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Old Apr 7, 17, 9:01 pm   #1
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Long weekend in Haiti

Getting a bit behind on my trip reports again! Since completing visiting every country last year, I have a lot more flexibility in choosing the next place I want to visit vs trying to complete a list. However there were several country visits that were outright 'cheaters', just airport transits. Haiti was one of those places, we had a stop there in 2007 on the way back from our trip to the Guianas.

I'd been keeping an eye on ticket prices to the Caribbean and saw that Austin to Port-au-Prince Haiti was running under $300. I decided to go there for a longish weekend. I bought a one-way ticket AUS-MIA-PAP. I wanted to also visit Cap Haitien and the Citadelle, a huge fortress built in the early 1800s by the newly-independent Haiti to deter French invasion. I then saw that there were flights to Turks and Caicos, and from there a British Airways flight to Antigua (another of my cheaters)... then I also realized I could take a day trip over to Montserrat from Antigua, the itinerary kept getting more and more complicated. I finally decided to just focus on Haiti this time and was looking to buy an internal roundtrip flight from Port-au-Prince to Cap Haitien.

I kept an eye on the MIA-CAP direct flight but wasn't showing available for points. However a few days before I left the availability opened up and I booked that segment for 7500 Avios points. Then booked a one-way flight CAP-PAP on Sunrise Airways and the return PAP-AUS on American. I booked an Airbnb in Milot and the Hotel Oloffson in Port-au-Prince. I had been in email contact with a guide for Port-au-Prince daytrips.

Jan 26, 2017
Flight: Austin, TX (AUS) to Miami, FL (MIA); American Airlines; A319 econ
Flight: Miami, FL (MIA) to Cap-Haitien, Haiti (CAP); American Airlines; A319 econ
Hotel: Lakou Lakay guesthouse; Milot, Haiti; $33

Very early morning to catch the 6:30 AM flight to Miami. I had flown this same flight back in October for my Channel Islands long weekend trip. I slept most of the way there. On arrival into Miami I found out the plane was the same one continuing onto Cap Haitien!

I still had a few hours to kill before the next flight though so went to the Admirals Club. I have a Citi Prestige card which I'm thinking of canceling once their agreement ends this year.

The flight to Cap Haitien was only 50% full. I ended up sitting next to a Haitian couple headed back home. French is an official language in Haiti but most people speak Haitian Creole. I'd never heard or seen it before, so it was interesting the inflight safety video was with Creole subtitles.

Landed just after 1PM into gorgeous weather, mid 80s and clear blue skies. The terminal in Cap Haitien was super tiny. There was a band playing music as we went into the terminal. Paid a $10 arrival tax and was officially in Haiti. I was a bit hungry and caught a cab outside for $10 to the Lakay restaurant. My taxi driver said he could drive me up to Milot later that evening for $30.

The traffic was a bit chaotic on the way into town, with people everywhere, lots of motorbikes and tap-taps, the local transport, which are pickup trucks with two rows of benches in the bed.

The Lakay restaurant was fairly busy even at 2PM. I had some BBQ goat which had a great flavor, savory but not too spicy. After lunch I walked back through town. Cap Haitien was the old capital of the French colony of Saint-Domingue and has some gorgeous old French colonial architecture. The old part of town is laid out on a grid pattern and felt very much like a dilapidated New Orleans or Reunion. Cap Haitien was not affected by the 2010 earthquake, but was damaged in a 1842 earthquake.

I wandered around the streets, stopping at the Cathedral and wandering down side streets. No hassle at all from any locals. There is some tourism in Cap Haitien and a few guesthouses and hotels. Cruise ships stop at nearby Labadee beach.





Cap Haitien

I called the taxi but it took him 30 minutes to show up before we set off for the town of Milot. The chaos of town finally gave way to green fields as we headed towards the mountains. It was just possible to see the Citadelle perched on top. When we reached Milot we had to drive through town before I finally spotted the Lakou Lakay guesthouse I had booked on Airbnb.

Drive to Milot. Citadelle just visible in the mountains

The guesthouse was certainly basic... turns out they had no electricity or wifi and the room was spartan, but it would do for the night. They had prepared dinner for me ($10), and I spent awhile talking with Maurice the owner. After dinner, he took me on a walk through town. It was much cooler up here in the foothills than it had been in Cap Haitien. They arranged a guide ($25) and driver to visit the Citadelle the next morning.

Guesthouse dinner

I had a bit of a fitful sleep as there were lots of dogs that kept barking through the night, next time bring earplugs!

Last edited by hauteboy; Apr 7, 17 at 9:45 pm
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Old Apr 7, 17, 9:42 pm   #2
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Jan 27, 2017
Flight: Cap-Haitien, Haiti (CAP) to Port-au-Prince, Haiti (PAP);
Sunrise Airways
Hotel: Hotel Oloffson; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; $95

I woke up early this morning to a good breakfast. Today was going to be a long day, with going up to the Citadelle and back to the airport to catch a 1PM flight, then an afternoon tour of Port-au-Prince.

I hadn't seen an ATM in Cap Haitien so I was able to change some dollars to gourdes. The car and driver showed up and we headed up the hill to the Citadelle. The road was rough and took 20 minutes or so to drive up to the 'second parking area'. From there the only way up to the Citadelle was on foot or horseback, about a mile.

As soon as we got out of the car we were swarmed by vendors selling souvenirs, wood carvings, hats, etc. I had forgotten to bring a hat and it was a bright sunny day so ended up buying a good-quality straw hat for $10.

Then the horse guys started in saying you should get a horse to the top. For $10 it really wasn't that expensive but I decideed to walk at least the first bit. They followed us up the hill to see if we'd eventually cave in. I made it over halfway but it was quite steep and I didn't want to end up all sweaty before the day even started. I then said since I'm halfway, it should be half price! So for $5 I was able to ride a horse up the last (steepest) bit. I'm not a lightweight so the poor horse was really breathing heavy by the time we got to the top.

It was an amazingly clear day with gorgeous blue skies. Lucky as the Citadelle can sometimes be shrouded in fog. The Citadelle was built by Henri Christophe, the self-declared king of Northern Haiti after Haitian independence. It is one of the largest forts in the Americas, with an amazing view out over the sea and surrounding hills. One of the most impressive forts I've ever seen, and despite it being one of the most popular tourist sites in Haiti, I was the only tourist there! Though it was still early, barely 8AM.





Citadelle

We had to wait a few minutes until the caretaker could get the lock to open! Outside the fortress were piles of cannonballs that never were used. We spent about 90 minutes wandering around. There were dozens of cannon scavenged from Spanish, French and Engish ships. Some of the fortress is off limits, due tue damage from the 1840s earthquake. Henri's brother in law had been killed when a powder magazine exploded. Henri himself is supposedly buried somewhere in the citadelle, he committed suicide after suffering a stroke in 1820 and was secretly buried by his family.

We walked back down the path to the parking area. I bought a couple of carved wooden bowls along the way. Then drove down to the Sans Souci palace, which was the residence of Henri Christophe. The palace was looted after his death, and destroyed in the earthquake so only the ruins remain.


Sans Souci Palace

I'd been worried about making it to the airport by noon, but it was barely 10:30 so had some time to go back to the guesthouse for lunch. Delicious! The food I'd had so far in Haiti had been very good. The driver said he wanted $70 though instead of the original $35 as the plans were to take a moto up the hill instead of a car. We eventually agreed on $50, still a bit expensive.


The drive to the airport was a quick 30 minutes and Maurice came along to do shopping in Cap Haitien. There was a long line for checkin and immigration for the American flight, but the Sunrise Airways checkin was quick and got to skip direct to security. The flight to Port-au-Prince was uneventful and I ended up sleeping most of it.

I noticed the international terminal had added jetbridges since our stop in 2007. I hadn't realized there was a separate domestic terminal, but luckily the driver from the hotel was waiting for me. They charged $30 for the transfer. Traffic in Port-au-Prince is notoriously bad and he said it had taken him an hour to get to the airport. Luckily going the other way it wasn't so bad and we were at the hotel 30 minutes later. The tap-taps in Port-au-Prince are rolling works of art. They are decorated to the max with mirrors, pinwheels and pop-culture icons.


Rolling works of art

The Hotel Oloffson is an old school gingerbread hotel that was host to Jackie O, Mick Jagger, etc in the 1970s and 1980s. The hotel only suffered minor damage during the earthquake. Anthony Bourdain stayed here on his No Reservations Haiti episode. The wooden building is gorgeous and the grounds are filled with bizarre and creepy vodou art. I ended up in an annex room vs the main building.




Hotel Oloffson

My guide showed up on a moto taxi about 2:45 and we set off, first heading to the cemetery. After the earthquake, the cemetery became residence to thousands of people. They have mostly moved on now as new housing has been built. We had to pay for a guide to enter. It was amazing to wander among the vodou monuments and mausoleums.





After the cemetery we went to the Marche de Fer (Iron Market). This was a gorgeous Moorish-style market building. One side was filled with artists with paintings, wood carvings and metal work. The back corner held voudou altars and dolls. The quality of the work was simply amazing, but with prices to match.


Marche de Fer

Next we went to Atis Rezistans. These artists have taken trash and junk and made incredible statues and sculptures. A bit creepy and macabre, dolls with nails for mouths, a skull with lit-up eyes, etc. As we were leaving a girl said I should say hello to the owner of the gallery, who was on video chat on her phone.



Atis Rezistans

After the amazing stop at the artists, we next went to the Cathedral. The Cathedral was destroyed in the earthquake. They have since built a smaller, more utilitarian church beside it, and the Cathedral was all bricked up. There were still some shanty villages here.


It was starting to get dark so we headed back to the hotel where I had a relaxing dinner on the patio while drinking a Prestige beer. It felt like old-school New Orleans.
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Old Apr 7, 17, 10:25 pm   #3
  
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Beautiful!
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Old Apr 8, 17, 2:27 am   #4
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The cemetry is very special (totally interesting), the citadel looks beautiful
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Old Apr 8, 17, 10:16 am   #5
  
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Nice. I spent a day at Labadee. Some of the most friendly people I've ever met.
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Old Apr 8, 17, 10:47 am   #6
  
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The Citadelle looks very interesting and some amazing views.

The 'Batmobile' looks like quite a piece of art too.
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Old Apr 8, 17, 1:58 pm   #7
  
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Lovely report so far - I've done two weekends in Port-au-Price and fully enjoyed both. Wonderful place, not without many problems, but well-worthwhile.

I look forward to the rest!
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Old Apr 10, 17, 3:25 pm   #8
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Jan 28, 2017
Hotel: Hotel Oloffson; Port-au-Prince, Haiti; $95

Today the plan was to do a day trip to Jacmel on the southern coast. After breakfast, Jocelyn came by with the moto taxi and we set off for the minibus station. The station was chaotic but typical for minibus stations I'd seen around the world. Toyota Hi-Ace buses waiting to get enough passengers, with touts shouting out their destination. Meanwhile vendors wander around selling cold drinks, snacks, sunglasses, etc. The fare was only 200HTG for the 2+ hr ride to Jacmel. We soon had a quorum and set off about 9:30AM. And 1 person per seat so not overloaded like some places I've been.

Port-au-Prince minibus station

It was still early enough that traffic wasn't too bad yet on the way out of town. Passed a fish market as we headed west. Haiti unsurprisingly had a very African feel to it.. something like southern Benin/Togo. The road headed west before eventually turning south to cross the spine of the southern peninsula.




The minibus let us out a few kms north of Jacmel. We caught a moto taxi into town and walked around for awhile. Jacmel had some gorgeous (crumbling) old architecture. Back in the day it was a coffee and sugar trading port. It was the first town in the Caribbean to have electricity. The church and other buildings suffered damage from the 2010 earthquake.





Jacmel

The town is now known as an artist hub and some of the old mansions are now art galleries. I have to say the quality of painting and art I'd seen in Haiti so far is some of the best I've experienced anywhere. I ended up buying a painting for mrs hauteboy for $20.

We walked down to the corniche before catching the moto taxi again to go to Bassin-Bleu. This is a set of waterfalls and pools about 45 minutes west of Jacmel. There is a bridge across the river but our driver decided to drive through the river... managed not to get too wet! Once on the other side it was dirt road and hills the rest of the way. Some of them were quite steep and we had to get off the moto so the driver could make it up the hill!

At the village we had to pay a 100HTG entry fee, then were led to the pools by the 'guides'. Very lush and green and humid here as the trail led across the creek and up the hill to the first pool where locals were doing their laundry. It was a milky blue color which really stood out against the greenery. There was a short climb to the second pool. I was getting a bit hot and dehydrated, but luckily there was a local selling fresh coconut juice here. Delicious!


Bassin-Bleu

The final climb to the upper pool was OK until I got to the point where you have to use ropes to climb back down. I'm not very good with balance and the slope looked really steep (looked worse than it was). The guides kept convincing me to try and they'd help me down, eventually I relent and I'm glad I did. Had to take off my shoes here as the last bit was wading through the water, but the view once around the corner was amazing. Nestled between the cliffs was a turquoise lake fed by a 30' waterfall flowing over huge boulders.




I had brought my swim trunks so changed into them there and of course had a dip. The water was very refreshing! I was the only one there for a few minutes until some other tourists showed up.

Had a nice relaxing swim for awhile before climbing out. Getting back out was easier since you jump into the second pool and swim across.

That's when the guides want their 'tip'. I gave them a few hundred gourdes, but they wanted the equivalent of $20! Crazy when the entrance fee was only $1.50. I gave them 500 total in the end, still a lot.

We got back on the moto taxi, back across the river to the minibus depot and were on the road back to Port-au-Prince just after 3PM. Hit some pretty bad traffic on the way back into town.

It had been an exhausting day so I just ended up eating at the Oloffson again.
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Old Apr 11, 17, 5:36 am   #9
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Morbid charme....
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Old May 10, 17, 10:38 pm   #10
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Previous trip reports:

Here's links to some of my other trip blogs
2005
Peru/Ecuador[#49]/Galapagos: Boobies and Nazca Lines (Peru/Galapagos trip)
Mongolia[#52]/Caucasus: RTW via Mongolia, Moscow and Mtskheta

2007
Andaman Islands (India): Andaman Islands report (9W MAA-IXZ-MAA)
St Vincent [#68], Grenada, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana: The most dangerous city: a trip through the Guianas
North Korea[#76]: The (almost) last American in Pyongyang - Air Koryo trip

2008
Ethiopia[#78]: Ethiopia Adventure for $274.. IAD-ADD-LLI-BJR-ADD-IAD on Ethiopian Airlines
Central America: Honduras[#88], El Salvador, Nicaragua Central America overland: San Pedro Sula to Managua

2009
St. Petersburg, Baltics and Belarus[#94]: AA/BA/BT/OS: act-dfw-lhr-led/kgd-rix-msq-vie-fra-dfw-act: Pickpocketed in St. Pete!
Canadian Rockies: Riding the Rocky Rails : Luxury trip through the Canadian Rockies

2010
West Africa: Ghana, Benin [#102], Togo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire I thought shared taxis in West Africa were uncomfortable until I flew Air France
Guam, Palau [#111], Micronesia: The happy Isles of Oceania: island hopping the western Pacific

2011
Lebanon [#115], Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, Bangladesh: RTW trip on Royal Jordanian & Cathay Biz, Qatar Econ
Pakistan [#122], Afghanistan: Mistake fare to Kabul: AA/GF/PK IAH-DFW-LHR-BAH-LHE//ISB-KBL-BAH-LHR-ORD-IAH in Y

2012
Nigeria [#126], Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea: Africa calls me, a trip to Nigeria, Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea
Central Asia -stans, Iraq[#136], southern Balkans: Central Asia Stans and Iran (or not...), Iraq and the Balkans
Iran [#141], Turkey: Three days in Iran and an unexpected trip to Troy and Gallipoli

2013
Yemen [#142], Djibouti, Somaliland, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi: Horn of Africa: trip to Yemen, Socotra, Somaliland, and more
Saudi Arabia [#148], Eritrea: A trip to Saudi Arabia and Eritrea
Sudan [#150], Congos, Angola, Cape Verde, Sao Tome: Camels and an attempted Coup, FT does Congo and Angola

2014
Algeria [#156], Tunisia: Walk the Casbah, a trip to Tunisia&Algeria. AeroMexico 787 Y+J, TunisAir J
Fiji [#158], Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati: Cruising the South Pacific. a voyage to Kiribati, Fiji, Solomons, Vanuatu & PNG
Malta [#163]: Long Weekend in Malta. UA F, LH J, KM J
Lesotho [#164], South Africa, Swaziland: Lesotho, Swaziland and yet another coup...
Romania [#166], Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Okinawa: 9 days, 8 countries. RTW to Okinawa via Bucharest. KLM Y/J, AA F/J, JU Y, NH Y, OZ Y
Madagascar [#172], Mauritius, Reunion, Mayotte, Comoros: Island hopping the Indian Ocean:Madagascar, Mauritius & Comoros (AF/DL J, MK Y, UU Y)

2015
Chad [#176], Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Niger: Touring the Sahel. FT duo visits Chad, Mauritania, Senegal and Niger
Poland [#181], Ukraine: A long weekend in Chernobyl and Auschwitz
Moldova [#182], Transdniester, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia: Moldova, Transdneister, and a Balkan trifecta, or how I completed visiting Europe
Central African Republic [#186]: Bangui 'Do: A weekend in the Central African Republic
Courthouses of Texas: Paris and Pittsburgh. Texas that is. Visiting all 254 Texas county courthouses

2016
Gambia [#188], Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, South Sudan: Gambia, the Guineas, Sierra Leone, Liberia and ... Juba? FT trio tour West Africa
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil: Long weekend in Fernando de Noronha: AUS-FLL-VCP-REC-FEN Y JetBlue/Azul
Cuba: Sun, Sand, Rum and Rumba, family trip to Havana and Varadero via Monterrey
Samoa [#195], Tuvalu, Nauru: Samoa, Tuvalu & Nauru, island hopping the South Pacific. Completed #197 countries!
Channel Islands: Channel Island hopping: Alderney, Guernsey & Jersey AA Y/SK J/BA J/GR Y/BE Y
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Old May 14, 17, 7:52 pm   #11
  
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Missed this one while I was away. Great read, looks very much French African as you pointed out.

I've always been curious by POP, but now I realize there is much more.

Sort of a shame every driver and guide extorts every penny they can from tourists, but not surprising. Cheap destinations like this add up quick to become costly.

thanks for sharing.
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Old May 17, 17, 12:44 pm   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hauteboy View Post
They are decorated to the max with mirrors, pinwheels and pop-culture icons.
I LOVE the Miami Heat, LA Lakers, Kobe Bryant (?), New York Yankees, American Flag, Rick Ross motif .

Awesome TR, thanks for posting
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Old May 17, 17, 4:07 pm   #13
  
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Outstanding report! Been almost everywhere on earth there is to go and there is something about Haiti that is, spellbinding! It never leaves you!
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