We made it safely to the Dominican Republic after spending 12 hours on the road, including 7 hours in Miami
. It also cost as much as we paid to fly from London to The Dominican Republic. Pretty ridiculous considering that Jamaica and the Dominican Republic are located right next to each other. If there were direct flights it would have taken 40 minutes. That's how it is to travel between the Caribbean islands, It is not easy!.
At the airport in Santiago, we were picked up by a guy who drove us across the mountains to Sosua. He did not stop talking for the 2 hour trip. He was very interested in discussing any mafia people who are apparently operating in the area. He told us about a German assassin lady who had killed lots of people and several policemen. She was fortunately put in prison....
Torunn was sleeping so I had to be the one to nod politely and say "hmm" every two minutes.
Sosua was much the same place as we remembered from the last time we were there. We took a walk through the town to get some food and discovered that there were significantly more prostitutes there than 2 years ago. Skinny women with unnaturally big tits(However the Dominicans seem to be blessed in that area) in unnaturally tight and short dresses were everywhere.. The same with single middle-aged men who really did not look like they belonged in the giant outdoor disco bars with the thundering loud techno music.
It's probably not a destination we had chosen if it was not for the fact that we work for a charity which has an apartment in Sosua, where we can stay for free. It helps with the travel budget.
The charity we worked for was quite different from the one we worked for in Mexico. It was an incredibly attractive arrangements for us vets; we just got there in the morning, had a coffee and then there was an anesthetized animal on our table, already prepped,scrubbed and ready for surgery!
In addition, they use the good anesthetics so that none of the animals began to wake up while we operated and none of them bled a lot like they did in Mexico. Very lovely and relaxing to be able to operate on the assembly line without having to do anything with drugs.
We also got plenty of time to relax and to be a bit touristy. One of the days we had a day off we rented a moped(Even some of the locals said it was "craaazy" driving here) and drove to the number 1 tourist attraction in the Dominican Republic, which is a place called ¨ 27 waterfalls¨. As the name says, there is a valley with a river and 27 very picturesque waterfalls that are made available to tourists.
These waterfalls are not like the gigantic ones seen in Norway that fall a hundred meters down, but rather a series of smaller waterfalls. These can be climbed through, jumped off or slided down until you get to the bottom.
After a bumpy and eventful drive on our scooter, where I constantly had to avoid running into the big and dangerous potholes in the road, we reached the waterfalls that are located far in the jungle..
There was an option to just do 12 or 8 of the waterfalls such as 99% of the tourists did, but of course we had to go through all 27 (which any adventurous person would do).
It was really fun to slide on the natural waterslides made in the limestone that led down to the pools. It was a very nice rainforest too, almost no other tourists, only the sounds of the forest. On the way up to the top we were picking avocados, mango and passion fruit which we ate on the way up to the waterfalls.
On the way back to Sosua we stopped in Puerto Plata, which is the largest city in the area. As I drove on the main road another moped drove over to the side of us and the man on the back started shouting at us. It was the same man who had begun to nag at us earlier in the day when we filled petrol. The same man who fussed so much that I'd lose concentration when I was going to pay for the petrol that I had given 3 thousand peso notes instead of 3 hundred peso notes. I was quite annoyed at the guy, but he was apparently just a nice man who wanted to "help" us.
He began driving in front of us in an attempt to direct us toward the center(which we were already on the way to). He stretched out his hand every time there was a side road so no one would run over us "lost" tourists. We tried to chase him away, but it was not easy, he insisted on continuing to provide a service that we did not want . When we finally reached the town, of course he started asking for money. Then it was extra nice to be able to pull out your wallet and show him exactly how bone dry it was. We did not have a single peso left after the waterfalls.
We parked the scooter right next to a bank in the town centre. Then there were 2 people coming running, towards us. One wanted to "look after" our scooter, although it was in a place with 20 other scooters, and the other guy wanted to show us to the bank, even though we were already on the way to the bank. He jogged after us quite a while since we could not get money from any of the banks. After that blunder we just had to go back to Sosua and both idiots had to leave us without getting a peso out of us.
The next day the clinic called us and asked us to stop by to check on a German Shepherd who had problems with his feet. The poor dog had plenty of wounds on his feet, a real nasty infection with lots of larvae. We spent a long time to clean his paws, pick out the maggots, applying antiseptic, give antibiotics and analgesics etc.
The owner of the dog was also the owner of a company that took tourists on safari tours in Dominican Republic. He was so happy with the treatment that he gave me and Torunn a free safari for the following day.
We think it was a bit strange with safari tours in a country where there are no animals and only a few interesting birds, but we went along, after all it was free !
The safaritour was in a converted truck full of fat American tourists, so not quite our style. It was to drive along the countryside and look at the people who lived there and what they were doing.
We went into a school to see the local kids getting on with their normal day, and then at the house of some Catholics who had Jesus pictures everywhere. Then we got to see some plants - coffee bushes, cocoatree,
pineapplebush, sugar canes and various other plants. It was an ok tour, but I would not have paid for it. We finished with a Dominican dinner (chicken, beans and rice) Also, I held a small crocodile, which I had already done a few weeks earlier in Miami.
After 2 weeks with almost only relaxation in Sosua, we went to Boca del Yasica to visit an American dentist couple, Debbie and Mark. We had met them the last time we worked for AAAS.
They had a villa with swimming pool right next to a deserted beach. I and Torunn got to stay in the house for 5 days while we did operations by the swimming pool. I am so glad that we signed up to do volunteer work with such benefits!
We were actually very efficient in the 3 days we operated. Each day the assistants arrived at 09.00 and gathered together all the dogs and made them ready.
All me and Torunn needed to do was to operate them, the rest of the team got them ready for surgery and took care of them when they woke up. Some dogs were incredibly aggressive and bit at everything that moved, so I felt incredibly grateful that I only had to handle them in the sleeping state.
Most of the operations we did was spaying females and neutering of male dogs. It was almost only females. The Dominicans has a macho culture. The men are very proud and must always give the impression of being tough and hard. Wife-abuse seems to be common here. Therefore, not many locals approve of us cutting off the balls on their dogs.
There were some other operations also, which was good to mix things up a bit. We amputated a hind leg of a dog that had been hit by a car and I removed an eye on 2 different dogs.
We operated on more than 60 dogs in a few days, which we were quite satisfied with. Operations just went faster and faster until we both managed to sterilize a female under 18 minutes (which we of course are very proud of). It was really very short days, we were pretty much done before 15.00 so there was plenty of time for us to enjoy ourselves on the beach and by the pool.
The charity people (AAAS) were very nice and arranged both lunch and dinner for us on most days.
One night there were some problems with the power in our house so Debbie (The American lady who owned the house) came to help us. She was angry at the night guard that she had hired because he was not there right then and there. When he finally appeared she yelled at him in Spanish and he made lots of excuses.
After she had gone home (her house was 100 meters from the villa we lived in) the guard came up to us and started to complain and whine in Spanish. I only understood a few words of what he was saying, but he was apparently not pleased that a woman was telling him what he should do. It was fine when her husband yelled at him, but not a woman., He is, after all, a real macho man !
We were not very interested in listening to him complaining about her, but since he was waving a loaded gun, we thought it was best to be polite. 10 minutes after we got in, we heard shooting just outside the house. It was a bit scary as we thought he had snapped, maybe he had shot his boss or something!
We found out the day after that he shoots just occasionally to scare potential thieves away, not to scare innocent vets!
After Sosua, we went to Las Galeras which is a small town near Semana on the north coast of the island. It is the best place for snorkeling and diving in Dominican Republic, which was the main reason we wanted to go there. It was a very picturesque place, we stayed at a guesthouse that was far far away from the nearest civilization. There were a lot of nice beaches there. We did not get a chance to snorkel as it rained the 3 days we were there and also I was sick with an ear infection.
I think I got an ear infection because I had spent a lot of time playing in the waves in Sosua and Boca del Yasica. The waves tossed me back and forth and my ears filled up with water, algae and sand.
I think I've never had so much pain before. I used 2 different types of painkillers and 3 different types of ear drops with antibiotics, antimycotics, steroids and local anesthetics, but nothing helped. My ear was inflamed and swollen. The ear canal was so swollen that it was completely closed.
So with ears like that there could be no diving....
The last 2 days in the country we spent in the capital Santo Domingo. We wandered around the old town and looked at ruins. It was quite interesting to see how Columbus lived and to see the various fortresses which he had built. We had an overdose of museums in one day, but we made up for it by drinking lots of extra beer at night.
Thanks to Dominican Republic for now, I'm sure we will be back!!