In typical Matt and Casey fashion, we changed hotels the next morning to a smaller, nicer and a bit cheaper hotel
. It also had a smaller carbon footprint with no mini-fridge, and more significantly, no air conditioning! Today was to be a beach day, but shortly after arriving to the white sand and turquoise waters, the skies opened up while we were on a short walk and we retreated to the Tiki Bar. I managed to get locked in the bathroom and had to climb over the wall to the outside of the restaurant. When I returned Casey said, "What, did you get lost?" No, just locked in the bathroom. I got a free drink from the manager for that experience. Four Santo Libres (rum & Sprite, in that order) later, the rain let up enough for our first dip in the warm Caribbean Sea.
The next day was not my best. It started off exciting as we were headed out to a shipwreck dive with Scubafun. All suited up with Melkie as our Dominican dive master, things looked good. On the decent, however, I was having trouble regulating my breathing, as well as dealing with a very leaky mask. Feeling uncomfortable after unsuccessfully trying to clear my mask, I returned to the boat. Casey continued on the dive and had great time since the wreck was stunningly beautiful. Our second dive went better although I was still dealing with constant mask leaking and clearing which confirmed that my newly purchased mask was too small for my face.
Back on the boat, Casey looked at me with controlled terror as she told me eyes were really red
. I responded that my eyes were irritated with all of the salt water, but she firmly said, No, it's definitely more than that!" What I didn't know at the time was that I had just developed the scariest looking eyes ever with pools of blood forming in the whites of my eyes from burst blood vessels just under the surface. It turns out that I got something known as a "mask squeeze," when too much pressure in the mask causes bruising. Fortunately, for as horrible as it looks, it is not a major problem, with no pain nor permanent damage, just a hickey on my eyeballs really.
So this changed our plans a bit...since the medical advice from the Divers Alert Network was to wait a few days before diving again, my vacation had just turned into an above-water-only trip. Nonetheless, the next few days were great. We chilled on the beach while relaxing, reading, and catching up on the blog. One day we took a few different guaguas to get out to Cueva de las Maravillas. I wasn't expecting much but was pleasantly surprised. The cave was amazing, on par with Carlsbad Caverns National Park. There were awesome formations formed by water dripping through the limestone and coral bedrock--stalagmites, stalactites, columns and huge open rooms. And to top it off, there were also cave paintings from the indigenous Taino people. Very cool!
Another day was spent on an excursion to Saona Island, part of the national park close to Bayahibe
. Casey did two amazing dives on the coral reef while I snorkeled and chilled on a perfect white sand beach, drinking rum to pass the time. It was a great day that ended in a boat ride home during a huge rain storm. While speeding back to town, wearing our masks to see through the rain, Danila, the French divemaster, passed around bottles of rum and Coke. As we sipped them down, the rainwater provided automatic, although diluted, refills. A British lad on the tour observed that it was a drink that kept on giving!
After an amazing week of hanging in Bayahibe (I know, weird for us to stay in one location, right?), it was now time to meet up with my family in Punta Cana for the real reason we came to the DR in the first place. Thanks, Meredith and Remy, for having your wedding in tropical paradise!
Thanks to my cousin Meredith planning a destination wedding, Casey and I have a legitimate excuse to spend two weeks relaxing in the Dominican Republic. This is our "vacation" before the "adventure" that is rapidly approaching. Arriving here felt something like coming home; having traveled a bunch in Latin America, we knew what to expect. It was a nice feeling. We had come up with a plan for our week before the wedding while on our flight from San Francisco, having had no time to plan before departure. Despite Lonely Planet and a taxi driver telling us that there was no bus from the airport, we found one and were on our way to Bayahibe (pronounced Buy-on-Ebay minus the "n" of on). Two guaguas (buses) later we were checking in to a hotel in a cute little beach town. After exploring town and talking to some dive shops, we got some great food and chilled for the rest of the day.