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9780: RE: 9756: Corbett remembers the ferry Neptune

>From Bob Corbett

In December 1992, just less than a month before the 
Neptune sank, I was on it and at the last minute decided
not to ride it back to Port-au-Prince.

My partner and I had gone to Jeremie to see Bishop
Willy Romulus.  On the trip up we rode an old
rickety bus and it was a very hard trip, long, hot, bumpy
and scary.  We sat on the top where I mainly prefer
ride, but we did have to go under significant numbers
of low trees and were lashed a good deal by the branches.

Thus while there we were trying to figure alternative ways
of getting back to Port-au-Prince.  We stayed in a fairly
large hotel on the road going up the hill from the city
park.  I'm fairly sure we were the only inhabitants of
the hotel at that time.  The fellow who was running it,
and who was only there very rarely, convinced us that
we might want to take the ferry back.  He wanted to go
and purchase the tickets ahead of time, explaining that
we could get a "stateroom" on board.  I knew better than
that, and tipped him for the advice, but decided to see for
ourselves.  After a number of days we packed up our
simple backpacks and headed for the ferry.  We arrived
a solid three hours before the listed departure time and
already the deck was simply crammed with people.  I
explained to the deck hand that we were interested in
renting a cabin.  He smiled a big smile, said no problem
and led the way.

We went down some stairs and to a tiny tiny room.  It
was so dark one could barely see, but it had three
double beds in it, the bare thin mattresses utterly black
with having been the shelves for bags of charcoal in
the very recent past. Then my partner sort of gasped
and grabbed my arm.  She nodded toward the far wall.
It was simply crawling with roaches.  It was one of the
worst hell holes I've very seen in the whole country.

We thanked the deck hand and left.  We made it back
to the bus depot by mid-afternoon only to find that all
the busses for the day had departed.  We found a nice
little restaurant, had some dinner and sat for a few
hours in the city part, then about 9 PM went back to
the bus depot.  There were busses loading up goods,
most aiming at a midnight departure.  We picked one,
paid and got up on top.  At first this looked too good to
be true and, of course, it was.  We were up on top 
three hours (turned out to be 4 1/2 hours) before the
bus actually left and only a tiny fraction of the freight
was yet up.  Every time we settled in for a place to sleep
the loaders would move us and take that spot.  She
ended up sleeping in the end on some bags of oranges
and I was wedged uncomfortably into a huge truck
tire.  Nonetheless, it beat the day trip tremendously
since it was cool, even chilly in the night, the stars
were awesome and we were back in Okay before
daylight.  We spent a day or two recuperating there
before heading back to Port-au-Prince on a small
and rather pleasant bus.

We were no sooner home in St. Louis than we read
about the terrible disaster of the Neptune.  While we
were desperately sad for the people who died, we
were in no way surprised.  I'm just amazed that there
are not so many more bus and ferry disasters.  The
public cross-country transport system is utterly

As most of you know, it was just the next year when
two people on one of our group trips to Haiti were
killed when a night bus coming back from Cap Haitien
overturned when it's electrical system went out.
My own son was trapped for hours under the bus with
the two young women who died.  I've never had the
energy and courage to take another group to Haiti since
that time.

Bob Corbett