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Published: April 11th 2006
Arrived in Port Au Prince Haiti after a long and often delayed trip from the UK. It all started really well; we were upgraded into business class on our trip over from the UK to Washington. Unfortunately from then on there were countless delays due to fuel leaks on the plane and passengers being taken ill....
The trip was tiring, but once we reached Haiti, any difficulties were quickly put to the back of our minds. It was my third visit and my dads first visit to the country that is the poorest in the western world. Haiti is however a fantastic place, the people are among the friendliest in the world and the island is alive with culture, energy and turmoil. For the open-minded traveller it is place to experience countless wonders, without the confines of the rules and structures of more affluent, oppressive societies. In short there are no rules and you can express yourself in any way you want, experiencing things that are impossible to do in the UK...
Staying with Johnny in Pationville a suburb of Port Au Prince, where we were at the centre of the capital city, the initial plan was to head
out to Jeremy, a town in the remote south west of the country as soon as Johnny's Jeep wrangler had its transmission replaced. The roads in Haiti are in parts no more then mud tracks, so you need a robust 4x4 to get anywhere. It soon became apparent however that the car would not be fixed quickly despite the assurances of the Haitian mechanic. We never got to go south, which was a real shame, but instead took day trips to more accessible places and spent the evenings in the bars and clubs of Port Au Prince.
Our first day was a day of catching up with old friends. It was fantastic to see Johnny again, one of my closest friends from Uni - he still has the gregarious magnetism and enthusiasm for life that make him such a joy to be around. We spent the first evening with him, his wonderful wife Louise, and best friend Daniel, managing to bribe our way in to private party held the Band "Creole La", who are one of the top Haitian groups. The night was spent supping on Prestige (a great Haitian beer) and Baboncourt (Haitian Rum) and dancing to the
compa band. The music was fantastic, but unfortunately they finished relatively early, but this gave us the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the lively Barock bar - a must for anyone who goes out in Pationville.
Waking early Saturday 1st with sore heads we managed to catch the Man U V Bolton match on Haitian television. I had no idea what the commentator was saying, but the sounds and enthusiasm he brought to the broadcast made the match very enjoyable. Johnny and I played some tennis in the afternoon and followed this by with a sight seeing trip around the city. Passing through the different areas on Port Au Prince you can feel the energy. There is a real bustle and everyone wears a smile on their face - this is real life, raw and unrefined.
We decided to sample the Rum cocktails at the Oliveson hotel. This incredible old building was built around 1916 at the time of the American occupation and is a throwback to the Deep South and made me think of plantations, the slave trade and Voodoo. A very mysterious and mystical place. In the evening we all headed out to the watch a
Haitian performing Arts company called Artco perform "Chants Des Divints De L'Eau, where we were entertain with traditional Haitian drumming and incredible dance - the energy was mind blowing.
Sunday 2nd was a relaxing day, spent reading and recuperating. I went with Johnny to pick up a Raptor 660 cc quad bike. The ride back was a lot of fun - just imagine trying to ride a high performance off road bike through the centre of London, you would be arrested in minutes. In Haiti however no one batted an eye lid. It was a good way to see the city!
By Monday 03rd we were losing track of time - I suppose this is a good thing as it means we were relaxing into the trip. We hit the road early, with Johnny, Malc and Bobito in the car and me driving the raptor. We plan to head up into the mountains above Port Au Prince where we can take the bike out for a spin off road. We stop first at a great vantage point over the city - Its a magical view taking in Port Au Prince the plains and the sea... I will upload
photos soon. We then head further up. The area is fantastic, a place of real beauty to rival some of the alpine ranges in Europe. The rain was starting to fall when we stopped at a small village, chatted to some of the locals and were invited to sampled some Haitian moonshine, a mix of raw alcohol and coffee called "night coffee". By the time we left the rain was falling hard on the dirt roads so it made riding the bike a lot of fun - by the end of the day I was covered from head to toe in mud, but had a massive smile on my face...
Tuesday 04th April. We had again into the city centre, this time to walk around near the presidential palace. It was pretty uneventful until we met a mad old lady called Mrs Oisau - she cornered us and began giving her life story - apparently she is 65 and has never had a husband. She then tells us she has had 2 kids and is now a widow... Between blessings and the "lord will protect you" she asks for us to send her some money, which will put us
all in very good stead with Jesus!
Wednesday 05th April. An early start to head across to Jacmel in the south. The journey was long on poor roads, but it was worth it - we passed through incredible mountain ranges and stopped off along the way to buy a bunch of bananas from a girl on the side of the road. Jacmel is a complete contrast to Port Au Prince, it is ordered, has much less rubbish on the streets and seems in a much better state of repair. The traditional Gingerbread style buildings are influenced by the French and Spanish who occupied the Island in the 1800s. There was a bustling street market selling everything from Tobacco and Coffee to a local delicacy of dried mud. I though Johnny was pulling my leg, but people actually eat this - I did not try it! A short drive later and we came across a deserted beach called Cabeak - well it was deserted when we first got there, but soon the news travelled that there were some "blanc's" on the beach and we soon had a crowd around us offering fresh coconut, which a local scaled the palm to
get, food and drinks. We were the entertainment for the afternoon! The beach itself was great - golden sand, deep blue sea and a small coral reef about 50 meters from the shore... The crowd grew through the afternoon and we even had our very own RaRa band (a group of young school kids) playing traditional carnival music, on an array of strange instruments made from piping. The music was good, although the singing was in Creole so I could not understand a word... Johnny informed me that we were being serenaded by "Gade Kabit La Pa Gen Puel Non Nanda'l" which translates as "The Goat Has No Pubes On Its Ars" and a rather more rude song about women's genitalia "Koko Non Bounda Fanm, Se Taye Yo Taye Sa", which translated is a bit too x-rated for this site...! It was time to head to Basin Blu, three natural basins made by a large waterfall.... We need to transverse a river in Johnny's car and then head up a dirt and rock road, before trekking for half an hour through Jungle. What we found was incredible. The fresh water pools were vivid blue and probably about twenty meters deep.
The water was cool and fresh to swim in and there were rock formations sticking out that you could dive off. In parts you could take a shower under the waterfalls that have carved out this paradise over millions of years. I felt quite special being able to see something that has only been visited a few times by Europeans.
Thursday 06th April. Our last full day in Haiti and the day was spent relaxing and reading.... A group of us headed down to the Oliveson Hotel in the evening to watch Ram, a "Voodoo Rock" band perform - They were fantastic - we danced until 2am and consumed enough rum punch to feel very groggy the next morning!
Leaving Haiti is sad - there are so many wonderful things about the county and each time I go back I experience something new. A Haitian friend jokingly informed us that Haiti is one of the most stable places on the planet and I can see his point. Yes it is very third world and has poor infrastructure, no electricity for most of the time, but it has not changed in the last 200 years! I hope the spirit
never changes - I suppose we will see what the next 200 years bring.
Arriving in Miami on the 7th, everything seems bland and sterile. It is amazing how two countries so close geographically (300 miles) can be such poles apart. Give me Haiti any day! Im hoping that the further west we go in the US the more life we find - I think we will find it in the rockys, where there is a mix of nature, mountains and more open minded folk......
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