30 January – 2 February 2013
The day before I left for Cap-Haitian I called Peterson – the local guy I had met on the bus a couple of days before – to ask if he could help find the address and departure times for the Sans Souci bus to Cap-Haitian. He did not only that, he also made a reservation and made arrangements for a moto-taxi to pick me up at 6am. There are few street signs in PaP so it's difficult to find an address you don't already know and so I was sceptical if the moto-taxi-guy could find me in the morning. I waited 5 minutes outside the compound gate and when nobody showed up I started walking towards the main street expecting to meet the guy or else take a taptap. I only got a few hundred metres before I met the driver who took me to the bus company – I was early and got the 7am bus. It was a nice trip along the western coast and over the mountains – bustling life in the small towns we passed by and beautiful scenery in the countryside. We arrived on schedule at 1.15pm and I walked the 3-4k into the centre of Cap-Haitian. My host Elodie would not be home until 6pm so I had to pass time until then - sightseeing was not really an option with all my luggage so I went to a nearby hotel where I spent the afternoon doing internet. I arrived and met Elodie and her 2 room mates in the middle of a blackout that wouldn't be the last (on average 4-5 times a day of shorter or longer duration). 3 very nice french girls working for different French organisations in Cap-Haitian.
The next day I wanted to visit Haiti's tourist attraction no 1 – the Citadelle and the palace of Sans Souci. I wanted to go early but when I looked out the window at 6am it was clouded, so I snoozed for 2 more hours – and when I left at 9am the sky was blue. I walked through town to find the taptap – but didn't succeed before I had been through a slum area by the river because my map was incorrect. A nice hour ride through the countryside to the small town of Milot where the palace is. Instantly I was “attacked” by moto-taxi drivers, guides, vendors, etc. - even the palace ticket guy tried to set me up - “special price for you”! No wonder they are a bit deparate since more than 50 people fight the average 2 visitors a day. However, as I was going to walk up to the Citadelle I didn't need any of them and politely walked by. I took a quick look at Sans Souci built by the self-appointed king of northern Haiti Henri Christophe in 1813 as a rival to Versailles – though not much to see as it has been neglected since 1842 where it was destroyed by an earthquake.
It was a steep and hot walk up to the Citadelle and often I was “stalked” by children begging and vendors selling fruit, cheap jewellery, etc. As I progressed up the mountain it got more clouded and when I first lay eyes on the Citadelle it was shrouded in clouds. But in the mountains the weather changes quickly and when I reached the fortress shortly after the weather was fine. The Citadelle is quite hyped so I was a bit disappointed that it was fairly average – smaller and less well maintained compared to what I had read and heard about it. Still a great experience – especially because there were no fences or guards to tell me where and what to do - and the views were absolutely jaw-dropping. Down in Milot some hours later I took another quick look at Sans Sousi before heading back to Cap-Haitian.
On my last day I planned to walk around town but as it's small, I was in no hurry. I spent the morning relaxing and talking to the girls who had different work schedules which entailed some ono-on-one time for interesting conversations. Mid afternoon I walked around town for some hours admiring the beautiful old buildings, observing how life pass by in the city square, watching the hassle at the market, etc. Well maintained, fairly clean and very friendly people quickly made it my favourite Haitian town.