By Hugh B. Cave
Previously unpublished. All rights are those of Hugh B. Cave.
This expedition was planned and taken by Dr. Charles H. Deichman and author Hugh B. Cave. This journal was written by Hugh B. Cave from a notebook he carried on the trip. He has graciously agreed to have me post it here for those interested in Haiti. It's with great delight that I can offer you this piece on my web site thanks to the kindness of Hugh B. Cave. July, 4, 1999. Bob Corbett
Jan. 6, Departed Port-au-Prince 10 a.m. in Haitian Air Force Beechcraft, eight passengers including Deichman and Cave. Fare to Cayes, $9 each (U.S.) plus $11 (U.S.) for excess baggage. Arrived Cayes, coral airstrip, about 1 hour later. Met by aa frienmd who lived in Cayes,and on way to town stopped at Garde d'Haiti post to check in. Reported to police in town also. Very nice. Our "police pass" signed by Captain Lucien Scott of P-au-P works magic!
Our friend in Cayes is husband of second cousin of my Petionville landlord. He and his brother expected us after my landlord phoned them last night. No mules are available in Cayes. The town has "gone modern", our friend says. He will phone someone in Port-a-Piment and have a boy bring three mules over the road, arriving the night of Jan. 7. So we'll have an unplanned-for extra day in Cayes.
I am writing this at Pension Conde, where we have 2 rooms, while enjoying rum soda, awaiting lunch, and admiring numerous pictures of undraped females on the walls. Why undraped females in a hotel room?
Jan. 6. After lunch of chicken, rice & beans, and ice cream, walked out to market and boutiques to buy sugar, rope, etc., and met our friend in local cafe with a priest from the hills. Talked for an hour, then left them and walked about town followed by a hustler, probably the same one who approached me here 2 years ago, wanting to provide us with women. Returned to hotel where our friend joined us for talk on veranda, then supper. Then to the friend's brother's house where we met the brother's charming and beautiful wife. Back to bed at 11. Everything arranged for mules to leave Port-a-Piment tomorrow at dawn, arrive here in p.m. Our friend will rent us his boat to go to Ile a Vache tomorrow.
IMPRESSIONS: Our friend's beautiful home. Lovely tavernon table (tavernon much prettier than mahogany, and much more rare). He says life in provinces is easier than in the capital. He is a coffee buyer. Knows my Swiss friend Gustav Gilg. Was at Pilate with Jean David and tells the same strange stories! (See chapter in my book Haiti: Highroad to Adventure about Pilate, the "town built by zombies.") He also knows my friends Pere Smith and Eddie Mathon.
Jan 7. Walked about Cayes until time to depart for Ile a Vache. Our friend's "mechanic", with a crew of four boys including one deaf mute, took us in a power barge (used by our friend to tow lighters) to Cayes-a-l'Eau, a small but pretty island with a white sand beach. Almond trees everywhere. Primitive grass-thatched houses. Fish, sardines; tiny bait-fish drying in sun. People here have no water,but are very friendly. We had to wade ashore but got back to the barge via native sailboat used as dinghy.
Next stop Ile-a-Vache, old pirate hangout, 23 kilos long. Green, seemingly fertile. But again no fresh water. Natives get water from mainland for both islands. We anchor in "Refuge", an old pirate cove. Walk inland to height. Many huge mango trees in "parks." Sent a boy up a tree for coconuts but he would drink none himself, claiming they were bad for growing boys and might kill him. Swam in bay before leaving. Beautiful white sand beach shaded by overhanging almond trees. Back home in our wet shorts after wading our gear aboard.
Changed clothes on return to hotel, then visited Bishop Colignon. He from Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where I used to live. Young priest visiting him, also originally from Pawtucket. Young priest told of colony of Portuguese descendants at Ti Riviere near St. Jean, his parish. Possibly a Portuguese ship was wrecked there long ago. Bishop C. promised to tell all the priests about us -- they are assembled in Cayes now to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Bishop's coming here. Big gathering at Camp Perrin. They will help us get mules and boys all along the coast.
Our friend showed us around Cayes in his truck, then to cafe for drinks and to his house for dinner. Another charming wife, plus 3 charming children (a fourth in Port-au-Prince). Good dinner. Best fish I've ever had in Haiti. Dutch beer as special treat. Pleasant talk about languages and American politics until 10:30, then home to pack, jot down these notes, and to bed. (P.S. Our friend tells us the boy arrived on schedule with the mules and boy and mules are now bedded down in his yard. Will come here at 6 a.m. and off we go.)
IMPRESSIONS: Our friend tells everyone in quick French, thinking we won't understand, that we like Haitian people, especially the peasants, and we have traveled extensively in Haiti and I have written a book. Tres sympatique!
FROM DIKE'S NOTES: Bay at Vache used for careening ships in pirate days. Coco palms prominent on island. Much piti-mi (kaffir corn). "Bitter" fresh water lake in center. Politicos at cafe very reserved, almost appeared unfriendly to us. Civilians friendly. Bishop Collignon warned us against swimming in the mouths of fresh water streams--too many caimans. He says Tiburon, at the end of the coast road, where we will take off into the mountains, is like Switzerland. Children at Cayes-a-l'Eau had toys made of local things, boats made from coconut husks, etc. Houses and people there very clean. In emergency they dig for water above tide.
Jan 8. Left Cayes at 8 a.m. in rain with 3 mules and Joseph. Joseph pleasant at first, surly later as he got tired and impatient. Country all the same: fertile, nice painted cailles, breadfruit trees, bananas, cocos, many fine apricot trees. Along plain, then over mountains to cross peninsula. Many grave-markers like those pictured in my "Highroad to Adventure" book.
No food. Very tired. Joseph determined to reach Roche-a-Bateau. We stop at Port Salud to ask police in café where to buy chicken. Rigamarole at Garde post. "Mayor" of town arrives. We finally buy chicken, paying too much for it, get out of town and stop on the beach. ($2 for chicken!) Dike cooks chicken in sea water. Very tasty to hungry men. Also rice and beans and tea. All the neighbors come around. After a late supper finished and neighbors gone, we walk beach alone in the dark, feeling like Robinson Crusoe. Many stars. Sound of surf. Lonely and lovely, just as we imagined it would be. To bed at 9:45, tired but happy. Sleeping bags spread under a tree that Joseph called figue (pronounced fee-gay).
Jan 9. Slept well except for pounding of surf and a prowling dog. Up at dawn. Sent Joseph to buy eggs. He asked 3 gourdes (60 cents) to buy eight eggs, came back with 16 of them for 2 gourdes. Maybe doesn't understand our Creole too well. Or we his. Kids arrived for gifts and ran errands. Adults came to say goodbye and "Allez bien." We leave at 8.30. Again Joseph sets fast pace.
Passed Table-au-Diable, a big flat rock or rocks in the bay, and then through Roche-a-Bateau. Coastal town, one street only, on a pretty bay, the road descending to it from heights. River enters bay through the town and road goes along sea's edge, crossing river at mouth.
On to Coteaux, in another bay. Many beaches and small cliffs, road along shore most of the time. Attractive town. Police post, but we go right on by. After Coteaux a long stretch of steep, sheer, 60-70 foot cliffs. Naked fishermen. Good horses and mules in this region. Many beaches. Everyone grows piti-mi and the landscape looks like our cornfield country with waving heads of corn. Ripe now and being harvested, dried, threshed. Also new crop being planted. Coumbite and Congo Societies active. Hedges of candelabra cactus.
After Coteaux, road descends steeply to Damassin, a compact little 2-street town of iron roofs and some big, old-looking buildings. We are stopped by cop who looks at our papers and "bon voyages" us. Outside town, after crossing river, we rest in banana grove and eat bananas we buy for penny apiece. Many mango trees here and castor-bean plantations along the coast. Peasant plantations, that is.
We push on. Joseph asks for cigarettes now with never a "please" or "thankyou". Arrive Port a Piment about 4:30 through outskirts called Figuier. Go straight to church followed by half the kids in town.
Father Labrie and Father Paradis (Oblate priests) ask us to stay at their house by the church. The former is from Lowell, Mass, the latter from Pawtucket, R.I. Most Oblates here are French Canadians from New England. Headquarters of the order is in Lowell. Labrie and Paradis are repairing their home, learning plumbing and carpentering from books. We are the first to use their new plumbing.
Port a Piment a very advanced little town. Town "millionaire" has a Buick, owns boat, many mules, etc. (makes his money in coffee) but dresses like peasant when he goes to Port-au-Prince. Church here (French sisters) for over 50 years. Now served by Sisters of Ste. Anne, 6 of them, and 2 Oblate Fathers. Parish goes back into the hills from coast a day's journey on muleback. Five chapels. Population 11,000. Port a Piment most advanced town on coast, the fathers say. Not, however, the largest in population. Camp Perrin and some others have as many as 30,000 people.
We have supper of soup, spaghetti, bread, potatoes, and stay up till midnight talking. Eggs for breakfast. In the morning we decide to send Joseph and his mules back and walk from here on because riding is too uncomfortable and makes picture-taking difficult. For our gear we will use a pack mule and someone to look after it. But we encounter problems and spend the whole of Jan 10 trying to solve them. First to Pradier Peck, who sent the 3 mules to Cayes via Joseph. He has no pack mule to rent us. We go to another man in town, but no mules are available anywhere. By this time the fathers have obtained a boy for us, Morail Vendredi, and we learn that a man has a bourrique (donkey) for sale for $30. As I write this at 5 p.m. Vendredi (we call him "our boy Friday" of course!) has located a mule and is out dickering for it. Earlier be bought a machete for 70 cents U.S., a bagful of piti-mi for one gourde (20 cents U.S.) and some garlic.
IMPRESSIONS ON THIS BUSY SATURDAY: Pere Paradis took off on muleback this morning to perform a marriage in the hills. Most peasants don't marry in Haiti; "placage"--living together--is the common thing. Other priest has wedding scheduled for 6 this evening, girl local, boy from Hinche. There were several baptisms this morning.
Not much voodoo here, the Fathers say, but it goes on back in the hills, they think. They really know little about the subject. They have their own crosses at the crossroads and have found voodoo "mangé loa" on them at times.
Town typical but interesting. Saturday market all done by 4 p.m. Not many vegetables here. One steer killed every market day. Cooks of the Fathers and the Sisters bid against each other for filet. (They ought to get together. One priest has it solved, however. On the days the Sisters win, he goes over to eat with them!)
Our talk with one man about a mule was in his "barber shop"--a chair in a back yard under a big shade tree. Bread is baked there too, in an old brick oven.
We hope to leave early tomorrow and get past Les Anglais before stopping. It's 12 miles to L.A. Dike now fishing in the good sisters' pool while I write this, with half the kids in town watching us both. No fish. Garde d'Haiti came over to check on us with the fathers this morning. We are impatient, wasting a day here, and worried about the mule situation. But we need the rest. Yesterday was tough on us. Tomorrow will be tough too.
The fathers here do their own building, they say, because local artisans can't make a straight line. All cailles are crooked because bent poles are used in framing walls and windows. We walked about town taking pictures most of the afternoon while Friday sought a mule.
Fr. Labrie says he read my "Troublesome Taxi" Haiti story in the Saturday Evening Post. Also says everyone in town knows we are here. Fr. Paradis said he would spread the word in the hills. We are surveying for a "grand chemin", by golly! Dike enjoys fishing. Kids enjoy watching him. Many "Oh-ohs!" The sisters' pool has no beach, only rocks, but has high concrete walls for privacy.
ADD SATURDAY EVENING: No bourrique. Friday brought one for us to look at but it was a sad specimen, obviously no good for the mountain journey we face. We can rent a mule which will be delivered 5:30 tomorrow morning, perhaps. Bed at 11. Terrific rain during the night, with high wind. Had to get up at 1 a.m. to save the sheet metal on the roof, all of us blundering around on the veranda in the dark.
Jan. 11. Sunday. Departed Port-a-Piment 7:30 after much adjusting of baggage on mule. "Eee" means "Go" and "La" means "Stop." Shed our shoes to cross P-a-P River. Around Morne Rouge to little roadside village called Bosquette. Friday, talking about our plans, seems anxious about sleeping in mountains and how will he get home? We promise him pictures to make him a Gros Neg. Road follows coast with cliffs near on right. Thorn bush, few gardens, land not fertile here. Sea rough after last night's storm. On outskirts of Chardonnier we stop to buy bananas and kola. "No pix please." In Chardonnier, Garde d'Haiti stops us to examine our papers, with big shot local politico who speaks some English. All are much impressed by our adventure. We stop outside town at river to rest, backs against a big mapou tree. Saw bunch of boys in Chardonnier with their faces painted with red and white clay for Mardi Gras. Father told us Mardi Gras in Tiburon was a big show.
Thunder is "l'oreille grande de ciel". Beaches long and lonely here before Les Anglais. Path leaves jeep road and follows the shore at high water mark. Trees are mostly bayahondes. Tree with large spiny almond-shaped fruit or pods is called "malfini", evidently poisonous. In places we hug rocks while mule on long rope wades through breakers. Sky black over Tiburon and here. Thunder and lightning. We walk through rain, stopping when downpour heavy. Man offers to go get chairs from his caille "pou chita" ("to sit") when we stop under a tree. This in the little village of Narcosse between Chardonnier and Les Anglais. A "bal" going on there and 2 or 3 very wonderful Mardi Gras costumes. Did a hip wiggle for us as we passed.
Plaine des Anglais very fertile. Road winds through banana groves in flat country. Rain still falling. Many cailles for miles outside town. People friendly. We stop in rain to take pictures of old sugar mill across Riviere Les Anglais. Then we wade river, I aggravating an earlier stone bruise on instep, and seek shelter from terrific downpour. Hole up on porch of a caille, mule under mango tree in yard. Later go into caille at invitation of people. Heavy rain for half an hour. When no sign of let-up, we make a break for priest's house at other end of town. Nearly get drowned.
Priest here is Father Mitchell, from Newton, Mass. Young fellow, friendly and apparently glad to see us. We give Friday dry clothes (he didn't bring a change). Mule is a sorry sight but our sleeping gear is dry. However, rain continues hard, and sleeping outdoors is out of the question. Fr. Mitchell asks us to stay, and we break out rum.
Fr. Mitchell has a big house, but we had to wade a small river to reach it. Dike gives him a pipe and tobacco, which are gratefully received. We enjoy a good dinner of steak, mashed white potatoes, string beans from a can, packaged chocolate pudding, and coffee.
Fr. Mitchell is interested in voodoo. Tells of old man in zombie cave, also of an old man who appeared one day in Roche a Bateau, not knowing his name or where he came from--everyone waiting to see what he would do.
Fr. Mitchell's house was built by priests from France, the best and only one of its kind in town. French fathers built the town's unique church too, all of poured concrete. We talk about these things until 11 p.m. and then retire.
Jan 12. Monday. Departed after breakfast. Met a boy wearing a St. Raphael T-shirt and took a photo of him, on outskirts of town. St. Raphael Academy is in R.I., where I live! T-shirt obviously sent here from there. Outside town, climbed steep mountain with quite a following. Fr. Mitchell told us natives never swim in sea except on Good Friday, when they feel safe. Descent of mountain very steep, through wooded ravines over muddy, slippery paths. (The road, which is really only an unpaved jeep track, ended at Les Anglais; there's nothing now but a footpath, though the Tiburon father gets over it somehow on a motorbike, carrying the bike over the rough spots!) Now along the beach past high black cliffs.
Lacahouane is a poor little settlement where we are propositioned--vehemently!--by a drunken tart. Then five miles of black-sand beach, quite deserted.
Bon Pas another poor little village on straight road by sea. Man from village accompanies us to his grove to sell us some coconuts. Many others tag along to watch. For miles now the path passes through deep jungle well back from the sea. We take pictures of jungle. Then it cuts over to sea again at little village of Grosse Chaudiere--few scattered houses, that's all. Why is Bon Pas not on the map and this place is? We think map may be wrong and we are close to Tiburon.
Sound of surf all day long. Getting tired now at 3 p.m. as I jot down these notes. Mule keeps lying down. Not tired, just a habit. (Turned out later he had a sore back, poor devil.) Many land crabs along road here. Have had a slow drizzle all day, which makes for pleasant walking, not too hot, but bad for pictures.
Map was right. Tiburon is behind distant point, still far off. Now raining hard. Path is sloppy and hard walking. We very tired but keep hobbling on. Feet wet.
Bay of Tiburon very lovely. We see town suddenly from top of high cliff we have climbed. Most attractive setting of any in Haiti. Boat in harbor. Houses at bay's edge. We tell girls at Father's house (he is in Cayes now) we are friends of all the Fathers. They make us welcome. Meat and rice for supper with basilique tea, very good. A couple of drinks on the upstairs veranda, overlooking the sea and the tax collector's house, and then to bed early, very tired, with sore feet, but happy at having discovered such a beautiful place.
Jan. 13. Our mule has a sore back. We discovered it last night and asked Friday to take care of it. Dike put some gunk on it. The people here seem most attractive. Much evidence of Spanish blood. Many light skins. Slept well last night and had breakfast of eggs. Then walked about town taking pictures. Visited Romulus Romain, the juge de paix, and his wife. Nice, both of them. He obtained a guide for us, an old fellow named Dorisme Borgla. Seems very intelligent. Friday wanted to quit but after much talk in Romulus' place he decided to go on. Probably more afraid to go back without the mule than he is of the mountains. As I write this we are having a chicken dinner before putting the show on the road again.
IMPRESSIONS: This is a beautiful little town, nice green "place", footpaths for streets, people friendly. Good river, and where you find water in Haiti you find clean people. Three life-sized painted plaster statues in Father's house--Mary, Jesus, and St. John holding a child--watched over us while we ate. So did puppies on the table! People in town are very friendly as we go about taking pictures. They have tough time getting into town from the west, across the bar, when the river is high.
Left Tiburon at noon and took trail upriver. Trail easy enough but crossed river again and again, at least 20 times in four hours. (We remove shoes for first couple of crossings, then get smart and leave them on. Much easier on the feet.) River is wide and swift, shallow now but with signs it was a raging torrent when yesterday's hard rain came down. Very lovely wild scenery. Few cailles but good ones. Occasionally a coffee or banana grove. We think Do-re-mi will make a good guide; the old man knows mules and seems efficient. Friday understands our Creole better, however, and acts as go-between. But Doremi leads the expedition. Mule seems more spirited today than yesterday, despite sore back. He was probably badly loaded yesterday. No rain. Sky overcast with periods of sunshine. Mule kicked Dike this morning when Dike approached to apply salve on sore back. Mean-tempered devil--we'll have to watch him. Friday carries a club and walks guardedly behind him. Doremi leads the beast on a short rope.
At four o'clock we arrive at rural policeman's caille beside river in what is perhaps a typical hillbilly village. We camp beside river under orange trees, inside fence that straggles along the path. Two cockfight rings near by. Buy a chicken, sweet potatoes, and yams. Chicken five gourdes ($1 U.S.) Potatoes 4 cents, yams 40 cents. Madame asks one gourde extra for oil to cook in. As she cooks supper for us and we wait, every living soul in district comes to our camp to see the blancs. We change shoes, build fire, lay out sleeping bags, boil water. Madame brings basilique tea in little pot, along with her only cup and saucer (or her husband's) and sugar, all on wooden tray covered with a napkin. (We had asked for basilique leaves to make our own tea.) Our cooking is big event. Now the crowd drifts slowly away.
REMEMBERED IMPRESSIONS OF TIBURON. Strange how the mind keeps going back to that lovely town and it keeps cropping up in my notes! This morning Madame Romulus gave us a box of chocolates, climbing a ladder in her store to get it out of a lard tin on a top shelf. We in turn presented Romulus with a pipe. Took pix of the couple, and also of the people at the priest's house. Old housekeeper of Father a wonderful woman. We gave her and the cook some money. Sent the boy to buy rum at $1.60 U.S. a bottle (cheap for such a remote place) but only 2 bottles available in the town. The priest drinks Seven Up! Thinking the life-sized three statues were real, I said "Bon soir" to them on coming downstairs in the dark. Boy at Father's house addressed us as "Mon blanc." Their word for water is the Spanish "agua."
Supper by the river, cooked and delivered by Madame, the wife of the Chef de Commune. Chicken tender but full of tiny bone chips--must have been chopped up with a machete. We have 2 visitors, one who worked in Puerto Rico and understands my Creole well. We sit around the fire and talk with them while we eat. We are the first strangers ever to pass through here, they tell us. When we go to bed, they go home.
A little rain during the night, but not enough to dispossess us. Every time I wake I think it is raining hard because of the rushing water in the stream near by.
Jan 14. Wednesday. We buy eggs for 16 cents a dozen, big fresh ones, and nine bananas for 3 cents, also big. Another large audience at breakfast. Give Madame a present of ribbon and monsieur a pipe, apparently much appreciated. Also give Doremi a pipe and Friday a knife, which makes old Doremi jealous and we promise him a knife later. All morning up the Tiburon River, crossing and recrossing as before. River climbs swiftly and soon becomes a rushing stream choked with boulders. We are forced to cut away a huge fallen tree to make a passage for the mule. Finally leave river on our left, after passing some banana and coffee groves, and climb a steep red-mud trail through large banana holdings high on mountain. This for at least a mile--rain forest, jungle, twilight dark and very damp. We cannot head straight over the Massif du Sud to Source Chaude as planned because the trails are washed out after heavy rains. What we've been following, Doremi says, is the "right branch" of the Tiburon, a mysterious stream which keeps disappearing underground. Don't think Doremi knows much about this country, however. He appears to be lost. No matter. We know roughly where we're headed.
After an hour or so of steep climbing through the red mud, we reach level ground on height and see beautiful view of valley through which left branch of Les Anglais River descends to the sea. We descend to the river valley. Rough descent, slipping and sliding all the way down.
We follow Les Anglais River (is it really a branch?) upstream, much the same as we followed the Tiburon this morning. Wild country, reminds me of parts of New Hampshire's White Mountains. Few cailles. At 3 o'clock we take wrong fork, go as far as a caille occupied by a woman with a large goiter, then turn back and camp. Only 4 or 5 people visit us here. One is a pretty young nursing mother. We bathe in the "bassin" and wash our clothes. Nice campsite just above river in grove of red-wood trees (pied bois rouge, Friday calls them). No chicken available from our neighbors, but eggs enough at a penny each and we could have bought small goat for 12 gourdes, but didn't want to go to that much trouble. Audience watches us bathe in the pool. I take flash pix of them and they show no fear of the flash.
Also had yams for supper. Yams, not malanga. Friday says yams are white, malanga yellow. In Port-au-Prince no one makes any such distinction. Also pois et di-ri (beans and rice) and tea brewed from leaves of the corossol (soursop) tree. The latter tastes good with a spot of rum in it. We are careful about our rum, obtaining it furtively from the jug on the pretense of getting water. What Friday and Doremi don't know won't hurt us! This is a strange river. Wild for awhile, then idyllic--dense forest, then a little glade with a nice caille. Seems a million miles from anywhere, then suddenly you see a cow!
IMPRESSIONS OF THE DAY: Young pregnant woman followed us all day and kept picking up the cigarettes we discarded. (I smoked at that time.) Asked me for a light once and I gave her a whole cigarette; thereafter she was very friendly and guided us for miles. She knew the trails; Doremi didn't. Everyone seems to have heard about Source Chaude, our destination, but no one knows exactly how to get there. Perhaps this is because the big rains have wiped out the trails they knew. Yams here are cheap, ten cents for 3 big ones, and Friday, who bought them for us, is delighted because he got three more as a gift!
Jan. 15. Rum and corossol tea don't mix. Or else we made the tea too strong. I have a hangover this morning and a very sore instep after falling among rocks on the way down to the stream to wash up in the dark. Madame brought coffee from a caille half a mile away at the top of a steep ravine. People in the hills are blowing conch shells to announce the coming of strangers. Dike says I talked Creole in my sleep last night. Before breaking camp, we give ribbon to Madame who brought coffee. Also thread. (We brought along a supply of these little items for just this purpose.) Last night we gave some gold ribbon to a woman for her baby. She was delighted.
Very steep red-earth climb from river valley, me using a cane. Magnificent view. Mule loses gear. Steep, difficult ascent all morning, worse than to The famous Citadelle in the northern mountains. On top we look down on sea and river valleys, with Morne Macaya, the Massif du Sud's highest peak, in the distance. Reach top at last at 1:30, gear now carried by 4 men because mule unable to climb with a load. (We had to go back down to where Friday and Doremi were dickering with the 4 men to act as porters.) I nearly passed out on this climb, but Dike discovered some sour orange trees and they saved the day.
Reached the bottom of the mountain at 3:30, me using two canes. Terribly steep descent all the way and very slippery, the trail washed out in places by recent torrents and the walls of red earth sometimes 10 feet high. Most of the way was through thick forest. Found small river at bottom, probably a branch of the Bras a Gauche, which flows into the Jeremie. Lovely stream, one long procession of pools and cascades. We heard it for an hour while scrambling down the steep mountainside. Followed this stream for half an hour or so and made camp on small bluff above it, aided as usual by hillbilly family. Our porters plan on spending the night with this family and went there after shedding their packs, but they returned later, reporting the family has no light in their caille. Meaning no fire?
These people very poor, apparently. They have no food to sell us at all, seem to live on yams. Boy goes far down river to buy bananas for us. We give one woman (in rags) some soap and salt. Another neighbor takes home a brand from our fire. (Probably no matches.) Friday is very useful in setting up camp. He has become a good boy. Doremi is good too but always talks in a loud voice. Though tired after a difficult day, we cook supper, get the camp laid out (spreading the gear on a large rock) and wash up in the stream.
This is a fantastic spot, really. A high river valley with high wild mountains all around us, including the range we crossed today. No whites have ever been here before--not, at least, since plantation days. The natives call the river Source Mango and say it goes to the Dame Marie. How can it? It must flow into the Bras a Gauche.
Supper consists of piti-mi, yams, bananas, beans, and tea. Boiled yams are easier to take than the baked ones we had last night. Dike does most of the cooking; I help out.
Jan. 16. Friday. Up at 6 after a restless night, to find Friday and Doremi huddled about the fire. It was cold last night in this high place. Very wet, too. The boys really suffered, having no sleeping bags or warm clothing. Everything is soaked in morning mist. Doremi says he sat by the fire from four a.m. on.
We set out downstream, and now they tell us the stream is called Detour le Ferme. They still insist it flows into the Dame Marie. Our breakfast consisted of fried yams (left over from last night and very good, too) bananas, and coffee. Good strong black Haitian coffee, praise the Lord! About an hour after starting out we reach a little mountain marketplace by the river--at least it is some sort of rendezvous where a number of people are gathered. Three of our four porters turn back here, Doremi having persuaded three new people to take their places. The remaining boy, named Telemaque, says he will go all the way to Jeremie with us because he lives there and has been visiting his mama back in the hills. The new carriers are two women and a man. A tagalong turns out to be a fellow who once worked in Cuba. Beautiful river valley, high mountainsides rising from it, with many lianas or hanging vines. Now they tell us the stream is the Jeremie River flowing to Jeremie. We think it is. But we have been following this same stream since we first discovered it near its source, and its name has changed often. Evidently they call the same river by different names in different areas. We pass men building a raft of balsa and trompette wood, and I take pictures. One man has a hugely swollen leg, probably elephantiasis or yaws, says Dr. Dike.
We follow the river all day. At 3 p.m. come upon a little boutique where we buy 8 bananas for 2 cents--good ones, too, and welcome!--but nothing else is for sale. Sit on a high bank, with our feet dangling in space, and eat the bananas. We have crossed this river at least 50 times, and it gets deeper with each crossing. Quite a current at times. Many deep pools among the rocks. (This morning, clambering around big rocks at a waterfall, we found a very beautiful pool and went swimming.) The boys say we'll reach Sources Chaudes by 4 o'clock.
We see 2 snakes, steel-blue in color with a white stripe and a pronounced cobra-like hood. Our carriers say they are poisonous. One is 4 feet long. Called "moleve". People have been bringing us little gifts. This morning, at camp, one egg. At the boutique, 4 bananas. Yet they have so little that they could find only 4 eggs to sell us last night.
Talked to Friday about the firebug we saw last night in camp. He calls it "coucouge"--local pronunciation of "coucouyé" perhaps. The thing was big, like a cockroach, with two incredibly glowing bright spots behind the head, on the shoulders. Glowed with green fire.
The facts (?) on Haiti's snakes, after a conversation with Doremi and Friday: The name "coulevre" is generic. There are "coulevre serpent", "c. flambeau", "c. jaune", c. liana", c. vert." Also a "coulevre beaumont" which is a couple of inches around and apparently a boa constrictor.. Also something called a "bete feroce." Supposedly there are no poisonous snakes in Haiti, but Friday insists he knew a man who was bitten and died. Maybe he died of fright.
Jan. 17. Saturday. We arrived at SHADA about 4:30 yesterday afternoon after climbing from the river and passing outlying rubber trees. Very tired after 8 hours of trudging, all day long, in the river of many names, with more than 100 crossings. We were going downstream and the crossings became more difficult as the day wore on. Just before reaching the plantation we saw some very primitive grass or sod huts, quite unHaitian in appearance. Met a woman with an almost white baby and she very proud of it, insisting we look at how white it was. Told us of white Frenchman who used to live in the hills here--probably father of the child. All day long we were impressed by the real jungle, real rain forest, on steep river banks. Many hanging vines, lianas, aerial roots, tree ferns. River is all gravel and boulders, a big wide river all the way. This is the left branch of the Jeremie, the Bras a Gauche, and if possible we'll follow it all the way to Jeremie. That word, by the way, is spelled with accents which I've been omitting for the sake of brevity. Should always be Jérémie.
At plantation we found no white people and were disappointed. Barefoot Haitian tells us the whites are at another "jardin." Garde d'Haiti has a corporal here, a husky fellow with a gusty laugh. After looking at our papers, he leads us with dozens of followers to one of several shut-up houses. Though wet and tired, we have to endure an hour of talk and confusion before getting settled in.
Obtain girl to cook chicken and rice dinner (6 gourdes, $1.40 U.S., for the chicken) and arrange to buy a goat tomorrow. House has been unoccupied a long time. Full of mouse dirt and debris. They sweep it out briefly and we sleep on our bags in one bedroom, on floor, with Doremi and Friday on a mattress and chair in the living room. No furniture in the place except a table and a few chairs. House has wooden walls and wallboard ceiling but good concrete floor. I wake at three a.m. hearing rats and am sore all over from the hard concrete. (Our sleeping bags are the light-weight kind you blow up, and the air had gone out of mine.)
This morning, Saturday, managed to get 4 eggs at 4 cents each, and some bread. Food seemingly scarce here and expensive, though perhaps we are being overcharged. Guard certainly knew he was overcharging us for chicken last night; it was a big joke all around. We sort out our gear, especially films which are damp and may be ruined. Put some things in the sun and clean the place up while m'selle does our laundry. The river trail to Jeremie is good, they tell us. Our plan is to keep Friday and Doremi and the mule, also Telemaque, hire three new porters, and go on down the river tomorrow, taking three days for the trip and visiting some caves en route.
Last night, after we had paid off our two women and one man, they hung around for nearly an hour, and at last one of the women asked Dike to look at her foot. She had cut it on the trail. Then they wished us "bon voyage" and departed. Nice people. The women were tireless carriers, too. Very fine, gracious souls, all three of them. We added something extra to their pay of a dollar a day, also gifts of ribbon, cigarettes, etc.
Have just bought a goat for $4 U.S. Trop cher, but it will feed 5 of us today and tomorrow, we hope. Have taken many wonderful pictures on this trip, including a lot of flash shots here at the plantation, and hope to heaven they are not spoiled by weather conditions. Used a Speed Graphic for black-and-whites, a 35-mm for color slides. Our boys are grand, including Telemaque. They keep finding food. Some sweet potatoes just arrived, and some rice and 9 eggs, yet all Telemaque spent was a gourde, twenty cents. Perhaps he will "mandé" more money later. (He did!) His full name, by the way, is Benoir Telemaque.
Had goat for dinner and supper after Dike invaded the backyard kitchen and supervised the cooking. Good. But they have no vegetables here at all other than piti-mi, yams, and sweet potatoes. No greens. Boy promised to bring some cresson (watercress) which would be a welcome change, but he couldn't find any. This afternoon Dike walked to Source Chaud (that's the correct spelling), which turned out to be a spring we passed on the way here. Small flow of hot water at the river's edge. Another spring, cold, just above it. We have passed many springs on the Jeremie River, also some pretty cascades.
The half goat remaining is now wrapped in plastic on table and we expect to carry it with us for supper tomorrow night. Hope it keeps. Plantation "chef" --boss--showed us around this afternoon. There'll be a bamboche (a dance party) tonight. They suggested they hold it here in our honor but we need some sleep and said no. Some mysterious goings-on followed. Planning to attend the bamboche for an hour or so, to get some pictures, we sent Friday to the chef to ask him for a key to our house so we could lock up. Chef told Friday there would be no dance after all. Perhaps they are miffed with us and don't want us to attend. We can hear drumming and singing, not in camp but not far away--yet still too far, they tell us, for us to try to reach in the dark over a trail made "glissade" (slippery) by this afternoon's rain. Obviously we are not wanted.
Various fish in the river here are called poisson carong, p. alla, p. tete longue, and p. tarzar--four species, some very big, which they catch with nets. Also crawfish or crayfish, which they call coule roche. A big fish, tete-ta, ascends river from sea. Eels are called zangi. Frogs, crapou, spit in your eye when handled but are not poisonous. Yet they are never eaten.
After dark we sit in garden listening to drums and watching torches come in procession down the black distant mountains. These people unafraid of mountains after dark--at least when several travel together. We haven't seen any traveling alone at night.
Our boys give us lots of information as we sit at table (with goat!) by light of candle lantern and our flashlights. We have little bamboche of our own, Dike and I drumming on table while Doremi and cook dance the Congo. Friday in hysterics at sight of old Doremi tripping the light fantastic.
Jan. 18, Sunday. Slept well except for itching insect bites which are now bad. Up at 6:30. Eggs with onion, bread and coffee for breakfast. Took off down river with three new carriers, plantation boys who are going to Marfranc. Soon began climbing. Stiff, hard climb to cut off looping bend of river, the trail crowded with Sunday travelers. We descend to site of large old French plantation, with very old gravestones. Then reach "Chapel Benedict" at Mayan, a little church crowded with people dressed in their Sunday best. We follow river again for a time, then cross another height to the right branch of the Jeremie, cross that and soon, climbing again, arrive on the main road from Jeremie to Anse d'Hainault. Rather a letdown to arrive on a civilized road so soon, even though it's only a dirt road. We had expected to camp on the river tonight and had brought along the half goat to roast over a campfire. Guess we are getting too good for our own good.
We trudge on down the road to Moron, where a cop calls us back. We explain who we are. On through pretty cobblestoned Moron to interesting little market town of Marfranc. People from Jeremie come here on market day, we are told. Wednesday is market day, so no activity today. Up hill to the United States Department of Agriculture's experimental rubber station (SHADA) after marching through the town with chin up for the honor of the regiment, my jove. Meet the white American station manager, Bob Dirks, and his wife Jackie. They are in a jeep, going guinea-fowl hunting. Abandoning the quest for guineas, they drive us back to their house where we collapse with rum-sodas.
We had walked from 9 to 4 without rest, about 18 miles. The Dirkses entertain and feed us until 9:30, when we go up the hill to Van den Bergh's house to sleep. Very plush for such a place, with all the comforts. V himself is in Port-au-Prince at the moment.
Jan 19. Monday. Bob Dirks shows us all over the plantation with Aurel Denizard, the top Haitian on the place. We talk about Tiburon Valley possibilities, Dike and I both having an idea we might buy some land in that lovely place and do there what is being done here--that is, grow rubber, but with a certain cash crop of coffee under the rubber trees. Later in the day we go to Jeremie in the plantation Ford, stopping to climb a mountainside and investigate some caves Bob has heard about. They don't amount to much after others Dike and I have explored in Haiti. In Jeremie, we find a Swedish freighter in port but she can carry no passengers to Port-au-Prince without special permission. No other boat leaving for the capital until Wednesday. So after a good dinner at Delaquis Pension, we return to plantation.
Much more talk about Tiboron until bedtime.
Jan. 20. Drove to Jeremie in Power Wagon with Bob, Jackie, Denizard, etc., then out past Anse d'Azur and new airfield to busy little Carrefour Prince, site of market and chapel. Walk up Source Reserve an hour to more caves. First cave very promising with wonderful tunnel entrance hidden by mapou roots, but goes in only 50 feet or so. Second has to be entered by crawling but is a dead end. Walk on another hour to Voute a Forets which is big, deep, wet, slippery. Follow small stream downhill in cave 200 feet where it disappears into hole in wall. Crawling through hole, Dike returns to report that 30 yards farther in the water goes underground down a hole too small for him to follow. We return tired and dirty to Marfranc, then Dike and the others go hunting guinea, leaving me to work on my bad foot and write notes.
My notes end here. We departed Jeremie the next day, January 21, for Port-au-Prince, aboard the Haitian coastal vessel Sans Souci.
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