Friday June 28, 2019 - It did not all work out beautifully. But it wasn’t too bad. I woke up early, packed up, watched a couple episodes of Modern Family, as I try to catch up on tv shows this summer. I asked one of the ladies at the guesthouse to call the bus for me to tell them that I was coming, but they could not get through. Not that it would have mattered much anyway truthfully. I left around 9:15, bought a baguette sandwich for the road, and waited for the guagua (minibus) to leave for Samana. This one wasn’t so much a minibus as a pick-up truck. I sat in the cab but could have sat in the back. No thanks. I was the only passenger for some time, and we drove at a super slow speed so anyone could easily flag us down. For at least 15 minutes, we were at crawling speed. I could have walked faster. The driver even stopped for crackers and a chocolate milk along the way. Eventually we had more passengers and the cramped conditions I’m used to. At least we started to pick up speed. I was worried about missing the
next bus, though I had planned 30 minutes between buses.
When we got to Samana, the driver let me out exactly where I would pick up my next bus. I was already thinking about that bus and how to find it, and I ended up giving him 300 pesos (the cost of the next ride) instead of the 100 I know it costs. He did not correct me. Douche. I realized it like 3 minutes later. Oh well, this was on me. I asked some guys about the bus to Puerto Plata that I would have to take to get to my next guesthouse near Cabarete, and they confirmed I was in the right spot to wait for it. One guy worked for the bus and made sure I knew where to find it exactly. It did show as promised and left a little after the scheduled 11am departure time. Not that there is a true schedule with these buses. It was more of a normal bus size, larger than a minibus anyway, but I sat in the front and a grandma sat with me, despite all the other seats being free. I expected the ride to take 2.5-3
hours and I would be there by 2pm latest. Instead I arrived by 3:30pm, so much later than I’d expected. I thought I’d be able to have a half day here today to do things. The bus ride itself was ok, but we did make one large stop and almost everyone got off. Bathroom maybe? But also snacks and drinks, it turned out. That was at least 20 minutes. I read for much of the trip, but I was also really interested in how this bus worked. Sometimes we would stop to pick up a bag of something to give someone, and then later we would pull over exactly at the right place and hand it over. One bag definitely just had a pair of shoes in it. It was all very mysterious and impressive.
Finally they got where I was going and let me out in the right place, about 4km beyond the town of Cabarete. This area is popular with windsurfers, kitesurfers, and just regular old surfers. I thought it would be quite busy. But when I rang the bell, the only one who came to the gate was the dog. I waited a while, got a
little annoyed, and then walked a little further to where I thought the beach was. It was hot and I was sweaty and had all my things, but it was still nice to see it.
I went back and sat on the steps and started to read my book. An hour after I first arrived, a guy drove by on a moped, came back, and asked if I had a reservation. He works at the hotel but not checking people in. It turns out the owner had a death in the family yesterday (it is a family run business) and is away for the funeral today. He misplaced my reservation and didn’t tell anyone I was coming. But the guy who saw me got me in a room and got me some towels. I quite like this place actually, but it seems there is nowhere to eat nearby, so he drove me to a tiny market that was right where I got out of the bus actually. He said if I needed more he could drive me to Cabarete and the larger supermarket, but it was ok. I bought two mangoes and a packet of ramen. High class. Back
at the guesthouse I decided to go to the pool and read. It was already after 5pm but still sunny. He cleaned the pool of some flowers that had fallen in during the day while I changed, and before I got downstairs he was already at their property across the street cleaning that pool. I had the place to myself and swam a little and then read until I thought I should make a move.
Upstairs, I got dressed and grabbed my food and headed to the building across the street where the kitchen is. I can get into each property with a little key fob, which feels safe. I cooked my ramen and ate a mango and it was enough. Walking back, it looked about sunset, so I went for a quick walk to the beach. The beach faces north, so I could not see the sunset, but it still made for a nice picture. Back at the room I chatted with my mom a little and then got a message from the manager Romario that he was on his way back and we could chat at 9:30pm when he arrived. He showed when expected and was quite
young and nice. He told me some things I needed to know and will call the waterfall place tomorrow at 8am to see if they have a tour and/or have room tomorrow. If not, I’m sure relaxing is good too.
Before bed, I started to have some stomach cramping. Damn. Was it the water? Every place has had bottled water to drink, but maybe this one isn’t great?
A note - today was so sweaty that I sweated through my passport in the money belt I was wearing. Now it's completely deformed. I haven't had this happen since my round the world trip years ago. Hope it does not become an issue.
Saturday June 29 - So the stomach cramping turned into more when I woke up this morning. This tends to be a common theme for this blog, in retrospect. I was so looking forward to evading stomach distress this time, but it was not meant to be. I went over for breakfast at 8am, not sure if I should eat anything or if I should actually go out to the waterfalls. I decided to give eating a go, and had some bread and hard-boiled eggs
while I talked to Romario. He made some calls for me, with no luck, but found info on the waterfalls website that I could get there by public transport and get a guide there. For whatever reason it just seemed too much and not worth it today, so I decided to stay more local. I also remembered that part of my goal for this trip was to try to spend more time with the locals chatting and getting to know a place a bit. Otherwise how will I ever remember the differences between all of these islands and countries in the Caribbean? I’m afraid I will just remember beaches and sweating (still possible). Romario is young but had a lot to say about world politics. His English is very American sounding despite learning it here. He suggested a walk to Cabarete along the beach, saying it would take about 40 minutes. I figured it would be a little longer, but decided to go for it.
I left around 11am and within half an hour I wished for a toilet, as my stomach was acting up again. But I walked another half hour to get to Cabarete. It was a
windy walk, and my sunglasses were progressively more and more covered with sea mist. I passed a couple of beaches with kite surfing schools and plenty of people learning and practicing. It looks both cool and nuts. One guy picked up a big shell on the beach, turned around and saw me, and proceeded to show it to me, since his kids weren’t around. He was probably around my age. It was kind of funny, but he was able to help when I asked how long before I got to town. Once I figured I was at least on the edge of town, I asked a guy at a kite school how to get off the beach, as it seemed everything was private. He showed me where I could walk along the hotel where he worked to get to the street, which was super helpful. I walked and found a money exchange that Romario had suggested, and changed $10, because I am running quite low. I may just have had enough, but didn’t want to risk it. Then I decided to head back.
I walked back along the beach, which was heaving with people at town and then thinned
out to literally only me for more than half the walk as it had been on the way there. There was beach the whole way, but there were also a couple of points with rocks, which was quite pretty. Like a ledge of solid rock, not stones. I was a little nervous about finding my way back, since I had forgotten to note exactly where I started on the beach, but I think I got off the beach at the exact same place where I entered, so that was good.
Back at the guesthouse I got ready to sit at the pool and read. It was actually too sunny right by the pool, so I started out by laying under a small palm in the yard and then transferred later to the pool, with a couple dips in between. I even managed to save three wasps that had blown in and were floating around on flower petals, but I did not make it in time to save the praying mantis. Bathing suits have never been my thing, and I am always awkward as it is, never quite knowing what to do in many “relaxed” situations, so the whole thing
probably looked ridiculous to anyone who could see me (hopefully no one could). I was wearing my new bikini. Geez, even saying bikini feels weird. I hardly ever wear them for any reason. But this one is quite cute, and I bought it at the large grocery store by my house, which is how I know I’m old. I tried the sports store first, but nothing there is suited for actual boobs. Somehow the grocery people got support right. Who knew? A guy checked in while I was at the pool (though he has not been seen since), so I am no longer the only one staying here. Apparently more people are coming tomorrow when I leave, but I’ve enjoyed the quiet here. Yesterday there was a cat here at my building, and it loved the love with the craziest purr I’ve maybe ever heard. But I haven’t seen it today. I’ve been walking around wondering where my cat is.
After the pool, I walked to the little shop and bought another packet of ramen for dinner and a tiny packet of lime/lemon flavored potato chips. Together, they cost less than $1. Dinner was a repeat of last night,
including the mango for dessert, but this time I added a boiled egg from the kitchen for some protein. We’ll see how my belly does with that before I actually eat the chips.
Unlike at home, it gets dark quite quickly after sunset, which is more than two hours earlier than at home. This is something I really miss when I travel in the summer. I love the long days, and I am gone for six weeks of it. When I get back, it will not be nearly as impressive.
Tomorrow I’m leaving. I’ll take a minibus to Sousa to get the big bus back to Santo Domingo. It’ll be another long day, but I’ll relax here in the morning and get back before dinner.
Sunday June 30 - I got up early, same stomach problem. It’s not terrible, just not great. Hopefully getting better. I skyped with Jeroen, packed a little, ate breakfast, and watched some Modern Family. At 11:30am I was standing at the bus stop, waiting for a guagua to pass. There was a motoconcho driver sitting across the street at the little grocery. He was flagging me down before I even arrived, offering
his services. I can’t even imagine getting on the back of a moped with two backpacks. I said no and waited for the bus. After a couple minutes he was trying to get my attention again but I said no again. It felt like ages before the minibus pulled up, but it was actually only about 8 minutes. The ride to Sosua was squished but only took 15 minutes and cost $1. The driver let me and a few others out at the Caribe Tours bus office, and I got a ticket for the bus that left at 12:20. I had to wait 30 minutes, or I could take the express in one hour and save an hour driving, but it all seemed a wash, so I just took the next bus. I didn’t have two seats to myself this time, and two movies played. A comedy and a kill ‘em all war type movie. Luckily they were both in Spanish and held little interest for me.
I spent the almost 5 hours (Lord have mercy) finishing my book, starting another, and researching my trip a bit again. I am thankful every single day for my kindle. It has
a million books on it and the charge lasts ages. Takes up very little space. I’ve already read about four books this week. I’m usually so well planned, but this time I’ve only booked most of the accommodation, with very vague plans about what I will do when I get there and how I will do it. I’m a little disappointed with my time in the Dominican Republic, as I could have done so much more. But for this I’d need more time and a car to truly be free to do it all. The bus sucked a lot of my time - two full days of travel, and tomorrow will be another. I have to accept that this summer is more of a Caribbean sampler than an in-depth study of different countries/islands. If all goes as “planned”, I may well end up on about 16 islands in 6 weeks.
When I got to Santo Domingo, I grabbed my luggage and found a taxi. Of course he also wanted to take me to the airport tomorrow, but when I paid him the 200 we agreed on, he said 500. I said nope, we agreed on 200 and he left.
Jerk. Taxi drivers are the same no matter where you are in the world.
Back at the house I said hi to Luz, we caught up a little, and then I went in search of food. She showed me on her map where I could find a close local food restaurant, but everything around there was closed. I walked back to the pedestrian street and looked and then walked around some more just to look. There were a lot of people out, and several dressed up street performers as well as some musicians. Mass at the old cathedral was just ending, so I “snuck” in and had a quick look. Glad, since I hadn’t been in yet and it was doubtful I’d make it tomorrow. I ended up getting a burger at a little cafe for $2 and then a soft serve ice cream for $1 on my walk home. Disappointingly, I did not know they didn’t have chocolate until she served it. Boo. I tried to go to Helado Bon, a local ice cream place that Gabe suggested, but both were quite full and none of the flavors had labels. It seemed like too much work. On my
walk back, I wanted to finish my ice cream before coming back to my room, so I turned the corner and spotted a cemetery. I walked over and a black cat ran away from me and into the cemetery. It was dusk and starting to look cool. I do like me a good cemetery.
Back at the house I met Luz’s husband and one of her daughters and her husband. They were eating dinner. I went back to my room and did some research for the trip while sweating it up. There are two fans and an old door that goes out to a little shaft like place in the center of the building. There is no other window and no real air flow. She put me in the other room this time, off the main street, which is nice. But it might be hotter in here. On my walk tonight I went into the supermarket, which was air-conditioned. I didn’t even notice until I walked out into the heat and humidity again. Such a difference. The place I stayed in last night was so good for breeziness. Designed really well. It’s for sale, in case anyone is looking.
Confession - I have a clothes problem. I brought more clothes than I needed, yet I’ve been wearing the same shirt and pants every day when I travel because I don’t want all of my clothes to be sweaty and gross. I love having the possibility of clean clothes. Sadly there is no washer in the place where I will be staying in St Maarten for the next 5 nights, but I will have access to one in St Kitts. Tomorrow I’ll try to buy a small detergent and do some proper hand washing. The hand washing I’ve done so far has not done the trick.
Note - One thing I have noticed in DR is that when I say thank you, a lot of people say “Ok.” I think this is just the response, but it strikes me as hilarious every time.
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