One (all-inclusive) day in the Dominican Republic
We left Martinique (or rather TFFF) around noon on March 14th, after Alex took a quick drink of coconut milk in the house in Trois Îlets: he was starting to get used to Caribbean life.
Our next flight would be over water again so we equipped ourselves with the life vests, rafts and survival bags, but this one was less scary because there would be islands all along the way.
And not just any islands: Guadeloupe, Sint Maarten, Puerto Rico and all kinds of Virgin Islands.
Dominica was covered in clouds so the first island we saw was Marie Galante, South of Guadeloupe, a kind of pancake but with beautiful beaches.
Then we flew over Guadeloupe right through the middle of its butterfly shape and after Guadeloupe (control was still speaking French), a huge volcano appeared on our left: the map showed it as Montserrat (UK). We had just noticed that we had more headwind than expected but Alex saw that the smoke from the volcano was blowing in a different, more favorable direction. He immediately requested to descend from 8000 to 6000 feet and magically a tailwind appeared, we were in sync with the smoke and our ground speed increased from 141 to 152 knots. Climate works in mysterious ways😊
After the volcano, we were transferred to Bird (St John’s, US Virgin Islands), then to Bradshaw control which monitors St Kitts, and a little later to Juliana, as in Princess Juliana: we were in Sint Maarten, i.e. in the Netherlands! (albeit only half). And sometime later we were returned to the US, to San Juan, Puerto Rico. All this made my birthday very special: how many people travel through more than 5 countries in just a few hours?
Although we saw lots of land, sea water was still the predominant view and we noticed the same kind of strange stains in the water on this flight than during our first big oceanic flight:
We had been told in Martinique that they are toxic Sargassum algae which do a lot of damage when they come closer to the coast. Apparently, they are proliferating nowadays due to a combination of factors such as climate change, use of fertilizers, deforestation etc…. all bad.
Closer to Puerto Rico, Alex requested to climb to 8000 feet again because there were many clouds over the island. In fact, climate is not as mysterious as it seems, at least to me as I have never been very interested in phenomena apart from “should I bring an umbrella, or not?”. Because land gets warmer quicker than water when the sun shines, there is more evaporation above the islands than above the sea, and the larger the island, the larger the clouds. I can just imagine a conversation between islands going something like “my clouds are bigger than yours!”. And judging by its cumulus’, Puerto Rico is definitely a real island and not an “antille” (= ante-islands) like the previous ones.
There were less clouds over the Dominican Republic and we could clearly see the shoreline as well as rolling green hills making it all look very welcoming!
The screen in the airplane also showed Haiti though and I could not avoid thinking about the dire situation there, especially since the 2010 earthquake. I also remembered the Haitian paintings that my ex-husband used to buy there when he was on legal missions for the French Government. He really enjoyed speaking to the artists and hearing their stories about their work which we all still have. Actually some of the pictures will soon be on display in Alex’ brother’s office, at least until we have a house again. Thank you Gabriel!
Being in the US, we had obviously spoken English with Puerto Rico control but Alex switched to Spanish as soon as we were in contact with Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and continued that way until we were cleared to land in Puerto Plata (MDPP). So it is in Spanish that the tower gave him a quite unorthodox instruction: we were cleared to land but for some reason there was a little airplane entering the runway almost beneath us… Alex was about to go around when the controller simply requested he do a 360 to the left, at 500 feet! The runway was right by the water in a beautiful bay so Alex complied, climbing a little higher for safety, and we enjoyed the view before touching down.
Can you spot the tiny aircraft entering the runway on the bottom right?
Once we were off the runway, the Servair FBO staff directed us to our parking spot (the airport is so small that this took about 2 minutes) and welcomed us to Puerto Plata (which I had never heard of before our conversations in Martinique…).
Because it was still my birthday, Alex booked a nice hotel in Sosua while the FBO was taking care of our paperwork and we were relaxing there 20 minutes later.
the next morning :
The Casa Marina Resort & Reef was one of the “all-inclusive” hotels tourists go to, which was very convenient because we would only stay for one full day and two nights. All-inclusive means that you get a bracelet that shows you are a guest and you can eat, drink and use any of the hotel services just by showing your arm. We didn’t even change money.
We really did need a full day because there were a lot of things to prepare for the next leg of our trip:
- Another flight over water to Naples, Florida (KAPF) via Miami Executive (KTMB). We were going to Naples to meet John Bone, another round-the-worlder we had spoken to via Zoom who circled the globe westwards in the same Cirrus SR22 plane as ours. We had to stop in Miami because you need to do customs and immigration at the first point you reach in the US, else you need to request a special overflight permit.
- A Covid-19 test to enter the US, the third one since the beginning of our trip, fortunately all negative till now
- An EAPIS (Electronic advanced Passenger Information System) declaration and a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) decal to enter the US. The CBP decal is like a tax you pay in order to use the US customs services when you fly internationally. In hindsight, we could have purchased the CBP decal earlier because its validity spans the whole calendar year (vs 12 months since date of purchase). In order to be sure everything was OK, Alex had called CBP the night before our departure but even so we got in a little bit of trouble upon arrival at Miami Executive because we should have called their specific CBP office 24 hours before arrival ☹ Therefore, here is my NOTAM to enter the US: it's easy but make sure you don’t forget any of the steps.
Fortunately we still had plenty of time left to enjoy the swimming pools, the jacuzzi with ocean view, the tropical beach and the all-included cocktails before our next take-off.
More images of the flight can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q--0UCy21J0