Chris & Karen's Vacation
2002/12/24, Coson Bay, Dominican Republic



2002/12/24, Tuesday

07:45Departed Hamilton via Airways Transit shuttle to Pearson International Airport. It was a clear, sunny morning, but it was bitter cold out, about -9C (16F).
09:00Arrived at Terminal 3 of Lester B. Pearson International airport, with lots of time to spare. We browsed the airport shops.
10:30Obtained our boarding passes from SkyService Airlines.
11:00Lunch at Swiss Chalet in the airport. Still lots of time to spare, so we browsed some more.
11:30Went to the Sheraton Hotel at the airport, just to see it. Met rep, Lucio, who showed us the facility. Then we decided to book a room there for the night of 2003/01/07 to relax after the airplane ride home.
13:00Checked through airport security to gate C29, with no trouble at all, and waited for the plane.
14:30The aircraft was supposed to be airborn now, but was delayed bringing a medical patient into the airport.
15:30After fuelling and grooming the aircraft, we boarded flight 5G558 on a model A330 jet.
15:50Flight takes off for Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. To our surprise, the flight was to be 3.5 hours, instead of 6. We had a typical airspeed of 887 km/h (551 mph), altitude of 33,000ft (10.06km, 6.25mi), and an average outside aircraft temperature of -58C (-72F).
20:18(Time change +1h00m) Landed in Puerto Plata after a flight of 3 hours, 28 minutes. It was a warm, balmy, clear and starry night of 28C (82F).
20:25Retrieved our luggage at the Puerto Plata airport baggage claim.
20:45Checked through Puerto Plata airport security and boarded the van for Las Terrenas.
20:55Departed airport by van for the Guatapanal Bahia de Coson Resort. We rode with a couple from Toronto, an East-Indian couple on their honeymoon.
23:30Up and down the mountain in the van, @$#!... and people thought MY driving was nerve testing. Let me tell you, even *I* had to white-knuckle it.
23:50Arrived at the resort and checked in. The staff made a mistake and put us in a room, instead of a villa.
00:50Got the villa worked out and had some freshly-made kettle chips and bottled water.
01:35The staff fixed a broken lock on the villa door after some difficulty with it.
02:20Went to bed early Christmas morning.

2002/12/25, Wednesday

12:30Woke up nice and late Christmas afternoon. It was the first Christmas in about 15 years that my sister didn't have me awake by 07:00. Walked out to clear, sunny, deep blue sky, palm trees and a gentle warm breeze. Merry Christmas at last!
13:00Lunch at the resort restaurant, Free Flow. Great food.
14:30Met with our Sunquest rep, Gerrard, and got some general questions answered. Talked about the excusions and activities available.
15:00Went to the hotel gift shop and bought flip-flop sandals. Much better.
15:10Called home to wish our families a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
15:30Sunning by the pool on Christmas. Covered up with SPF45 and soaked in the sun, then the water, then the sun, then the water... ahhhh. Nice cold Presidente beer too.
17:30Walking along a hot, sunny beach on Christmas. One of two vacation criteria met. Woohoo!
19:00Supper at Free Flow. Good variety and delicious.
20:30Relaxed with a drink at the bar, then back to the room to relax and get to sleep leisurely.

2002/12/26, Thursday

09:30Breakfast at the resort. Another impressive meal.
10:30Lounging by the pool, in the pool, by the pool, in the pool...
14:00Back to the pool and sunshine.
18:00Back to the villa to relax and have a short snooze.
19:00Supper at Free Flow, and a drink at the bar.
20:00Back to the villa for a movie and another short nap.
22:15Over to the Pizza place/theatre to watch a live comedy sketch put on by the entertainment staff.
23:00Off to sleep to end a truly exhausting day of hard play.

2002/12/27, Friday

09:30Woke up to a phone call from the guy that rents the 4-wheel ATVs. Brushed that off and went back to sleep.
12:00Woke up again, cleaned up and got dressed.
13:00Lunch at the restaurant.
14:00A beer and some pizza at the pizza place, took some photos, and met up with Gerrard to book tomorrow's boat ride.
15:00Over to Gerrard's dive shop to get geared up for a scuba lesson in the pool.
15:15In the pool for the scuba lesson. Learned some theory on the equipment, then practiced breating underwater, how to find the regultor by touch, how to get the regulator back into your mouth underwater, and how to clear your mask while underwater.
16:30A free-swim underwater in the pool to practice everything learned.
17:30Back to the villa to change and get leaned up.
19:00Supper in the restaurant.
20:00Back to the villa to relax before bed.

2002/12/28, Saturday

06:45Up early today. Hey, I'm supposed to be on vacation. Getting ready for a boat excursion.
08:00Bus ride over the mountain to the bay with Bob and Anne.
09:00Met other boat-bound people at a tour company, waiting to depart.
09:45About 25 people on the boat as we depart.
10:00We go across the bay to a river and see a flower overrunning the banks, the water hiesen. Apparently it was imported from Canada, but takes over the shores because it never freezes.
11:00We tour a very poor village of about 600 people. There is a lagoon there, so blue it's called the crystal lagoon. Took a picture, and yes, it's really that deep blue.
12:30Back out to the bay, looking at many rock formations and birds along the rocky coastline. Entered the mouth of a cave where there is a strong outward fresh water current. Chris jumped in with a few of the others, swimming out to a shore about 25m (82ft) from the mouth of the cave. The boat docked there and we had a snack and a drink. Then back out to the rocky shoreline. Lots of nice pictures.
14:00Docked at a walk-in cave, thought to be some kind of indian shrine. Took more pictures. Interesting rock formations and indian drawings.
15:15Lunch back at shore, not far from where we left. Then a bus back to the resort. On our way back in, we were in sunshine. We missed the down-pour on shore.
16:30Had a nice swim in the pool when we got back, then reviewed the pictures on the TV and threw away the ones that didn't turn out.
19:00Supper at Free Flow, then called it a day, we were pretty tired.

2002/12/29, Sunday

08:00Up a bit early again today. We were scheduled to dive this morning. Time for breakfast at Free Flow. Tried the omlette today, pretty good. The omlette's start to finish was under 2 minutes while you waited at the counter.
08:50Thorston tells us they're not going; the weather is grey and a storm is on the way.
09:00Back to the room, Chris isn't feeling well, Karen feeling a bit funny.
13:30Chris still not well going to lunch at Free Flow, back to the room after. Asked about diving, the storm will be at least 2 days, likely no diving for 4-5 days. Started raining off and on anyway.
20:00Chris still not well going to supper at Free Flow, back to the room after.
22:00Chris still not well, Karen still feels strange. We watched a lot of movies today.

2002/12/30, Monday

11:00Up late since there's no diving. Missed breakfast. Chris feeling good again, back to normal. Still raining today, quite heavily.
14:00Went to lunch at Free Flow. Lots of off/on rain.
15:00Got some sunny time at the pool.
18:00Back to the room to get ready for supper.
19:30Supper at Free Flow.
20:30Back to the room, still raining.

2002/12/31, Tuesday

10:00Out to breakfast at Free Flow. Still some rain today, but starting to taper off. Back to the room again after.
13:30Lunch at Free Flow. Met up with Gerrard, asked to borrow a diving mask for Karen.
14:30Went to get the diving mask at Gerrard's shop. Found it locked but he was inside, went in to chat. Duane and Glenda soon arrived here, and a plan was made for a small english-speaking New Year's party.
16:00Went to the gift-shop to pick up a couple of tank-tops for Chris.
16:20Out to the pool and had a good swim. Busy today, and we didn't get poolside chairs. Karen had fun with the diving mask.
17:30Went back to the room for a bit.
19:00Thought we might get a quick bite before the party, but for the first time they were late.
19:40Gave up on a quick bite, headed over to the beach for the ride to the party.
20:05Arrived at Casa Coson, a small hotel/bar/resort for about 20 or so. Short drive west from our Bahia de Coson resort. Very nice place. Nice chat with a German couple from ?Adabo? who left shortly after.
20:30Lots of food, having a great New Year's Eve party. Shared several jokes, riddles, and stupid-human tricks. Took a few good pictures. People there: Gerrard, Bob and Anne, Duane and Glenda and daughter Allison, Thorston, German couple that owns the hotel and their son, one other German guy.
00:00Happy New Year. After a toast, outside for some fireworks. Several duds in the pack, but still pretty. Flashes over distant beaches where other resorts are setting off firecrackers too.
00:45Back to our resort, and off to sleep.

2003/01/01, Wednesday

10:00Happy New Year! Up a little late today, made breakfast at Free Flow.
10:30Dropped off cards to Bob and Anne, and Duane and Anne for e-mail.
11:00Swimming at the pool, sunning, swimming, you know the drill.
14:00Lunch at Free Flow. Not quite as busy today, but still hard to get a seat.
15:00Back to the room for a bit.
17:30Went for a walk eastward on the warm beach, drink in hand. Two of two vacation criteria met. Walked for about 1 km. Took a few nice pictures. Karen found a couple of small, pretty seashells.
19:00Reviewed the pictures on the TV back at the room.
19:30Supper at Free Flow with Gerrard; we just happened to meet up with him.
20:30Back to the room, watched a movie, and off to sleep.

2003/01/02, Thursday

10:00Up late today. Had trouble sleeping because of the heavy rain in the middle of the night. Breakfast at Free Flow.
11:00Back to the room for a while, we were tired. Took some pictures of the room and at the restaurant.
14:00Went to lunch at Free Flow, then had a drink at the bar.
15:30Out to the ocean, and went kyaking. Went pretty far out, almost to the east tip of the penninsula. Out that way, still away from shore, a kind a of sand-bar but it was shallow rocks. As we started to go around, a territorial fish of some sort whacked against the kyak; presumably looking for lunch or attracted to the paddling sound. We headed away to leave him to his territory. We made a large circle and then back to the resort. Used the beach showers to rinse off the beach sand.
17:40A dip in the pool before we eat.
20:00Supper at Free Flow. Then back to the room. Karen's stomach upset, and her arms/back are sore from all the rowing.

2003/01/03, Friday

06:30Woke up early to the alarm. Decided to ignore it, went back to sleep.
09:00Alright, now we're awake. Breakfast at Free Flow.
10:00Rented a 4-wheeler quad-runner to go zipping around the countryside.
11:00Cruised into Las Terrenas to see what was around. Pretty nice town really, but, well let's just say that a Cracker-Jacks license is an acceptable authorization for operating a motor vehicle.
12:00Stopped at Casa Coson hotel for a drink. Took pictures. Then back out cruising.
13:15Stopped back at the resort to have lunch at Free Flow, the back on the 4-wheeler.
14:00Found a nice beach with some interesting rock formations in the water. Snapped a couple of pictures and headed back the way we came.
15:00Saw Gerrard on the way back passing the hotel. Made an appointment for scuba diving tomorrow in the ocean.
15:40Returned the quad-runner and hopped into the pool for a swim.
16:30Headed back to the room to get cleaned up.
17:00Bought some jewellry from a beach-vendor. Got him down a fair amount.
17:30Nope, according to Gerrard, we should have held out; we were still taken. Had a drink with Gerrard and armed ourselves with a little more street-smarts.
18:00Stopped into the gift shop to get Karen a hat and buy some snacks. They always eat too late, at about 19:00.
18:15Back to the room for a break, snapped room pictures for Marriane and waited for supper.
19:00Supper at Free Flow. They had three spanish musicians playing in the restaurant, so we got up and danced with their music. One of the musicians really liked that, and we turned a few heads.
19:45Took a few more pictures and called it a day.

2003/01/04, Saturday

08:00Up early, looks like we're diving this morning.
08:20Breakfast at Free Flow.
09:00Met Gerrard at the dive shop and got set up to go out. Boarding the boat, Gerrard, Thornston, and I will be diving, and there are a half-dozen snorkellers.
09:20Picked up a couple more snorkellers fom Casa Coson.
10:00Geared up and into the water. Going down about 8-12m (26-40ft) for a 1-tank dive.
10:30Back up to the boat. Gerrard said I did very well. I saw trumpet fish, puffers, brain-coral, sea urchins, and many other colourful fish and plant-life.
10:50Dropped off the 2 snorkellers to Casa Coson, heading back to the reort.
11:20Back at the resort, putting the gear away.
11:45Into the pool for a swim. We put a bit too much sunscreen on, it was kind of white after getting out of the pool.
14:15Lunch at Free Flow.
15:15Went to see Gerrard. Asked about diving tomorrow and about setting up the local flight out for tuesday.
16:00Back to the room for a while, we're pretty tired.
19:15Supper at Free Flow. Some sidewalk peddlers are along the walkway; there are paintings, cigars, and a live band in the bar. I was tempted to ask to play their saxophone for a song, but I was too comfortable watching.
21:30Back to the room to call it a day.

2003/01/05, Sunday

08:00Up early again, might be diving again this morning.
08:20Breakfast at Free Flow.
08:55Gerrard called our room to let us know there would be diving.
09:00Met Gerrard at the dive shop. Karen went back to the pool while I dove today. This was to be a longer, two-tank dive so I went alone while Karen relaxed.
09:30Suited up and on the dive boat. Gerrard didn't go. It was Thorston, our neighbours Thomas and Sandra, and I. I was to pair up with Thorston.
10:15It was a 3-times as long boat ride than yesterday. We were making 2 separate dives. The first site was a sunken fishing boat, about 12-15m (40-50ft) long. It had been purposely sunk about 5 years ago because it was an old boat being retired. A line to the sunken craft was marked by three empty plastic jugs.
10:30Into the water, Thorston and I first. We descended 24-30m (80-100ft) along the line to the wreckage site. Thorston lead me around the wreck a couple of times. Then he and I dove free around the boat. The neighbours were within sight. The water was pretty clear, and visibility was good, maybe 20-25m (65-82ft). There were a great many colourful tropical fish going in and out of the boat. The desk in the captain's office or bridge was now just a toy for the fish. We looked into the cargo hold, also many fish; they were bright orange, yellow, sky-blue.
11:00Heading back up to the surface. We ascended to 5m (16ft) and waited 3 minutes. This was called a security-stop, to let the nitrogen in our blood re-equalize with the near-surface pressure. After 3 minutes, we ascended to the surface and climbed into the diving boat.
11:15After having some water, we went on to the next site.
11:30Arrived at the second site, a coral reef. We were going down only 15-18m (50-60ft) this time. Just below the surface were hundreds of small jellyfish. We decended through them, down the anchor-line. There was so much colour and strangely shaped sea and plant life. It was really like something you'd see in a movie. Diving felt as if the water were air, the current like wind and I could float and the wind, hovering and flying in the air. I saw a half-buried stingray watching for prey, some crabs, and countless colourful fish. I picked up a sort of oyster-shell to take back with me.
12:00We headed back to the surface, making a 3 minute security stop at 5m (16ft). We climbed into the diving boat and headed back to the resort.
12:50Back at the resort, met up with Karen at the dive shop. She had seen the boat come in.
13:15Lunch at free-flow.
14:00Went to see Gerrard and Thorston at the dive shop. Talked for a while and checked over some interesting diving equipment.
15:00Back to the room, Chris was tired. Had a snooze and relaxed for a while.
18:55Getting dressed up for supper today. I wore a shirt and tie, Karen wore her black dress.
19:10Went to supper at Free Flow.
20:00Had a drink at the bar, and called it a night.

2003/01/06, Monday

09:00Up when we happened to wake up today.
09:25Breakfast at Free Flow.
10:00Off to the pool. Sunning and swimming, and sunning and swimming.
13:30Dried off and went to lunch at Free Flow.
14:15Over to see Gerrard to confirm tomorrow's local flight to the Puerto Plata airport.
15:00Took a few more random pictures and went to the bar for a drink.
15:30Into the pool again. There's some diving instruction going on.
17:30Had a drink with Gerrard and Thorston, arranged tomorrow's taxi.
18:00Back to the room for a short while, getting some of our things together.
19:10Supper at Free Flow.
20:00Back to the room to pack and call it the last day.

2003/01/07, Tuesday

07:00Woke up nice and early, drat.
07:20Breakfast at Free Flow.
08:30Departed the resort via taxi to El Portillo airport.
09:10Arrived at El Portillo airport. The taxi driver didn't have it together, and claimed we owed him 300 Pasos. Told him to contact Claudia at El Guatapanal resort. He didn't seem very happy.
09:15The Cariba Air rep surprised us too by charging $190US when Gerrard said it would be $180US.
09:30Took off from El Portillo airport in a 1976 Cessna Skyhawk.
10:25Arrived at Puerto Plata airport, and checked in.
11:15Entered the gate, paid the $10US departure tax, and waited for the aircraft.
11:40Boarded the SkyService A320 a bit ahead of schedule.
11:55Take off already. It was about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Today, the aircraft will b cruising at an average altitude of 9450m (31000ft) at an average airspeed of 810 km/h (503 mph).
15:14(Time change -1h00m) Landed at Lester B. Pearson International airport near Toronto. It's an icky, yucky, cold, wet, snowy, winter day. Oh gosh, how nice it is to be back here (cough).
16:00Finished checking through customs and picked up our luggage from the baggage claim.
16:30Arranged for Airways Transit to take us back home.
18:45We're back.