Six Months in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

Playa las Ballenas

Bats! Bats! Bats! I could spend hours chatting with you all about bats. But I’ll control myself because I have all kinds of fun things to discuss. I’ve been here in Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic for over five months and a lot has changed during that time. For one, it’s now May, and it is getting hot. Like real-real hot with an added bonus of some sticky humidity because the normal daily breezes are dying off. Lucky for me, I live nearby the most gorgeous beach in all the lands (see what I did there? … ‘cause Las Terrenas translates to ‘the lands’… it’s a funny translation joke that happens frequently on the social medias). Oh, I need to tell you about Mojita, but first let’s talk about bats!


After my bat encounters in Roatán, Honduras and Austin, Texas (bats are highly celebrated there), I’m always on the lookout for these amazing creatures. So I was just shocked to find them living in the basement of my apartment building here! It’s more like a cave than an actual basement. The apartment has this gorgeous swimming pool with a set of stairs leading from the pool-deck to a long hallway. This hallway leads to some storage rooms, a dilapidated bathroom, and to this cave. It is utterly bizarre. I have absolutely no idea why the room exists or what its intended purpose is, but it is a massive cavernous space.

Mrs. ItchyFeet in front of hallway to apartment's cave
My building has three sets of stairs to get up to my apartment one level up. It’s a weird use of space. That dark hallway in the middle takes you to the bat cave!

There’s no light in the room, so I had to get my headlamp. Of course, the first thing you notice is the smell. It really is a dark musty cave with the addition of bat guano. I was startled (and so excited!) to spot a few bats hanging from cracks in the concrete ceiling. That concrete ceiling is the floor of the four apartments above, one of which is mine. So bizarre. I just can’t fathom a use for this space other than for the bats.

I insisted on taking my aunt and uncle down there when they came by for a visit, but other than that, I try not to disturb them. Unfortunately, I was walking by a few days ago and heard water thundering down in the cave. Upon investigation, I realized that a water line had broken and that the bat population has exploded. Bats everywhere! One swooped right over my head! No wonder there are hardly any mosquitos in the area! Good for them.

The bat cave!
You can see how big this basement is compared to the water heater in the corner. The red eyes next to it are from out building’s water pump… I think.

Power outages

It took some effort, but the management company finally fixed the broken water-line. They were so nice to me this last month by giving me free electricity and a free week of rent. They said they felt bad that I have had to deal with so many power, water, and internet outages. The last one was a doozy. All three went out at around 3:00pm. I didn’t want to open the fridge (to keep it as cold as possible) so I just kept waiting later and later for dinner. I finally just went to bed hungry and disappointed.

Luckily, the power came back on around 9:00pm… but only part of it. Just like in the US, the apartment has two AC power “legs” at ~110V with each leg oscillating out of phase for a difference of ~220V. Half of the power outlets are on one leg, half on the other, with some European-style outlets connected to both providing 220V. Unlike the US, during an outage, the power company will frequently reconnect one leg or the other leg and leave the other unpowered for long periods of time. This means half of your plugs will work, but not the other half, and the 220V plugs will provide 110V. I have an extension cord to plug in the fridge to whichever side is working (smart!).

The bat cave!
This is my basement. What a weird use of space. I didn’t want to disturb the bats so I didn’t go all the way in.

This time, the power company brought back one leg but couldn’t bring back both. Someone decided instead of leaving both legs unpowered overnight, they’d just connect both sides to the same leg. So they’re both in phase and all the plugs work, but anything connected to a 220V plug gets no power at all as both legs are now in phase. How weird is that!?! Works for most electronics, but not for the apartment’s water pump. No water for the entire building. Get out the buckets to fill from the pool to flush the toilets. Sigh.

I had a whole running commentary with the neighbors about what happened and how long it would be before the pump started working again. Theories of someone having to drive to Santo Domingo for a replacement part abounded. Many guesses of how long the next outage would be and when we would get water back. The power company finally turned off the power for the repair at around 11:00am and we got everything back by 1:00pm. I ran around flushing the toilets and cleaned the dishes as fast as possible, just in case!

Fish breeding circles
It’s breeding season for the fishies (Haitian cichlid)! They make these cool rings in the sand to attract the ladies, known as “lekking”. Making babies!

Call the plumber!

The drain in my bathroom was getting very slow and I just could not get the drain plug out to clean it. Then, suddenly, the kitchen sink just stopped draining at all. Time to call management. After discussions of taking a toilet plunger to the sink, they decided against it and promptly sent out a plumber. What floored me was that the plumber showed up with almost no supplies. I usually give workers lots of space but I just had to see this!

He asked for a bucket and I ran and got him one from the laundry-room. Then he asked the building’s groundskeeper for a hose and a rag. I’m fascinated! The plumber disconnects the P-trap under the sink and shoves the hose into the drain as far as it will go. He then asks the groundskeeper to turn on the water, thus flushing the line. I can’t believe that worked! He similarly fixes my bathroom sink. It’s all good.

Green lizard on tree
It was hard to spot this green lizard but so excited I did. This is why I love the tropics!

Next, he heads over to the neighbor’s unit. Looks like we share some common plumbing and they have the same issue. I got a text later that day from management that I shouldn’t put grease down the drain (she also noted no toilet-paper in the toilet, which was news to me!). I have a feeling the neighbor may have been frying up some delicious meals and pouring the oil down the drain. That would do it!

More fun stories from the tropics

What other craziness can I tell you about? Oh, yeah. Some new people moved in next door. I felt so bad for them. They moved in during an active power/water/internet outage with lots of groceries. I had just come back from a dip in the ocean that morning, and couldn’t wash the salt water off. Finally, I just went to the pool. The power was out for 10 hours during the hot-hot tropical day. My fridge got up to 14 degrees Celsius which is not safe for food. I had this entire plan of cooking lunch, but just couldn’t risk opening the fridge. Plus, it’s hard to cook without running water. The new neighbors had no clue what they were walking into.

In addition, construction was going on in the two units directly above the both of us. Liquid concrete was raining down onto our shared deck as the contractors installed tile (you would think it would be thin-set, but you would be wrong!). It was very noisy and very messy. Plus, someone dropped some kind of air-conditioner cleaning goo right onto their seating area and didn’t come down to clean it up. If I had just moved in for a short-stay here and that was my experience, I would have been pissed. Our groundskeeper had to come by and spend hours scrubbing the deck and cleaning the concrete splatter off of the glass-topped tables. He did not look happy either. Lots of drama right outside my windows. I do love people watching.

Gecko hiding behind the dishes
I spotted this little guy hiding behind my dishes. House geckos are very lucky.

To top it all off, we all lost power and water again the next day. It was not fun. The refrigerator hadn’t fully recovered from the previous outage, probably iced up coils, and refused to cool off even after the power came back on. I managed to save the food in my fridge by putting everything in the freezer. That poor thing had a really hard time getting back down to food-safe temp. One of the new neighbors spent about an hour on the phone angrily talking French to someone and moved out. I looked up their room on Airbnb and they were paying like $70/night! Plus, the pictures of the unit did not properly depict the space, or the shared deck and view. I’d have left as well! Hopefully, they got a refund.

That is an excessive number of legs

So there I was in the middle of the night, needing to pee. I get up and head into the bathroom and turn on the light to avoid stepping on any critters. The cockroaches and I have an understanding. I pretend not to see them and they hide behind the closest object. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement… So you can imagine my surprise when I look into the corner of the shower and see some legs. Why are you not hidden? But… but too many legs!

I watched in horror as a spider as big as my hand snuck up the side of the shower to hide behind the shower-caddie. A shower-caddie which proved far too small, as all its legs stuck out dramatically on both sides. WTF!!! I can see you, buddy! You are not fooling anyone! I finish peeing and head into the other room to get my spider-catcher (this neat contraption that lets me safely put any biters or stingers outside).

Huntsman Spider
This is a much smaller version of the hunstman spider found in my bathroom. Big as my hand I tell you! It gets bigger every time I tell the story.

As I head back to the bathroom, the spider makes a run for it! That thing moved so fast, it was like watching those face-hugger things from the Alien Movies. Nope! I’m out. I just froze in a panic as it rushed towards me from up on the wall. My companion feels my distress from across the room as if there is a disturbance in The Force and looks over so see my eyes all wide. He asks me what is happening. Tarantula? I can’t even speak. Spider. Big. Move fast.

He jumps up thinking maybe it’s a tarantula, which would be cool to see. Lucky for me, he took over the job of getting it safely outside. After sizing it up and figuring out how it reacts, he tricked it into running into the spider-catcher and dropped it out the window. My heart was beating so freaking hard. Face-hugger. Moves so fast. Big. I finally calmed down enough to get back to sleep. Not so for my companion. He was up. Lucky for me, he did some research and found out that the spider was a huntsman spider and they eat cockroaches. Okay, not so bad. We’re on the same team. But I’m just going to hold my pee until morning from now on. Got to love the tropics!

Sunset over Playa las Ballenas
Check out this amazing sunset over Playa Las Ballenas. Most gorgeous beach in all the lands.

Where is Mojita?

One morning a couple of weeks ago, I headed out of my apartment to make my way for a swim in the gorgeous Caribbean blue waters at Playa las Ballenas. Usually Mojita will greet me most enthusiastically and come with me. This morning was different. She was excited to get some head skritches. I used to give her full body skritches, but I saw her roll in a dead fish the other day and there is this brown stain on her neck that I’m avoiding at all costs. But when I left, she stopped at the top of the stairs.

Very unusual. I figured she was tired and knew that I was just going for a swim across the bay and would be back in an hour. I didn’t think too much about it. However, I was very surprised when I got back upstairs and she was nowhere to be found. My wonderful Canadian neighbors mentioned that she stopped by their place to say ‘goodbye’ and headed out. They thought she was going to meet up with me, which she usually does. Not this time. Weird.

Mojita on the deck
One of the last pictures I took of Mojita. I hope she is safe and sleeping on someone’s lounger!

I figured she would turn up eventually, or I would at least see her on the beach. Nope. The security-guard for the complex said he also hasn’t seen her, which means she either snuck past him or took the path through the woods back to Playa Bonita (where she was when I first laid eyes on her). My bet is on Playa Bonita. She knows that trail really well and I have a feeling she has a family over there. It’s probably for the best. As her hip has healed up, she’s started chasing after motorcycles, nearly causing an accident, so I’ve been avoiding walking the road. And the beach is getting considerably hotter to walk during the day. Wherever she is, I hope someone lets her sleep on the couch!

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