Two american friends, Rusty and Isaac, who live in jubilee were over this week and they asked me if I wanted to go on a hike the next day in the mountains- I agreed- later that day they came back with a smirk on their faces and proposed an overnight hike in the mountains-
After a short hesitation, I agreed to that as well.
We got up at 4:30 in the morning and met two haitian guys with motorcycles outside of our house. I hopped on to the first bike behind the haitian driver- he held my backpack in front of him- Isaac jumped on the motorcycle behind me- three deep. Rusty rode on the other motorcycle with his dog on his lap. It was very sketchy- but also very normal at the same time.
We drove for 30 minutes in the dark to a mountain that the guys had found on google maps- we paid the drivers and they gave us their cell number for when we needed a ride back. We stepped off the road, took 20 steps and found ourselves in a massive thorn bush- Rusty got them in his leg and couldn’t get them out- his dog backed into the thorns and they were stuck in its butt and foot- I grabbed the dog and got a bunch of thorns in my hands and issac helped us all get them out – they were some sort of crazy velcro thorns that grabbed onto you- It was a fantastic start to our adventure. We hiked up a steep mountain- We all had major scrapes on our legs and I slipped on a rock (I blame it on the fact that I had running shoes on) and smashed my shin on a rock. We got to the top before 7:00 and witnessed an incredible sunrise over all of Gonaives.
We found an area on the mountain where they held sacred Voodoo rituals on the top of a mountain- there were several sticks in the ground positioned in a misshapen circled, a creole Holy Bible, and a bottle of rum. We hiked further and saw a large tree in the distance which was one of the only trees we could see on the mountains due to major deforestation that took place years ago. We decided, based on the amount of water that we had, that we could make it to the tree before noon, escape the mid day heat, and camp there for the night. So we hiked and hiked, and the closer we got to the tree the smaller it became. We reached the mountain with the “tree” which turned out to be a little shrub that had been burnt, along with the rest of the mountain by a previous Voodoo ritual. We couldn’t continue hiking to see if there were other trees because our water situation was at 50%. We decided to stay there and set up “camp” which for me was a blanket draped over the scraggly shrub in an effort to block sunlight. All of our bodies couldn’t fit under the shade so our legs cooked in the sun from 11:00 to 5:00. We slept for most of the afternoon, I wedged myself between a few rocks and tried to read but it was too hot and we didn’t speak to each others for a few hours. I brought my awesome lifesaver water bottle with me but it turns out you need a source of water to purify in order for it to be fully effective. We boiled some water and made hot dogs – we decided to give the hot dog water, also known as wiener water soup, to rusty’s dog because we couldn’t afford to waste any. Rusty had several dreams about a water fall that poured into a basin that we could drink from- I woke up a few times thinking that my water bottle tipped over and I didn’t have any more to drink….we were quite dehydrated. We made ramin (romin?) noodles for supper but the increased levels of sodium in our systems made things slightly worse.
We ended up going to bed at 6:30 under the stars without a tent. The incredible starry night sky made the hardships of the day worth while. I didn’t have a fancy backpacking sleeping mat or a sleeping bag so I brought bubble wrap and a fashioned a light sheet into a sleeping apparatus. The bubbles occasionally popped when I moved but overall it was a big success.
During the night there was a Voodoo ritual happening at the place where we found the bible and the bottle of rum and we could see the flames rise above the peak of the mountain, it was very eerie and I was glad to be far from it. I forgot to mention that the area we chose to sleep was a small flat patch of grass that was surrounded in burnt grass – it was a former voodoo ritual circle which added to the creepy factor.
We woke up in the morning and headed down the mountain. We hit up a small village that most likely had never seen three white guys descend down their mountains before. We were able to find a clean, cool river that ran through the village that we waded into to clean ourselves off. We made a few phone calls and we were back in our comfortable house an hour later.
All in all- We learned a lot about backpacking in Haiti- assume nothing- bring more water than you think you’ll need- and commercial bubble wrap is easily converted to an affordable sleeping mat. There was a handful of mental and physical challenges but the quality time I was able to spend with God and friends made the journey worth the fight.