Since starting my pretty much full-time travels in September 2012, I have sometimes fallen behind a bit on my stories. But never did I go totally silent for months like I recently did. Although I wrote about all my adventures on the road, I have rarely babbled about my personal life. But since many people have asked me what was going on, I will make an exception. Here’s what I have been up to in the last couple of months.
First some good news. Just a few weeks after retiring, my mother seized an opportunity and bought a long operating store. Although well established, the store was in terrible condition and the most advanced technology in it was a lightbulb. To give her a hand, I flew straight to Montreal from Puerto Rico and spent a few weeks with her giving the place a new look and hopefully a new life. So far, things are looking great.
After resting for a while, I travelled to a small village near Quebec City, to spend some time with my father. Although himself an avid and very active traveller in his late seventies, he had not left Canada since returning from Europe, at least 6 months prior. I was shocked to see how much he had aged in the months since I had last seen him. Back at my home base of Ottawa, I faced the worst month of the year, April, when Canadians must file income tax returns. Again I never discussed this before, but I have a little business in Canada which in great part allows me the freedom to travel, but which generates somewhat complicated tax returns, especially when I am away most of the year and loose track of things.
Then on a quiet Saturday morning, I was informed that my father had taken a sudden turn for the worst. I got there in the afternoon (a 5 hour drive), and after discussing it with his wife, told him he should go to the emergency room, because it might not be a good idea to wait until Monday to see a doctor. Hospital staff calmly dealt with the situation, made sure he was comfortable and ordered some blood tests. Then they got the test results and all Hell broke loose. Transferred in the middle of the night to a university hospital in Quebec City, he died the next day.
I relate the circumstances because in a way they are the one good news in the tragedy. He enjoyed a nice, travel-filled retirement in the house he loved, with his amazingly caring wife, was weakened for about 6 months and only had a really bad quality of life for a few weeks. I take some comfort in the fact he didn’t go down the long, painful route of never-ending decline I saw other relatives go down.
So, this left me busy with estate matters and zero desire to write about travels. But now I catch up: first more Dominican Republic, and then some other Caribbean adventures.
In my last story, I wrote about the rich colonial history you can discover in the DR if you venture outside the resorts. Another thing you can discover is the wonderful natural attractions. Several are off the beaten path, and I decided to rent a car for the week. This proved to be a mistake. The major sites and cities can be reached by comfortable public transportation and driving in the DR is so incredibly painful, slow, dangerous and unpleasant that I ended up loosing the motivation to visit many of the small places I had planned to go to. To back-up my claim; according to 2010 World Health Organization data, every year 6 Canadian out of 100,000 die on the roads. The world average is 18, and the DR is the second worst on the planet at 41.7, behind only Eritrea.
One place you can’t miss is Los Haitise National Park, close to the north-western tip of the country, far from the resorts. Because of the geography, you must visit on an organized boat tour, usually departing from Las Terrenas, a former fishing village now full of European expats and transforming rapidly the way places like Tulum or Playa del Carmen did in Mexico’s Yucatan region. Continue reading