U.S. Travel: Traveling in the U.S. this past summer we remarked how predictable everything was, even from State to State. There were a few exceptions, but by and large there was a McDonalds and a Holiday Inn Express every thirty miles or so!
Haiti Travel: We took a road trip through Haiti before our U.S. trip and we had the opposite experience. Here, we usually try to pack food to eat since fast food is a rarity…unless you want to take a chance with something being cooked along the street. On this trip we discovered that new gas stations can be an option for “fast food” or restrooms, but that you can also drive for hours and hours before finding one of those.
Five hours into our trip to northern Haiti and the Dominican Republic, we found a place by a gas station that would heat up frozen pizzas. It ended up being a very long wait as the oven heated very unevenly! But back on our way, we counted our blessings as we devoured pizza! On the return trip we had visions of pizza in our heads again, but when we finally arrived at the same place, it was closed for inventory!
Since we were traveling through unfamiliar territory and there are few road signs, we needed our GPS. The highways pass through every town and we found out that the main route can turn abruptly without signs to alert you. Consequently, when we were driving through Gonaives, without warning we suddenly found ourselves buried right in the middle of a market! It took a few tight turns and a review of GPS (We were feeling very disoriented) to get our bearings and get back on the right route!
The next thing is the amount of unpaved and unrepaired roads one has to endure. After eleven hours of bouncing around in the back, one of our kids actually jumped out screaming! Luckily, at that point we were home… Riding in the front seat is the lap of luxury as far as bumps and air conditioning go. We tried to take turns because sitting in the front is much better than the back.
Finally, there is the element of surprise that comes with traveling in Haiti. (We know it is like this in other parts of the world too.) Roadblocks occur in and nearby major cities. Coming through Port-au-Prince on the way back we could see up ahead that the road is totally filled with people, and now the people are running in our direction as tear gas starts flying! We have to quickly turn around and back-track with the fleeing mob…
Most towns have Market Day on Saturday as well as one other day of the week. You have to learn which towns to avoid on which day! Once we were in the mountains and came upon a small village Market Day. We knew what was coming because for a long ways we first passed all the donkeys “parallel parked” on each side of the road! Since they were not expecting a vehicle to come through their town, they had to move tables and produce piled on the ground for us to drive through!
They tell us if you want to understand the Haitian culture, it is somewhat like Haitian driving. You never stop, you just maneuver your way around everything and everybody. There are no hard and fast rules; you take it as it comes and everything is negotiable. If there is a will, there is a way! That must be why they keep coming back up each time they get knocked down.