Monday, 14 September 2009

1 night, 2 day trip in Haiti = 3 nights, 4 days p.1

Alas, going on a road trip at first sounded like a good way to get out of the office for a few days and see the Haitian countryside. Oh man, if I had only known.

The plan was to leave on Wednesday morning at 5 a.m. to Port-au-Prince (capitol of Haiti). It's about a 4 - 4 1/2 hour drive. Get to P-a-P and then move on to Les Cayes in the afternoon, sleepover in Les Cayes, get up in the morning, take water samples and then drive back home. Easy as pie. Ha. I packed 2 shirts, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of socks, and only one pair of pants. Again, if only I had known. I was a little nervous since I kind of knew it wasn't going to be super comfortable traveling conditions, and being a lady, it's a little more difficult going to the bathroom, but I figured it would be fine traveling.

I got up at 4:40 on Wednesday and was outside waiting by 4:55. It was dark and the moon was setting. No one came at 5. And still no one came at 5:30. The sun was coming up and people were starting to walk around a bit more. At 5:45, Gran woke up and was walking around, saw me and was like ah! At that point I looked down the road, and about 50 yards down, the truck was sitting, parked. I went and sat back down. Then at around 5:55 ish or so, the red truck drove right past my house.

I got up and started walking to Javan's house, and as I got closer the truck started turning around. Javan said the driver, Clemmy, thought my house was further down. Uh huh. We picked up a couple people on the way who were also going to P-au-P. And then the drive started. We were in the truck bed, standing on two spare tires at the front. The roads are pretty bumpy, so it was similar to skate boarding or something, in the way that you have to figure out what your center of gravity is and work your way around the bumps as they come. We stopped for breakfast/lunch around 8:30. It was fish and rice. It was good, but not necessarily breakfast food from my Western perspective.

The drive from breakfast was through the last stretch of mountains. At some point the wheels started squeaking every time we went around a corner. It was slightly nerve racking since we were going around turns that had no safety rail and no shoulder and trucks were coming at us from the other direction. However, we made it safely into P-a-P around 10:30-11.

There was a bunch of shopping to do since there was a well broken at La Gonave (island west of the mainland). Going around PaP is insane. The intersections are nuts, and passing is at your own risk, with crazy painted buses carrying 50 people, and tap-taps carrying 20, and cars, and trucks, and mopeds all trying to get somewhere and the majority of vehicles are second hand and on their last legs. Smoke for exhaust, burning garbage, human feces smells kind of absorb into you. It's pretty nuts.

After our shopping, we went to a garage to get the tires fixed. The garage could also have been named car cemetery. Cars were littered throughout the walled yard, with a house to the right behind all of the cars and a covered area to the left with parts and tools. That was where we camped out for the next 5 and 1/2 hours while they fixed the car. I'm not actually sure what they did, possibly realigned the wheels. They also changed the brake pads, even though I was skeptical if they were the problem. The head mechanic graciously let me use his bathroom, though it didn't flush and I had to walk by the scary daughter who glared at me while I walked by, but at least I got to use a toilet. With the work done and more money spent than I think the crew had intended, we headed out at 5:30 in search of a place to stay.

We ended up sleeping in a hotel called Rosaline. It wasn't too bad. There was electricity and running water. After traveling in the back of a truck and sitting around a garage all day, it was probably one of my top 5 best showers. That was the first day. I'll write more later about the next few days.


  1. Does any of this surprise you? I could be reading your Senegal blog....okay, except the part about mountains.

  2. Kate, I'm sending you my best wishes. You need to document all these adventures and someday write a book and it should be made into a movie starring Kate Blanchett...your ship will at last come in...I foresee a bright future with your name in lights. Keep the faith.