net for free. And that´s what we did next. "Indotel" is a government-sponsored technology institute where anyone could walk off the street and use any of the roomful of computers. You would only pay if you pass 1 hour. We spent two-and-a-half hours sending blogs, checking mail and chatting and paid USD 1. Indotel rocks!!
At lunch we had vegetable fried rice and spring rolls from a highly-recommended chinese restaurant. The rice had to have
been refried several times cause it tasted old and hard and the rolls were mediocre. We ate some because we were hungry and because we had to pay and then we vowed never to eat again at a chinese restaurant with an attached nail studio
There was nothing particularly exciting to do in Santiago so we strolled along Calle del Sol and people-watched, we complained that the drivers sounded their horns continously and we window shopped. When night fell, we were only too happy to go back to Number 10, pack the neat piles of clothes Anna-Maria had left us and watch CNN. And apparently we hadn't missed much: there was still a war in Iraq and 'terrorists' terrorising and predictions for an active hurricane season.
Tomorrow, we would head further north to Sosua and then a nice-sounding, small fishing village called Rio San Juan.
There are more photos below