Last week I had to travel to Sosua on the North Coast of the Dominican Republic in order to sort a new lap top. The old one was dying, two of the letters kept pinging off, the touchpad mouse no longer worked, back space didn’t work and it got so hot I was burning my fingers. I decided to go using public transport as petrol is so expensive at around US$5 a gallon. Using the car it would cost around US$50 and on public transport only US$10 and it takes only a little longer.
The journey started with a brisk early morning (6.30 am) walk through the barrio to the main road to catch the first bus, known as a guagua. The barrio is beautiful at that time in the morning. It is quiet, but several women are already up sweeping their little terraces in their nightgowns, and gathering the leaves and any rubbish from the street in front of their houses. Some were hosing down the street to keep the dust down. The dogs lay lazily in front of the houses in the early morning sun, not even bothering to raise their heads as I walked briskly past.I reached the main road and said hello to a lady waiting for the bus and we chatted animatedly for around five minutes. I love that here you can talk to anyone and they always talk to you. I got on the bus and everyone on the bus also said hello. We sped off stopping every so often. There are no bus stops as such, the bus will stop wherever you want and pick you up wherever. The conductor or cobrador hangs out of the open door and can spot potential passengers from miles away. If he sees them walking towards the bus, even a hundred yards away, he will wave and if they wave back he will stop the bus and wait for them. Sometimes if the bus is going really quickly, the driver cannot stop in time and so the bus ends up reversing down the road, which I always find a tad nerve wracking.
We arrived at where I had to get off for the next part of the journey and now I had to decide whether to get a publico which is a shared taxi, or another guagua. The guagua is 50 cents more expensive but you have a seat to yourself, whereas in the publicos there are two people on the single front seat, or even three sometimes,and four or five in the back. The publico man tried to persuade me to go in his car and promised there would only be two of us in the front seat. I looked at the lady next to me, who whilst very nice, had the biggest bottom I have ever seen. The idea of travelling for over an hour jammed on top of the handbrake and squashed between her and the driver was enough to put me off, and when the driver assured me he would be much quicker than the guagua as he was a very fast driver, that was decision made, so I went to catch the guagua.
Two came at once and I got on the first one, and then suddenly the cobrador from the second one, climbed in and pulled me off. He said that his guagua was an express so would be faster. I wasn’t going to argue and sat down. Then all the food people come in. There is white soap like plastic cheese man, who has cheese and crackers, and cashew nut man, fudge man and someone with bottles of juice and water. Not quite like England where there is a big sign saying Eating Forbidden. Music blared out of the stereo, people started singing and off we went again.
An hour later it was time to change again and the guagua put me down right next to the publico stop where I squished in the back seat next to a man holding a massive guanabana, which is a green knobbly fruit, and a new bottle of whisky. It was a couple of days after the elections so I am not sure if he was celebrating or commiserating. The car filled up immediately and off we went at the speed of light. They never seem to crash, but goodness knows why not as they really drive like maniacs.
For the final leg of the journey I took a motoconcho, or motorbike taxi. You just have to remember to get on from the side with no exhaust pipe, or you burn your leg, and I am now so experienced on them I can ride on the back without holding onto anything. When I first used them I used to fling my arms around the drivers and hang on for dear life.
Dominican public transportation is cheap, fast and very effective. Everything links together so you don’t have to walk at all, as most Dominicans hate walking. Everyone is really friendly so all journeys become a pleasure.
Lindsay de Feliz lives in the middle of nowhere in the Dominican Republic with her Dominican husband, one stepson, 8 cats and 3 dogs. She was formerly Marketing Director of various financial companies in the City of London, and left the UK around 11 years ago to travel the world as a scuba diving instructor. She eventually came to the Dominican Republic on a 6 month contract, fell in love with the country and its people and stayed. Lindsay has a blog www.yoursaucepans.blogspot.com and is currently writing a book about her experiences over the last 10 years.