Sometimes jet-lag can work to your advantage. It's not a massive difference between Madrid and Dominican Republic but just enough to ensure that I was up well before 7am, and out to catch the coolest part of the day. A good chance to take a couple of videos of the sea with only joggers for company.
The Dominican Republic consists of around 2/3 of the Island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean (hence the H-link, hopefully I will make it to the other third of the island - H-for-Haiti - before I leave). It was the home of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas and was explored by Columbus in his famous trip of 1492. Santo Domingo itself was founded by Christopher's younger Brother, Bartholemew, a few years later, and so is home to a number of firsts - the first cathedral in the Americas, the first University and the oldest stone building, all of which I visited this morning before 9am.
By this time it was getting hot. Very hot. And so, after visiting the amber museum (an excellent exhibition that contains many animals fossilized in the resin of prehistoric trees) I had no choice but to head for the hotel and hide away from the midday sun; maybe I'm getting old, but siestas are becoming more and more enticing.
So it was mid-afternoon when I ventured out again - this time to the main part of the city. Here is Tripipedia's seven-point guide to walking around an unknown part of the world:
i) always have a specific goal in mind or you'll end up walking around aimlessly
ii) try not to look too much like a tourist
iii) never walk too far, you'll have to go the same distance back at some stage
iv) if in unfamiliar areas, make sure you are back before dark
v) if you have to walk in the dark, watch where you're going; many cities have uneven pavements or uncovered manholes
vi) if walking in unfamiliar areas in the dark, stay away from very crowded areas such as markets where you may get jostled around
vii) even if you're completely lost and ovewhelmed, make sure you look confident and walk with authority.
So it was, ignoring every part except for number seven, that I somehow ended up back in my hostel. Santo Domingo is incredible. It's impossible to impart what caribbean cities are like through photos alone; they're dusty, colourful and loud. Very Loud! If it's not the constant parping of horns, it's a bus whose music system probably packs more horse-power than the vehicle. I can't say I ever felt in any kind of danger while walking around; despite sticking out like a sore thumb as pretty much the only white guy in the city; but it can be difficult walking through the maze of unsignposted streets, in the boiling sun, with your senses being battered from every angle. Or maybe I'm just being soft. But it's an experience I wouldn't miss for the world; I had a smile on my face almost the whole way.
Anyway, I'm back with another medicinary "Presidente" beer and tomorrow I need to somehow find a bus to the holiday resort of Sosua on the North of the Island; apparantly buses in Dominican Republic are either guaguas frias (cold buses) or guaguas calientes (hot buses) - here's hoping I get a cold one.