This is part of the ninth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Dominican Republic
22/4/03 The one hour time difference had us waiting on the Haitian side for 30 minutes before their border opened at 8 am local time. Again no problems with immigration, small payment for visa form ($US 0.60) and five minutes. Police issued us a permit for the motorcycle and asked for $US 10.00 for processing which we declined to pay as no receipt would have been issued. We collected our papers and left without problems. Despite Haiti's economy being quite weak there are a few H-D motorcycles in the country and two of their riders arranged to meet us at the border. Cito, Philippe and Francois (on an off road bike) welcomed us and rode us to Port au Prince for a drink at the Hyundai dealership where Cito works. Jim hitched a ride with Philippe and was offered Cito's 1971 H-D shovel to ride for the two days we would be in Haiti. Unfortunately, as shovels will, it played up soon after leaving and we had to return it with Jim catching a bus to Jacmel after us all lunching with Francois. Clearing the bedlam traffic in the city and its suburbs took some time, moving slowly, bumper to bumper, in the heat and fumes but once clear opened up into a good road which was even better after the turn off to Jacmel and up over the mountain pass in cool cloud and fog before descending to the coast. We were stopped by police once and asked for papers, then a bribe, easily deflected, but not before heated words and a firm stance.
23/4/03 Haiti is famous for being the only country in the world to achieve a successful slave revolt. 200 years ago it became the second independent country in the Western Hemisphere after the U.S.A. It's also famous for its development of the African based worshipping of Voodoo. It is believed that 90% of the country practices some form of Voodoo often in association with other more recognized religions. Mambo Kathy, a middle aged white American woman took up the religion more than a decade ago and now practices in Jacmel and does special services in the U.S.A. Her mix of worshipers is of locals and Americans and today she was having a ceremony to aid in the peaceful death of one of her American followers who is terminally ill. A small band of ten initiates sang and danced drinking small potions of prepared alcohol and herbs till one became tranced and possessed by his "Loa", his other person. While he was in this state he killed two sacrificial goats, cutting their throats with a knife, left to die on the temple floor, before being taken away and prepared for the evening meal and service. This all happened in the morning and we departed to visit the beaches to the east and enjoy the local seafood. Lambi is the conch shell meat and has been enjoyed by locals all through the Caribbean islands. Not unlike octopus or squid this almost tasteless rubbery flesh a bit bland. We were back at Mambo Kathy's congregation for the evening ceremony which initially followed the same format as the mornings, however Kathy herself called on her "Loa", a male, using sexual references and gestures excited the followers. The cooked goat was passed around with some rum and spiced alcohol with the five westerners participating in the final dance. A true possession of the body by another spirit or a piece of play acting will be debated by the devotee and the sceptic. A form of evening entertainment to get away from the drudgery of normal life where one can act out fantasies under the guise of an invading spirit, or a religion, recently officially recognized by the Haitian Government. Does it really matter as long as the participants are happy in this poorest of Western Hemisphere nations.
24/4/03 Unfortunately we only planned a couple of days in Haiti and now would like to have stayed longer. Despite the poverty and the constant misunderstanding of prices, intentional or otherwise, that we experienced, the happy faces and depth of culture warrants more time. We rode out this morning taking our time to the border while Jim unfortunately had to catch a series of three busses after being awake half the night disposing of yesterdays lobster lunch, we realize now obviously not too freshly cooked. The ride uneventful contrasting with lovely mountains to a beautiful lake and passing the squalor of the shanty town down in the port area in Port au Prince. $US 10.00 customs charge each (with official receipt) and we left the country without problems.
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