A Day on Mainland Haiti
04 March 2014 | Ile A Vache, Haiti
We spent some time yesterday afternoon with the British couple on the next boat. He had hired a boat boy, McKinley, to take him to the Immigration office on the Haitian mainland at Les Cayes . We weren't sure we were going to check in and get our passports stamped in Haiti because it has a negative connotation going into the next country. It is possible to get away with it because we are on an island off of the mainland and will not be taking the boat anywhere else in Haiti. After some consideration we decided the right thing to do was to check in. So we also hired McKinley to take us over to Les Cayes and help us get checked in. He told us last night the water taxi would come pick us up at our boat between 8:00am and 9:00am. In the Bahamas that probably meant 9:30am but here in Haiti it meant 7:45am. We were not quite ready but we got ready real quick. We had heard about the water taxi ride from our friend so we weren't surprised when they pulled out a tarp and everyone held it over their head to keep the spray off of them. It was almost an hour ride across the water on an open boat, sitting on a wooden bench. We were disappointed when we found out we would be going to a dock because that was not the experience our friend had. It was a high dock and I had to climb on to a tire and then have someone on the dock grab my hands and pull me up. You learn to live with that when you have short legs! On the way back though we did have the experience we were expecting. Normally they can't bring the water taxis up to the dock. They bring them in as close as you can get, you transfer to another boat with no engine, just a stick to push it through the water, which also can't get all the way to the land, and then a young man comes out and you climb on his back for him to carry you the rest of the way. They don't just do this for women! Everyone climbs on his back! If you look at the picture above carefully you will see what I mean. In the center of the picture I am on the guy's back. He is carrying me to the first boat with no engine that will take us out to one of the water taxis out further, the ones with the engines on them. Our guide McKinley is also in the picture, he is the one with the ear buds on in the front of the picture. He was next to climb on the guy's back.
We had a very interesting day in Les Cayes. We were not successful in checking in to Haiti though. This is Carnival week and the Immigration office was closed until Thursday. Well, we tried, we are not going to go back and try again. Instead we spent the morning walking around the town and seeing how these people live. Everything you hear about Haiti is true. The streets are fairly dirty with trash and dirty water in the gutters. They sell everything you can imagine in small shops or just out on the street. There was one street that just had cell phones and their accessories. Everyone seems to have a cell phone despite how poor they may be. There are all these women walking around with some sort of bucket of interesting snack foods on their head. It's amazing what they can carry up there. We went to a large market area where they had all different kinds of food for sale, some we could even identify. They weren't too friendly to us there. We were very glad we brought a guide. There is no way we would have been able to negotiate our way around without him. He made sure we didn't get cheated and told us when to not buy something from someone. There are money changers on the street too. The money here is called gourdes. We made a mistake and didn't let McKinley change our US money into gourdes for us the first time. We ended up getting a very poor exchange rate. After we figured that out we let him handle all the money transactions for us.
We took McKinley to lunch since the water taxi didn't go back to Ile a Vache until after 1:00pm. He found a nice sit down restaurant and we had a decent meal with the main course, plantains, rice and sauce and French fries. We weren't too upset we weren't successful with Immigration, it turned out we had a very interesting day anyhow.
We went visiting a couple of the cruising boats when we got back to Ile a Vache. Tomorrow the boat boys we hired are coming to do some work on the boat and then we think we are having dinner at McKinley's mothers' house with our British friends. Besides the hotel here there are no other restaurants. We are sure it will be an experience.