– visited October 2013 –
It is early afternoon as the ferry from Puerto Rico arrives in Santo Domingo. I buy the bus ticket for tomorrow. In the old town, I get a first impression of prostitution Dominican Republic style. A young lady walks up to me, starts talking to me and soon thereafter asks if I want her to accompany me. Ähhm, no. She actually stresses me as she doesn’t realize how bad my Spanish still is and keeps talking way more than I understand. Time to say goodbye.
I had eight days for the island of Hispaniola (that is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti) so the next morning I take the bus to Port-au-Prince in Haiti. After three days, I return along the northern coast and move on to Santiago de los Caballeros, the Dominican republic’s second largest city. I visit the Monument to the Heroes of the Restoration, dedicated to the fighters who fought from 1863 to 1865 against Dominican Colonist and Spanish forces. I take a bus to Jarabacoa, a small village in the mountains. A good place to raft, I nearly go overboard but the instructor saves me with a forceful catch. He speaks perfect English, he has lived in the US but got kicked out for some reason he thinks unjustified.
I take a bus back to Santo Domingo, the hostel is nice and friendly but totally deserted. Now it is time to explore the city in more depth, I visit the historic centre (UNESCO World Heritage) and the National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic before heading out to the Columbus Lighthouse. This monument to Christopher Columbus is one of the weirdest buildings the world knows. The design dates back to plans from 1931 when the sentiment was running high to honour the explorer. All Latin American countries should contribute to a monument that would house alleged remains of the seafarer (who reached Hispaniola on his first visit and left his brother on his second to found Santo Domingo). Contributions were slow to arrive and it was finally finished in 1992 only, just in time to “celebrate” 500 years of Columbus arrival. By then more and more countries questioned the need for the monument. The building is shaped like a cross, 210 m long, 59m wide and 36,5m high. It can project a cross into the night-time sky above. It is monumental, the architecture could be described as brutalist (although not made out of concrete) and most of all it is ugly. The tomb inside is ugly as well and the rooms containing objects from different Latin American countries are not interesting.
Oh, and I had my first encounter with crime, no worries everything turned out well. It was outside the Columbus Lighthouse, a guy on a motorbike asked me to take his picture. On my last big trip in Africa this happened regularly so I wasn’t concerned, he asked me to show him the picture and as I came close, he grabbed the camera and tried to drive off. Luckily, I got hold of the camera strap and could wrest the camera back. My fingers are hurting from the pull. I need to be more careful, that was sheer luck. Later, walking back towards the city centre, a policeman stops me, he tells me to take a taxi as this area is not safe, I honestly have no money in my pocket to pay for one so I walk.
My next destination is Boca Chica. It’s close to the airport and that is handy for tomorrow’s flight and it is one of the centres of sex tourism in the Dominican Republic. I don’t like it. The beach is full of people trying to sell drinks, artworks, massages and more. I dislike it so much that I do not even take a swim. In the evening it becomes outright scary. The streets are full of prostitutes with a ratio of maybe 50 prostitutes to every potential customer. There are plenty of beautiful girls in the Dominican Republic but they are not here. It’s difficult even to find a place to eat something in peace. I hide in the last corner of a restaurant and still have to tell plenty of girls that I am not interested. After dinner, I go straight back to my hotel. The next day, I am off to the airport just to find my flight delayed.