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Our Honeymoon

By John Clarke

The last four weeks have whizzed by in a blur of washing, catching up on Coffeesh0p and yet more wedding parties (you can never have enough!) but I’ve finally found time to sit down and write about our hon­ey­moon. Now I just have to hope that some of you out there are still inter­ested and that I can remember any­thing about it!

We went to Bayahibe, a pretty touristy resort on the south east coast of the Domin­ican Republic. Our hotel was frickin’ sweet, 5* all inclusive and right on the beach, with only one more hotel along the coast­line between us and the com­pletely unin­hab­ited south east tip of the island, which is a huge nature reserve.

Just off this coast is the island of Saona, and our visit to there was quite pos­sibly the best day of our lives and the high­light of the holiday. We had heard that the reefs there were the second best in the world (after the Great Barrier reef) so we just had to check it out and we cer­tainly weren’t dis­ap­pointed. The trip itself was bril­liant, the staff were fant­astic and we downed rum after rum on the boat while listening to (would you believe it?) the Trent­møller remix of Go by Moby — one of our favourite tracks. John had a good old boogie on the boat before real­ising he was being filmed and promptly stop­ping, but we bought a DVD of the trip so it’s now immor­tal­ised on film forever, no doubt to resur­face for embar­rass­ment pur­poses at some future birthday party or to show to the kids to prove we were young and cool once. We saw eagle rays and moray eels and other, much pret­tier sea creatures like enormous star­fish, angel fish and sea urchins.


The Wildlife

Lunch was on the breath­taking Saona Island — filming loc­a­tion of the iconic Bounty ads — and was deli­cious, ate over­looking the Carib­bean Sea and covered in but­ter­flies! The after­noon was spent in the amazing ‘natural swim­ming pool’ — a foot­ball pitch sized patch of shallow water, far out from the coast. Iron­ic­ally, being miles from any­where, this was prob­ably the busiest place we went during the entire hon­ey­moon! The water was clear and beau­tiful, about chest height (on me, but I’m a short arse) and the bottom was covered in huge, hard star­fish — not like the crap squidgy ones we get in this country. Here, the staff on the boat turned the music up loud and we drank rum and coke and ate fresh coconuts that had been picked on Saona Island earlier. It’s safe to say it couldn’t have got much more Carib­bean than that! Later on in this trip we’d break our camera, get incred­ibly pissed and emo­tional and a little bit sun­burnt, and when we got home I spent an hour sobbing and exclaiming ‘that was the best day of my life!’…but the less said about that part, the better.

Saona Island

There was also some amazing sights to be seen in the sea just off the hotel’s beach — we saw a sting ray about 6 foot out from the beach, fol­lowed it round for a bit and made a large and rather obnox­ious British family shit their pants and drag their kids back on to dry land when their nosi­ness got the better of them and they asked what we were looking at. Another amazing exper­i­ence was feeding the fish just off the beach — turns out they eat bread (who knew?) and wading into the water with a roll or two causes hun­dreds of beau­tiful fish to swarm around you, jumping out of the water and stuff, it was abso­lutely incred­ible and we even bor­rowed snorkels so we could get under­water and in on the action.

Another awesome trip was to the capital city, Santo Domingo. We had the most fant­astic tour guide called José who referred to his wife as ‘Fidellia Castro’ the entire day and talked about how wives were the bosses of the house­holds in the Domin­ican Republic just like every­where else in the world — all in the most good humoured and loving way pos­sible of course! We were embar­rass­ingly clue­less about the place before we went on this trip, so here’s the history lesson: Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Bartho­lomew Columbus and was the first place to be settled in the Amer­icas. It boasts the first cathedral, chapel, hotel and just about everything in the New World. The Catedral Santa María La Menor, for example, is older than ANY­THING in the USA. The city’s modern history has been pretty tur­bu­lent, and it even had a dif­ferent name from 1930 – 61 — “Ciudad Trujillo”, after the country’s dic­tator. He was even­tu­ally assas­sin­ated, but not before much blood­shed and 30 years of an oppressive and unpop­ular régime. To put this guy in a bit of context, there were extra­vagant gifts in the old mauso­leum that had been sent to Trujillo from Hitler and Mussolini…so not a nice dude. That this period is still in living memory seems obvious, as does the rest of their history with links to Chris­topher Columbus, the slave trade and so on. In our exper­i­ence, Domin­icans are SUPER proud of their country, their her­itage and their past, warts and all. It’s a very refreshing atti­tude and we enjoyed finding out all about it in an open and matter-​​of-​​fact way. The ancestors of a lot of the pop­u­la­tion, for example, arrived as slaves — and whilst we all know that this was a ter­rible time in history and many abhor­rent acts were carried out towards these people, that is how they ended up there and that’s that. That some­thing isn’t pleasant doesn’t make it any less true, and I really liked that quality that we found in so many of the people there. They were also very pat­ri­otic but not in the mental, nation­al­istic way you seem to get in the US and UK — they said things like ‘my capital city’ even if they didn’t live there, and thanked tour­ists for vis­iting ‘my beau­tiful country’. Overall, people were incred­ibly friendly and wel­coming, and often even seemed grateful to the tour­ists for even going there in the first place. But then, it’s not long ago that Domin­ican Republic was a third world country, and thanks to the recent earth­quake we’ve all seen on the news that it’s neigh­bour, Haiti, most def­in­itely still is. Tourism has trans­formed the country and they seem thankful and proud to show it off — as well they should, because it’s so beau­tiful. It has the typical breath­taking Carib­bean beaches as well as jungles, rain­forests, coral reefs, bust­ling cities and Western style shop­ping pre­cincts for the rich and famous — a bit of everything. I really don’t know why it’s not as popular as some of the other Carib­bean Islands which, as far as I can tell, tend to be less diverse in their eco­sys­tems and landscapes.

As well as the cathedral, we visited numerous sig­ni­ficant build­ings and places, including the first road to be built in the New World, the palace of Chris­topher Columbus’s son, Diego, and some stun­ning caves known as ‘the three eyes’ which fea­tured beau­tiful, tur­quoise under­ground lakes (unfor­tu­nately this was post-​​camera-​​breakage so we don’t have any good photos of these. Boo!) We also bought the tiniest, most expensive piece of rock ever but it was totally worth it — a teardrop shaped chunk of amber (a Domin­ican spe­cialty) with a 60 million year old bug in it. It set us back nearly £300 but still, there can’t be that many 60 million year old bugs floating around. Other pur­chases worth noting are of course the ubi­quitous rum and cigars, which were so frickin’ cheap we ended up buying about double our customs limit and having to squeeze it all in our cases for the journey back. We had no trouble there, thank good­ness, although we did see an hil­arious ste­reo­typ­ical indig­nant Amer­ican couple arguing with customs. They appeared to be the only people in the whole world who haven’t heard of the ‘no liquid in your hand luggage’ thing and loudly failed to grasp why their litres and litres of rum were being thrown away. Just as an indic­a­tion of price, some pretty awesome 40-​​odd % rum was around £5 for a 70cl bottle — bargain! We drank plenty while we were there and also dis­covered some crazy Domin­ican aph­ro­disiac called Mamajuana, which John has since christened as ‘rum-​​hypnol’ (not because of any­thing rude, you filthy buggers…but because the only time I drank some was when I was already hor­ribly drunk and I basic­ally lost around 3 hours then passed out. The next day I actu­ally thought I was dying of some trop­ical disease because the hangover was so bad). Basic­ally mamajuana seems to be a mixture of herbs which are soaked in red wine, then honey and rum, then drained — this leaves you with the sex rum which you then drink. Or some­thing like that. It’s deli­cious so keep your eyes peeled on Coffeesh0p as we’re hoping to source some of the herbs from some­where at some point soon as no one sells them in the UK at the moment. Oh and John bought a SINGLE cigar for £20. That had better be one awesome cigar.

Last but not least, our other trip worth men­tioning was to go and swim with dol­phins! The place itself was a com­plete rip off and the staff were the most miser­able shits we had ever come across — but once we were in the water with the dol­phins those feel­ings just evap­or­ated and it really was all the clichés you can imagine. We’ve never been that inter­ested — as in, we’re not one of the many people to whom swim­ming with dol­phins is the abso­lute pin­nacle of being — so more than any­thing we got the oppor­tunity to do it and we just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. And would you believe it, Mr and Mrs cynic here just totally “got it”. It was incred­ible, and I’m now totally a dolphin convert. Do it if you ever get the chance.

Other than that, we spent a fort­night lazing on the beach, drinking so much rum it’s a wonder we’re still alive, eating amazing food, swim­ming every day in the sea and the huge pool (which happened to have a bar in it), and gen­er­ally just relaxing. It was the most fant­astic two weeks we could have hoped for (apart from the bastard camera breaking) and we’re incred­ibly glad that our ‘ah, fuck it, it’s our hon­ey­moon’ atti­tude won out over our tight-​​fisted, sens­ible atti­tude. After all, it’s a once in a life­time opportunity…although having said that, you are all heartily encour­aged to buy plenty from us in order to help us afford to go again ;)

4 Responses to Our Honeymoon

  1. Tim says:

    What a fun travelogue… Irene and I have tossed around the notion of how fun it might be to go live “Down South”… maybe where y’all were, or Panama, Costa Rica, some­where like that. It’s not even hit 100F here in The Middle Of Nowhere, Texas, this year so far as I can remember. Last year we had some­thing like 30+ straight days of 100F PLUS.

    Gotta love Texas, and if you ever want a place to stay while you’re vis­iting out this way, you got it! Makes a great relaxing vaca­tion, just listening to the bugs…

  2. Adi says:

    Well what a great review of a beau­tiful place and what a great hon­ey­moon you had,congratulations to you both

  3. Chrissie H says:

    Wow, the colour of the ocean just looks awe­somely beau­tiful. Gotta get me some of that paradise!

  4. JSOTS Tim says:

    Ahhh, SO much better now that the pics are showing up on this end. Looks even like a BETTER time.

    No videos though? Or did I miss something?

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