Friday, 22 March 2013

Down On The Borderline - AC/DC

We were this " close to having no post today, nice hotel with usually good access (so they told me) but only when the whole system doesn't break down! The bad news is, with that usual charm I got the owner to allow me to hook up to his 'private' system, so your getting a post anyway.

 Dominican Republic Revisited
As much for those who follow as anyone else, there is a perfectly good, reliable and almost 'on time' coach service from Port-au-Prince, Haiti to Santo Domingo, DR. While both Terra and Caribe Buses run this route, from practical experience I can strongly recommend the Capital Coach Company as efficient, well organised and a friendly service including food and drink for $US40. Agreed, we were 30 minutes late departing but this was made up for during the 150 minute run to the border where the problems seemed to arise. 
 We ground to a halt among a serious throng of vehicles and bodies at what turned out to be IMMIGRATION, with the formalities professionally sorted by our on-board hostess, I think she may well have done it before!
The main flow of people, all with as many goods as they could carry, seemed to be back towards Haiti
with what you would imagine as 'hard to get' products in that country.
 Most popular seemed to be sweeping brushes and mops,
 along with Mazola Cooking Oil
 and Toilet Rolls.
 It was a mad scramble all around us as we sat there
 for a full 2 hours just waiting for Customs at the other side. Here, we all had to leave the coach with all our possessions for a search which had I been carrying an African Elephant it would not have been found - mere formality keeping someone in a job.
On such occasions the only thing I hold onto more dearly than my Passport is 'life' itself, but my protestations on departure proved unfounded when formalities here were quicken by all documents being processed at the same time. 
Thus far, to say the least, we had hit a few 'pot-holes' and as we entered what is a far less impoverished country there were high hopes of better to come. That didn't seem to materialize during the first 5 miles in DR territory as we were now traversing the worst road on earth? Luckily that, and the 'scorched earth' vista we had become used to, soon broke into smooth tarmac and the green, green grass of home.
The only bug-bare, as we passed through a series of beautifully kept villages, were more
'Sleeping Policemen' (speed bumps) than in New Scotland Yard on a Monday morning!
The scheduled time for the trip had been advertised as 9 hours, with the caveat 'dependent on time at the border', so arriving in 8 hours was a bonus. To give a further degree of freedom, I rarely book hotels in advance but did so on this occasion as it will be no more than a 3 night stay. At the Coach Station, of all people I got great help from the Car Hire man who told me where the accommodation was, how much it would be in a taxi before wandering off to get me a cab - well done Matey! The $10 ride was worth double of anybodies money and just as an added bonus the taxi driver, Claudio, a hulk of a man but seemingly a Gentle Giant, was happy to fulfill all of my transport needs while in the city. Even better, the hotel is smack bang in the middle of the Old Town, round which Claudio gave me a swift Cook's Tour before dropping me off.
 Down bags, check-in and a quick beer and I was soon crossing
the Town Square
 with its accompanying beautiful architecture and history.
is singularly the 'oldest' church in all of the Americas
built between 1523 and 1540 in the name of
Christos Columbus.
 Now, anybody who can knock up a church of these
proportions in 17 minutes is alright by me Tommy!
 Some fantastic ironwork on the gates
 with the whole town, including
 ancient fortifications and
 the small port
 having a great feeling about it. This was certainly a 
'different' Santo Domingo than we visited back on
the second day of the year!
 Just a doorway left open that looked interesting.
 A few shots along some local thoroughfares.
and of course you cannot get your head down 
before paying your respects to Capitano Columbus.
The following shots, all taken before leaving Haiti, 
were found in a 'forgotten desk-top file',
seemed a shame to waste them.
PALMCHAT as if you didn't know by now!
There was more than a suspicion that HOODED WARBLER was seen back in Haiti, but getting my 'yellow mask' confused with the 
'black mask' and alternate 'throats' (of COMMON YELLOWTHROAT) the claim was never verified. However, there was no ambiguity here, only the lack of skill in capturing a shot - the image of the 'Hoody' is by courtesy of Wiki.
My short stay will center on the Botanical Gardens once again, in the hope of finding a few Yank Warblers heading north.

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