On the Road to Leogane

In Haiti, Photography on February 10, 2011 at 12:08 am

“Driving in  Haiti must be undertaken with extreme caution.” Needless to say this is not something they announce when booking your ticket to Haiti. The nearest airport for me to fly into Leogane, where I was going to volunteer with All Hands, is Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port au Prince,  37 kilometers from Leogane.  A shuttle would pick us up at the airport and drive us to base in Leogane.   Little did we know what it means to be packed like ‘sardines’.

My first introduction to driving ‘a la Haitian’. We pack in, 10 people in a van fit for six, all this including everyone’s luggage. Five o’clock, height of traffic, stiffling heat, air reeking of smells yet to be identified. The van is weaving in, around and about the sparse remainders of a road system, shop keepers sell their wares by the road side, dust swirls amidst the cacophony of bikes, taptaps and dogs. Roads are clogged with piles of rubble; condemned remnants of houses destroyed by the earthquake stand crooked with gapping holes. It looks like a war zone after a massive air raid. This a little over a year after the earthquake.

So how long could it take to drive 37 kilometers?

The United States built much of the road network during the U.S. occupation (1915-34) and many stretches are now in need of extensive maintenances; some bridges are impassable. In addition many portions of road have buckled or are non existent since the earthquake in 2010. At 1999 count, Haiti had 1,011 kilometers of paved roads and 3,149 kilometers of unpaved roads. No accurate mapping exists of Haiti’s road network.

Public transportation, as it is understood in the United States or anywhere else in the developed world, does not exist in Haiti.  Most Haitians travel by ‘taptap’ a form of communal taxi, moto or on foot. Catching a taxi consists of flagging down a car or motorbike, anyone, as there is little or no formal taxi system in operation.   There are approximately 36 vehicles per 1,000 in habitants. Roads are mostly unmarked and unpaved. Everything in Haiti is adhoc or unconventional in the real sense of the word.

So how long did it take to travel 37 kilometers?  2 1/2 hours

To put it more succinctly Suite 101 says, “Travelers who want luxury accommodations and transportation should not visit Haiti.”

Read more at Suite101: Traveling Within Haiti: Getting Around on Haitian Public Transportation

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