Caribbean vibes (Dominican Republic )


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Published: July 24th 2022
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(Day 23 on the road) After a fairly painless flight and a late-night Uber into the city, I arrived in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The main reason for coming here was to take a language course for a week to brush up my Spanish, before hitting South America a few weeks later. The school was located in Sosua, on the north coast of the island; and all in all, it was the right decision to start with the course. I did learn a lot, and since my co-students did not always show up for class, I often ended up being the only student. Nice.

The next couple of weeks I spent exploring the island - the beautiful Samana peninsula in the north-east, the capital of Santo Domingo, Jaracaboa in the mountainous inland of the island, and Boca Chica. The heat was intense, often 37 degrees in the shades, and a lot more in the sun, so this put a natural limit on certain activities. Lying on the beach during the daytime? Doing some longer hikes? Going running, except very early in the morning? Not a chance. All in all, my impression about the Dominican Republic was this: Pretty nice, but not a must-sea in life. For sure, the beaches are very picturesque, and there are some cool waterfalls I visited (especially El Limon and Jimenoa Uno). Also, the Caribbean vibes were great, I met some very interesting people hitch-hiking around, and the bus system is very efficient as well. But there is not much else to see really.

Plus, the Dominican Republic is also a super-noisy country. Unless you are staying in a secluded hotel, expect constant noise pollution at all levels. Loud music is blasting everywhere (shops, buses, restaurants). In fact, as I am writing this blog in my (otherwise) comfortable Airbnb just after midnight, one neighbour somewhere is playing their Salsa on full volume, and has been for the last two hours, while a stray dog is constantly barking. Nobody seems to mind however. But even worse are probably the ubiquitous motorcycles and scooters, which are often customized (or just plain old) so the exhaust is extra-noisy (it seems like a macho-thing with guys). Even with earplugs it was often difficult or impossible to sleep – the motorcycles, people shouting, music blasting, dogs barking. I do admire the Dominican people however; they must have superhuman powers to endure this constant noise all the time. I am in a place and can’t hear myself think, and they are sitting there and thoroughly enjoying themselves. Must be something wrong with me. Or maybe I am becoming less noise-tolerant as I get older.

Back quickly to the motorcycles and scooters: They are mostly driven way too fast and recklessly, often with 4 or 5 people on them. The result: The number of road deaths here in the Dominican Republic is significantly higher than in all other countries of Latin America (Dominican Republic: 36,4/ 100.000 inhabitants, vs Cuba 4,7 and Puerto Rico 8,8). And if you see how they drive here (regularly showing off by driving only on their back wheel, nobody wearing helmets or seat belts), it is easy to see why. I was taking a lot of motorcycle taxi rides to get around places, and I am pretty happy it all went well.

And speaking of motorcycles: Unfortunately, my mobile phone was stolen by a drive-by motorcycle during my last week on the island. It happened in broad day-light on the Malecon in Santo Domingo. I was just getting my phone out of my pocket to take a picture, when the driver sped up from behind. Before I knew it, he had grabbed my phone and was speeding away. There were other people around, and in hindsight, I don't think I could have prevented it. So I spent the evening and next morning cancelling my simcard, changing passwords to all the apps I had on the phone, and buying a new one. I also lost my photos of the last three days, but at least there was no violence involved. Bummer. The main point I felt was not letting myself get dragged down by things like that. My first, emotional reaction was to be extremely wary of all people for the rest of the day, while of course 99,9% of them are honest and friendly. So I forced myself to shake it off as quickly as possible and moved on.

As for Haiti (which shares the western part of the island with the Dominican Republic): The severe travel warnings for Haiti put me off, so although I am not easily scared and always take these government warnings fairly light-hearted, they did put me off from visiting Haiti. Shame, but better be safe than sorry.

Bottom line: I don’t feel that I have to come back here, or that it has to be on one’s bucket list of countries to visit. If you are after beautiful beaches and are booked into a nice hotel, it certainly is a very nice place to visit. But if you are looking to roam around and explore the country by yourself - then the noise, the heat and the lack of attractions makes it not an ideal backpacking destination.

Next stop: Medellin (Colombia).

To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com.

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25th July 2022

Nice Blog
Thanks for your comments, will keep them in mind when I plan my itinerary travels.
27th July 2022
Parque Central in Puerto Plata at sunset

Puerto Plata
Ben it is great reading your blogs again. Thanks for taking us along.

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