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Land of Firsts
By jen
Mar 19, 2004, 11:46

Did you know that the first place Chris Colombus made a settlement was in what is now Haiti (the island of Hispaniola). He left for a trip to Cuba and back to Spain. When he came back, the settlement was destroyed so they moved to the area now called the Dominican Republic...he left again to go island hopping..came back and it was a mess once again, so they moved south in the Dominican Republic to found Santo Domingo.

Santo Domingo was the first european capital in the western hemisphere, which means there are a lot of firsts...we saw the first hospital..the first monestary...the first cathedral...but, being the 3rd world most of the firsts lie in ruins and have been taken over by pigeons..more than i have seen anywhere except trafalgar square.

Santo Domingo would be just a short plane ride from St. Croix if you didn 't have to stop in San Juan to get there.  We lucked out and didn't have long lay overs so it wasn't too bad. Brian was there for a week with work before I met him at the fancy all inclusive resort he was staying at.  For my birthday he treated me to a stay there for my first night in town. It was nice, but, all in all, not our kind of vacation.  So the next day we moved on to a small little inn in the heart of Boca Chica.

Boca Chica is a small beach town that has more hookers than street corners. We spent the weekend at the beach brushing up on spanish and being chased around by vendors of whatever you might want.  I fell in love with the crayfish venders, nothing like a little brown bag full of crayfish with a little lime. Words can not describe how crowded the beach was...for miles, it was flat white sand and aqua blue water packed with bodies. It was tough to go in the water and not get bumped into at least a few times. IT WAS CRAZY!!

From the beach insanity, we moved on to the craziness of the oldest capital this side of the world.  We spent the next 5 days in the colonial zone exploring the firsts, people watching from our balcony...(the best was the ecuadorian indiginous family that owned a little shop across the way from our hotel and was constantly bustling about)..eating the local cuisine.

The highlight was my birthday. We were both tired of being in the city but, we really didn't have enough time to move on so we headed to the other side of the river away from the main part of town.  We checked out the aquarium...5 nurse sharks were just chilling in the big tank. Then we went to Los Tres Ojos..the three eyes..3 large caves with a little boat ride to a 4th cave. very cool!!  If you haven't explored caves before it's totally worth it. Of course you will sweat more than you ever have and be cold all at the same time, but when you are in a place that's hotter than hell to begin with it's great.

The day culminated in a very fancy restaurant built inside a cave..yes..a cave, not a fake cave a real cave. The stalagtites were hidden by planters that had a system of hoses, hidden by moss, draning the water away to avoid stalagmites that might get in the way for the diners. The food was the best we had, served by guys in tuxes with fountains, fish tanks and cave drawings in the background. It very well be my new favorite restaurant in the world. Who the heck would walk in to a cave and decide there should be a fancy restaurant there and visualize what it would look like and how to make it work.

Among the other excitment of the trip was our day at the botanical garden where we both nearly died of heat exhaustion. you wouldn't think that being 2 islands away would change the temperature that much but I swear, I think it may have even been hotter than Machala! After surviving for a few hours in the beating sun and recovering from the delirium we both experienced in the japanese garden, we caught a taxi and headed back to the hotel for cold showers. 

I think I've described 3rd world driving before. It is absolute insanity. Everyone drives wherever they want really fast. So there we are at a traffic light.  I'm sitting in the back watching this big cement truck making it's own lane right next to us. It stopped right before it came up to the window I was sitting at. Fine..i thought it seemed kinda close but it stopped so whatever.... until it started pulling up again and the big truck tires started pushing our little cab right out of the way. The guy in the car next to us on the other side started to freak out and yell at our cab driver. Our cab driver was out and banging on the cement truck which continued on it's merry way dumping cement all over the back window and trunk as it tapped the back of the car. that was certainly a first for me! (no one was hurt and not too much damage was done).

All in all, it was a great trip. We definitely need to go back to the Dominican Republic to check out the north since it is much different from the what we had time to see. ..Someday..

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