Thursday, October 4, 2012

Deye Switchbacks, Genyen Switchbacks – the Road to Macaya

A switchback in the road to Macaya.

There’s a Haitian proverb that says “Deye mon, genyen mon.”  Literally, behind mountains, there are mountains.  Meaning, if it’s not one thing, it another, which isn’t the point of this story.  The switchbacks were one after another though.  Today I went to Fomon (Fort Mon) on the outskirts of Macaya, one of Haiti’s three national parks.  A German group invited me to go with them to check out a water project there that has fallen into disarray.  So off I went with Marcus and Peguy (pronounced Peggy, a Haitian man) who I had never met before our 6am rendezvous which really was at 5:30am.

From Les Cayes, one travels Route 2 west and heads north at Torbeck on a fairly decent road for about an hour.  We stopped for coffee and bread right before a river crossing, which we were able to make despite the rain all night.  Shortly after the crossing, the road turns into rocks with switchbacks after switchbacks as we climb about 1000 ft.  And no guard rails.  Two people I mentioned this trip to said, woah, you are going by car?  Due to expert German driving, I thought the ride went fine.  Other than being jostled about for 2 hours is tiring (update the next morning – my back and shoulders are super sore, as if I had been working out).  Someone with physical health problems would not have been able to make the trip.

Training new bird guides.
Once we got to Fomon I went with Marcus as he checked the pvc pipes that carry water down the mountain to various faucets that were installed to make it easy for people to get water.  The hillside is eroding, rocks are up-lifting, and along with them the pvc pipes.  The plan was that it would take an hour to get to the water source, then I would go with our guide into the park for about an hour, then come back and meet up with the group.  Walking up a mountain on a rocky path after being at sea level for over a month turned out to be way harder than I expected.  Fortunately two kids had joined us and made me feel like an old lady as they helped me up the steep path.  We finally reached a point where I said I couldn’t go on.  Plus, I was watching my footing the entire time and not enjoying the scenery.  So the kids stayed with me while Marcus and the guide went on.

Turned out to be a great decision!  The kids knew I was there to see the birds and really got into the role of being bird guides.  I did see two I hadn’t seen before (Hispaniolan Spindalis and red-legged thrush), maybe 3 (one of the two todies), and a bunch of little yellow birds that I just couldn’t identify.  I paid them, so I might have been their first official ecotour customer!  Though it turned out to not be an intense birding trip, and we didn’t actually go into the park, I did get to mentor those two kids about birding, and that made it all worthwhile.  Well, actually just being up in the cool air among some pine trees made it worthwhile.

The river crossing.
A section of pipe exposed in extreme erosion.

Note the 5 lone trees at the top of the hill.

The rocky road to Macaya.
Checking the water system.

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