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6630: Fw: re Piece in Sunday Independent UK. 14th Jan. 2001 (fwd)

From: jacqualine labrom <ljacqui@haitiworld.com>

To all Corbeteers - this is a piece which appeared in the Sunday Independent
14th Jan.2001. It was written by Phil Haines a regular contributor to the
Indie who is also a Tour Operator. He is planning on sending out his clients
to Haiti as a new tourist destination.
'I have recently read about the Voodoo festivals of Vyej Mirak and
St.Jacques Majeur held in Haiti in July. What would be the best way to visit
these festivals in terms of getting there and getting around? Are there any
tour operators? How safe would it be? Alun Davies Chepstow, Monmouthshire

Haiti is a truly special destination. The most mountainous country in the
Caribbean became the second Republic of the Western hemisphere, in 1804,
after the U.S.A. La Plage de Pointe Ouest on Ile de la Tortue was voted the
best beach in the Caribbean, yet Haiti is empty of the U.S. tourism that
plagues and over-populates the rest of the region. The vibrant colours of
Haitian naïve art are admired throughout the world and spirited music eases
the hardships that abound in the poorest country of the Americas. Wyclef
Jean was born in Haiti and his famous group, the Fugees with Lauryn Hill,
was named after the 38000 boat refugees that headed to Florida where they
were denied landing in 1988. The gabled and Graham Greene-fabled Hotel
Oloffson has a superb in-house band, RAM, led by owner Richard Morse. If you
stay there on a Thursday night, schedule a late Friday start because you
will be dancing in a Voodoo (commonly spelt Vodou in Haiti) trance until
3am. For the stay-at-home traveller, catch RAM at Edinburgh this summer when
they will be enlivening Festival life for a second year. Graham Greene
centred the action of the Comedians (later a Richard Burton and Liz Taylor
film) around the Oloffson during the sixties regime of Papa Doc Duvalier and
his thugs, the Tontons Macoutes.

Port au Prince is a poor and bustling capital. Naturally, it has its share
of thieves and maintaining the usual precautions: do not walk around the
port at night and leave valuables, including jewellery and watches in the
hotel, you should be safe. Haiti has received a lot of unjustified negative
press over the years, it was once announced that the Aids virus originated
there. The central Iron Market, so called because of its construction, is
usually described as claustrophobic and nauseating but, because of its high
roofs, it is relatively airy.

Vodou festivals are wild affairs and to guide you safely through the mayhem
it is advisable to have a local assistant. There is a lot of drinking and
dancing involved so be prepared if you wish to make the most of your visit.
Fortunately, the two major festivals are near the main towns so returning to
your bed is easier. The pilgrimages tend to coincide with, and are named
after, Catholic feast days. Saut d?Eau or Vyej Mirak, Virgin Mary, is on
July 16th at the pretty village of Ville-Bonheur, 50 kms from Port au
Prince. Pilgrims bathe in a sacred waterfall and visit a church built where
the Virgin is said to have appeared in a palm tree in 1884. Typically,
Catholicism and Vodou blend together so watch out for Haitians holding their
passports up to a statue of Virgin Mary praying she will intercede with a
U.S. visa. On 25th July, the festival of Plaine du Nord, shares its day with
St James, linked with the Vodou spirit Ogou Ferraille. On the 26th, people
move on to Limonade for the rituals of the spirit, Erzulie. Plaine du Nord
and Limonade are both about 15kms from the second city, Cap Haitien, a
45-minute flight North from the capital costing $88 return.

American Airlines have 2-3 flights each day from Miami but you will need to
spend a night on your outbound journey (they cost about £867 including
taxes, in July, from Airline Travel Network 0800 727747). Some people prefer
to take advantage of the cheaper flights available to neighbouring Dominican
Republic from £567 including taxes through Airline Travel Network). There
are comfortable 6-hour buses that travel twice a day between Santo Domingo,
DR?s capital and colonial Spain?s first in the Americas, and Port au Prince.
You could also stop at Lago Enriquillo home to 500 Crocodiles, Flamingoes
and the Isla Cabritos where 2 species of large Iguanas reside.

Leah Gordon has covered most details you need in the Lonely Planet Guide to
Dominican Republic and Haiti. Voyages Lumiere of Port au Prince (?phone +509
2574005 or e-mail ljacqui@haitiworld.com) is run by Englishwoman, Jacqualine
La Brom who can arrange everything from hotels to bus bookings and, with her
fluent Creole, she is also an excellent guide. Furthermore, Jacqualine makes
a big effort to encourage beneficial tourism to Haiti. Her favourite hotel,
le Cyvadier Plage, is in a gorgeous, quiet bay near colourful Jacmel and its
profits support an orphanage. '

Jacqualine Labrom ljacqui@haitiworld.com


'Journeys for the enlightened traveler'
'Voyages pour le touriste éclairé'
'Los viajes para el turista iluminado'