The drive to and from HATS and St. Marc is never ordinary and certainly never routine. It should be. We do the drive regularly; about every week or 10 days and it is only 30 kilometers. But it is an adventure and always different. I think “The Road to St. Marc” would be a great name for a virtual reality TV show.
St. Marc is on the coast and the largest city between Port au Prince and Cap-Haїtian. It’s regional population is approximately 160,000 people. It is where we go for major purchases, banking, visits to the pediatrician, grocery and hardware stores.
The road to St. Marc is fraught with dangers ready to ruin your day. There is pothole avoidance and serious sleeping policemen speed bumps waiting to ruin your truck. There are random cows, goats, donkeys, horses, students, dogs, pedestrians and chickens wandering across the streets. On a good day you can do the drive one way in 30 – 45 minutes. On market day double that time.
The Haitian drivers will drive without brakes, windshields, headlights, tail lights, shocks, springs and fenders, BUT never without a horn. Horns are mandatory.
You BARMP your horn to say hi to someone you know or to test it.
You BLOW your horn to pass another vehicle.
You BLARE your horn to pass on the double yellow line or on a blind curve or on a hill.
You BLAST your horn if you are coming through no matter what or can’t stop or are bigger than anyone else.
Tap Taps are the preferred method of travel for most Haitians. A Tap Tap is a taxi, usually a well worn pickup truck that travels the main roads picking up passengers. It is the equivalent of a hop-on hop-off tourist bus. There appears to me, to be 3 classes of travel available.
Tourist class: This is the most popular. There is always room for one more. And always room for all the groceries or animals from the market and always crowded.
Business class: This is only for the brave, but there is a lot of foot room and room for baggage and room to lie down.
Standby class: This class seems to me to be for those who are late or try to get on a Tap Tap that is full or maybe even has a reduced fare. (A lot like travelling on an airline employee standby fare)
Small motorcycles are everywhere as well. They don’t get to travel on the main part of the road but are relegated to the edge or the road or the shoulders. Helmets are rare and accidents are plentiful. They also are used as taxis for shorter distances and more personalized routes. Motorcycles are not limited to 2 people as in Canada either.
Balancing a basket on your head is hard; Doing it while riding on the back of a motorcycle is talent
Drive safe – arrive alive!