Recently, we did something we’ve been wanting to do with our team and some dear friends. There is a hike well known by expats in Haiti from an area called Furcy to Jacmel. 27 miles. TWENTY-SEVEN miles across some of Haiti’s tallest mountains that you ‘choose’ to hike, over a two-day period. Up and down reaching an elevation of 6500ft at some points.
As much as we looked forward to this hike…we were also slightly intimidated, for good reason. This hike is not for the faint of heart. We climbed rugged terrain with rocks larger and sharper than what we are used to walking on, surrounded by breathtaking views. Because this was our first time (only time for some), I felt like I spent more time looking down, watching my step verses enjoying the beauty of the hills. Endless beauty.
There is an old Haitian proverb “Dye mon, gen mon”. It means, “Beyond the mountains, more mountains.” Whew baby…that’s no lie. Living in Haiti, we know this but THIS hike brought THIS proverb to life. And there ARE people, lots of people living back in ‘them thar hills’, walking these roads daily, sometimes barefoot, more often in flip flops carrying their produce to whatever destination. Tons of green onions, potatoes and cabbage growing and being carried.
We started our adventure the day before at a little “hotel” in the mountains called Rustic in the small town of Furcy, a short distance from where we’d begin our hike in the morning. It was a treat in and of itself. Walls made of bottles, floors made of pieces of plywood…a tree house located in the cool mountains of Haiti.
We arrived early enough that we were able to take a short walk and enjoy the beauty found in the hills of Furcy around the Rustic.
WHAT A VIEW…
As the evening progressed and we relaxed on the porch it got downright cold. Several young men working at the Rustic were gracious enough to make a small charcoal fire for us to warm our feet. Anticipating the next day, we were in bed before 8pm.
In the morning we took motos down to the location where the hike begins, a path the people there call “Chemin Seguin”. The scenery steadily changed, as did the dogs. While they looked different than those in our area…fuzzy and fat, once again they all looked the same!!!!
We hiked for quite a while, up and down.
Then we reached this massive mountain, that went up…up and up! Because we had no idea when it would end we pushed ourselves. I was already noticing that ‘if’ I stopped, things would begin to stiffen. This was not one of those moments where I felt I was aging gracefully. Three teenage girls, in flimsy flip flops, walked alongside us for a long period of time…I was intentionally NOT checking the actual time. They were especially intrigued by Quinn. Finally, they moved on at a pace much different than ours. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was over, and we sat! There is a saying, “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength”. I had moments where it took all the strength I had to remember to embrace this incredible opportunity.
Upon reaching Haiti’s National Forest it all changes. As we entered the forest through low lying clouds we were in awe. Only God!!
We walked on much softer terrain, we saw huge agave plants, pine trees and pine cones everywhere.
There is a “sinkhole” called Marassa which is creole for twins. It’s a huge hole with a natural bridge filled with stalactites and ferns.
We had been told to keep our eyes open for a tattered sign telling us we’d made it to Seguin. That would be where we needed to turn. With some local help, we located the little cottage we’d stay at with the row of tents outside that we’d sleep within.
Once there, our host gifted us with some of the most amaing hot tea made with fresh picked lemon grass, mint and another herb he wasn’t sure how to say in English. It sounded like borage. After the iciest shower I’ve ever taken, not just in Haiti but in my entire 52 years of being on this earth, we were served an incredible meal of fresh roasted lamb, potatoes and the most spectacular salad I’ve ever seen. This is coming from a girl who eats a lot of salad but there was something about those flowers…a first for me and now I wanna grow some!
Later in the evening, stiff, sore, full and grateful we headed to bed in our little tents.
Just after 1 o’clock in the morning I awoke. After ½ hour of trying to get back to sleep but needing to go to the bathroom, I begrudgingly left my tent only to witness the BEST part of this trip for me. I am sure my teammates as well as others are tired of me saying this but “THE STARS”!!!! I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It would be the reason I would make this hike again. Mèsi Jezi for waking me up! I only wish I’d awakened the others. I really believe they too would have been awestruck! I didn’t have access to a camera, so this is closest image I could find out on the web to share the blanket of stars that went from the ground where my feet rested, ascending high in the sky. What I saw was better! As I lifted my eyes to the heavens I couldn’t help but worship our Creator, grateful for this moment with Him.
As the sun arose, before breakfast was served and our second day of hiking began, still wrapped in a sleeping bag, sipping more of that warm, fresh tea I was thankful for a few more moments with my Lord. I don’t appreciate solitude with Him enough.
The first part of the second day of our journey was like a scene out of some crazy movie. These rocks were bursting from the grounds everywhere, potatoes being grown in and around them!
As we rounded a mountain top we came to a point where we could see our destination…the ocean. It’s out there, waayyyy out there.
The walk was all downhill with us in pursuit of ‘shortcuts’ we had heard about (yes, this is one of those shortcuts). This day was so much more painful and while I was grateful for ‘shortcuts’, they put us walking on paths at awkward angles which this ol’ ladies knee did not like. I was now holding the group up. What goes up…must come down…but down was so HARD.
After several challenging hours, because of me, we hopped on motos for the remainder of the trip. Not my favorite part. 3 of us girls, including my daughter sandwiched to a good-sized Haitian man propelling down, down, down. I don’t’ know which hurt more, the walking down or riding down. We made it and it was worth it.
Were I to do this again, I would move a little slower and take more time to appreciate the view. I’d soak in the scenery and pray for those who live among these winding hills, who travel these rough roads daily to bring their produce to market, to serve and see family and friends…with smiles on their faces. They aren’t doing this for pleasure, it’s their life.
The beauty of this country is second to the beauty of the people who live here. Just like the changing landscape of Haiti, they too are each uniquely created by our God who adores them, who has made them strong, resilient, creative and full of joy. This place continues to stretch and surprise me, to give me hope.