Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Final Travel Schedule

Today I've received my final travel confirmation here is an update about the upcoming travels in January and February. Also the trouble getting out of the US didn't cause touble to get the new electronic permit to enter the country. I am very curious if I will face a discussion with the immigration officers when I have to show my passport. Last time in Miami the immigration officers left the green card in my passport and I had to hand it over to a stewardess in the plane.

Here are the new and confirmed dates:
  • Cuba: 03-02-2010
  • República Dominicana: 18-02-2010
  • San Francisco: 26-02-2010
  • Austria: 28-02-2010

At the 1st of March I will be officially back in Graz, Austria. I will then prepare and organize my full schedule for 2010 and be back to business.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Back To Business

After weeks of rain, power cuts, crappy Internet and much more, it seems that everything is getting back to normal. Of course the crappy Internet didn't get better. Just from time to time the connection is good enough to transmit some photos, reports and mail.

Today was a very busy day. Surf is picking up, the wind blows constantly and even skating was great today. After a day of kitesurfing the event of the day was at the skate ramp. Pro skaters from different parts of the world came together for a nice session. Even the designer of the skate ramp Helmut Ludwig, an ex skate pro from Austria, was skating. A lot of good vibes and so many pro level tricks. It was great to watch and feel the energy of the guys! In parallel to skateboarding was a big celebration at the attached bar-restaurant. The leading world champion of kiteboarding celebrated his world-championship with free drinks and attracted a big crowd.

This is now the final, extended, week in Cabarete before the trip to Cuba. After Cuba I'll pick up my stuff in Cabarete and stay a few days here before I go on my final trip to Austria. I hope there to do all the many things there are already on my task list in quick time to focus on some decent snowboarding. After all the sun and warm temperatures I look forward to some action in the snow and already miss it.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Finally, Nice Weather Again!

After weeks of rain finally the clouds have passed by and now there is nice "Caribbean" weather again. Now it doesn't matter so much if there is a long power cut when you can be outside and do useful things. Today I have rented again a scooter and it is great fun to move around to different areas. The only drawback is that the mosquitoes are now very active. The local ones are real buggers- They fly silent and you don't feel them sting. Just when they fly off by interruption you get a bump and itchy spot.

At the moment I am checking flights to Cuba and after that trip connecting flights home. Now it looks like I stay here until the end of the month and then go to Cuba over Santo Domingo. The planned stay in Cuba is three weeks and then home at the end of February.When I finally know my schedule I'll post it here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A major loss of life is feared in Haiti after a 7.3 earthquake hits, toppling buildings and leaving victims buried under rubble. Hispaniola is the island separated in the middle with Haiti and the Dominican Republic. At 16:53 local time there was a quake with an epic centre 15km (10 miles) south-west of the capital, which was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.The effect of the quake was also also clearly recognizable in Cabarete,Dominican Republic in just 200 km distance. In Cabarete we just felt a strange moving sensation without any damages so far.

The following report, including the teaser image is courtesy of the BBC:

A 7.3-magnitude earthquake which struck off the coast of Haiti is feared to have caused major loss of life in and around the capital, Port-au-Prince.

Haiti's envoy to the US said it was a "catastrophe of major proportions".

Buildings, including a hospital, are said to have collapsed, and rescue efforts are under way.

The quake, which struck about 15km (10 miles) south-west of the capital, was quickly followed by two strong aftershocks of 5.9 and 5.5 magnitude.

The tremor hit at 1653 (2153 GMT), the US Geological Survey said. Phone lines to the country failed shortly afterwards.

A Reuters reporter in Port-au-Prince said he had seen "dozens of dead and injured people" in the rubble of fallen buildings.

Karel Zelenka, a Catholic Relief Services representative in Port-au-Prince, told colleagues in the US "there must be thousands of people dead".

The aid worker had managed to phone his colleagues before communication links went down.

The BBC's Nick Davies in neighbouring Jamaica says the ground apparently shook for more than a minute in Haiti.

Local people, he said, were using anything they could get their hands on - including farm equipment - to help release those trapped in the quake.

Our correspondent adds that, as the poorest country in the western hemisphere, Haiti is likely to need international aid in order to cope with the quake's impact.

'Three million affected'

US President Barack Obama said in a statement that his "thoughts and prayers" were with the people of Haiti and America stood ready to assist them.

I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance
Henry Bahn
US Department of Agriculture official, visiting Haiti

UN officials said they were having trouble contacting their mission in Haiti to get a clear picture of the aftermath.

"We are trying to get in touch with our people on the ground but we are experiencing communication problems, which is not unusual in a disaster such as this," spokeswoman Stephanie Bunker told AFP news agency in New York.

Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador to the US, told CNN: "I think it is really a catastrophe of major proportions."

He said he had just spoken to a government colleague in Port-au-Prince:

"He had to stop his car just about half an hour ago, and take to the streets, start walking, but he said houses were crumbling on the right side of the street and the left side of the street.

"He does not know whether he would reach his home, not knowing what he would find, because he had a bridge to cross to get there."

Mike Blanpied of the US Geological Survey said that, based on the location and size of the quake, about three million people will have been severely shaken by its impact.

"This quake occurred under land as opposed to off-shore, so a lot of people were directly exposed to the shaking coming off that earthquake fault, which was quite shallow," he told the BBC.

He added that as the quake had occurred near a highly populated urban area, the aftershocks could cause additional damage to already shaken buildings.

'Rubble and wire'

An Associated Press cameraman saw the wrecked hospital in Petionville, a hilly suburb of the capital, and Henry Bahn, a visiting official from the US Department of Agriculture, said he had seen houses which had tumbled into a ravine.

"Everybody is just totally, totally freaked out and shaken," said Mr Bahn, who described the sky as "just grey with dust".

He said he had been walking to his hotel room when the ground began to shake.

"I just held on and bounced across the wall," he said.

"I just hear a tremendous amount of noise and shouting and screaming in the distance."

He said rocks were strewn all over the place, and the ravine where several homes had fallen in was "just full of collapsed walls and rubble and barbed wire".

BBC News website readers in the Dominican Republic, which borders Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, said they had also felt the quake.

"My family is on the 8th floor of a tower in downtown Santo Domingo," wrote Max Levine.

"We felt a swaying of the building for 5-10 seconds. All the lamps were swinging. There was a 20-second pause and then another similar sway. We rushed out of the building with many others to the street."

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, a tsunami watch was put out for Haiti, Cuba and the Bahamas, but this was later lifted.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Tropical Rain

The time here in Cabarete is very special for me. The perfect image of the Caribbean is blue sky, white beaches, warm water and fun for all. But the weather can turn it all around. It's raining very, very often! Almost all the time and activities are limited. For the ones who have experienced tropical rain it needs no further explanation. After a big rain shower the streets are flooded, muddy and you never know when it starts again. It's also difficult to go to the center of Cabarete because of the uncertainty of the next rainfall.

The power situation is now better. There are not so many power cuts and Internet is becoming also slowly better. But you never know when the infrastructure fails. Today it was water and a few Internet problems. I've got soaking wet several times times today and now my stuff is drying. Yesterday I had also a fun time at the big skate ramp. It was partially flooded but I could manage to have a few good runs. I'm curious when I can go to the flooded ramp again.

In the meantime there are indoor activities to perform. In the picture above is a nice starter set. The drink is a local speciality: Mamajuana. It's a multi-purpose and strange tasting drink consisting of rum, red wine, honey, palm wood and spices. The best think of the drink is the bottle. It's in a used rum bottle and the label is very promising and in three languages:

This Product Makes The Sexual Potential Bigger And Guaranty You An Excellent Dream
Dieser Product Eröht Die Männliche Vitalitat Und Heilsam Schlafen

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Christmas and New Year in the Caribbean

Again Christmas, again New Year - the same as every year but just a little bit different. That is Christmas in the Caribbean! The Dominican Republic has a long term Spanish and therefore catholic history. For me it seems that everything is just like home. "Nochebuena" (Christmas Eve) is the most important day where families come together, have dinner and a few drinks. The most common dish is suckling pig with "pastel en hoja" (mashed bananas with minced meat, wrapped and cooked in a banana leaf). Usually a few drinks are a lot of drinks and it can get quite crazy on Nochebuena.

New Year is celebrated as everywhere. Just here with a Caribbean touch. Drinking and dancing until midnight - then short fireworks with a lot of ah’s and oh’s on the beach followed by drinking and dancing afterwards. It's really great scenery to observe what's going on at the beach. Just the weather is the only factor that limits fun here. As for Europe ice and snow are here heavy rain falls and cold weather. That means that there is no action regarding kiteboarding and the skate ramp is under water. Just surfing is possible but that is also not so much fun in the cold and rainy weather. The only option is to stay in the hotel and wait for the rain to stop and the wind to come.

In two weeks I will continue on to Cuba. At the moment I’m checking cheap flights to Cuba but it’s very expensive from here. Just two flight hours away the price for a round ticket is 600USD – From San Francisco to the Dominican Republic it was just 350 USD. It seems that poor countries are double unfortunate – Little money and higher expenses!

The Internet connection is very unreliable at the moment it is often down and there are frequent power cuts too that make life hell here. With no power and no Internet just reading is an option and waiting for the rain to stop. I really hope the weather will be better in Cub. Otherwise it would be really a strange travel in the rain.