Thursday, January 10, 2013
Hiking in Haiti - La Citadelle
La Citadelle and Sans-Souci – Milot, Haiti - 10/28/12 – 3 Miles
How did I jump from the Great Smoky Mountains to Haiti? Kind of a short story. My church put together a mission trip to Haiti and I joined in. One of the best leaps of faith I’ve ever taken.
Our group of two women and seven men flew from Charlotte to Cap-Haitien in northern Haiti to spend a week doing light construction work and helping with a food distribution program for the elderly in a remote part of the country. Life is so different there, each day felt like ten days, as every experience was unlike what happens in the U.S. Taking a (cold) outside shower meant hoping that the neighbors next door (the U.N.) haven’t accidentally shut off the electricity that pumps the water supply. Riding into town to buy food meant hopping on the back of an open flat bed truck and hanging on for dear life, exchanging money, negotiating to buy bags of rice or beans in a marketplace filled with sights, sounds, smells you don’t encounter at your local grocery store. Going for a walk along the road brought us into contact with the family cows being walked home for the night, motorcycles with five people hanging on (including little kids), passing cemeteries with above-ground crypts with burnt chicken parts on top. There is an order amidst the chaos, much poverty, and abundant grace.
Our group put together a video of our experiences in Haiti that you can see here. It is worth the 12 minutes. You should be able to recognize me – the one with the white skin and white hair. I’m sure some of the Haitians thought I was albino.
After a rousing worship service on our Sunday there, we spent the afternoon exploring La Citadelle, a mighty fortress high on a mountain outside the remote town of Milot. After driving several miles up the mountain on a restored stone-and-concrete road, we parked our truck, navigated through the Haitians selling souvenirs and offering to be tour guides, and walked the last couple of miles.
Our trusted transpor- tation for the week
Lush Haitian countryside
Walking up the mountain with lots of enthus- iastic “guides” who would not take no for an answer. Eventually I gave in and chatted with the two who had singled me out, flanking me like bodyguards. They were very nice teenage boys, this is the only way they have of earning money, and they’ve picked up several languages. Interestingly, they are not allowed inside the fortress. It’s not exactly open to the public.
Banana trees everywhere
A guard station on the road up to the fortress (I think). See the sharp mountains in the center back- ground? On the other side of them is the town of Milot, where we spent most of our time.
Our translator/ guide/ friend Jacqueline (on the left) gave us a personal tour of the interior of La Citadelle. Don’t know how he got the keys.
La Citadelle was fortified with 350 cannons, never actually used.
Like I said, it’s technically not open to the public. A few safety issues need to be addressed.
Looking 300 feet straight down.
Piles of cannonballs – too heavy to be souvenirs – not like picking up rocks on the trail.
Framed view of the mountains
A bird’s eye view
About as high as we could get
Piles of cannonballs in the lower right
After La Citadelle we walked back down to our truck (passing through the vendors again) and drove back down and around the mountains to Milot. At the edge of town sits
The remains of the front gardens and buildings
Looking through a doorway at the town of Milot
A Catholic church and the town of Milot at the bottom of the curved roadway behind the palace