A few years ago, a lifetime before lockdown, I planned to celebrate a significant birthday in Haiti. I had grown up with stories from my own family history of how Nigerians and Indians (along with many other nations in the 20th century) fought for independence from the British Empire.
So, I was fascinated to hear about ex-slave Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Generals who lead a successful insurrection by self-liberated slaves to establish the first black republic in the world more than two hundred years earlier. I researched my trip in meticulous detail for over a year, starting with the history of the country.
Logging onto the Greenwich library catalogue, I reserved every book they held about Haiti (or Repiblik d Ayiti in Haitian Creole) and the inspiring leaders of the Haitian Revolution. I soaked up the inspiring stories of their brave moral struggle: the people, the places and the numerous flags that have flown over the country throughout its turbulent history.
I flew out to Miami Beach the fortnight before my birthday and was having a fabulous time, knowing that in just ten days I would finally set foot on Haitian soil. However, the increasing instability in the country meant that the British Foreign Office advised against travelling there – two days before I was supposed to arrive!
Therefore, it will come as no surprise to you that I will be taking advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity by asking the pilot to transport me to Haiti. I hope that the private jet has enough fuel to take me to Cap-Haïtien International Airport in the north of the country. As I have barely left the flat in the past year, I find it hard to remember what I used to pack in a handbag every day.
This means I’ll be putting some real thought into the five most important items I’ll be packing for my holiday of a lifetime.
A sturdy pair of boots would be my first essential. It is a good thing I have been wearing mine to death on my lockdown walks. You may be aware that it is essential you break in walking boots before embarking on a long trek.
I cannot wait to witness the mighty Citadelle Laferrière, a large fortress situated at the peak of a mountaintop three thousand feet above the sea the north of the country. It was built on the orders of Henri Christophe (who was born into slavery, before becoming a key leader in the Haitian Revolution and eventually Henry I King of Haïti) to protect their hard-earned freedom way back in the early 19th-century.
I have watched several YouTube videos, where you can see the awe-inspiring views of the unspoilt mountainous landscape. The fortress itself is the largest in the Americas, even though it doesn’t feature on many tourists’ itineraries. It towers majestically over the dense forests that stretch until your eye meets the sea far in the distance. The thick stone defense walls line silent corridors peppered with redundant cannons accompanied by a pyramids of cannon balls, each one the size of my head.
The walking boots will help me navigate the rocky terrain; I will have to pack several pairs of bed socks to wear with them and blister plasters in case these precautions are insufficient. Research tells me that it is possible to hire a guide and donkey to navigate the path to the fortress. I know that an English-speaking guide will be essential and am determined to find a local guide who can help bring to life the wonders of Citadelle Laferrière. However, they will have to be prepared to walk, as I feel that I will be be most able to appreciate the sheer scale of the experience if I put my best foot forward and climb the mountain myself.
Ipod and Ear Phones
I’m looking forward to the silence once I reach the Citadel. However, I know I will need music to motivate me when the trekking gets tough
Notebooks and Pencils
I know that I will want to record every moment of this journey of a lifetime and for that I will need to take notebooks and pencils. However, there is significant poverty in Haiti and the people find it difficult to access resources. So, as well as equipping myself with the writer’s tools, I would like to use this unprecedented opportunity to gift notebooks and pencils to the people of Haiti.
passion for notebooks – choose carefully . such a trip deserves a special notebook Respectful to order the ver same – differnt colours and desgins, so they had choices.
Won’t need to pack my smile.
To be continued…