Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Mustard Seed Auberge Hostel, Les Cayes Haiti

Relaxing on the balcony.
If you are looking for a place to stay in Les Cayes Haiti consider the Mustard Seed Auberge Hostel in the Charpentier neighborhood on the east end of Les Cayes.  I must preface this review with the fact that I lived there for 5 months and got to know the friendly Haitian family that lives on the ground floor and manages the hostel. 

The hostel is located in a residential area close to Les Cayes main road, National Route 2, so it is very easy to walk to the highway to find a motorcycle taxi, buy produce, or go to the businesses along the highway.  It takes about 7 minutes to walk to the Capital Coach Bus Line stop, and about 5 minutes to walk to the American University of the Caribbean.  The neighborhood is safe, but as in all of Haiti it would be unwise to walk alone at night. 

The 2nd floor living quarters are very breezy which makes it comfortable in the hot weather.  There is a balcony with hammocks, a great place to hang out and watch the neighborhood. 

Cots and fans in the bedrooms.
As typical with hostels, Auberge is very inexpensive, primarily because the beds are cots and guests are expected to share rooms if necessary.  There are fans to keep you cool and blankets to keep you warm in the cool winter nights, and each cot is under a mosquito net.  There is also a real full-sized bed with an extra charge for those who want this amenity.  There are 3 rooms and 2 bathrooms.  They can accommodate large groups on more cots and air mattresses in the the main quarters.

The prices while I was there for 2 weeks in January 2014 were $18/night, plus $7 for lunch or dinner.  They gave me a special monthly rate for a 5-month stay which did not include meals.  The kitchen is large with a propane stove, refrigerator, and some basic utensils and cookware.  If you want Haitian meals you can pay the family downstairs for meals.  While cooking on my own I missed Haitian cooking so paid for one meal a week from Madam Eli downstairs.  She also washes clothes for $5US a sac.

Looking in on the kitchen.
Internet is provided at no extra cost, and is rather reliable and fast for Haiti.  City electricity is backed up with batteries and an inverter.  Only once in my 5-month stay did we have an evening of no electricity.  Water is from a container on the roof that must be periodically refilled, so guests are advised to conserve water.  There is no hot water, and tap water cannot be used for brushing teeth or drinking.  Potable water is provided.

The Mustard Seed Auberge is a very clean and breezy place to stay!  Contact me and Ill put you in touch with the proprietor.  Check out the rest of my blog for activities to do in the area.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Wall's Guest House in Port Au Prince

In January 2014 I spent my final night in Haiti at Wall's Guest house on Delmas 19.  It is a beautiful place, set up like a small hotel.  I had a private room with a beautiful bathroom.  My travel companion had a small room with a bathroom shared by other small rooms.  Wall's was initially run by Canadians, destroyed during the 2010 quake, and rebuilt, which may explain why it is so clean and beautiful.  The rooms have AC but no hot water.  There is a pool, and the stay comes with dinner and breakfast. The facilities are completely walled in, so you can't see what is going on in the neighborhood outside, and from the outside you don't know there is a guest house behind the walls.  Internet is provided.  There is a tiny gift shop.  This would be a great place for those who want comfort in their traveling.
I however want to see Haiti and the activities in the neighborhood, and price is more important than the level of comfort that Wall's provides.  For the budget traveler I recommend Matthew 25 House (see this post).  Both places are about the same distance from the airport.  Matthew 25 is much cheaper ($40/night), the meals are better, and they have a great gift shop.  Transportation to and from airport and bus stops is included. 

Unexciting dinner - hotdogs, pickliz, iceberg lettuce, bread.
Wall's cost $55 per room per night.  They get you in the transportation fees, $33 each way to and from the airport (a 7 minute drive if there is no traffic)!  Totaling $121 for the solitary traveler!  For me that is not worth the AC and pretty facilities.  Also, after check in at the office, we received no instructions on the use of the facilities. The manager is pleasant, but just settled payment and that was it.   There are no signs in the bedrooms about meal times, whether you can use the sink water for brushing or drinking, whether you can flush the toilet paper.  I had to ask about meals.

I was holding out hope that the dinner would make up for the cost.  Nope!  It was hotdogs, French fries, pickliz, iceberg lettuce, and bread pudding.  And bread and butter.  As a vegetarian I was disappointed, as I had just had pickliz and french fries for my lunch.  My companion said the hotdog wasn't that great, specifically that the Oscar Myer wiener mobile would be passing this place up!  Pop $1US, Prestige beer $2US, and bottles of wine $20US are available for purchase.  Breakfast Sunday morning consisted of cereal, milk, bread, peanut butter, jelly, cheese, ham(?) slices, grapefruit, and papaya.

We took a long walk around the neighborhood.  Nothing exciting to see.  We did end up finding the Seven Star Hotel and restaurant which had the usual Haitian food.  And a road with some hammocks and a lot of typical paintings.  I'll be sticking with Matthew 25 from now, but am glad to have tried out a different guest house.

They gave the male guest this room which shared a bathroom with other small rooms.

As a female I scored the room with the attached bathroom.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Ecotour bonus day -The lake Etang Laborde

Cute baby.

I had a great time on the 4-day ecotour I arranged for my visitor from  Michigan.  We saw the bird he wanted to see and a fort, explored a cave, went birding and swimming at a waterfall, and took a road trip to go up in elevation for a different view.  My last day in Cayes my other visitor and I got in one last day of exploring at a lake about 8 miles northwest of Cayes, Etang Laborde.  This would be a wonderful place to arrive early to see ducks and shorebirds.  The Caribbean coot is there, as well as jacana.  And the people who live around the lake are nice.  It seems like a safe place to walk around, and perhaps go out on a boat.  See this blog for why we went there. (most of these photos are by Don Huggins)

Suspicious mamma.

Plowing the fields.

Drinking water from a spring near the lake edge.

Jacana in flight.