A crazy beginning of our Dominican Republic trip

March 11, 2014

1.04pm. In a taxi. Palm trees and the Caribbean Sea. The sound of the air coming in from the open window drowns out that of the car falling into pieces.

About 2pm. We are in Santo Domingo.

Lunch with chicken and rice, realy good. And we are waiting for a burger. Chicken and rice: I think this won’t be the last one of the trip. I remember that at Notting Hill Carnival it was the typical dish of Jamaicans (neighbors).

There’s wifi in the hotel, I was able to skype mom. What did she say? Don’t worry about the cats, they are not missing you…

We tried to take a public bus from the airport to the town centre, but there was no way. There’s a gua-gua (the mini local bus), but it’s only for the employees at the airport. After one hour of bargaining we managed to get a price of about 20USD for a taxi ride, 1,000 RSD.

Santo Domingo is the oldest town of the New World and here is what Dominicans like to call the Catedral Primada de America, even though there was another cathedral built before this, in Ciudad del Mexico, but it lasted only a few decades. So we went to visit the cathedral, with the large walls and cooled down maybe too much by huge airconditioning devices. We won’t visit many churches and museums, but this seemed interesting. The pubs at the Zona Colonial are beautiful, well designed and they often hide gardens inside their walls. Everywhere in the streets there are trees with pretty purple flowers, maybe bouganville?

4.35 Here we are in Plaza de Espana with the first Presidente of the trip, the national beer. I guess this will also be a fix appointment during the trip. I’m really tired. We were tired from the flight and the beers exacerbated it (also because they are served in 66cl bottles). Luca is starting to talk nonsense (he’s saying he will leave me here if I don’t stop telling him to say “por favor” and “gracias”). I want to go to the beach to put my feet in the water.

santo domingo zona colonial

8.36pm Tired, swollen feet and hands like the Michelin man. We decided to leave tomorrow to go South of Barahona (to the West from La Capital, as Santo Domingo is called here), towards Paraiso (a name, a promise) and in particular to the beach of Los Patos. So we get closer to the bordere with Haiti.

After one quiet tour of the Zona Colonial (the most touristic area of the town) and one less quiet to go to the beach (to cross the road as soon as there is some space you have to go quickly to the middle of the road, wait where the middle line is, keep bag and camera on your sides to become as thin as possible, hope that those idiots that pretend to run you over don’t actually do it, and as soon as the other side is free, cross it), we decided to look for the agency that sells bus tickets to Barahona, to check if we need to book and at what time the bus is.

For the first time since trusting the Lonely Planet as my travel guide, it is not really helpful. From the few information I find it looks like buses leave from the area of the Parque Enriquillo, but you can’t tell exactly where. And we will understand why. In a small alley near the “park” (a square with some green, benches, peddlers and many scary dirty faces walking around), we see the first agency. Their buses don’t go to Barahona; the girl at the reception can’t help. Ask outside, she says. Ehmmm… ok. The Lonely Planet mentions another agency on the other side of the park. We go there. There’s nothing. So we ask a guy who is shouting a destination that we don’t understand to invite people that might be interested to get on the gua-gua. No, it’s not the parada for Barahona. We’ve got to go North. 5 esquinas up (esquinas… it doesn’t ring a bell. Does it mean road? Or corner? I don’t know, and it doesn’t make a big difference, we go up). 5 esquinas furter, after crossing crowded streets, where there are no zebra crossing and your white face doesn’t help (and even if there were zebra crossing and your face was dark it wouldn’t change much), where to cross you have to take advantage of a braking caused by a car coming from a side road trying to enter into the traffic, where cars collide but have no time to stop to check the damage, where there’s a driver that has to put his car back on the sidewalk because he tried to leave, but after two meters of vacillation the car died forever, where a boy running towards you and shouting something you don’t understand scares you because you think he is attacking you, when he’s actually just calling a friend…. here, we cross these 5 esquinas, see some large buses, but it’s not them. You have to go right, down this road, on the other side. We go, other large buses parked. No, it’s not here. You’ve got to go further down. Ok, we try the last time, we tell ourselves, because we’ve been looking for one hour and we are tired. The old man out of the waiting area (so much in contrast with the chaos that is outside), when he notices that we don’t know where to go, with the rifle points at the bathroom. No, no thank you. It’s not what we need. But near the bathroom we see the ticket office. We enquire. No, it’s not here. Ok, we go back to the hotel. Maybe tomorrow we will try to call.

We go back to the streets. The roads form a grill, so it’s not difficult to find your bearings. We take a different road to go back, parallel to the one with a lot of traffic we walked earlier, and it’s a bit quieter. But Luca doesn’t want to stop in one of those local restaurants selling rice and chicken, he’s scared something might happen to me. “Unbelievable”, he keeps saying. And his look is crazed. I wasn’t worried, because I saw teenagers walking alone, and this is usually reassuring.

When we are back at the Zona Colonial we slow down, but I’m not hungry anymore.

So to bed without dinner. No worries, we’ll recoup tomorrow.