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Travel Image: Dominican Republic
Travel Image: Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: White Knuckles Meet Amber Cervesa (cont.)

This place is great! I've been here 20 minutes and quickly drop down a $20 bill to cover the costs—which alerts everyone that I’ve only been here for 20 minutes. Victor quickly snaps up the bill and puts it back in my hand and turns me directly to the car; I guess we’re on our way. Gringo’s throwing around dollars are raptor prey and I look back and now see very hungry people. Pondering what just happened, I realize I’m rolling some hot dice.

I now have a Presidente in my lap, as well as a friendly young lady. We’re now touring a gated neighborhood like we’re window-shopping. I wish someone could answer some of my questions. The buildings have garage doors listing “Cable, Hot Tub and Waterbed”. Odd, whatever, when in Rome…

I’m now in the heart of the city and a desperate 15 minutes late for my bus to Las Terrenas, a place I thought would be great to get that Caribbean-feel in me before the game in Santo Domingo a few days later. It’s unfortunate that the only one to keep to a schedule in this country is my bus. My last shot at a $4 ride to the North Coast just left.

Victor quickly offers to take me to Las Terrenas for $100 US. I have it, and very few options in between. He has a weathered fare chart proving the price, it’s a long ride, but it feels right; he doesn’t drink and has that bible on his dashboard—he just showed me the cabanas too—I like this guy. He calls the wifey and we’re on our way.

The trip north is 4 hours or so, but it was so much more—it was a lifetime. We zipped out of the city and onto Autopista Duarte, a relatively modern highway that splits the country in diagonal halves from the southeast to the northwest. As we approach the central mountain chain the golden hour is upon us and the setting sun splashes the peaks with a golden glow.

As our daylight began to wane, the trek grew far more dangerous and the excitement level grew with every massive swerve to miss a pothole, or cow—or a motorcycle carrying five more people than it’s designed for. Chickens and dogs don’t leave dents and never warranted evasive maneuvers; beer stands with blaring merengue that I pointed to, do however.

I never stopped asking questions, and by now Victor’s explanations were effusive with description—which in Spanish meant nothing to me of course—he had such pride and conviction that I was falling in love. Not with him, but the country—it's good beer, but not that good.

There was a crescent moon and it seemingly looked different from the latitude from which I was born. It was more top to bottom; the shape was more of a smiley face turned down, not tilted up as much to the right. This gave me good vibes, this was right. That slit in the veil of darkness gave me confidence the more it moved across the sky, and me more North to my dreamy destination. I felt ever more sure that Victor had become a shaman of sorts, leading me to my vision of a beach bungalow with flowing palms and aqua-blue seas. Even with the bright waxing moon, the stars were brighter than I’d ever seen on even the darkest, moonless nights in New England.

The deft high speed maneuvers of Victor, avoiding roaming cattle and families of five on mini-bikes were giving me feelings of adventure that I’d never before experienced. I felt at peace (regardless of the white knuckles), although most of my blood was busy consuming Presidente by the truckload, so far away from home. I knew great things were about here, and I was absorbing as much as my exhausted mind would allow. I was writing stories in my head that none of my friends back in frigid Massachusetts would—or could—comprehend. I was living. I wasn’t any longer that lost soul that couldn’t get a grasp on what other treasures were out there. I was there, wondering if the next turn brought more life, death, or another Presidente purchased by my newfound friend that knew the language, and how to ask for my liquid treasures over blaring bachata. Those buses are for wimps—or the more scheduled and fiscally cognizant.

I was alive like never before. My only empty feeling was that I wanted someone to smile over to in acknowledgement, someone to share this with. Victor was a great driver, but lacking clear communication I was hungry to try and comprehend this in my own language. The crescent moon sufficed until my journal was within reach.

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