Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Citadelle in Haiti

I finally got to visit Haiti’s famous Citadelle, the fort built on top of a mountain by Henri Christophe in 1820.  It is near Cap Haitien which now has international flights, and the road is paved, so is easy to get to.  From Cap Haitien drive south on National Route 3 to the town of Milot.  Drive through town, and past the Palace Sans Souci (Perhaps first visit this palace since the Citadelle is grander.  Don’t buy all your souvenirs here, there’s more at the Citadelle).  The road to the Citadelle is paved with rocks and is steep.  You’ll eventually come to the parking lot where there are flush toilets and sinks, souvenir booths, a police station, and what seems to be a new visitor center.

You can either walk or ride horses.  Going up took about 40 minutes on horseback.  A friend is working with the horse guides and owners to get better saddles and treatment for the horses and much improvement has been made, so I didn’t feel badly about riding a horse.  A guide will lead the horse up the trail, and occasionally take pictures for you.  But also other people will come along coaxing the horse or ‘helping’ you and expecting a tip!

At the Citadelle you dismount and tell the horse guy if you’ll walk or ride back.  There are also women here selling cold pop and water and snacks (bring small bills to pay them).  Then a guide will take you all over the Citadelle explaining what everything is.  Near the end of the 2 hour tour is a modern bathroom (leave some money for the lady who cleans it).  There is also a new museum with lots of cannons, and a restaurant is being built.

The walk back down to the parking lot is easy and only about 40 minutes.  There is also a short cut near the little building right before the Citadelle.  The path isn’t any faster than walking the paved road, but you see cool rocks and are amongst the trees.  It is tricky to navigate since you are going down over rocks.  The guide will help you. 

The visit cost $25.  Because someone else made all the arrangements, including paying the guides and driving, my group and I were free from the hassle of many people trying to be our guides, and hangers-on wanting tips for ‘helping.’ The women selling souvenirs were really pushy, you just have to say no and walk on.  At the very end when we were in the truck about to leave, a bunch came over offering their wares for super cheap, so I got two of the bird carvings I had been eyeing for $5 total!  The lady had asked for $15 each when I was in her booth.

After the trip read the historical fiction about this time period, The Kingdom of this World by Alejo Carpentier.  Here is someone else's blog about his Citadelle visit.
The road through Milot. The dome is on a church that is next to Palace Sans Souci.
The road to the Citadelle, coming from Milot.
The parking lot and where you get on the horses.
The ride up to the Citadelle.
Start of the shortcut down.
Steep shortcut.
Walking down from the Citadelle.