The images gathered here were taken during a trip through Haiti, from Port-au-Prince to the coastal town of Port Salut. It's not an easy country to navigate, but the trip was made possible by a friend's father, who was born and raised in Croix-du-Bouquets, and made the perfect guide to take us through the winding Haitian streets.
The photographs offer a glimpse of that world. Crowded street markets, chaotic roadways, pristine beach resorts and everything in between presented opportunities to experience this country the way Haitians do; one day at a time.
There is no time to adjust to the way of life in Haiti. From the moment we pass through customs at the airport, we are thrust into a crowd of people offering their services; to carry our bags, taxi us to our destination, or give us a place to stay. There is a bit of a laissez-faire attitude down here when it comes to commerce. It's chaotic, but a disinterested hand wave parts the crowds so we can see where you are going. It is significantly harder to part the traffic we are about to encounter.
The streets of Port-au-Prince are filled with cars, buses and bright multi-coloured pick-up trucks that serve as the public transportation for the city. Passengers, somehow able to discern where a particular truck is going, cram into the bed of the truck, and pass money up to the driver. Street markets create narrow roadways and nearly constant obstacles as people and animals cross from one side of the street to another. Motorbikes are popular for their ease of navigating these hazards.
Once we leave the city, driving gets a bit easier but we are still in store for four hours of potholes, mountain roads, and street markets each time we enter a new town. Worst of all, unannounced speed bumps, known in creole as police couche, or 'sleeping policemen,' are laid down sporadically along the road, much less a deterrent to speeding as they are a punishment to those who do.
Since each car seems to be driving at its own speed limit, we are often passing slower cars then quickly veering back to the right lane to avoid oncoming traffic. This can be either a terrifying experience or a thrill ride depending on how much trust you put in your driver. Many passengers hang off the back of buses and trucks, some holding on with only one hand. The expressionless calm on their faces reminds us that this is a daily routine for them. It comforts us a bit. But not enough to put us at ease.
Our destination is Port Salut, a small beach community on the southwestern coast of Haiti. The contrast from urban life is immediately noticeable. Palm trees shade the white beaches along the waters. An outdoor bar along the shore serves as the perfect venue for long hours of card games and sunbathing. Surrounding the shoreline is a stretch of mountains accessible by dirt roads and lined with small homes of local farmers and their families. A short drive away there is a waterfall where locals will offer to retrieve and cut coconuts for you for a small fee. There you can also swim, or for the more adventurous, jump into the 25-foot cascade into the natural pool below.
In the late afternoon we travel down the road to the old remains of a since-relocated primary school located on a hillside overlooking the Caribbean Sea. About 20 children, ranging from as young as five or six into the mid-teens are all hanging around in a quad behind the school. We step out of the car and toss a football into the air towards them. Within seconds and without any discussion, a game starts.
A few of us join - and are immediately made aware of our inferior skills - while others watch and take in the beauty of this sunset match along the sea. After a while one of our team members subs out, a decision that is met by the local kids with ridicule at how quickly the 'blanc' got tired. Eventually, we decide to head back to the hotel and tell the kids they can keep the ball.
The next morning we set out on a 40-minute drive to catch a boat that would take us out to an island called Île-à-Vache. We stand in a line of about 35 people, and watch a vessel pull up and think to ourselves, 'Well that boat can only fit about 10 people,' and then we hear someone yell, 'Everyone on!'
After surviving the trip, we spend the afternoon at Abaka Bay, a resort CNN ranked as one of the top 100 most beautiful beaches in the world. We were not disappointed. The entire day is spent floating in the salty Caribbean and drinking Prestige's on the beach. The only thing to worry about here is getting too much sun.
Haiti is attempting to shed its current image and boost its economy through a rise in tourism. Areas like Port Salut and Île-à-Vache are keys to attracting foreigners to Haiti. Though it does take someone with a bit of a desire for cultural immersion - and possibly some Dramamine for the car rides - this island should not be overlooked when booking your next tropical getaway.