January 21, 2011

Climbing High

"Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun...."  Remember singing that in school?  Yep, we are climbing to an altitude of 32,000 feet.  How high is that, I wonder?  High enough for the view of the ocean to change from familiar waves into a shingle-like image, and then assume a smooth glass-like appearance.  For planes beneath us to look like dragon flies.  Cruise ships to look like tiny specks.

The pilot advises us that we will fly over the Bahamas, yada yada, and flight time will be about 2 hours.  Watching the cloud formations.  Never too old for that, right?  Slimy, blue-green water; land formations; and we're starting to descend.  A mountainous land with lush greenery.  The palm trees look like toothpicks stuck into the ground.  Bump.  We're on the ground, taxing toward the terminal.  A lone "guard" sits outside of a security outpost beside the runway.   Finally arrived at the terminal and disembarked.  The first sound is music.  Down the escalator to find a quartet consisting of a saxophone, an accordion, a guira, and a tambora. (click on the links).  Through customs.  Welcome to the Dominican Republic.

Rude awakening.  Everything is in Spanish.  Oh, oh!  I must confess that I didn't do my homework.  All I wanted was warmth.  Never thought about the language.  I haven't used Spanish since the 10th grade.  We know how long ago that was, don't we?  Fortunately, English is also spoken. A porter leads us out of the terminal in search of the driver who will take us to the resort.  It is muggy and overcast; I feel my hair drooping every step of the way.  What a waste of money.  I could've used it for souvenirs. Aha, a diminutive man is holding up a sign with the name of the company: Turinter Tours. We're told that he needs to collect additional people and to wait here.  That's fine.  Gives me a chance to look around.

First impression is that the people of the DR are all fair-skinned with green, blue, or brown eyes, and wavy hair.  Not.  They run the gamut in terms of skin coloring and hair texture.  To be sure, the Indian and Spanish influences are most prevalent. And like any bustling airport scene, there is a lot of coming and going and the effusive embraces for family and friends. 

Man, I thought that I'd dressed lightly but the humidity was oppressive. I was about to wilt when our group was finally assembled, baggage stored and...we're off to Puerto Plata, on the north coast of the DR.  Brief introductions are made: one couple is from Baltimore; the other is from Charlottesville.  Up and down winding roads shared by trucks, buses, autos, mopeds or scooters with one, two, three people on board, and people on foot.  Closed my eyes several times because I was sure that we were going to have an accident.  Past fields, places that were under construction (and some that should have been), store fronts, homes (some barely qualified; others were gorgeous) and lots of trash.  You've been to a 3rd world country so you can imagine the sights.  Around a corner and here's a beach.  People are everywhere.  Courting, playing, relaxing. Past a go cart/bumper car amusement area.  Why are there so many people doing nothing?  It's Sunday, silly.  A day of rest.  D-U-H!
Security gates lift and we pull into an impressive driveway.  Beautiful landscaping; huge columns with curtains wafting in the breeze; a gorgeous fountain.  We're here!  Hot damn!  I made a good choice!  Bounce out and wait for the luggage to be unloaded.  The Charlottesville couple gets out.  I'm told to get back in the van.  Our hotel is the next stop.  LOL! 

Next stop is the Lifestyle Tropical Beach Resort and Spa, Cofresi Beach.  Our home for the next week.  Didn't have those magnificent columns but it had all the rest.  I'm satisfied.  The driver informs us that it is very important that we be in the lobby at 9:30 a.m., the next morning, for a briefing.  We're led to the desk, check in, and are met by a handsome gentleman, Santos (Santo Domingo, he says.  I guess its easier for the foreigners to remember but the name tag said Fernandez), who tells us that he will take care of our every need.  Any problem, contact him. And be sure to be in the lobby for our briefing at 9:30 a.m.

We're led off to our rooms.  Here's the view from the balcony.

Unpacked; changed; cap in place to disguise the hair; camera in hand and ready to explore.  First stop:  food and drink.  

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