From México to The Dominican Republic

Cancun airport at sunrise

Travel is hard work, time consuming, and stressful, but also exciting and worthwhile. Getting from Playa del Carmen, México to Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic was no exception! I spent an entire week packing and repacking everything I own, making sure not to go over the airline’s luggage weight requirements. Then I had to clean the apartment and make sure I had enough food (and coffee!) to last until I left.

To the airport!

The shuttle to get from PDC to Cancún was for 5am but my brain popped me awake at 3:30am in excited anticipation. I was freaking out that the shuttle driver would go to the wrong apartment because there are other apartments around with similar names. Nope. That driver was right on the nose. The ride to the airport was fast and easy.

Mrs. ItchyFeet at sunset on the beach in DR
The beach in Las Terrenas, DR is gorgeous! It was worth the trip!

Checked both bags (50.1 pounds and 49.8 pounds!) with no overweight charges by the skin of my teeth. Made it through security with no worries. Unfortunately, the terminal I was in didn’t have any lounges with which to get more breakfast. Only thing to do was walk around and people watch, always a good time. I got a great photo of the sunrise, though!

I was bummed that I wasn’t able to fly directly to DR, instead doing a layover in Miami. Flying through the US always sucks because you have to collect and then recheck all your luggage, which is a big pain. But in a weird turn of events, the ticketing agent in Cancún had put an ITI sticker on the outside of my passport and said something about my luggage in Miami. Collect my luggage? Don’t collect my luggage? Find out when I get there?

Welcome to Miami

A bit of googling and it sounded like ITI was ‘International to International’ so that my luggage got checked all the way through. This is fantastic(!) but all the signs everywhere said “Do not leave this area without collecting your luggage from baggage claim.” Um… should I wait and check? Head to the bar? I asked a couple of official-looking people who said to just head on through. Stress! Must not leave all my worldly belongings in Miami!

Time for a drink. I had read that the best lounge that my credit card granted me access to was in the South wing of the airport and I was in the North. After spending a ridiculous amount of time trying, and failing, to get over there through the maze that is MIA (must. not. go through any doors that say you’re exiting security…), I finally gave up and ended up at a decent lounge on the east end. At least I got my exercise for the day! Time for a shot of espresso and a glass of wine!

Now mind you, I’m still freaking out about my luggage. Were they just sitting in baggage claim, silently waiting for me? I kept checking the AirTags in them to see where they were. It looked like they were making their way to my terminal, but I couldn’t be sure yet. How freaking horrible would it be for them to get left in Miami? My four-hour layover was just about up, so I made my way to my gate to board.

Why are we waiting!?!

We all loaded the plane in a timely fashion and then just sat there. I’ve been living in the freaking hot-hot that is the tropics and now with the A/C on, I’m cold. Before boarding, I put on a sweater and socks and everything, but I was still cold. It was amusing when the lady behind me asked a flight attendant if they could turn up the air conditioning because she was so hot. Please, no! And we waited some more.

After a long while, the pilot let us know they were waiting for some maintenance thing to get signed-off on. My eyes got all wide with worry. I’ve had to change planes before because of ‘some maintenance thing’ and it delayed me for many hours. Did not want that! Now I’m worried that my shuttle driver in DR will not be waiting for me at the airport. Crap!

Stairs to my apartment
This is just one of three sets of stairs to my new apartment! So many steps!

We finally, finally, take off. The older guy next to me is telling me all kinds of cool things about The Dominican Republic. He was born there but now lives in Miami. The doctors found a tumor in his father’s brain, so he had to go back. He was bummed, but glad that he could see him before he passed on. As we were landing, he let me know that on a clear day you could even see Cuba and Puerto Rico while flying into Santo Domingo.

Go! Go! Go!

Everyone clapped when the plane finally landed in Santo Domingo, DR. My new friend told me that this was just how they did it here. Then he let me know I had to physically push my way into the sea of people who had all stood up once the ‘seatbelt’ sign had turned off. He said you just had to be really aggressive or we both would never get off the plane. I’m in! I’m tiny, but that just means I can squeeze into the tiny openings. He was also absolutely correct. I squeezed into the smallest available space in the aisle and people were still gently pushing me from behind to move, even though there was literally nowhere to go. We both made it out unscathed!

I was extremely worried about all my spices and seasonings making it through customs. It’s hard to tell which food items countries will allow and which they won’t, but I didn’t have any fruits, veggies, or meats, so I should be fine, and I was. They were pulling many people aside for additional screening, but let me through! No worries. Plus, lucky for me, my shuttle driver was still there waiting for me. I apologized for the plane being delayed. He was excited that, because we were now driving at night, there would be no police and, therefore, no speeding tickets! Let’s do this!

Rainbow from my apartment
This rainbow greated me the next day from my deck!

It still took two and a half hours (and five different toll booths) to make it from the airport in Santo Domingo to my new apartment in Las Terrenas. Security for the complex was so nice and helped me lug my ridiculously heavy suitcases up about a million steps to my new front door. I have this gorgeous view, but this place is up on a for-real hill. No elevators here.

Locked out

So we climbed all the way up to my front door, which was supposed to be unlocked, but found it locked. The security guard looked at me and asked, “llaves?” No, I don’t have the keys. It’s supposed to be unlocked. It’s like 10pm, I’ve been up since 3:30am and I haven’t eaten since noon in the lounge in Miami. I’m exhausted. I also have no phone service or internet to contact the person who was supposed to leave the door unlocked. The window was unlocked, but I feel that would be weird to crawl through without ever having been here before. What if this is the wrong place!?!

Lucky for me, the groundskeeper was still up and could contact the owner for me. So then I waited. So tired. I got to meet the neighbors as they all came out to see what all the fuss was about. Finally, a representative of the owner showed up and let me in. A nice sized cockroach was right inside to greet me. Got to love the tropics!

View from my deck
This is the view from my deck. You can see the beach and one of the swimming pools I get to use. The stairs are worth it?

Unfortunately, the last hurricane that plowed its way through DR took out the internet for this unit and for a few of my neighbors. Like weeks ago. No internet. Um… that’s bad. Plus, the place didn’t have a microwave. Um… should I run away screaming!?! Should I go get a hotel room somewhere else? Do I really want to stay here?

I need a microwave

You might not know this about me, but I like to make giant vats of food and then reheat them in the microwave throughout the week. Other than the week in Playa when the microwave in the apartment broke, I’ve never been without a microwave. I haven’t owned a TV in 20 years, but I’ve never been without a microwave. I’ve been without a vehicle for an entire year now, but I need a microwave! Must learn to adapt!

After a good night’s sleep, I woke up refreshed and starving. Time to hunt down some breakfast and a good cup of coffee. Unfortunately, the town is about four kilometers away, which is a 45-minute walk. It’s faster to walk on the road, but why do that when you can walk on the beach in the surf?! This beach is gorgeous. Town, however, is slightly rough around the edges, and really loud from all the motorcycles with tin-can-like exhaust pipes.

Lucky for me, I found a wonderful breakfast joint right by the grocery store that serves great gluten-free toast. So good! Playa del Carmen was lacking in delicious gluten-free bread, so this was a real treat. The grocery store even had a nice sized gluten-free section. Yes, please! Okay, I can live here for a bit. I will survive without a microwave… I think.

House gecko!
I have a house gecko! Eat all the bugs!

On the way back to the apartment, with my backpack loaded with food, I spotted all kinds of critters. Magnificent frigatebirds, lizards, crabs, a turtle, pipefish, vultures. I’m glad to be back in the wilderness. It reminds me of Costa Rica. It is a really long way from town, making grocery store trips into a half-day ordeal, but it’s quiet and truly gorgeous. And the apartment has a gas stove! Instant heat and I can cook when the power goes out. Stay tuned for that story. It’s a doozie!

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1 Comment

  1. Magnificent frigatebirds!! So cool! And good for you on all those steps.
    I locked myself out once and had to get the big ladder from the utility room and climb through my living room window. Glad you didn’t have to do that on arrival.

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