Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.

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Did you know that fish can smell bananas?

I have only been scuba diving twice. The first time was in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Perhaps as a result of being a lifeguard while working my way through uni, I have a fear of suffocating. Being deep underwater and at the mercy of a small mouthpiece was a disturbing prospect. However the group I was with wanted to go so I caved quietly to peer pressure.

We had a practice session in the hotel pool. I don’t recall much about the practicing but I know that I didn’t feel prepared when it was over. Once off on our trip we were joined by fellow tourists. We were suited up and given belts with weights, to hold us down on the sea bed. One American man was so obese they had to tie two belts together to fit around him. Funny how, when you are trying not to think about what comes next, you focus on the little details!

We travelled out to sea by speed boat . Once at our destination – a spot of sea that looked much like any other to the untrained eye – we took turns in rolling backwards off the boat and into the water. A guide took us down to the sea bed one at a time, where we were sat in a circle as we waited for the rest of the group.  I kept one hand on my mouthpiece at all times – no way that was being knocked out of my mouth.

Once on the sea bed I had time to sit and assess my surroundings and was overwhelmed by the silence. How peaceful – and slightly unsettling. On the one hand,  sitting in a bright clear water – we were only about 10 meters below the surface and the sunlight streamed down. On the other, defenceless in a vast open space where we were the interlopers.

A member of the group – possibly the large American now I think back – bugged out. I mean literally as we sat there we could see his eyes growing wide open, almost popping in his panic. He was quickly helped back to the surface by the guides. Somehow that was reassuring – apparently I was not as afraid as I thought. And the surface was not far to go!

At last we were off, swimming gently along the bottom of the sea. We looked at plants and coral, we poked at strange creatures we had never seen before, we explored a whole new world and gradually I relaxed and even began to enjoy myself. A barrel full of cliches spring to mind, most of which would be apt – after all a cliche becomes a cliche because it’s true.

So – here comes the banana story. Did you know fish could smell bananas? Well – I am sure that is factually incorrect and an ichthyologist would soon correct me since fish don’t have noses. But – hold a banana up in the  water and the fish will flock (school?) over to have a nibble. Mr G held aloft our banana and within seconds we were surrounded by colourful little fishes dashing about our heads. Too fast to touch but amazing to watch. 

I did enjoy scuba diving, enough to have a second go at least. Once under the water it’s calming and beautiful. The initial push to get down to the sea bed is nerve wracking, but like any new experience, you can’t find out if you like it if you never try.

But I still like to keep one hand on the mouthpiece – just in case.

Scuba diving in Puerto Plata

Dominican Republic


The First Adventure

Dominican Republic, here we come.

My first holiday with Mr G was in the year 2000. We had been together a full year and this holiday marked many firsts for me – not least my first long term relationship. My first holiday with a boyfriend. My first long haul trip. My first developing country. My first time scuba diving.

Bear in mind that this was 12 years ago now and so some of my memories are hazy. However there are some things that stay with me. We were holidaying with Mr G’s sister and her partner. The first thing I learnt on this exciting new experience is that my sister-in-law-to-be was petrified of flying. More specifically, the take off and landing. Note that at 22, this was my first real trip. However my SIL2B, her partner and Mr G, all being some years older than me, had done a fair amount of holidaying, back packing and travelling before. I was a little perturbed when she started crushing my hand and looking a wild eyed, but as we started down the runway and the whimpering began, I did wonder if there was something more about flying I should have been aware of.

Puerto Plata








We landed in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and I was astounded at the heat. I don’t recall the name of the resort we stayed in, but it was relaxed, the people were friendly and the ‘cuba libra’ flowed. We were all inclusive and  I was amazed at the amount of food available. All we could eat, 5 meal times a day. One night they piled the garlic prawns high and we ate as many as we could, pulling off the heads and tails and shovelling them in with relish. I ate my first lobster and it was delicious. I set a precedent then and there, that every time we go on holiday I must have a lobster to make it complete.

The other side of the coin

Of course, the other side of the coin is the appalling poverty in which so many of the locals lived. It was my first experience of seeing children living in houses made of corrugated tin and begging for whatever scraps the over indulged tourists could spare.

I felt then, and have on every trip we have made since, that there is something inherently wrong in our piling our plates with foods, while the people working to clear our tables, serve our drinks and make our beds are earning a pittance every day. I am not sure of the right word to describe the feeling – would it be terribly English to understate it and say that it feels so incredibly rude to sit in another country and demolish quantities of food in front of people who struggle to feed their families. How disgusted they must feel when over fed tourists then waste mammoth amounts of food which we took and then were too full to eat.

I learnt that the majority of the people living in the surrounding area would often try to attach their own cables to the power lines, in order to siphon off electricity for their homes for free. I was told that this was dangerous and often fatal. Certainly, whether true or not, every time there was a power failure in the resort bar or the lights flickered and dimmed, it was implied that there had been an interruption along the line.

Puerto Plata

Young children begging for sunglasses at the corner shop









We took a trip out from the resort on quad bikes – with a guide as it was unsafe to explore alone. On our drive through sandy, dry and dusty dirt tracks we stopped at a wooden hut, the local shop. A small girl came over to hold her hand out to me. Our guide informed us that if we gave anything to one child we would be surrounded by clamouring children in seconds. I remember that this young girl, maybe five years old, made hand gestures towards my sunglasses. I thought she wanted to try them on, but she wanted me to give them to her so that she could re-sell them. For a moment I was tempted to hand them over, but as my glasses were prescription, I would then have been blind for the drive home.

Final thoughts

We went out for a walk through Sosua one day. Within seconds of stepping into the market square we were hailed by stall owners, each one desperately trying to entice us to view their wares. ‘Cheaper then Tesco’ they shouted, a cry I have since learnt is used across the world! Still, that first time I heard it was a source of great amusement. The market stalls sold a variety of wooden carvings and brightly coloured shawls, postcards and machetes. A riot of colour and noise all around. It’s well worth a visit to walk along the beach and sip cold beer in front of the sea, while the locals make music around you.

Puerto Plata








Would I go to Dominican Republic again? Yes! It was warm and the people were friendly. In my limited experience it is very much a resort holiday, by which I mean we did not do a lot of exploring, but we did do a lot of relaxing and lying about. However I am sure there is more to see than a pool, a beach and a market. Maybe one day I will go back and find out.