Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Guest house review – O-Zone in Furcy

Morning coffee
Recently I stayed a Saturday night in January 2018 at O-Zone to take my university students to Wynne Farm for the day.  The best thing about O-Zone is that it is up at 4500 ft. in the pine trees and running the entire length of the lodge is a balcony with great views of the forest and excellent birding in the morning.  I saw many species while just sitting and enjoying my morning coffee.  O-Zone is not for the traveler who needs privacy and fancy accommodations (anything more than a bed and shower, and food).  It is more like camping, and there was even a group who pitched their tents on the balcony.  My group of 12 took 4 rooms, and the other 3 rooms were also occupied

If you come prepared to relax for a day up in the trees, need a staging place for hiking, and come prepared for the accommodations and atmosphere with adventure, then you will enjoy it.  Here is what you’ll get:

The rooms are tiny with bunk beds that have pillows, thin blankets, and a comforter.  There are rooms that sleep 1 or 2, and 4 or 5.  All open into the balcony.  There is one room called the Tree House that is elevated and has a large bed and attached bathroom.  If you come in January you must bring a lot of warm clothes for sleeping!  The temperature at night was 55F and with the fog rolling in we were quite cold.  The rooms are airy with open ceiling and boards for walls, so will not protect you from the cold, or music or light, so bring earplugs and eye covers if you need quiet and dark.  You can hear everything going on in the other rooms and balcony/lobby/bar area.  The music was loud, a drunk guy came in from the street, and during the night someone threw rocks on the roof.  It was a Saturday night.

The bathroom, attached to the room with door, has a toilet, sink, and shower (super cold water in January!).  No towels or toiletries are provided other than toilet paper.  Unfortunately our toilet tank wouldn’t fill so we had to bucket flush.  The floor of the room and bathroom is dirt with rocks and some boards to stand on, so bring flipflops if you shower.  There is a common bathroom off of the lobby if you need more privacy.

If you are on a time schedule, order your food and rides an hour ahead of when you really need them.  O-Zone provided a truck to take us to Wynne Farm.  O-Zone has a decent lunch and dinner menu with salads, chicken, rice etc. but of course not everything on the menu is available.  Tell them if you are vegetarian – they made a salad for me without chicken.  We laughed at the ice in our juice because we were all really cold by the time dinner was served.  They gave us Haitian spaghetti for breakfast, with chicken sauce to pour over.  Coffee was provided.  There is a small bar.

My arrangements were made by Jacqui Lebrom with Voyages Lumiere, so I wasn’t in charge of negotiating a price, which was quoted at a discounted rate of $70 per person that supposedly included 4 meals (breakfast, lunch we weren’t there for, dinner, and hot chocolate that we never saw).  Jacqui was wonderful in arranging logistics for a field trip for my university ecology class (traveling 6 hours from the Central Plateau to Wynne Farm, with stops in Port au Prince), so any frustration I had with O-Zone was no reflection on her.  The Bradt Haiti travel guide gives O-Zone one $ for price.  It also gives several beach hotels where I’ve stayed $$ and $$$ and they cost just a little more and had far superior service and accommodations, so maybe there is room for a lot of negotiation with O-Zone.

Adjust your expectations, bring warm clothes and ear plugs, and enjoy the birds and view from O-Zone.
The Tree House room

Inside the Tree House

Campers on the balcony. Rooms are in the background.

View from below.

Evening entertainment

Tree House visible above, with lodge below.

Black-throated blue warbler on the balcony.

At the big white church in Furcy turn left to take the road down to the O-Zone gate.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Navigating the Port au Prince airport

The PurJus stand
With only carry-on and my boarding pass printed at home, I made it through the airport in record time, from curb drop-off to American Airlines waiting area in only 10 minutes. Just walk in the front doors and keep to the left to get through security. A guy at the curb wanting to help me told me the line was very long, pointing to the line of people who were outside waiting for rides or something, not waiting to get into the airport.  There were only 3 people in front of me at both security check points, and an immigration booth was open when I got through first security point.  With time to spare I enjoyed a passion fruit-ginger juice and a spinach pate at the PurJus stand in the upstairs waiting area. The fresh juice was well worth $8US (bottled drinks cost just as much in the Miami airport).  Don't miss the Rebo stand for coffee and hot chocolate croissant!

Spinach pate and a juice

The Bon Voyage menu

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Bird lessons at the new UCC preschool

UCC in Caiman opened a preschool in Bohoc by the market, so the little kids don’t have to walk so far.  I took me 35 minutes to walk to this school from Caiman.  My translator Louiders and I had a 15 minute program for each class, PSI, PSII, and PSIII.  We taught the parts of the birds by having kids act them out, pretending they had beaks, wings, and tails.  As the kids age additional grades will be added to the school.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The paving of Route Nationale #3

Facing west, in the direction of Pignon.
In 2008 when I first came to Caiman I flew from Port au Prince on MAF, since the 65 mile drive took 8 hrs.  By the time I started teaching at the university in Caiman in 2014, Route Nationale #3 was paved from Port to Hinche, so the trip took only 4 hrs.  The road had also been graded all the way to Pignon, as the plan had to be to pave it that far, but the money disappeared as it tends to do in Haiti.  Over the years the road deteriorated to the point that the 8 mile trip to Pignon took ½ hr.  Now (2017) the road is graded again in preparation for paving, and only takes 10 minutes (and now a good restaurant is there!).  The road crew is already putting in three bridges between Hinche and Bohoc.  Here are pictures of the one just to the west of the Bohoc market, along with a before photo showing the pedestrian crossing.
Facing east, toward the market.

Nov. 2014

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Chalydath Resto, Pignon

The drive from the university to Pignon is now only 10 minutes since Rt. Nationale 3 has been graded in preparation for paving (as it was 6 years ago before the money and motivation to pave disappeared).  So we went there for Sunday lunch to eat at a new restaurant, Chalydath (219, Ave. Notre Dame), named after the owner's daughters and wife).  It is really good and has a variety of food and drinks, so please help keep it open!  I wanted pizza but that takes an hour, so I had a cheese sandwich grilled in a panini machine.  My friends had fish, goat, and chicken, all served with picklez, fries, veggies, or fried plantain.  They gave us an appetizer of cheese melted on bread, with tomato.  The juice of the day was grenadine (passionfruit).  They even have an espresso maker for Rebo coffee drinks such as mochas, frapacinos, and a funky monkey with peanut butter.  As usual, stay away from the endangered conch.  Chalydath is a large restaurant with an upper level that would be good for a meeting or party.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Bassin Zim 2017

This month I took my ecology 201 class (freshmen) on its annual trip to Bassin Zim near Hinche.  Classes are getting larger each year, so we had to divide the group up between two Saturdays.  There is now a sign at Bassin Zim with entrance fees, so we didn’t have the usual dramatic haggle of price negotiation.  Maybe someone saw last year’s blog post complaining about that?  The fee is $5 for foreigners, and 50 gds (78 cents) for Haitians, and they give us a reduce price!  The goal of the trip was for students to experience performing a bioassessment of the site, comparing the basin below the falls (where people swim, wash, etc.) to the small stream that comes out of the cave above the falls.  There is a remnant of a forest along this river – perhaps because of the spiritual taboo of cutting trees around cave entrances.  

We looked at land use, tested water quality (bacteria, nitrate, phosphate, pH, DO), and used sPer environmental meters* to measure air temp, humidity, light, and wind.  No one killed anything this time, and students picked up their liter.  I tried to give the young ‘guides’ (kids who live near the park and grab your hand to ‘help’ you, hoping for a tip) some suggestions for protecting the park, like use the paved paths.  See the Audubon Center blog for comparison of results over the years.

*Thanks to the 2016 Amazon Workshop for introducing me to these meters and guiding us through activities in how to engage students in environmental science.  Click here to sign up for their workshop in the Peruvian Amazon.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Hawk, baby, mouse

The day my translator was not available to help me teach at the elementary school, I had to improvise based on what little Creole I am able to speak, and came up with this game to teach kids that hawks eat mice.  I had kids take on the roles of mama hawk, baby hawk, and mouse.  The baby asks the mother for a mouse, and the mother chases the mouse and gives it to the baby who says “Mesi manman!”  Even the preschoolers could do it!