Monday, November 16, 2009


Our bus from La Romana to Higuey arrived under a steady downpour. The sewers were overflowing in trash-laden rivers down the streets. Despite the rain, we were immediately surrounded by children and adults aggressively begging for money and grabbing at us and our bags. Our luggage suggested wealth which our two stomachs new little of, having shared only a small pizza and a couple crackers in the last twenty-four hours.

This is not to say we weren't still having fun and enjoying the experience, but somehow the idea of the all-you-can eat buffet waiting ahead at the all-inclusive in Punta Cana didn't sound all that bad. We were rounding a corner in our travels.

We made a quick dash through outstretched hands, jumping small streams of water and debris before heaving our bags in the back of a bus readying to depart. One boy ran ahead, skating on the oil-slicked floors of the bus station ahead of me, grabbing the rear brush guard and whipping around the rear of the bus out of sight with all the skill of Dan Jansen on a good day. I could just make out his feet behind the rear tire as I bent to load the luggage. Shelly boarded, and I stayed behind the bus until the luggage door was closed and locked before running and jumping aboard the bus as it departed.

Yes, it was time. The fun of exploration was dwindling under the helplessness one feels when confronted with poverty of this magnitude. The insularity of the resort suddenly didn't sound so bad. One guagua ride and a bus sermon later we landed in another world. The Punta Cana Airport and more gringos than we had seen on the entire trip combined - all huddled under the open thatched roof looking startled and afraid under strobe-like illumination of lightning strikes.

We quickly found the contacts who we'd been unable for the past two weeks to raise on the phone. They made up a flight number to appease the resort who couldn't dream of gringos spending time on the island somewhere besides the resort. Moments later we were on a posh bus receiving tips on safe travel in the Dominican Republic, "Do not drink the water and we strongly advise against traveling by motoconcho or local microbuses." We were nearly as disoriented as our American, Canadian and European companions. Posh became painful when we discovered our resort was last in a long parade of stops. It was like running to the bathroom only to find a locked door. Starving we opened our only sustenance, what was left of our last bottle or rum. Our haggard appearance allowed me to befriend two ladies from Baltimore, who, it seemed had the most horrid travel experience ever - a delayed direct flight. Well, the worst ever until the conversation turned and they asked us how our flight went.

Pampering always leaves me uncomfortable, but the idea of the buffet grew more enticing by the mile. Relaxing around a pool or on the beach with a cold Presidente didn't sound half bad either. And that is pretty much how we spent the first twenty-four hours: We walked the grounds the acquaint ourselves. We feasted at the buffet. We shared the jacuzzi in our room. We slept in late. We hit up the buffet again.