Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dominica is the Worst

The first rule of Dominica is: don't go to Dominica.

Saturday in St. Lucia began how lots of days do lately, with a cab ride to the airport. The flight was uneventful but the spray-can delousing that we receive on every Liat flight has continued. Nothing says Caribbean fun like getting pesticide sprayed in your eyes.

This ad on the back of the inflight magazine is interesting. There are several Caribbean countries where you can buy citizenship by performing such tasks as investing in real estate or making a donation to the country's development fund. I can't think of a reason why I would ever do that but I do think that being a duel citizen someday might be neat.

We arrived at the Dominica (pronounced DomiNEEca) airport without much hoopla and walked past the gang of pushy taxi guys to the car rental desk. When we told the lady at the Avis rental counter that we had a reservation she laughed. I showed her the reservation printout and I might as well have been showing her my baptism certificate because she didn't care: there were no cars available. For those of you keeping track at home this is the third car reservation that has ended with me not driving away in a car that I reserved.

To make matters worse when I finally gave up and said we would just take a cab she offered to call "a guy she knows" to come give us a ride. Uh, no, I'm not going to give you a kick back for screwing me. When I refused her sleaze-bag offer she insisted, which made it even more satisfying to walk out of her office, leaving her to the important work one does at a rental car desk when there are no rental cars.

So we walked back to the pushy taxi drivers. It didn't take long before one was invading our personal space. $80   the guy quoted us. Yet again we were shocked. Yesterday we paid a guy $100 to drive us "wherever we want" for hours. Today this jerk was demanding most of that just to get us to our hotel. The rental car we had reserved for two days would have cost $142.

Incredulous, I went to the travel information window for help and I was so lucky that her highness took off her head phones to speak to me.

"How much should I expect to pay for a taxi to Roseau?"
"You'll have to ask the taxi drivers".
"Are there any buses?"
"None that come to the airport."
"Thank you, and I hope you contract a preventable jungle disease."

That last part was just in my head.

We tried haggling and talking to another cab driver but to no avail. The second driver simply asked the first what price we had been quoted. Ok, $80 dollars it is, taxi cartel. Dominica, so far, you suck.

Part of the reason for the higher price is that the airport is on the opposite side of the island from the capital city (still it was only like an hour drive).

The cab driver was polite enough but he would not shut his mouth. His veteran son died. His brother died. He'd been waiting for a fare all day. Taxi vans are expensive. He offered us a banana. Most of this crap was clearly designed to increase what he told us should be "a nice tip for Christmas". Oh man did I hate that guy. Christmas is over, bro.

We finally made it to our little hostel and handed the driver his EXACTLY $80 frickin dollars and walked in.

Ma Bass Guest House is run by a little old lady named Ma Bass. It was cheap and nice enough. The AC worked and there weren't bugs everywhere. I think my standards are dropping fast.

The capital city, Roseau, was the scariest place of the entire trip. For example this was the only place in the Caribbean someone asked me for money, and it happened numerous times. It wasn't just a one time ask, these people would follow you for blocks. When a cruise ship docked the government would block off the streets around the dock and post security guards to keep the locals out. An especially creepy man insisted on shaking both of our hands and then asked if he could join us for dinner. Let me just check my datebook.

You can see the top of that day's cruise ship down the street.

It's hard to tell but this statue is a guy with broken shackles blowing into a conch shell. That's the first thing I would do too.

The "State House" of Dominica.

I had a one armed guy follow us for quite a while on our way to have some delicious (safe) American fast food. Lydia was worried about him but I was thinking he didn't strike me as dangerous and even then only had the one arm for evil doing. Afterwards I informed her that if things had gone badly I'd like my gravestone to read "Killed by a one-armed bandit in front of a Caribbean KFC".

Well after seeing a bit of the city, nice old Ma Bass' son helped us get a cab. Previously the hotel people have gotten us good deals on cabs. Not in Dominica. I think people here are taking their pirate past a little two seriously. This time a 15 minute drive there and back was going to cost us $50. We asked him what he'd charge us to get to the airport the next day? $100. Jerk.

Well I must admit that the natural wonders of Dominica are pretty darn cool. We cabbed it to Champagne Reef, so called because geothermal action under the water causes bubbles to rise up, creating a really cool champagne like experience. We both liked that a lot.

We thought it was cool that the dive shop was made out of shipping containers.

The snorkeling other than the cool bubbles wasn't as good as Belize but we saw some pretty cool fish. My favorite find was a blowfish. All of that Japanese "eat poison blowfish" business gave it a special significance to me.

Snorkeling was my first successful use my new GoPro. I like that you can just turn it on and sort of forget about it. It's less obtrusive that way and you're less likely to miss unexpected moments. I realized the downside when I got back to the hostel: I now have 2 hours of fish footage that needs to be edited to 2 minutes. Blah. Having fun is hard work.

Underwater. Boom.

When we walked back to get our taxi, the driver was talking to a Dutch couple who wanted a ride. I was thinking "oh cool, let's split our cab with some interesting people". Our cab driver was thinking otherwise. He quoted them $20 to get back (less than we paid one way of course).  We asked if that meant we would pay less and he just shooed them away. Splitting a cab is not a thing in the Caribbean. Taxi meters are not a thing. There is only how many foreigners can you scam at the same time.

Dominica would be great if it wasn't for the people.

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