Travel to Haiti – Episode 455

categories: caribbean travel

Bassin-Bleu Waterfall - Jacmel, Haiti

Hear about travel to Haiti as the Amateur Traveler talks to Daniel Noll & Audrey Scott from about travel to this rather ignored Caribbean country.


Dan says, “If you are looking for something offbeat or unusual, meaning its not the first place you would choose to travel to, Haiti is an excellent destination. It’s a fascinating destination and it’s one of those places you really don’t have any sense or understanding of until you actually go there.”

Audrey adds, “It’s one of those places where you feel this raw emotion. It’s a bit spiritual. It has its voodoo practice (which is something very unknown to me and also different from what you see in Hollywood movies), an incredible artistic expression and some of the art is just very off the wall. On top of the culture and the people, it also is a beautiful country. It has the coastline, it shares an island with the Dominican Republic, and it also has the mountains. And that’s something for us that was a complete surprise. We had done our research and we knew the word Haiti meant ‘land of mountains’ but we didn’t realize it was just layer upon layer upon layer of mountains. We were fortunate to spend 3-4 days in the mountains.”

Dan and Audrey traveled to Haiti with G Adventures. G Adventures had been asked to evaluate the tourism potential of the island nation and became so interested that it starts its own tours in the Spring of 2015. “If you want to go ahead of the popularity curve, I think we are going to see a lot more development of tourism in Haiti and that’s probably going to, hopefully for the better, change some of the face of Haiti. At the same time, I think that the things you see now, and the interactions you have with the people there, are going to be beautifully raw.”

From fruity drinks by beautiful beaches to hikes in the rugged hills, from old palaces to caves, and from museums to national parks Daniel & Audrey explored this beautiful if intimidating (from the outside) country. Come hear why they consider Haiti one of the destinations “you are probably not considering but you should”.

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Show Notes

Uncornered Market
Haiti Travel & Leisure
Offbeat Travel Destinations
Volunteering in Haiti
Atis Rezistans
Citadelle Laferrière
Sans-Souci Palace
Caves of Haiti
Pic La Selle
La Visite National Park
National Museum of Haiti
G Adventures
Highlights of Haiti
Tour Haiti (site not in English)


comments on Travel to Mumbai, India – Episode 454

We flew through India on the way to Nepal. A very seasoned traveler (100+ countries) and I (40+ countries) both didn’t want to get out of the airport. Nothing of India interested us. Now, after listening to the podcast, regret not taking taking the time to see it. Perhaps we will make it back one day.
Who knew???
– Tom

I’ve been listening to the Amateur Traveler for many years now (go check out the Lagos episode, everyone, cos I’m the guest on that one) and I like every episode, but I particularly loved this one. I think it’s because Stephanie seems to have the attitude to travel that I have (or wish I had), and spoke more of experiencing Mumbai than trudging mindlessly from one identikit museum to the next. Plus Mumbai is a city I would love to visit; I’ve been to India before, but not to that part of the country.
– David


Chris: Amateur Traveler, episode 455. Today the Amateur Traveler talks about beautiful beaches, a music scene and an art scene and voodoo as we go to Haiti. Welcome to the Amateur Traveler, I’m your host Chris Christensen. Without further ado, let’s talk about Haiti.

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Chris: I’d like to welcome back to the show Audrey Scott and Daniel Noll, coming to us from Uncornered Market at Dan and Audrey, welcome back to the show.

Audrey: Thanks Chris and thanks for having us again.

Daniel: Yeah, thanks a lot for having us.

Audrey: We say welcome back, it’s been awhile since you’ve been on. You’ve done shows for us both on Prague and Bangladesh, one very typical destination and one less typical and you brought us another less typical destination. Because today we are going to talk about Haiti.

Daniel: That’s the way we roll.

Chris: Audrey and Dan, why should somebody go to Haiti.

Daniel: It’s interesting actually, we published on our website may be about 10 days ago a post called 8 Offbeat Destinations. That you are not probably considering but should, and Haiti was one of the destinations that we listed. So I think if you’re looking for something a little bit offbeat or unusual, meaning it’s not the first place that you would choose to travel to coming out of the gates. Haiti is an excellent destination. On top of that, I think the word that sort of comes and hopefully we can convey this through the course of the show, is it’s a fascinating destination. It’s one of these places that you really don’t have any sense or understanding of, until you actually go there.

Audrey: Just to add to it, Dan said it’s one of those places where you feel this raw emotion. It’s a bit spiritual, it has its voodoo practice, which is something very unknown to me and also very different from what you see in Hollywood movies. An incredible artistic expression, and some of the art is just kind off, for us very off the wall. You kind of look at it and go, “I feel something, I don’t know why I feel it. Why I’m looking at this.” But there is something raw and emotional here. On top of the culture and the people, it also is a beautiful country. It has the coastline, it’s one half of the island, it shares an island with the Dominican Republic. But it also has incredible mountains, and that’s something for us that was a complete surprise. We had done our research before going to Haiti and we knew that the word Haiti actually meant, the land of mountains. But we didn’t realize how it was just going into the hills, and it was just layer upon layer, upon layer of mountains. We were fortunate to spend about three, four days in the mountains getting lost in all of these layers of mountains. I would say to sum it up. Why go to Haiti? People, very friendly, culture, art, again kind of this voodoo mysticism and the landscape it’s going to offer you both hiking and tracking in the mountains, as well as beach and another kind of city urban experiences.

Chris: Some people are going to get intimidated by Haiti, like Bangladesh because of poverty. Some people have been going to Haiti for years and didn’t realize it, because some of the cruise lines have been doing the one-stop in Haiti. But they don’t even call it Haiti, they call it by the name of the beach or whatever. They are not advertising, because they know that Haiti doesn’t sound that well.

Daniel: Haitians don’t really appreciate the fact that their cruise lines are not honest about what that destination is. I think they actually refer to it as, some of them refer to it as West Indies, some refer to it as in specific destination. There are variant sort of…

Audrey: It is kind of trying to avoid Haiti at all cost. Before going to Haiti, I was actually having my father sending me articles and I’d have to remind him, dad this was for. He would send me the Southampton post article and be like, “Dad, that’s interesting. It’s from four years ago.” He’s like, “I didn’t realize that.” Haiti does still have many challenges, there is a lot of poverty. It’s also dealing with environmental issues, but I think the image that people have of Haiti as a very dangerous place is one that’s a bit outdated. When we went there we were with a group for most of the time, but when we off on our own we never felt intimidated, we never felt a threat or any sort of personal danger. I think with Haiti, one of the things is unfortunately like other destinations like it, the only news we hear is bad news. We never actually hear about the art scene that’s going on there, or about movies that are coming out there, about the literary tradition. That’s actually something that when we met Haitians, they wanted us to help tell their story. Because they were kind of tired of being looked at as; here is this country that’s dipped in poverty, the only thing that’s happening here is disaster. Because there is a lot more going on, and that is one of our goals of going there, was to show this different face to Haiti. Because even earlier last year we met a journalist, a British journalist who had been in Syria and all of these other…

Daniel: He was a sort of one of these hot spot hopping journalist. I said, “We are headed to Haiti next.” He said, “Good luck, I hope you survive.” That’s a really interesting thing for you to say, but I think Haiti’s reputation is prestige and it’s easy to go in intimidated. I’ll be honest, I think to a certain degree I was. Maybe that was because of the call that I shared with my parents. I said, “I’m going to Haiti.” It was just this small silence on the line. But I think what we’re going to find out and it’s only time will tell, is that I think the country is attempting to sort of make a turn. I think it’s one of those destinations, maybe this is to add to the answer I gave before. Why you would go to Haiti. I think if you want to go ahead of the popularity curve, I think we are going to see a lot more developments of tourism in Haiti. I think that’s probably going to hopefully for the better change some of the face of Haiti, and add some sort to the economy of Haiti. At the same time, I think the things that you see now in Haiti and the sort of interactions that you have with people there, are going to beautifully raw. In a way that they would not be say five or 10 years from now, and I think this is kind of classic, almost like recovery destination story. Haiti just happens to be recovering from a number of problems that existed before the earthquake, the earthquake of 2010. The news tells an honest story, they are still struggling in a lot of ways, but in other ways they are making some headway and they are making tracks. I think we’re just hopefully going to see a little bit more of that, and I think people are going to look back in a couple of years and say, “Wow! It would have been interesting to have been there then.” I think that’s one of the reasons why you go there, because I think the Haitian people are still almost like they are unaccustomed actually.

Audrey: To tourists.

Daniel: To tourists.

Audrey: They are actually accustomed to tears, but they are not accustomed to tourists.

Daniel: I think that makes interesting raw kind of interactions, it makes for kind of innocent interactions actually. To go out to some of these villages particularly along some of the Caribbean towns on the South, not so much Port-au-Prince because I think they had so many volunteers and things like that. But if you go to some of these towns along the Caribbean, there is something that’s sort of almost kind of beautiful and untouched about it. I hope even as tourism develops, I hope a little bit of that remains. Because I think that’s what makes the destination so fascinating for me.

Chris: That leads us very nicely into; where would you recommend people go? What kind of an itinerary would lay out for us?

Audrey: I would recommend a bit of urban historical coast and mountains, and I’m going to into more specifics. Port-au-Prince, which is the capital city. To be honest, Port-au-Prince can be a bit overwhelming. You’ve got lots of tracks, lots of people. It’s one of those places that you kind of taking stride when you walk in the streets. But in Port-au-Prince there is a really incredible art scene, and for us probably the most interesting place was an artist community called Atis Rezistans. It was started about 15 years by these renegade artist and now it’s turned into a community of… I don’t know, maybe 20 or 30 artists that are training youths. It uses voodoo tradition and kind of Haitian history and culture, and is this kind of raw artistic community that also takes recycled materials from the car repair places next door, and from the dumpster down street to kind of bring this trash items to art again.

Daniel: I think particularly with those artist communities, Haiti struck me as a place that would be a terrific place to visit if you were a cool hunter or if you were one of these trend hunters. Because I think there are thing going on there artistically, spiritually or sort from a societal standpoint that I think can be mind for people in the fashion industry, in the art industry. I think we are probably going to see even in the tourism industry, and a lot of that has to do with what’s going on in the art and in the music scene in Port-au-Prince.

Audrey: From Port-au-Prince I would go up to Kapayisyen, which is in the North and actually used to be the capital before Port-au-Prince. There you’ve got the country’s only UNESCO site, the Citadelle or at the Fortress. That is also a beautiful hike up to the forest, because you are going through the hills and the Fortress that was built in the mid early 19 century is this massive structure. It’s quite impressive to think, one of the things that I didn’t realize before doing my research on Haiti is that Haiti was actually the first independent country in Latin America.

Chris: It’s the only country I can think of in the world that traces itself back to a slave revolt, a successful slave revolt. So there are many others, it’s like nothing that occurs to me.

Daniel: That plays a role in the types of things, particularly if you are a history birth that you’ll see traveling through Haiti including the Citadelle, in the background regarding how the Citadelle was built by some of the people who run the slave revolt, because they actually took a lot of the technology that they learned when it was a French colony.

Audrey: They built the series of fortresses in order to protect this newly independent country from the firm French and other potential invaders, because they didn’t really trust the rest of the world to honor their independence. So near Cap-Haiten is also The Palace of Sans-Souci, it was built kind of meant to be…

Daniel: A presidential palace.

Audrey: A presidential palace for King Christophe at the time, it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1842. So what you see right now are the ruins, but it’s again this kind of aerie, majestic sort of ruin set in the hills in the North. From there I would also recommend Jacmel, which is a kind of cute little let’s say mid-sized town along the coast. There is a large artistic community mainly focused on paper mache or paper mache, but there we also went and visited a foundation that was working with children in arts training. So it was a foundation that provides the money for these kids to go to school, as well as two hot meals a day as well add another training. Through that the tourist or the traveler gets to go and kind of meet the kids, interact with them but then also buy the art products that they make in order to support the foundation as well. There is also just some great little beach side shacks near Jacmel, that you go for a bear at the end of the day. you watch the sunset, you see the surfers going out. It’s just a really relaxing actually beach holiday as well.

Daniel: A couple of notes that I’ll make about Jacmel. We were told, I don’t know how true this is. I’m going to take it on a space, that all the paper mache that is created in Jacmel, a lot of it makes it way throughout the Caribbean. So when Caribbean tourist bring the trinkets from various sites of the Caribbean, a lot of the mache actually comes from Haiti. Just don’t know it. This is the sort of upper center of that paper mache arts community.

Chris: The other question I had, you mentioned the palace and the name caught my attention because it’s the same name as the palace right near where you live in Berlin, other in Potsdam. Is that inquisitive just because it means it is without care I believe, or were they trying to target that they were like the great kingdoms of Europe at the time?

Audrey: It was that they were trying to be equals to show that they were just as great as the kingdoms in Europe. So it’s kind of a physical sign that they also could built great palaces like the ones in Europe, and should be considered equals. Yeah, exactly that.

Daniel: For tourist that are looking for a massive or experiential travel type experiences or going on tourism experiences, you can find them all across Haiti. I bring this up in a context of Jacmel, because Audrey mentioned the Children Arts Foundation. There were other opportunities that we took advantage of on our trip with G Adventures, including outside of Cap-Haitien, near The Sans-Souci Palace with the family there. That employed people from the town and actually made an app, the terrific beautiful launch. Then there was a group of drummers who were drumming for us, and this is not the type of thing that is always sort of prepared musical experiences. But there was something that was exceptional about this group that played for us, and then also sort of for the feeling of this particular place. Because I think these people had been together for such a long period of time, and they had also been through so much. I think this is something that we found throughout our course of traveling in Haiti, was that the people there had been through so much together that I think this is one of the things that brings them together. For many of them motivates them to start these types of organizations, these types of foundations and these types of co-operative efforts that result in these kind of a massive or experiential travel experiences.

Audrey: Then to just kind of wind up our suggestions for visiting Haiti, in the Southern part of the country there is actually a really interesting kid network near Port-a-Piment.

Daniel: Between Port-a-Piment and Port-Salut.

Audrey: It’s kind of interesting, it’s a kid network that’s only been discovered I think for the last maybe 40-50 years. But you don’t walk super deep in there, but you do get to see the live tides and tides mines and all the bats that have made that area their home. Also Port-Salut, which is right next door is a lovely little… For us it’s how we ended our trip, which is basically on the beach, relaxing, eating fish, drinking Haitian beer which is called prestige. Watching the fishermen go in and out, and it was a really relaxing beautiful way to kind of come down from a pretty active week.

Daniel: I’m actually going to jump back to the caves, the name of the cave system is called Grotte Marie-Jeanne. It’s at this point a network of about three or four exposed cave networks, but I think that really only represents a fraction of what’s there. I would be interested to see how many more to those events that they are exposing open, because I suspect there is a lot under there. It’s just a matter of the sort of excavation and mapping to take place, to a lot of people to go deeper into that network. I thought it was pretty fascinating, because I tend to be a little bit like waterfalls. I tend to be a little bit skeptical of caves and I actually found myself a lot more impressed with this system, than I expected.

Chris: Mean that you have heard over the years, or you have to go there because there is such a fabulous cave/waterfall and you have not always been impressed?

Daniel: This is correct. Now that we are on the topic of waterfalls and caves that actually meet expectations, outside of Jacmel there is a sort of watering hole/waterfall called Bassin Bleu or Blue Lake. Although the approach is a little bit more brown that I would have hoped, if you do a little bit of climbing up and over a series of rocks the pools are absolutely beautifully blue. I don’t even think we saw them at their best. The water is beautiful, the water made my skin feel spectacular…

Audrey: Full of minerals. There was mountain water and almost soft, it felt soft and yeah.

Daniel: My skin inherent did not fall back to the moons, and absolutely everyone there was having a terrific time. Locals and visitors like. So it took a little bit of getting to, because we had to hop into one of these un-patterned backs of pickup trucks that they call a donkey. It’s not too bad hopping to those donkey, but the view is on the way up because it’s topped into the mountains. Were absolutely beautiful and then the waterfall system itself was really, really terrific.

Chris: You have mentioned it was more brown than you were hoping on the way up there. I think one of the knocks against Haiti has been that if you look at the Island, there is more deforestation on that part of the Island than there has been in the other half on that Dominican Republic side.

Audrey: Yes. The time that we spent in the mountains, we went up to Pic la Selle which is Haiti’s highest point. As well as we did some hiking in Parc National La Visite, and going to the mountains and the villages you really saw the deforestation. Because in the national parks, they’ve made efforts to plant new trees and to reforest. But actually going through the agricultural areas there is literary… At first we looked around and thought it’s a neat landscape, we saw these really sharp rocks protruding up from the ground. Our guide told us, actually that’s incredible version. It’s because the trees were taken away, all the erosion has taken away the top soil and so you literary see the kind of these pointed rocks. They call them teeth actually. Coming up from the ground, so you kind of feel like it’s stripped away part of the earth’s surface and you’re seeing part of the earth’s core. Deforestation is a huge problem and it’s been a huge problem…

Daniel: Historically, yeah. It’s been a common problem.

Audrey: The French originally when they came, they cleared tons of forest land in order to create the plantations. The United States when it annexed Haiti in the early 20th century, in the 1930s it also used it for logging. So it also cut down a lot of forest area that we actually visited as part of our track.

Daniel: Annexed is such a strong word.

Audrey: Let me just say…

Daniel: Invaded, because they wouldn’t pay their debts I believe is why we were sending the marines. If only they get advice from

Audrey: We send them the marines and it depends on who you ask.

Daniel: That’s perhaps the word that the locals might choose to use.

Audrey: And also one of the things that contributes to deforestation is the dependence on charcoal, so that’s one of the issues that the country is trying to figure out; is how to win people off charcoal in such a way that it doesn’t put a lot of people out of work, the people who right now are collecting the charcoal and creating it. As well as it doesn’t create dependency on kerosene or other gases, so that’s one of the challenges. But yes deforestation is a huge problem still. That said, the time that we spent in the mountains is some of the best time that we had. Because we didn’t realize how mountainous Haiti was, and also just how beautiful it is. That were some of the best times that we had.

Daniel: We talk about the earthquake having been a big problem in Haiti, but probably a more serious problem was the years of bad government they had under the Duvalier, the Bebe Doc and Baby Doc. Has probably done much more damage to the country. Do you get sense of that time in history, or there are things that you see that go back to that time period and how do they feel about that time period?

Audrey: Most people that we talked to would say that the earthquake was horrible, it killed almost 200,000 people. But Haiti’s problems are not because of the earthquake, they go back to Bebe Doc and actually a long history of endless coups and dictators.

Chris: The occasional U.S invasion.

Audrey: And the occasional U.S engagement.

Daniel: It suffered everything, a Caribbean country could happen to suffer. When we went to the national museum in Port-au-Prince, one of the most interesting displays for me was photographs of all of the country’s leaders with their time in office. There were just strainings of leaders who were there in office for no more than three months, before they were put out by a coup. It was pretty shocking actually, and then you would find them coming back another ten years later. I think one of the ways that you see in Haiti, this history sort of manifest itself. It’s just in the attitude of the people. I think to some degree you can find them a little bit, I don’t know if skeptical is the right word. Maybe sometimes it’s a little bit reserved or stand office, and we asked. We said, “Why are we feeling this sometimes?” They said, “Consider the history. Consider Duvalier, consider the fact that even as circumstances became better. The political system was always corrupt, international organizations Haiti has had. Like many countries that depend a lot on aid have a conflicting relationship with individual people themselves, have a conflicting relationship with that as well. Because often times they’ll see lots of people, they’ll hear just as we have heard about in the news tens often, tens of billions of dollars in aid. They may wonder where…

Chris: Where does community go.

Daniel: Yeah. Where did it go? How is my life better? Every time we might have an interaction and someone was a little standoff, kicked in a little empathy and said; This country and it’s people have been through a lot, and they’ve come a long way notwithstanding the fact that they have a long way to go.

Audrey: I was just going to add to that. I think one of the things that people told us, where they are still feeling the effects of the Duvalier is in education. The fact that there wasn’t an investment in and education and also this idea that only an elite should be educated, because that is what helped the Duvalier and other…

Daniel: Stay in power.

Audrey: Yeah. It’s how they stayed in power, is they kept it for themselves. What we are seeing now from actually several people we talked to is, really they’re trying to invest in education. Also, another thing is Haiti schools teach in French. Which on the surface that sounds great, French is a very useful language. But when kids go into school, not knowing how to speak French. It means that they are being educated in a language they don’t understand, so the education process gets stalled for a bit so till the kid start picking up French. So there is a bit of a movement to try and educated children in a local language in Creole. When we were on the airplane, this is actually just kind of a little off thing. When were in the airplane flying into Port-au-Prince from Miami, there was a Haitian man in front of us about 45 years old and he handed his immigration card to the Haitian man sitting to us and asked him to fill it up for him, and it turns out that he was illiterate. The guy next to us filled out the form, took his passport and filled out the form and he told us this happens to me every time I fly back from Haiti. The statistic, he gave us something about 48 or maybe 50% of the country is illiterate. I think that statistic is going up, but that just shows you in the last few decades what’s happened to the education system. The fact that there wasn’t an investment in education.

Daniel: There was discussion whether to educate in French or possibly go take a sort of Rwanda style called Turkey approach and apply English.

Audrey: Yeah. We actually heard some people who said that teaching in English would open up more opportunities for investment, and for Haitians to be able to get jobs with international organizations and also international companies.

Daniel: So clearly there is a lot to think about in Haiti, when you visit this is what happens. It really takes some time up there, in terms of destinations. Where you return and you’ve seen so many beautiful things, you’ve had all these interactions that it really takes time to unpack what it means and where it fits. Not only in your overall experience but sort of where it fist kind of geo-politically.

Audrey: One thing that I was going to add is because traditionally Haiti has had a large percentage of people who were illiterate, it is a culture of storytelling or it’s a culture or proverbs. So this is one of the things we loved when we traveled through the country, is learning the local proverbs or learning kind of the sinister things. Because Haitians have a very sharp, let’s say kind of sarcastic sense of humor. So when you are talking about the politicians or about politics, or about poverty. They have these really funny proverbs and sayings that go along with it, that address the problem as a problem but then use humor as a kind of a copy mechanism as well.

Daniel: When it comes to me, unfortunately it doesn’t really prove Audrey’s point. But I love it nonetheless, and that is the tongue is not the sea but it can drown you. With the idea that I think the people of Haiti have been given so many promises by politicians in the past. Here is another one; the donkey sweats, so the horse can be decorated with lace. Those two, we put those two in a piece that we wrote about our first impressions regarding Haiti. I think that just about captures the essence or nature or sense of the relationship, between the Haitian people, their politicians and politics and a sort of historical bedrock and all the stuff that they’d had to deal with. They have good reason to feel the way that they do.

Audrey: But at the same time there is a spirit of joy and music and laughter.

Daniel: Right. The upside of that is, so we visited a voodoo priest and he began to talk about the role of voodoo and spirituality, and then we crossed that with some of the artists that we met at the Atis Rezistans artist community in Port-au-Prince. I think one of the reasons that the art is so, at the same time kind of unsettling and disconcerting but incredible. Like nothing we’ve ever seen before is because the life lives next to death, light lives next to dark. That’s just the way life rolls in Haiti, and I think that’s because they’ve had to deal with so much death and destruction. Their appreciation of life when it’s there it’s not much stronger. I think that’s sort of the upside, and that’s the big kind of lesson or take away for any of us. Particularly those of us coming from relative comfort and privileged backgrounds, if you look at the way people in Haiti react to the circumstances that they’ve been exposed to it’s kind of liberating actually to watch it in action.

Chris: With Haiti, what moment did you feel closest to home, most familiar? When did it feel that you were not in Kansas anymore?

Audrey: I would say closest to home would be having a rum cocktail at a beach watching the sunset, and looking over surfers.

Daniel: Yeah. That was home when we lived in California perhaps.

Audrey: Yeah, not home as in Berlin. But like a sense of familiarity. In terms of you are not in Kansas anymore. I would say actually even just the ride from the airport to the hotel, we were going on all these little tiny streets in Port-au-Prince and there is people everywhere. They are coming out of… Seem like every little door there were people coming out, the streets were clouded. There were colorful mirrors everywhere, and you just kind of realized, “I’m in a really different place.” But in terms of a more massive experience…

Daniel: I’m going to call the walk that we took on the streets in our first day in Port-au-Prince, through one of these neighborhoods. That wasn’t very far from some of the major hotels, but it could have been half way. As we were walking down the street, just the way that people were looking at us. We were the very last people there were expecting to see walking in front of them or crossing in front of traffic, I think people were even sort of worried because the traffic was pretty bad. It was pretty aggressive as it is in large cities like that. Just the position of in a place like Port-au-Prince, of the familiarity of relatively big protected hotel with a neighborhood right next door. Where life is just going on in a way that most of us can’t even…

Audrey: Life goes on, on the streets.

Daniel: Yeah.

Chris: What was the biggest surprise?

Daniel: The arts and voodoo. I really didn’t know what voodoo practice, was it all about. I can’t really say that I understand a lot now. But there was spirituality and acceptance and how voodoo was explained to us in the talks that we had with the priest, and I don’t think I was expecting that.

Daniel: Regarding voodoo, I think Hollywood has really done voodoo as religion and a practice and same with spirituality. Has really done it a disturbance, because it makes it out to be much more negative than it is. Haitians tend to believe voodoo is just a way of exposing those forces that are already there to them at work. There is a whole kind of network of societies and gods and manifestation of those gods, it’s remarkable. It definitely has a sort overlaps with religious system that we’ve seen before, but it’s at the same time sort of different. The art was shocking also, I’m looking at a photo here of some of the mountains that we hiked in and around of Port-au-Prince. That blew my mind, it blew my mind that there were those kinds of mountains in Haiti. That literary just a couple of miles from this huge urban center of Port-au-Prince, we were in absolute expansive silence and beauty. A mixed of all of these hills and…

Audrey: Just to give you a sense of, I’ve mentioned a couple of times these layers of mountains. When we were hiking down from Parc national La Visite into Port-au-Prince, we had several people tell us, “Don’t worry, you’ll know that you are getting close when you hit that last big hill.” So we had been hiking for about three hours up and down hills, up and down hills. Finally we get to this massive hill, so massive that there are actually paved part of it. So that way people could take goods back and forth to market. We thought; okay, we are here. Like we’re done. We hauled up to the top, we were like drinking water at the top. We said; okay, we are here. Then we turned a corner and there was another hill just as big around the corner, and I think there were three more after that. Until we found the way, we reached our meeting point to pick up a car to go back into town.

Daniel: Wait a second, I think I know what surprised me most. Audrey played the lottery in Haiti. You bet like what? Like a dollar?

Audrey: I bet a dollar, yeah.

Daniel: And she won, and they paid her… Of course she won about a dollar I think.

Audrey: I won $2.00.

Chris: You mentioned it briefly once and I knew it before we started recording, but we haven’t really talked about it. You were there with G Adventures that is starting to do tours to Haiti.

Daniel: The first tour to Haiti, so if you search for it would be G Adventures Highlights of Haiti. That first trip was going in February.

Audrey: End of February.

Daniel: End of February, so in a couple of weeks. We were there for a total of two weeks, one portion which was a trip for a number of other journalists from around the world. For about one week, which was intended to cover most of the experiences in the highlights of Haiti trip. What we did is we spent a couple of extra days to cover the other items on the highlights of Haiti itinerary, including the south beach destinations Port-a-Piment, Port-Salut. Then we spent a couple of extra days in Port-au-Prince and then a couple of extra days climbing Pic La Selle, which is the highest peak or mountain in Haiti. Spending time at Parc national La Visite. Most of the things that we’ve spoken about here during the show can be found on G Adventures Highlights of Haiti Trip, with the exception of Pic La Selle and the Parc La Visite National. Which is really beautiful and we are actually going to work on G Adventures, to try and get them to add a portion of this because… I think this is important for anyone listening, who might be interested in doing some of these hikes. They are really terrific, but Pic La Selle, Parc national La Visite. The infrastructure is not really all that great, so you have to actually work with a local tour company in order to make that happen. We did that through Tour Haiti, which is G Adventures partner on the ground there. I’m really hoping that they open that up a little bit more, so that can become more easily accessed by people. Because it was a great experience, it was absolutely beautiful. We stayed at a couple of lodgings up there, made Haitian hot chocolate and danced Kompa music with a bunch of folks who were making pumpkin soup. There was a goat hanging in the kitchen, and that was a terrific experience as well.

Audrey: I just wanted to add a little background into why G Adventures decided to start tours to Haiti, and that’s because in 2013, 2014 they were asked by the Inter-American Development Bank to go to Haiti to essentially do an assessment. On whether Haiti had tourism potential. They asked a commercial company together with the Planetary Foundation to go and say; is there a potential here to develop tourism? Especially the type of community based tourism, a more sustainable tourism. Not the big beach resorts. Honestly, we were talking with Jeff Russell who’s head of innovation at G Adventures and he was pretty open. He said, “Before going Haiti, I actually told them. Just because I’m going here on your project, it doesn’t mean I’m going to give you a positive answer. Because I think the answer is going to be no.” He said he went and actually was most excited, he hadn’t traveled in years. They came out of this project deciding to start their own tour to Haiti, because they saw the potential there. It sounds kind of an interesting story of going in and expecting one thing and coming out with a completely different perception, and actually putting their actions where the mouth was. That they decided to start doing tours.

Chris: You should say for full disclosure that G Adventures does do sponsorship for Uncornered Market, for Dan and Audrey. I knew that before inviting them on, but love to have them known. So I just want to make sure that everybody else do that too. Excellent. Anything else we should tell people before they go to Haiti, and before we get to our last three, four questions?

Audrey: One thing I was going to mention is for your listeners, from North America. One of the things that did surprise me is how close Haiti is, it’s an hour and a half by plane from Miami. There is two or three flights a day from Miami and Fort Lauderdale, as well as there is direct flights from New York. That was something that was kind of a shock to me, for some reason I thought it was much further and it was also much more expensive to get there.

Daniel: It feels much further away than it is, but it’s really easily accessed. We were surprised, we took off from Haiti upon our return and in a couple of hours I was at my mom’s house in Florida. So it’s remarkably close.

Audrey: The other thing I was going to say is for people are foodies or who love food, Haitian food is also quite excellent. Especially if you are a sea food lover, it’s kind of got a little bit of the Caribbean spice as well as usually a mixture of stews and plantings.

Chris: Is there a particular dish that we have to make sure that we try?

Audrey: I would say just actually getting a freshly grilled fish, lobster or conch right on the beach. That was probably my favorite meal, and the big thing to ask for especially if you like spice is… It’s kind of a sauce and it’s called pikliz, it’s kind of a turn on pickles, pikliz and it’s essentially kind of chili-peppers with marinated vegetables. So it just adds this tangy beautiful flavor to grilled foods.

Daniel: I would say one dish should not be missed by people who eat meat is griyo, and it is fried pork. When it’s served with a little bit of spice and that pikliz. Pretty incredible. I have that probably about a half dozen times.

Audrey: The other thing is to try Haitian rum, even if you usually do not drink hard liqueur as we usually don’t. Haitian rum is fantastic, I can actually say it goers down a little bit too smoothly. But the main Haitian rum is called barbancourt and it’s quite good.

Chris: As we go to wrap this up. You’re standing in the prettiest spot in all of Haiti, all that you saw at least. Where are you standing? What are you looking at?

Audrey: I am standing at the top of Peak Cabaio, and I am looking towards the sea. So towards Port-au-Prince on the sea, and I am just seeing again layers upon layers of mountains and villages on a sunny day.

Chris: Dan, same answer different answer?

Daniel: Probably the same answer, but I’ll give you a second and that is having lunch of grilled fish along with a couple of Prestige beers. Looking over that to the shore line outside of Port-Salut. I think Western beach, a couple of old really colorful, cheeped away, dug out boats. A boat that looks like it hasn’t been serviced in a long time, it’s an old fishing boat. Yeah, that to me is a beautiful to be at Haiti.

Chris: Excellent. One thing that makes you laugh and say only in Haiti?

Audrey: The roads. Life, markets, people, animals, everything around the roads.

Chris: I get that you were on more than a few unpaved roads?

Audrey: Yes. Actually the roads in the mountains, I don’t even know if you could call them roads.

Chris: Finish this thought. You really know you’re in Haiti when what?

Audrey: You’re drinking barbancourt rum and your listening to Kompa music.

Chris: Excellent. If you had to summarize Haiti and just three words, what three words would you use?

Daniel: Can I go for four? Not what you expect.

Audrey: Law, humanity, creativity.

Chris: Excellent. Dan and Audrey, where can people read more about your travels?

Audrey: They can always go our website, which is

Chris: Why is your site Uncornered Market?

Audrey: Why did we choose the longest and most complicated name in the world?

Chris: You are talking to a guy who thought Amateur Traveler was a good idea. So I’m not throwing stones, but…

Daniel: I don’t know why we thought this was a good idea, but we thought there was no one else who had that name.

Chris: Yeah, I recall having that same thought.

Daniel: No one else who had that name and then we felt it was open enough to allow us to talk about and uncover all that we wanted to cover. So traveler was among that, but there were so many other sort of topics that resonate with life in general. We felt that was an open enough umbrella to cover it all. Granting people like; what exactly does that mean, and it’s a very long word and you get into people who are not native speakers. We just say, just be patient, type it out. Good things will come to you when you do.

Audrey: The reason for Uncornered Market, it’s the idea that we didn’t want to corner the market on ideas, we didn’t want to corner the market on experiences. So, the idea is to have it open and sharing. Those are genesis of the name.

Chris: Thanks so much for coming back on the Amateur Traveler, I always enjoy our visits and thanks for coming.

Audrey: Thanks for hanging with us, this was fun.

Daniel: Yeah, we really appreciate it.

Chris: In News of the Community, we had two different comments. One from David and one from Tom on show that we did last week on Mumbai, India. Tom said; we flew through India on the way to Nepal, a very seasoned traveler. 100 plus countries and I 40 plus countries, didn’t want to get out of the airport. Nothing of India interested us, now after listening to the podcast regret not taking the time to see it. Perhaps will make it back one day, who knew. And I told Tom of those sort of comments are music to my ears, I really I’m looking to stretch your idea of where it might be an interesting place to go. That’s one of the reasons that we do the show. David said, I’ve been listening to Amateur Traveler for many years now, go check out the Lagos episode everyone because I’m the guest on that one. I like every episode, but I particularly loved this one. I think it’s because Stephanie seems to have the attitude to travel that I have or wish I had, and spoke more of experiencing Mumbai and dredging mindlessly from one identical museum to the next. Plus Mumbai is a city that I would love to visit, I have been to India but not to that part of the country. Thanks to both Tom and David and you can check up those comments on the Mumbai episode. With that we are going to end this episode of the Amateur Traveler, the podcast towards voting is coming up soon. So keep your voting fingers limbo at If you have questions, send an email to or do like Tom and David and leave a comment on this episode at You can follow me on Twitter at chris2x and as always thanks so much for listening.

Transcription sponsored by JayWay Travel, specialists in Central & Eastern Europe custom tours.

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Chris Christensen

by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast. He has been a travel creator since 2005 and has won awards including being named the "Best Independent Travel Journalist" by Travel+Leisure Magazine.

2 Responses to “Travel to Haiti – Episode 455”



Great podcast: #Travel to #Haiti … with @umarket via @chris2x! “You have to try #pickliz when in #Haiti” #foodie



Curious about Haiti? We chat about our recent trip with @gadventures on @amateurtraveler –

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