Crazy Town, Crazy Island – Past the Epicentre

Heading off again we passed through many kilometres of chaotic suburbs , gradually leaving Port Au Prince behind but then travelling through a succession of other towns and cities including Carrefour (the epicentre of the main earthquake) and Grand Saline.   It was two and a half years since the quake, and yet the evidence was all around – cracked walls, buildings still lying at peculiar angles (sometimes still being inhabited that way) .  Piles of rubble everywhere, or the material to rebuild stacked high but not yet utilised.

The waste from the earthquake mixed with the accumulating detritus from a third world city; household waste piled high from food and glass to sofas, oil drums and old cars.  Picking their way through the garbage were crows, dogs, the occasional pigs and human beings, including children.

Progress through the urban areas was painfully slow at times, but eventually things started to alter; the houses were not packed so closely together, there were more trees and smallholder plots and tiny plantations of coconuts and bananas.  The houses were now more substantial; not affluent necessarily but with a proper terrace around, more bungalow in style.  Some were wooden and painted.  It finally dawned on me where I was; I was back in the Caribbean.

Spending most of the week in Port Au Prince, I had been exposed to this crazy mix of Latino, Caribbean and African influences, with the pretence at north American and old colonial throwbacks.  Now away from the density and intensity of the city, I saw Haiti for what it really is, an easy going, resource rich and in many places, stunningly beautiful country.  Port Au Prince was the Caribbean on acid; only in Port of Spain or Kingston had I seen anything close to the level of hypertension and anarchy.  As I say for every country you ever visit, don’t stay in the capital or the biggest cities, they are often dreadful mutations of the country as a whole; it is as true of London and Paris as Port Au Prince and Accra.

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