Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Honeymoon. (Series Part VIII)

To read the rest of the stories in the series, click on the "Love Series" in the sidebar.

After a long wait in the airport, we finally set off for our honeymoon. We had an eight hour flight from Vancouver to the Dominican Republic. The flight didn't really seem all that long to me, 'cause I had already taken the bus to Saskatchewan and back twice, at 24 hours each way and had also taken the bus to Montreal and back, which was a 72 hour ride each way. Armondo, on the other hand was not used to sitting for such a long stretch in such a confined area and swore that the next tropical trip we were going on was going to be to the much closer location of Mexico!

It was interesting passing over most of the United States though. The sky was clear all night so we were able to see all the tiny little towns and huge cities diagonally across the country. We were both surprised to see just how populated America really was, as there wasn't really much dark space between the lights of all the cities. In Canada, there really are only maybe three to six large cities per province (if you don't count the sub-burbs), with lots of empty space between.

When we arrived in the Dom. the humidity and heat hit us like a wave as we stepped off the plane! Neither one of us had ever experienced anything like that before. We walked straight off of the plane onto the tarmac, and were amused by all the locals (airport employees) who were running around wearing plastic ponchos and trying to duck the rain which to us, seemed almost non-existent, and was almost like a mist as opposed to real rain.

The airport was quite neat. It was open on all sides, and pretty much just consisted of a palm-leaf thatched roof held by large wooden poles. We were all greeted by locals in traditional dress and they took each couple's picture as we walked through. (Like you see on TV when people arrive in Hawaii, but we didn't get Leis.)

Then there was the bus ride! Ha! We all got onto the bus and waited about 45 minutes before even leaving for our hotel. Then our "20 minute" ride to the resort became two and a half hours as the driver and energetic "tour guide" dragged the trip out by stopping a couple of times for road-side bathroom breaks and beer runs. Armondo and I were instantly annoyed, and not overly enthusiastic about the "party bus" atmosphere. We just wanted to get to the resort and relax. I can say that we were both glad that it was dark on the drive there though, 'cause we could tell that the roads were very crazy and dangerous!

The actual resort was pretty nice. There was a large common area that consisted of an open air lobby and restaurant and theatre. There was also a casino, which was open to the public, and a small night club and pizza place. There were a few a la carte restaurants as well, and a gym. The pool was very nice, though all the "rules" sort of annoyed me as you couldn't swim when it was raining (which was most of the trip) or after 7pm. There were open bars everywhere, too, but because Armondo doesn't drink, and it was OUR honeymoon, I kept my drinking to a minimum. (Which I'm SOO not going to do the next time we do a trip like that ;) )

Our days pretty much consisted of hanging out the beach and doing little bits of snorkeling. We spent the hottest hours of the days in our air conditioned room, and the evenings walking around, eating pizza and dancing in the little club. I spent way too much time chasing lizards, frogs and stray cats around as well. I'm such a little kid that way! I love animals!

We had fun beach combing as well, and poked at the sea urchins and such. The swimming was really nice too. The water was so blue-green and beautiful. It was way saltier than the ocean here, so it was easy to float, and the water was always nice and warm, even in the middle of the night. On one of the days, Armondo and I decided that because it was so easy to float that we'd take a long swim across the bay to a man-made island/barrier thing that we had visited the day before by row boat.

Well, we started out fine, but by half-way across, panic started to set in for both of us, as we were both getting extremely tired and with us not being strong swimmers, we were finding it hard to swim against the current that started to pick up. We had snorkels, flippers, and goggles, so that made it easier to do the swim, but it was watching the ocean floor disappear below me that made me really start to panic! I did my best to hide my fear from Armondo, and he did a good job of hiding his, and we just kept on swimming our hardest until we got to the island, which for some reason, turned out to be way further than we thought it was!Armondo, just minutes before panic set in! (I'm having trouble formatting the font, so I can't center the captions for the pictures! Grr!)

Once we got on the barrier thing, we admitted our panic to each other and were able to laugh about it, as the walk back to shore (not our starting point) was all chest depth or less. On our way down the island, we ran into a local who was lobster fishing and we were entertained for a bit as we saw him scoop a long tube (like a plumbing ABS tube thing) out of the water, then bang on it to get the lobsters all out of it. And that's all he had to do. He just replaced the tube in the water, and every day he'd go back to gather any lobsters he had caught and threw the crabs back in the water. Armondo has sworn that he'd use that trick to catch crawfish in our river here at home, but has never seemed to get around to it.

The ATV trip we took was really fun. There were probably four couples, a singleton and the guide. Each couple shared an ATV. Out of all of the couples, I was the only female who ever drove! None of the other women got turns on their ATVs. I don't know if the guys were playing macho, or if the women just weren't interested, but I had a BLAST as we went back-roading through the country and driving through mud pits and such. (And, I have to admit that I was a MUCH better driver than Armondo, but that rings true for driving cars too. We just won't talk about my parking abilities!)

During the ATV trip, we went to a few little shanty towns where all the kids gathered around and begged for candy. Somehow, everyone we were with knew that they'd be asking for candy, and had some on hand, but us naive travelers had no idea. In one town, we stopped for awhile, where I spent time chasing more animals around (this time baby goats and funny looking ducks). It was in that town that I made friends with an old guy who told me (through someone translating) that I was welcome there any time. I'm not sure what made him warm up to me, 'cause I was acting like a dork chasing their livestock around, and I didn't give them any gifts, but I felt pretty honoured to be welcomed like that!

At another stop, some guys were taking coconuts down from a tree and we got to watch as they sort of "shucked" them with their machetes and then cut them open to drink and eat from. Armondo in the tree the coconuts came from.

I really wanted to try to cut open one myself, and the guide told me if I gave the guys some money, that they'd pick a coconut for me and they'd teach me how to do it. Again, not knowing what we were supposed to do, we didn't bring money with us! I guess they took pity on me, or thought I was cute, or something, 'cause they decided to show me how anyway. It was pretty fun trying, but I could not, for the life of me, chop open that coconut! All in all, the ATV trip was pretty awesome, and I almost wanted to pay to go on the trip a second time!Me posing during one of the stops on the ATV tour. I don't think I'll ever be able to fit that shirt again!

I couldn't leave the Caribbean without getting my hair done in little braids, so I paid a few dollars a braid and got my really short hair done in about eight tiny braids. It was during my chat with the hair girl that I started to figure out how poorly the people were treated at the resort. This girl, when she did a full head, charged about $50 US, and the hotel would get $45 of it! So, after paying for my hair, I went back to the hotel room, got some more money and tried to secretly give her a tip. I really hope she was able to keep the money! Later, we found out that the entertainers worked 12 hours a day and got paid a miniscule amount of money at the end of the month (can't remember exactly anymore, but it was completely shocking), and they didn't really get breaks during the day, except for one meal break. And these people were actually getting paid and treated WELL compared to the majority of the population! And they were happy! In fact, all the people everywhere were happy. In the little villages we saw when we went on the ATV tour, and the people on the beaches, the people we saw dancing in the street in the middle of the night on the way to the resort... everyone seemed happy! It really put "wealth" into perspective for me!

That didn't stop me from getting huffy over a money issue just the next day though. We had attempted to take a trip to the local market to get ripped off buy some local knick knacks, but we were mis-informed about the time of the trip to town, missed the bus, and it was our last day there, so we decided to take the money we had already converted to pesos and go to the casino that night instead. We had fun playing the slots (a first for me) and Armondo actually won the jackpot! This is where things got pretty messed up!

We were both excited that he won the money! I mean, we really could use the extra money! The problem? We had played using pesos, so the prize money had to be paid out in pesos. And he won a LOT of pesos! It was, in fact around 19,ooo pesos! The casino people assured us that the hotel front desk would be able to exchange the money for us, so we took our winnings to them and asked them to help us out. It was already around 10pm, and they told us that they didn't have that much money on them at the time, but that in the morning, they'd have it after the money truck arrived, so come back in the morning. We woke up early the next morning, which was the day we were to leave, and we went to the desk to get our money. "Come back around 11am." At 11am, we're told "Come back in a couple of hours." Well, our bus was leaving soon to get back to the airport, so we told them we couldn't come back in a couple of hours, which was when they finally told us the truth that they would never actually carry that much money at a given time, and that we'd have to go to a bank. They suggested we take a taxi to town to go to a bank. RIGHT. We now had a pocket load of useless cash that we were sure we were going to get stuck with, until someone told us there would be an exchange place at the airport. (We were also told that it would be next to impossible to exchange the money once we got home. And us, having never really traveled before, had no clue.) So, we all file onto the bus, which took even longer to get BACK to the airport than it did to come from the airport, and arrived at the airport fifteen minutes after the "Banco" closed.

All this hassle was frustrating us to no end, and we were having troubles seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We were both pissed off at being lied to so many times, and being jacked around by people trying to get us to spend our money by stopping the bus at overpriced tourist traps on the way home. (I tried to buy a bag of chips 'cause I was starving, and they tried to get $5 U.S. from me for it. I refused and tried to haggle, but they just took the bag of chips out of my hand and rolled their eyes.)

So, we flew home, with no idea what we were going to do with the money, and were pleasantly surprised when we arrived to see that there was a currency exchange booth right in the airport. (Like I said, we were told that it would be next to impossible to exchange it when we got home, so we weren't very optimistic!) The problem was that we arrived at the airport at 1 am, and the booth didn't open until 6am. We had the option of finding a hotel to sleep in that night, then coming back to get our money, or crashing on the benches there until 6 am. We chose to try to sleep there. A few hours later, Armondo got restless and decided to take a walk. It was then (around 4am) that he discovered that on another floor of the airport, there was a currency exchange booth that was open 24 hours! So, I was needlessly sleeping on a bench at the airport! It turns out that the bills we were given were ridiculously small, and that the total turned out to be around $650 Cdn, which was a VERY welcome surprise! The money more than covered the cost of our extras, like the ATV trip, and the un-salvageable muddy shoes I had to throw out. (From driving through the mud pits.)

When I developed this picture, I couldn't stand how "chubby" I thought I looked. At that time, Armondo warned me that one day, I'd look back at this photo and wish I looked that good still, and he's more than right! Man, I wish I could get that body back!


shandelle said...

Great story. Makes me wonder about going on trips there. You really can't be niave at all or you will screw yourself. But the scenery was great and at least it was an eye opener for you about how others live.

Sarah said...

A late congrats on the winnings. ;)

debambam said...

Sounds like overall you have some great memories, which of course is what honeymoons are all about aren't they??!

CeCe said...

Shandelle~We knew we were going to be naive, but because we were PRETTY MUCH only on the resort grounds we weren't TOO worried... It was smart for our first trip to get an all inclusive, I think.

Sarah~Well, thank you!

Debambam~Yeah, we've got some good memories, and I think *I* would go back, but Armondo really doens't ever want to.

Kim said...

Great story and sounds like a lot of fun. I love ATV's, they are a lot of fun.

That is one thing I have discovered in Peru, they are totally happy, even though they are so poor. Although I do have to be careful with the prices and usually I take a Peruvian with me when shopping so they can do the dickering and tell me where is the best place.

Pink Deysi said...

Great story. Still don't know where we want to go for ours...but this did help a little :)