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The Republic of Haiti is found on the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. It covers 27,750 km2 of the island and is the home of almost eleven million people. 95% of these are Black Haitian, 87% Christians. Columbus got here in 1492, and actually ran his ship on ground, forcing him to create the first European settlement in the Americas, naming it La Navidad - after the day he crashed. It was pinched by the French in early 17th century, and during Bonaparte's wars, the local revolted and formed the sovereign state of Haiti on 1 January 1804.
The climate is tropical, but due to the mountains (up to 2.680 metres), here are colder areas as well. There are nine life zones, from low desert to high cloud forests, as well as four mountain ranges, and hundreds of rivers and streams and the coral reefs in the seas that surround the islands. That is the perfect setting for a vide range of plant and animal species. Beside from the rich marine life, here are around 5.600 plant species of which 36% are considered as endemic to the island. The nation has 300 orchids and 600 fern species.
Among the many mammals that once was found here, the Hispaniolan solenodon; Solenodon paradoxus, kind of a giant mouse is one of the few surviving - and only barely. The birds are doing a bit better with around 300 species.
The road from the airport to the hotel is dominated by concrete blocks, piles of trash, burning tires, gatherings of people and general misery. I can't find the hotel, but I manages to get them by phone, and they pick me up. Really nice people, who tells me Haiti have been exploiting in violence the last 14 days. Gas stations - and everything else, is closed, so are all the roads out of the city. Not exactly what I had planned!
The lovely people I am staying at, offers me food, and
will try to help me getting out of the city and obtain cash. I try to find a
flight out of the country in the morning, but fails. I might end up inside
her for a week, but I can't figure; how I get cash to buy back my passport.
I really don't sleep well, but I don't come up with any great solutions
either. I fail to find any flights out of here, but at least, it sound quiet
outside in the morning. The internet is working, and I find the contact
information for the Danish Consulate (and Canadian embassy, down the road), and write the
consul an e-mail, asking for advises.
It seems like it is a quiet Saturday in Port au Prince, and my host offers me a tour around to find cash, and a friend of him joins in. Some of the ATMs have 30 people waiting, but further out of town, less people await their turn. Then it turns out, I only can withdraw 5.000 Gourdes a day AND 10.000 Gourdes a month. Around US$ 60 a day and $120 a month. Less than I need to buy back my passport and pay for the room and food for sure! The situation is a bit stressed by now.
The gas stations are closed - real closed with huge metal closets around the stands. Roomers have it; they might open later. In some squares, a lot of paintings are displayed, but it can't be for the tourists, as I'm the only one in the country by now.
We have driven out to the mountains in the outskirts of town in the search of cash, and my host offers me a scenic tour, while we are out here. It seems to be a quiet day, and a great idea. Here are still the traces of road blocks, but else, it is a normal Saturday - all though real quiet, especially down-town.
The higher we drive, the bigger and more walled in the houses are. The president's and former president's houses no exception. We pass a few villages, where the market take up most of the central part of town. The nature seems quite green, and a few goats are shepparded around the side of the road.
We reach a peak with a great view over Port au Prince, way down in the mist. Here are several stands with rather eager souvenir sellers - poor guys! We head back, and head up another mountain. More lively villages with lot of farm products, well dressed people and lots of mopeds.
We reach the pine forests on the peak and Fort Jacques; a French fortress. It is closed due to the earth shake last year, but we make a walk around it. Here are a few Begonias and strangely enough some Garden Nasturtium; Tropaeolum majus, which must be brought here by the French. Several eager guides offers the tour around - man, they must be desperate!
As we head down again, me meet a line of cars - or actually three lines in the narrow road. It seems like a gas station have opened, and the interest is immense. Lots of cars and even more mopeds with several guys on, all holding 20l yellow containers - or whatever you can fill gas in.
I have not been drinking anything the entire day, and
find some sodas for us. Unfortunately, it is too late, and I get a
heat-stroke. Finally, we make it back to town, and I offer a lunch at any
place, accepting credit card. I feel even worse while we wait for the food,
and end up getting it in doggy-bags.
17. I feel much better, and real hungry. Again, my hosts sleep to real late, but I have some quite dead Cesar salad from yesterday. I do last nights work, and when my host appears, I get him to call the car rental office. They agree to take back the car, and only charge me for three days. Going down the the centre to see the things there, is out of the question, as the government offices are here, and the epic centre for the demonstrations. I don't dear going out of town either, as the roads can be blocked at any given time. Now, I can at least walk the eleven kilometres to the airport.
do some driving around the most of the outer Port au Prince to find gas, but they only
have diesel. There are massive lines for that and cooking gas. Besides from
that, it seems like a nice Sunday, but they use to be: You can't demonstrate
while you are in church. The car is running on fumes by now, and we return
for my host's car.
They car-guys are a bit disappointed, I haven't gassed the car, but I mainly spend the gas looking for an ATM to pay them, despite they said they took credit card. I end up paying US$297, and to my relief; on my Visa card. I hope to get the US$355 back from the Budget car, I didn't get. Anyway; It have been some expensive 100 kilometres!
On the way back, we actually find a gas station with gas,
and a surprisingly short line. I pay for a full tank on my host's car,
hoping for a lift or two in the coming days. We see the remains of a lot of
road blockings around the town, and it seems like every old tire in the
country have been burned by now. They might call off the demonstrations till
they get new ones imported?
Besides from the gas, I also offer to go shopping in the supermarket; whatever they want, as long as I can pay by card. It is the least I can do, considering they will have to feed me for a week. I just hope it is only for a week, and my flight actually will departure as planned. It is said the roads to the Dominican Republic border still are closed.
Shopping food here is even more expensive than in Denmark! Around twice the prices, as most are imported, even the letish, which are Californian. But the big supermarket is quite full, and pretty much what I find at home. I get a nice dish, when we get home, and then my hosts leave for the evening. I wished I had internet or another way of entertaining myself. All I can come up with is reading (much needed) corrections on my diaries. Still Port au Prince.
18. At least, I have my own breakfast now, but
entertaining is a bit hard. I can't even get the internet to work. Within
long, I am ready to explore the
neighbourhood. It seems like a quiet day, but the area is fare from
interesting. It is only domestically houses with tall walls around. My host
is told not to come to work anyway, and I join him at the search for cooking
I get a call from the closest Danish ambassador - in Mexico, and assure him, I feel fine and safe. I have sorted out my passport and financial problems, and the word on the street is: The president have given quite some concessions and promises.
Our friend offers me to do a walk in the hills, and we
spend a hour in the steep streets with the tall walls, nice looking houses
and great views to the valley. Back again, I make some pasta with a
bean-sauce, which actually turns out surprisingly good, considering I didn't
know the ingredients. Besides from the beans, I roasted two small onions,
added three Smiling Cows, Italian herb mix, some pre-mix tomatoes sauce,
some other spices and pepper and other stuff that looked good. Could have
done with some fresh vegetables....
At five, I'm really restless, and head out for a walk in
the neighbourhood. My plan was a stroll around the block, but after
seeing the side alleys, I remain on the main road. I reach the bus station -
where the small pick-ups are lined up along the road.
Time to start on Diary 2 - and still Port au Prince, I'm afraid.