Sunday, November 18, 2012

Les Cayes Gateway after Sandy

The first picture is the Les Cayes gateway as you enter the town coming from Port au Prince, taken when I arrived in August.  Note the 0 on the right.  The second picture is from the opposite side as you leave the city, taken a couple days ago from the end of the AUC driveway.  The same 0 is on the left - in its new position after Hurricane Sandy.
Aug. 2012, before Hurricane Sandy.

Nov.  2012, after Hurricane Sandy.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

From Cayes to Port au Prince, post Sandy.

In Haiti Nov. 1 and 2 are national holidays, so I took a short vacation back to the US to visit friends and family in PA.  The logistics are such that it is best to get back to Port the day before your international flight, and stay overnight.  The options for making this trip from Les Cayes are:
  • Charter a MAF flight for $500 or so, or if the timing is right, book a seat for $110 on a flight someone else has chartered.
  • Pay a private driver (a friend of a friend) around $250.
  • Pay $10 for a bus ride on Travel Chic or the bus that leaves from the Meridian Hotel.
I was nervous about taking a bus back to Port, picturing it to be crowded and driving too fast (I heard it takes 3.5 hours on the bus, when everyone else takes at least 4.5 hours).  But my friend Jehu saved me from that!  He is the brother-in-law of missionary friends in the Central Plateau, and took me on a tour of Port au Prince the week before the 2010 quake.  And he happened to be in the area and driving to Port the day I need to go.  So I rode in luxury in his giant cargo truck, high up in the passenger seat with a great view of the land.  And great view of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy.

These pictures don’t do it justice.  I saw banana trees and corn fields flattened.  Water and mud on the road, high and very turbid rivers.  And this was 5 days after the hurricane left.  From our 3rd floor guest house in a strong concrete building, we had no idea of the havoc Sandy was wrecking on the country.  This article indicates that 70% of Cayes corn, bananas, and breadfruit crops were destroyed.  Haiti was already facing high food prices with the loss of US crops due to the drought this summer.

I also saw my first tire-burning protest, about an hour into our trip.  It was in an area where the river floods often, so may have been related to the government not doing anything about the flooding.  Or may have been about food prices.  We never found out.  But the police were out with their giant guns and Kevlar, and turned us back.  We waited it out at a convenience store, and were entertained by an older hippy-looking Haitian woman dancing with young men to the blaring music (Why do they need to blast music in the Caribbean?!  Even churches have giant speaker systems that make the service unpleasant.).

In Port I stay at the Matthew 25 House, a very relaxing oasis in the midst of dirty, crowded Port au Prince.  Arriving in Port after being in Les Cayes was a shock.  There was a brown haze of smoke, dirt, something over the city.  People still live in tents.  There’s shanties everywhere, a ton of trash along the road and in the river beds.

Fortunately MAF was flying to Cayes on my return, so I was able to make the 40 minute flight and had a great view of the southern peninsula and the very steep, deforested mountains (which of course the pictures don’t do justice).  I also saw the wide swaths where the flooded rivers had raged down the mountains, unimpeded by any riparian vegetation.  

Flooded field along National Rt 2.

Tire burning down the road (where the smoke is).

Police dealing with the protest.

Flooded National Rt 2.

Steep mountains on the Southern Plateau

River bed.