Day 5 – Beach Day Labadee
Today was a slight change from our usual routine of hiking up to the school and getting to work. But it was a welcomed change in pace. After a hearty breakfast we boarded our usual bus – which is similar to a large van – and headed on our way to Labadee. We went through the town of Cap Haitien and up the mountains to our destination. We routinely passed smiling and waving locals who were amused at our passing. The farther we headed up into the mountains the more beautiful the view became. Many of our group were quite shocked at the steep incline of the cliff face beside the road; but we were always safe with our experienced Haitian driver. It still amazes me how the roads in Haiti work; theirs systems for allowing passage around each other in the narrow one lane roads with heavy foot and occasional animal traffic.
As we reached this new coastline and its view I was awestruck with the potential this country has to become an outstanding tourist destination. The beautiful crystal clear water, the coconut and palm trees, the wildlife and most of all the kind and smiling locals. As soon as we approached Royal Caribbean International’s private beach resort/dock at Labadee we realized this potential has been realized. Unfortunately it was also selfishly guarded behind a barbed wired fence. With it’s own miles of white sand beaches, a 50 million dollar dock, its fleet of sea-dos, water toys, tour guide boats, a massive multi-wired zip line and a rail slide. Yet all these luxuries and more were cut off from the Haitian people who could little afford or imagine it. It is located just 7 hours away from Port-au-Prince; the epicenter of the 2010 earthquake and its devastation and continued to bring in guests while others were struggling to survive. RCI does bring in 6 dollars per client to the Haitian government; but I just find it to somehow not be enough to this country that is in such great need and provides them with such an amazing destination. I feel it should instead be used as a Haitian vacation spot run and benefited by the Haitian people. But it is a complex issue and nothing is black and white.
We arrived at a small beach located beside the fenced off resort section on the Haiti side. We unloaded off of our bus and onto two water taxi’s. In our two groups we left shore and got a better look at the RCI beach and it’s massive dock. We quickly continued with our journey towards a beach farther down which we had all to ourselves. Everyone quickly stripped down to our bathing suites and went into beach mode. Whether it was playing king of the hill on our own little float pad, canoeing around, or just swimming out – everyone had a blast. After finding and admiring various wildlife (starfish, sea urchins, fish, chameleons, turtles, snakes, and even jellyfish) we took a lunch break and ate some delicious pizza the hotel had prepared for us. We broke into two groups and began playing Frisbee. After some final suntanning and photo taking we packed up onto our boats and departed. We also had to carry our two translators Franzo and Joes – who are not the most “confident” in water situations – their boats.
We arrived back at the hotel in time for dinner and a bit of down time after an exciting day away. After dinner we all got together to watch a slide show of pictures from Cole’s travels and adventures. It’s heart breaking to hear about the suffering and pain the country has gone through; but also inspiring to hear about the things the Haitian people have gone through and how they persevere and continue forward towards something brighter. We also discussed LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute)’s various trips and the great things they do.
Overall it was a truly beautiful day where the entire team continued to bond and become greater friends. Although truthfully I felt slightly guilty at being able to enjoy myself to such an extent while so many others cannot. But that thought made me look forward to getting back to work tomorrow even more. Thank you Hero Holiday for that truly exotic and beautiful beach day. It was a side of Haiti I am very fortunate to have experienced and hope others get to also in the future.