Tracking Ed Monroe as he travels to Haiti and other exotic(?) places
Thursday, February 16, 2006
I just wish you could have seen this yourself
Today was spectacular. It is very hard to put into words what we have seen. If one were to go to any of the travel guide books and look up Jacmel, Haiti you would read about a waterfall. Well today, we got to go there and again, words do not describe it. We drove through Jacmel to the west side of town and took a sharp left turn to cross the far end of the city dump. Next we encountered a river bed where hundreds of people were washing clothes and themselves in the “clean, clear water.” We forded that small river, water up to the tires, and climbed the river bank. Mind you our truck had 5 people inside and 6 on the outside. Next we encounter a road (?) that had ruts that could swallow a small car and ruts filled with mud and water. The 4 wheel drive held on and we went really slow as we bounced from side to side and up and down. This went on for about a mile and we cam upon a rocky steep trail that seemed to go straight up. We passed huts, through a small town with about 20 stone huts and continued up the mountain. I estimate that we reached an altitude of 15, 000 feet and a spectacular view of Jacmel harbor from the west side awaited us. Of course we were cheered along the way by several small children in various stages of undress who shouted “ Blanc, Blanc.” Next we took a sharp right, on this unmarked route and began again to climb another mountain. This whole trip from town to the destination was about 5 miles but it took about 1 hour. We arrived at a series of houses and were greeted by about 30 people anxious to assist us, for money, of course. We got out of the truck and followed them on a trail, if you could call it that, about one mile. Along this way we crossed 3 streams, with slippery rocks, and lots of rock climbs and hills. How old am I? And what have I gotten myself into now? After climbing over the last 5 foot rock we stopped and were told to take off our shoes. We had been advised to wear tennis shoes. Here we are at the ROPE. Okay, the drill is to hang on to this rope and rappel down. You have to be kidding me!. No, I am not. Luckily there are hand holds cut in the rock for feet and hands and there is someone behind the women (discrimination) as they descend. Now it is another trail and it is slick with wet moss and some drop offs and a big hill to climb. Where oh where did my breath go? I am getting winded! Only for a while as we are now at this pool of rushing water at the destination. The walls are about 8 to 10 stories high and were cut out of this volcanic rock by the water from a spring higher on the mountain. The opening is about 30 foot wide and the water races down the far side. The Haitians urge us to ford the small pond. We get there by swimming, of course, and climb up on this large rock in the middle of the small lagoon. The water is cool but not cold and very refreshing. We get on the rock and there is the 75 foot deep pool. Some of the brave souls swim to the waterfall and climb along it. There are 3 levels, one under the falls, and another about 10 feet above with a rocky overlook and about 30 feet higher and another point from which to dive in. Me? I took pictures for awhile till Donna’s camera ran out of digital memory. I should have checked it before we left the clinic. I have a 1 Gb card that is blank to put in to it. Again, several brave souls choose to dive off the two lower perches and we witnessed one Haitian dive from the highest perch. I was talked into the water and enjoyed myself. Donna was in heaven with swimming around and we constantly had to warn her to clear out of the diver’s way. Another Blanc joined us and we spoke briefly. He had a French accent to his English so I suspect he was from Montreal, Canada. Now it is time to go back and we are helped along the way by Haitians. They make sure we do not slip & fall. It was harder going back that coming and again I had problems catching my breath. Fortunately there were others behind me in case I was unable to make it, but I managed to complete the trip, The Haitians, of course, asked for money and we told them that Boyer, our man translator, would be paying them. That was a free-for-all when he pulled out the cash and we reloaded the truck for the return trip. On the way back, the view was again wonderful and glorious. When we got to the river bed, we encountered a large truck that was stuck in the muddy hole in the middle of the road and we could not get passed it. So we backed up and found another road to town. This time, we are in the middle of the city dump. Can you imagine the smell of burning garbage? Can you picture people living here? Going here for water? Bathing and washing clothes in the water? Imagine the types of strictures they call home. I can’t begin to describe them. But through them we pass and into the city of Jacmel on the poor side of town. We are in the area where the Sisters of Charity, Mother Theresa’s sisters, hospital is located but we did not pass by it. As we get to the middle of Jacmel, there is a Caterpillar road grader and a large Cat end loader blocking the main road. This is road construction, Haitian style. So we have to detour, no signs to assist, through back allies to get back on the road to Cyvadier. We were very fortunate as very few teams have been able to have this experience. So here we are, back at the clinic and checking emails and conditions in Haiti. It still looks like we will leave, some on Saturday, and the rest on Sunday if American flies as indicated. We are now, officially short on water so laundry is banned, flushing is for condition brown only, hand washing of clothes with bottled water the only way to get clean underwear, etc. Food is another issue. I found last night’s rice dish wonderful but others are tiring of rice. Magazine ads with steaks and other American dishes are posted all over the kitchen. The game of Uno Hearts has finally been learned and the card games are boisterous. As I write this, the TV is on the third movie in a row to pass the time and I am enjoying a book a day. Sunrises are still spectacular and the full moon rises about 8 PM and is still visible at 5 AM. We still have microwave popcorn and oatmeal left. It has been said that we are the 2006 version of Gilligan’s Island. That may be close to the truth. Rene Preval has been declared President and there is celebration, not riots in P-A-P. That is good news. Otherwise we sit and wait. We hope that you are not too worried about us. We are safe, as for sound, you know that is debatable.. You already figured we were not of sound mind to travel to Haiti during and election. Thank you for your emails of prayers and support. They mean a lot to all of us. Please keep it up. We hear that there is a 9” snow storm to greet us on Sunday night when we reach O’Hare. We needed a topper.