Cap Haitien

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February 4th 2016
Published: February 4th 2016
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Cap Hatien, on the north coast, is our last stop in Haiti. It is a small town but has a big place in the country's history. It was where Haitians and African slaves started the revolution that over threw their French rulers.

The town is backed by high and very steep limestone hills. On the top of one of these is the Citadelle, a huge castle towering over the landscape, 900 metre up.

Before visiting the Citadelle, we walk up to the Sans Souci palace. Built by the self proclaimed King Christophe, it was modeled on a Prussian palace. A sweeping double staircase leads up to what once was a complex of regal buildings and military barracks.

Sans Souci is now reduced to an impressive ruin of arches, doorways, fountains and four storey high walls open to the sky. The destruction was caused by an earthquake in 1842, just 20 years after the palace was completed.

From the palace, one could walk the seven kilometre climb to get up to the Citadelle but the normal mode of transport is mule. We mount onto uncomfortable makeshift saddles and grimly hold on as the mule slowly plod up the stone path. It was a pleasure to get off and an easy decision to walk, rather than ride, back down.

The Citadelle is easily the largest fort in the Caribbean. Its 4 metre thick walls tower 40 metres above us as we dismount, the front bastion pointing at us like a ship's bow. As we enter and wander around this wonderful castle, its size and the state of preservation continually impress us. There are many canons still mounted on their mahogany carriages and, beside them, hundreds of cannonballs. There is an internal moat, fed by rainwater, and a food store designed to sustain 5,000 men for a year.

The Citadelle was built immediately after the revolution against the French. It was never used in anger but it did serve to impress the French. They never tried to retake Haiti.

From the top of the Citadelle, the view is spectacular, North and West to the coast and East into the Dominican Republic, our next stop.

This is the end of our time in Haiti. It has been a challenging country to travel in but we will leave with some great memories. This is a difficult time for the country. The President should leave office next Sunday but the elections for the next President have been cancelled. Nobody knows what will happen next. Whatever happens, let's hope life here improves for the ordinary Haitians soon.

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