After Panama I went to Dominican Republic but I had missed that you must have a guide on that mountain. So we got a guide but we were still not aloud to climb the mountain because no expedition can start after 10am in the day. Even if it´s just a 6 hour hike to the highest camp they would not let us. And there was no way around this because the big boss where there and it´s against their rules so there was nothing to do then to comeback next time. Instead me and my friend Andres who was joining me for a few mountains went to Haiti to climb Pic La Selle 2680 m.
When you do research about this mountain you find almost no information. This mountain is not climbed very often. And all websites says “Don´t go to Haiti it´s dangerous and the situation in the country is very instabile.” So at first I was not sure if I would go. I thought, I better get a guide to be safe. I e-mailed all guide companies in the country but no one answered. Also this was not a tour they offered anyway. One company in Dominican Republic did answer and say “we don´t recommend you to go to Haiti.” So I thought, well then, I will do it myself somehow. I just get a driver to take me there.
I got in touch with a few taxis and private drivers and booked Port au Prince taxi due to recommendations on Tripadvisor. 2 days cost me 400 euro + hotels and food for the driver. I also had to pay 150 euro for motos since the driver said he could not drive the whole way to the mountain. It felt kind of expensive. But I thought a good driver would be more safe then going by myself and in that case it would be worth paying for.
The driver picked me up at the airport and we started driving south. It was already evening and we stopped for a great dinner in Jacmel and then continued to a hotel in the jungle: Haiti Surf Guest House. It was a pretty cool hotel with open walls, sleeping under a mosquito net in the jungle but our driver was not happy to drive us there because of the really bad road: A 4×4 is needed but we had that.
We got to the hotel around midnight and had a few hours of sleep. At 6 am the motos would come pick us up to drive the last hours to get to the trail start.
The moto drivers did not speak any english but I had told the CEO of the Taxi company where we wanted to go and sent a GPS track of the exact route. I double checked with our taxi driver and showed him the GPS track and made sure before we left on the motos that we would go to the right place. He assured me about this and me and Andres jumped up on back of a moto each with some teenage driver ready to take us up the mountains.
We drove to Marigot and from there up the mountains. The road started to get really bad. It was bumpy and every bump hurt you ass. When I noticed that the drivers missed the road we were suppose to drive off on and they also started asking locals about the way I knew something was wrong. Suddenly they drove off to the west when we needed to go more to the east. I told them to stop and tried to explain to them we were going the wrong way by showing them the map and the GPS track. I could not speak either french or creole so we could only communicate with our hands. They assured me we were on the right way but I knew we were not. I zoomed in on the map and saw a possible way to connect to the road we needed to go on further up so I thought ok let´s continue because maybe they want to take that road?
But after driving pass that road to I stopped them again and showed them we are going in the wrong direction. They pointed in the other direction and I said “no no” to them and tried to get them to understad we were driving in the opposite way. They could not understand maps och GPS either so trying to show them that lead nowhere. Some locals showed up next to us and one of them spoke Spanish so Andres started talking to him explaning we wanted to go to Pic La Selle. Now we been on the road for 5 hours already and we were no way near where we needed to be. The guys on the motos said they would take us to the National Park entrance and drop us there and we would walk from there. But it´s like 60 km from there to the mountain and I knew that was not right. They also said it was too far to drive. I called the taxi companys CEO and told him about the situation, that I had sent him a map and a GPS track and that we are going the wrong direction and he needs to fix this. Because we only had this day to climb the mountain. The next day we were off to Cuba.
Andres were hanging out with the local kids during the stop.
After almost 2 hours of stoppning, talking and fixing two of the locals helped us and sent someone with us who knew where we wanted to go. Finally we were on the right way but damn how much time that was already wasted. Another two hours passed in back of the motos and we were finally at the trail start 3:30 in the afternoon. My ass hurt so bad from sitting in the back for 9 hours on the bad roads. But at least we were at the trail start!
The climb is quick, just a little bit more then an hour up to the top on a trail. The trail is not super obvious but if you have a GPS track it´s alright. We had the local acting as guide (something I noticed in Haiti is that everyone wants to help tourists with everything to get some money, like carry your bags at the airport, help you in customs etc) and it was great to finally stand on the summit and check this peak off. Because that´s how it felt. Now we just needed to get back and out of this country without any more problems.
On the summit of Pic La Selle.
We started driving back and it turned dark. We passed a small village where the locals not looked happy when they saw us. An old man with a big machete starred really angry at me. In a way I have never experienced before. And our local guide where gone at this moment. Leaving me and Andres with the teenage drivers by ourselves next to this group of locals who were not happy with us. Andres driver did not like the situation and drove away. I was left, trying to stay calm and look nice. Like I was no threat to them. After five minutes our local guide came back and we continued. We bought gas from another local. Kept driving. But almost 12 hours on back of a moto, now in the dark where the teenagers were lost again had taken out it´s right. It hurt so bad. Sometimes we had to stop and rest a minute but most of all we just wanted to get down. Our driver had a 4×4 car so he could drive on these roads. We called him and asked him to come meet us halfway. That gave me new hope. A car was on it´s way.
But halfway down we had not seen any car. So we called him again, asking where he was. He said he was still in Marigot. He had not even started driving. We asked him why and he said he did not know they way. It was ridicilous. There was basically one road, that had a name and we told him exactly where we were. The driver just didn´t want to come meet us. So when we finally got back down after 12 hours on the motos it was finally over. Omg. I lied in the backseat of the car in pain the whole way back to Port Au Prince. And the driver (that we were not happy with) did not even pay the guys on the motos!! We had given him 150 euro earlier today for that in cash but the poor teenage guys were totally ripped off! Andres asked the driver “did you pay them” and he got angry with Andres. This was so not ok. But they were gone when I realised this so there was nothing to do except going back and get a few hours of sleep before it was time to leave the country.
When the driver dropped us off at the airport the next morning he made the cash sign with his hands. He wanted tip. I told him to forget it because we already paid a lot to them, over price for the service, the service was a disaster where they drove us to the wrong mountain and ripped off the guys on the motos and refused to come meet us with the car when we were in pain asking for help. I was really upset with this driver actually. So we got to the airport and thought “finally, let´s leave” but the airport was chaos. Out flight was suppose to leave two hours later but everyone in the line had at least 10 pieces of luggage each to check in and argued about the extra price so we barley made our flight out because check in was impossible. I managed to sneak in our passports in between two arguments and say “can you please check us in or we miss our flight” and the nice lady in the desk helped us.
So what I learned from my visit in Haiti is: Yes it´s a country in need of some structure but I never felt it was that dangerous as everyone told me. In fact people generally were nice. Expect to get ripped off by everyone tho. Make sure to be extra clear about the service your order because something will be not correct. And if you can speak french it will help a lot. I´m happy I´m done with the mission here but I´m also happy I got to see this part of the world. It gives you perspective.
This mountain was sponsored by ELLE and that means 268 more euro for my fundraiser for the rainforest. A big part of why I´m doing this project is to give back and to do something for the world, to make it a better place. If you would like to support the fundraiser nothing would make me more happy. You find more information here!
Photos by me & Andres Duran