Part I: Welcome to the Dominican Republic
I arrived at night to Punta Cana airport in the Dominican Republic. As I walked down the stairs of the plane I had to assume that the thatched roof structure in front of me was the airport terminal. It is an open-air airport so the weather is right there with you as large ceiling fans try and cool you down. I wasn’t sure how long I would spend in immigration and customs before I could get on my way. Surprisingly it took about 30 seconds to clear immigration, 5 minutes to get my bags and 3 minutes to find my driver.
After booking my trip I didn’t realize how far my resort was from Punta Cana. On the map it looked close but it was really 90 minutes away. There was another airport that was closer but flying there cost about the same price as my flight with transportation. However, I would have loved to save the time. I get into the van and we start on our journey. As we drive through the mostly two lane roads of the DR, it is quite dark and I cannot see much but the lush vegetation. However, I can smell everything and I am able to use my sense of smell to discover what I cannot see. I can identify sugar, trash, and cow dung. When I could see I rather close my eyes.
Dominicans are very aggressive drivers, which left my heart in my throat for most of the ride. It’s common place to pass drivers on the left on a two lane road. It often turns into a game of chicken as the driver tries his best to pass while another car is coming straight for us. Plenty of people walk uncomfortably close to the road and the cars don’t bother to move over. The main mode of transportation is the moped. When you are in a city you see women or two to three men on a single moped speeding along on the road. The cars get very close to the mopeds asserting that the road belongs to them. The mopeds ignore their flashing lights, honking horns, and the fact that the cars are less than an inch away from mowing them down. Driving is like ballroom dancing and I suppose they were driving Bachata, very close, very trusting but dance with the wrong person and it can be dangerous.
In the cities of Punta Cana and Higuey, I was able to see many local people before I got to my white washed tourist destination. I don’t think I saw a single person with skin lighter than me. It felt like I was at a family reunion and everyone could be my cousin. At 9pm on a Saturday you see packed churches, bars, and pool halls as evidenced by dozens of mopeds in front. It’s colorful, the flat roofed homes in every pastel imaginable. Merengue and Reggaeton continuously blare from the pool halls and clubs. Women with painted on jeans, halter tops and a fresh blowout or cornrows. This is the DR I want to eventually experience but not on this trip.
After 90 minutes we finally arrive at Canoa Coral my home for the next three days.