Since we had a great diving experience our first time around, Amy and I decided to continue with our Open Water Diver certifications. After trudging through an approximately 250 page course book and a DVD filmed in the 90’s (my favorite line “You have probably noticed that you can’t breathe underwater.”), and having completed our five confined water dives, we recently returned to the ocean for our second open water dive. The instructors at our dive shop are fantastic. They are serious about teaching the required skills and testing students on them, but they are also encouraging and friendly. Many of the instructors are also leading lives similar to ours, spending winters in tropical climates doing what they love.
Our instructor for open water dive two was Randy, a former corporate SVP who moved on to dive instruction in his retirement. He took us down to a lovely wall reef with a sandy bottom – a necessity for the skills we would be tested on. Amy and I quickly realized that doing skills like mask flooding and clearing were far tougher in salt water than in fresh water. That stuff stings! The salt water really got to Amy’s eyes, but she powered through the dive and we completed our skill certifications for dive two. Two more to come on Tuesday! Amy loves the ‘panoramic living’ experience of diving, which she likens to an IMAX theater. Diving is a literally immersive experience where the diver needs to be aware of (and enjoy) his surroundings in all directions.
We had a fun time coming back. (When you don’t have a time crunch, the travel is half the fun, anyway.) We caught a guagua in Sosua that everyone thought was headed for Rio San Juan, but actually stopped in some tiny village along highway five. The door operator tried charging us 100 pesos each and grumbled when we handed him 60 total, but thanks to some friendly Dominicans in the back we knew the actual fare and the driver took off when that became clear. (Door operator is really a misnomer, as the door to a guagua is always open. The door operator rides partially hanging out the door, looking for passengers on the side of the road. He tells the driver when to start and stop by slapping the roof of the van. Fun.) So now we were in no-name village and it was around 6:00 PM. A taxi driver offered to take us to Rio San Juan for 1000 pesos (a ridiculous price), eventually coming down to 300 (a decent price) when we said no. Meanwhile, two of the people we had shared the guagua with managed to find a taxi publico, or shared taxi to take them to Rio San Juan for 40 pesos each. They shared their ride squeezed in with five other passengers.
We were hanging out for a while, waiting for another guagua (which we weren’t sure was coming), when we decided to try hitching a ride. As a nice goodbye to the high-charging taxi driver, an SUV stopped for us shortly after the taxi driver turned down our offer of 180 pesos to take us to Abreu. The SUV was on its way to Rio San Juan and was driven by Leo, a young guy from Santo Domingo with surprisingly good English. It turned out that he was born in New York and we exchanged numbers when he dropped us and his friend off in Rio San Juan. We arrived in Rio San Juan just in time to catch the guagua we needed to cover the final 15 minute drive to the resort. In that guagua we found some of the original people we had started off with in Sosua!
All in all, a fun day. I’ll leave you with two fun facts:
- Fun Fact #1: Sosua is about an hour’s drive from the resort. Total return-trip cost for two: $3.30.
- Fun Fact #2: Supposedly, most Haitians in the DR are here illegally. It seems like a lot of them gravitate toward larger cities where they hawk small items on the street or in stalls. My flip flops (original cost: $2) are in need of replacement, and I saw a Haitian vendor selling a similar pair. When I asked him how much they were, he said $20. I told him that I originally bought mine for $2, and offered $5 for his. He refused, and our conversation moved toward general chatting. As our conversation was winding down, he told us the truth: His boss buys the flip flops for 50 pesos each (~$1.40). He resells them, and they split anything he gets over cost. He turns down offers that are only a few dollars over cost because he usually gets someone to accept the $20 original price each day. After one person accepts that price, he closes up shop, set for the day. Lucky guy, working in a city full of tourists who will drop $20 on a pair of flip flops!
posted by jayhorowitz