A Gua-Guantic Adventure

Today we had an adventure. We took our first Gua-Gua (g’wa-g’wa) to a new beach – Playa Diamante.

But first, a quick aside.  One of the games we brought to the Dom Rep for the kids to play is called Rush Hour.  I’m sure you know it; the essence is to maneuvre one particular car off the board, by moving the other cars up/down, left/right to clear the exit path. It gets progressively harder at higher levels, as more cars are placed on the board (move the green car left and then the red car up two spaces, then you can move the black car to the left then the green car back to the right and hey presto…..)

Anyhow, GuaGuas are the local bus system.  They are privately run minivans that run a defined route, but to an ‘island time’ timetable (i.e. completely random).  They are minivans – think Toyota Hiace – with three rows of seats behind the driver’s bench and a sliding door – so seating for two up front by the driver, plus three on each row…..so about….oh….maybe…..20-or-so passengers (plus the driver and conductor).  They are invariably knackered – the shabbiest looking vehicles on the road (except for the taxis – a story for another post); they look like they are held together by the stickers that are slapped all over the body (and often the windscreen).  But they are cheap, and definitely an adventure.

The local Gua-Gua depot (the front yard of one of the larger repuestos / car mechanics) is a 10 minute walk from our house. When we arrived one was waiting to depart. The driver motioned us to get in (the six of us, plus teacher Ben plus Stephen – a 14-year old grandson of Wellington who has taken to joining us at random times … again, another story in itself).

In this Gua-Gua were already 10 passengers. Plenty of space for 8 more, so in we piled.  Adults on seats, kids on knees, bags on top.

Off we set….only to stop after 400m to cram in two more passengers.  Along the way we stop to variously drop off some passengers (a manoeuvre not unlike Traffic Jam), and pick yet more up.  Ben (our Ben) is heard practising his Spanish numbers: “Once, dose, trece, catorce….”. “Ben, what are you doing, sweetie?” “…. quince, dieciséis, diecisiete, dieciocho – I’m counting passengers …. diecinueve, veinti, veintiuno, ventidós.  Dad, there are twenty-two people on this bus….that’s the most so far”

Oh, and it’s raining.  The windscreen wipers are going – but don’t seem to touch the windscreen.  This doesn’t phase the driver, who hurtles along at breakneck speed, stopping only (and very abruptly) when flagged-down by another would-be passenger.

After 50-minutes we arrive at our destination – Playa Diamante.  The fare (somehow) comes to DOP $380 – around £6

Playa Diamante is a fabulous beach.  We’d been here once before – as part of a whistle-stop tour on our first weekend here – and we’ve wanted to come back ever since.  It’s an inlet about 400m long, framed by jagged rocks at the ocean end.  The beach is white sand and shelves ever-so-gently into the sea.  The only building visible is a small shack of a restaurant.

The beach is framed by verdant greenery behind, and clear blue water in front. In the bay floats a fishing boat.  Beyond the entrance, out past the guardian rocks which frame the bay, rolling waves break over an unseen reef.

Today the beach is deserted.  Mostly, we conjecture, because it’s raining…..  So with the cry of “skin’s waterproof”, we peel off, put the bags / clothes under an overhanging tree, and it’s into the water.  The kids have a complete ball – 50m out from the beach and only up to their waists!  The rain is one-and-off for the rest of the morning.

After lunch (fruta, pan camerones & biscochito – our staple beach diet – and a big fish for Zach!) a truckload of about 40 kids – aged maybe 8 to 18, arrives at the beach.  They are all in baseball uniforms (clearly just coming back from a game/practice).  They variously undress (some to boxers, some still in their socks), and proceed to do what kids do – mucking around in the water.  Then they start the biggest sand-ball fight ever. Matt & Ben (and Zach too) join in at the edges.  At one stage Zach sneaks up behind one boy – who looks about 12 – throws sand at him from behind and then runs off squealing as the older boy gives (play) chase.  And then, as quickly as they arrived, they are gone again.

We are coming to love and loathe the ‘live for now (and only for now, and only for me)’ attitude of the Dominicans.  The baseball-kids arrived with nothing but the clothes they were wearing (it took us an hour to pack).  For an hour they had a great time and then they left again, in soaking clothes (we changed before coming home, of course…..).  Sadly they left behind the inevitable trail of litter.  Bottles, wrappers, cups, carrier bags.  The concept of putting litter in a bin is just totally alien to the people here – partly because this would mean consideration for someone other than yourself and for some moment other than now.

Another hour and then it was home time.  During the Gua-Gua home (only 20-passengers maximum headcount this time), there’s a torrential down-pour to make the roads nice and treacherous.  The driver doesn’t slow at all for the weather – clearly he has his (imaginary) timetable to stick-to.  It’s still raining when we pour out if the bus in Nagua, so we’re drenched by the time we get home.  M+B decide to take a rain-shower on the steps up to our apartment.  Then it’s tea, stories and early-to-bed for 4 happy but exhausted children (and their parents).

Another day, another adventure.



  1. Nicola says:

    I’m just loving your wonderful stories of your ‘adventures’ … It’s funny, because I sit here in wonder how on earth you find the time to put together such amazing detail about everything you are up to … then of course, I think “of course Richard has time … that was the WHOLE POINT”!!!!! Just wonderful, the fact that you are now aware of the Guaguas makes me laugh!! In the Canary Islands, buses are also called “Guaguas” and everyone from mainland Spain laughs at us whilst we use this term, but we are famous for our “Guaguas” so “Well done you guys” for using the local transport. Am thankful that our Guaguas in Tenerife are much more like the buses here in UK … Nice to see the videos of you all too! Alison is looking wonderful … glad she is better now, after her illness. The kids look great! Glad they are managing to enjoy your new life! Keep up the good work … well done for perservering at work, Alison, unlike your counterparts who ran off with their tails between their legs, no doubt! As I said in my email, you will reap your rewards … A Marvellous Madventure!!!!!!!!! Lots of love to all xxxxxx

  2. Nana says:

    just seen the lovely pictures and video after finishing talking with you all, they were super .

  3. Beth says:

    IM not too sure about the transport, but the beach sounds fab!!! I remember going into a bay in Multa and it was sooo warm and we could go along way out but your bay sounds better! Ben’s counting sounds impressive I cant do that in German yet so he’s better than me by far! Reading your other blog of transport I woulnt want to get around by any of those and am intrigued(sorry if its spelt wrong) to what a taxi is like!! Did you get my email? Hope you did.
    Beth x

  4. maddie says:

    I love your stories

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