A few days after arriving in the Dominican Republic, on my recent trip, I felt a sudden urge to visit Haiti. It was right there, after all. Especially when I was in a village near Mao, just one hour or so from the border.
It was mostly one place that I was interested in, up north—a citadel called Citadelle Laferrière. It’s a large mountaintop fortress near the city of Cap-Haïtien (built between 1805 and 1820). It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which many say is a must-see. There’s also the nearby Sans-Souci Palace, which was the royal residence of King Henri I of Haiti.
And I wanted to go. I really did.
So did my Dominican friend Ely. Her mom also considered joining us. It sounded like a really cool road trip—and one we were gearing up for.
But we didn’t go. Here’s why:
Transportation Options Got Complicated
But when I started to look into it, the trip seemed less straightforward than I thought. Each time I called Caribe Tours, the bus company that has service between Santiago and Cap-Haïtien, I got conflicting information. When Ely called, she had the same experience.
She then offered to drive us there in her 4-wheel drive vehicle. It was tempting, but I was against the idea since we had no idea what to expect on the other side of the border. We might have spent a night in a large city and I didn’t have a clear idea re: parking and safety. While there are some obvious advantages to having one’s own vehicle, I also saw some disadvantages.
The Weather Got Crappy
While we were considering this trip, the weather was fine. Then, all of a sudden, it got cloudy and began to rain. I was shocked. I thought the weather was pretty much perfect in the DR. Wrong. When we checked the forecast for Northern Haiti, it was pretty much the same. This made the journey much less appealing.
I Really Liked the DR and Its Off-the-Beaten-Path Options
Then, after being in the Dominican Republic for several days, I realized that there was a lot to do—and quite a bit of it off the beaten path. When Ely and I saw the weather forecast, we decided to head to the rugged Southwest. I knew adventure awaited us there and decided that would probably be enough. For this trip, anyway.
I Wasn’t Psychologically Prepared
I remember posting on Facebook that I was considering a trip to Haiti and another traveler I know wrote me privately. “Are you psychologically prepared for Haiti? It’s pretty intense.” Although I imagined it might be, I hadn’t really given it a lot of thought. When I did, I did, I realized that I wasn’t.
Didn’t Have All the Immunizations I Needed
Sure, I’m up to date on my Hep A shot, but Hep B and others, I haven’t gotten for a while. Actually, I tend to blow the Hep B series (I wait too long and then can’t complete it). Anyway, getting some shots might have been a good idea for Haiti.
Haiti Seemed to Deserve Its Own Trip—at a Later Date
I think there’s a lot to do in Haiti—and that it would require some planning. I’d want to have certain things in place before going. I’m not sure I’d want to be as spontaneous there as I’ve been in other countries.
I Felt Slightly Intimidated
To be perfectly honest, as much as I’d love to go to Haiti, the thought of it was (and still is) a tiny bit intimidating. The country has obviously had its share of problems and I didn’t quite have a clear sense of what it would be like there.
(In the photo above, I’m posing with some Dominican municipal police and officials in Mao Valverde, a town I visited. My friend and I went there for a consultation of sorts–to learn more about the border crossing. The advice we were given was–“Go ahead…just be careful on the other side.” The men were super helpful, by the way. )
Note: I have some ESL students from Haiti and when I told them I didn’t go, they seemed relieved. Despite all of this, I still do want to go to Haiti–and have a feeling I will make the trip. But not just yet. When it’s the right time and I’m ready.
Would you have found a way to make this trip happen? Or would you have let it go as I did, with a possible plan in mind for later? Why/why not?
Would you consider a trip to Haiti? Or does it seem a little intimidating in some way?
Have you been to Haiti? If so, please tell me/us what it was like and share any links to posts you’ve written about where you went/how to do it. Thanks!
Want to See Photos of the Haitian Border?
PS: I have some very interesting photos from my visit to the Haiti border–in the southwestern part of the DR. Perdernales. A very off-the-beaten path location that few make it to. Would you like to see those photos? I may do a photo essay sometime soon.
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