Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Honeymoon From Hell

I've heard it said that a honeymoon from hell pretty much seals the deal for a happy marriage. As far as I can tell this is true.

Last Tuesday was my nine year wedding anniversary. Despite having the dreamiest wedding ever we pretty much narrowly survived the honeymoon.
This looks like it could be a stock photo of a tropical paradise, but it's just one that I snapped from the balcony of our hotel room in Barbados.

The Day after our delightful Barbados wedding we bade goodbye to the friends and family that had traveled that long journey with us and boarded a tiny plane to fly the short distance to Dominica (the least developed of all the Caribbean islands) where we had an adventurous honeymoon planned. As we left sunny Barbados it began to rain. By the time we were nearing Dominica it was pouring, and as the tiny island came into view, lush jungle covered by dense fog, I was like, "Holy shit. We're honeymooning in Jurassic Park." The airplane landed on what was the shortest runway I have ever seen, in real life or a movie. In the airport someone remarked that it was lucky we had the pilot we did, because most would never try to land under these conditions. Already feeling like we survived something we headed off, a little giddy, to retrieve our rental car. The plan was to drive the rental car to the cottage that we had rented for the week, which was about an hour away.

That was the plan anyway.

It was early evening by the time we had gotten the car and set off on our journey and the sun was setting. It was still pouring. The streets were incredibly narrow, hard to believe that they're even two-way. In many places the road is on the side of a mountain so that on your left is a steep uphill and on your right is a sheer drop off into the jungle. I remember thinking that if we went off the road no one would ever find us. As our luck would have it the place we did go off the road was just a muddy ditch and not a cliff. It happened fast, a car was approaching us, speeding along, leaving us no room on the narrow road and so as to avoid a head on collision we swerved and crashed into the ditch. Freaked out, but unhurt, we stepped out into the pouring rain to assess the damage. Once flat tire, whole side of car caked with mud. Tom insisted I, the new bride, wait in the car. As much as I didn't want to cry it was hard to hold back tears as I watched Tom in this rainy, dark, unfamiliar landscape change the tire. Once the spare was on we managed to get the car out of the ditch (thank god for 4 wheel drive). We were so shaken up (and only a short 15 minutes into our hour long drive) that we decided to drive back to the airport, return the rental car and get a taxi to take us to the cottage. When we arrived at the airport it was closed. Closed! Airports close? Tiny, tropical island ones do. Getting lucky again the rental car guy just happened to see us driving towards the airport on his way home and turned around to see what was wrong. We told him we couldn't drive. We needed a taxi. He said there were none, maybe in the morning? We offered him cash to drive us himself. He was quick to agree, but would have to stop home on the way to tell his family why he would be so late for dinner. Feeling a little guilty but incredibly relieved, we set off. As we drove deeper and deeper into the jungle we were more and more thankful that we didn't have to navigate this route ourselves in the twisting, turning, pitch dark night. When we finally arrived at our jungle honeymoon hideaway we were greeted by our friendly German hostess, "Welcome to Rainbow Village!" She showed us to our cottage and, having had to pee since we left Barbados I made a beeline to the bathroom. Feeling great, finally at ease in our destination with a newly empty bladder - I flushed the toilet.

And it overflowed all over the tiny cottage.

After that was fixed and cleaned up we quite literally collapsed in bed and feel asleep, exhausted and soothed by the strange sounds of unfamiliar birds and insects coming in through the open windows. We awoke the next morning, our first real day in Dominica, to a breakfast of eggs and fresh avocado that was picked from trees on the property. It was a heavenly moment, but we were both still harboring unspoken doubts about this choice of a adventurous honeymoon.

Not having a car left us with no way to get around so we asked our host for her advice. She offered us her driver for the day, but he was also the school bus driver for all the village children so we'd have to work around that pick up and drop off schedule. Late that morning he picked us up and dropped us off at the jungle tram tour that we had planned for that day. Riding the tram through the jungle was spectacular. The flora and fauna were breathtaking, and that alone seemed to make the trip worthwhile, at least for those moments.
View from the aerial jungle tram. One of the thirteen photos we took in the day and a half that we spent in Dominica. This pretty well captures the whole, dense fog, lush jungle thing.
After the tram ride, we headed back to the deserted parking lot, alone, and not really sure when, or even if, our driver would be coming for us. I had an overwhelmingly sinking feeling. Despite the raw beauty of this place it just didn't feel like a honeymoon, which to me was supposed to be time to relax and really enjoy each other. We wanted adventure but we got more survival than we bargained for. I sat on the hot, cracked pavement and absentmindedly brushed my fingers back and forth across the leaves of a sensitive plant that, upon feeling my touch, closed all of its leaves.

Our driver did come for us finally and brought us back to our cottage, but not before we glimpsed some real crazy shit on the drive; including, but not limited to, a three-legged dog walking with a man who had a shotgun nonchalantly slung over his shoulder. When we got back to the cottage I said, "What if we just went back to Barbados?" Tom looked surprised, "Could we? How?" I wasn't sure how, but the hell if I wasn't gonna try.

The telephones in Dominica were not like the telephones here, sometimes you got a connection, but most times not. Add to that the fact that our cottage didn't even have a phone so we had to go ask to use our host's phone. First I called our hotel in Barbados. They were surprised to hear from me, but less surprised to hear that we weren't happy in Dominica. She told me that the hotel was booked, my heart sank momentarily until, through the crackle, I heard her say, "but just come back, honey. We'll figure something out for you." I was so happy I could cry. Next call: the airport. You know, the one that closes at the end of the day? It was getting close to what I figured was closing time and I could not get a connection on the phone. Finally, after 20 agonizing minutes, I got through. I explained the changes I wanted to make to our flights, she said it would cost me... I braced myself... it was about the equivalent of sixty US dollars.


By that time it was night again, and feeling like we survived another day, again collapsed in bed, but this time knowing that first thing in the morning we would be on our way back to our beloved Barbados. By noon the next day I was back lounging on the beach, toes in the coral sand, looking our over the most amazing blue-green sea, double fisting rum drinks (it was happy hour!) The most joyous feeling was permeating every fiber of my being.

This was the best example of "taking the bull by the horns" that I've successfully accomplished. Financially it was kind of a disaster to swich around our accommodations like that, and the German lady wasn't too thrilled with us leaving, but for us it was TOTALLY worth it. We would have plenty of times for adventures, but a honeymoon should be about relaxing and enjoying each other. So we high-fived each other, kissed, and sipped our rum drinks, all four of them.
Rich, Tom, me, Samantha, Vikki. 12.3.04