We did it! Two days. Too many miles to count. Caribbeans girls went hiking across the Haitian mountains. And it was everything
Im fortunate that I had two friends living in Haiti who knew how to navigate the country and organize the details of the trip. But it also wasn’t impossible to do this with little knowledge of Haiti. The three most important things: who will take you to the start location, where will you sleep overnight, who will pick you up in Jacmel?
 I arrived in Haiti the night before the hike and my friends and I had some dinner and drinks before heading out. None of us were experienced hikers. I purchased a bag off amazon HERE and some cheap comfy hiking sneakers HERE. In the morning we hired a car to take us to the starting point in Furcy which is a bit outside the city. The hike is so popular that if you tell most people, they will know where to drop you.
We had a ‘guide’ through Lakay Winnie who found us as we were walking from Furcy. Honestly the guide wasn’t 100% necessary. The path is pretty straight. He also seemed frustrated by our pace. He came in most handy the second day as the road get more populated as you get closer to Jacmel and it’s helpful to have a man looking out for you just in case. We stayed a Lackay Winnie overnight which was great. BRING WARM CLOTHES. Its cold one you get to the top of the mountains. If you have any food restrictions, bring a meal replacement shake or something. Lunch was lamb and veggies. Dinner was just a soup (no meat). Breakfast was eggs and toast.
The second day of the trip is all downhill. How this was hardest that going up I still don’t know. I didn’t feel pain in your quads like Day 1 but somehow I felt slow AF. Our guide frequently stopped to speak to friends, eat, etc and was still able to keep up with us. This hike was over Easter weekend and so ‘ra ra’ (Easter carnival celebrations) were in full effect. We were stopped by ra ra and had to pay $500 to pass. Do they demand the money? No. But when the parade dances in front of you, you know what they want. Make sure to budget instances like these into your budget. Also budget the fact that Haiti is not cheap. Hotel rooms etc are priced only a bit lower than the US.
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Once we got to the end of the trail, there was tons of ‘ra ra’. Here is where using your wits and instincts is important. I stood at the side and didn’t saw a word as my friends navigated through the crowd and found a tap tap. Sure, people can look at us and know we are Blan (literally: white but used for all foreigners) but I wasn’t going to confirm by opening my mouth. Once of the tap tap it was a 30 minute ride to the Hotel.
Hotel Florita was beautiful and everything I love about the Caribbean. We stayed in the overflow house which was nice and spacious but not as decorated as the main Hotel. It was super easy to walk out onto the broad walk and get food. Restaurants close a bit early–just a warning.
The next day was just perfection– beach day. The hotel staff drove us to the beach and picked us up. We ate fresh lobster by the beach. So relaxing for our tired muscles! Later that day we caught a bus back to PaP.
A few tips in terms of what to bring:
Packing light is BAE
If you are a woman, long running leggings work perfectly. I know others wear running shorts, but you will fit in better with pants. I just brought a pair of running leggings and loose shirt for each day.
You can’t really over pack water
As we got higher in the mountains, we saw fewer and fewer opportunities to purchase water. It’s kinda annoying (and heavy AF) to carry at first, but all the water will be gone by the end of the trip.
Trail mix is the perfect snack
Nuff said
 
Keep safe 
If you don’t have a person in your group who speaks Kreyol, be extra careful. And wherever you stay for the night, make sure to lock up your room and belongings tight. We heard rumors of robberies at Lakay Winnie. We also heard some guest sleep with the door open (WTF? Really? SMFH!). We didn’t play games: locked all doors and window and put or money and phone in our PJs. We didn’t have any problems and didn’t hear anyone during the night. Haiti is an amazing place to visit and I have been four times without problems. But you make things harder for yourself if you aren’t always aware of your surrounding and being extra cautious.
Have Fun
Haiti is such goals.

I am Jamaican by heritage. The island has always held a special place in my heart desire by family’s immigration to the US and UK. I first went with my grandmother when I was in high school. I feel in love with the island and touring the places that were historically significant to my family. A few weeks ago, my mother and I made a quick trip for some rest and relaxation.

I am not a dint-ever-leave-the-resort type of person so before we had even arrive at the hotel we had already arranged with our driver to take us down to Kingston. My family is from a smaller city (Mandeville) so I have only had brief stints in the capital everytime we came.

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Port Royal was a bit out of the way but truly worth it. We were history buffs for all of 20 minutes. img_0707

Of course, we had to stop by the Bob Marley museum. I’m not a die-hard Marley fan, save a few songs. But I really appreciated the historical significance of the career after getting a very thorough tour of the museum.

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A trip to Kingston is not complete these days without something that is related to Usain Bolt. He stopped my Tracks and Records, his restaurant, for a quick lunch. I will say that the food was LEGIT which was surprising to me. I guess I’m used to the US where stars slap their name on a place and don’t bother to monitor the quality. I had jerk pork (my fav) and everything was top notch.

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All in all it was a great vacay. I enjoyed simple things like driving around neighborhoods, watching Jamaican news, and being as much of an average citizen as you can be when staying in a resort. I also spent a few days in Montego Bay before heading home. I plan of visiting Jamaica more often. Even though I have visited quite a few times, I always wanted to know the island as intimately as I know other places I’ve been (DR, Angola, etc). More importantly, I want to be connected enough to know how to give back.

Thats all for now. PS. Food was amazing but I didn’t have an oxtail (look it up if you have never heard of the dish) I actually order some from the Jamaican restaurant by my house the second I got back to New Jersey, which is a strange type of irony.

Hopefully I learn to take better pictures lol.

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As a wonderful cap to my DR experience, my mom came to visit and we had an amazing time in Punta Cana. For the last two days of our trip, we headed to Santo Domingo so that my mom could see where I called home for a year and a half. The J.W. Marriott Santo Domingo opened up just as I arrived in the city and ever since then I have been in awe of the hotel. Visited a couple of times but never got to stay, so this was a great treat.

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The rooms were amazing .I really liked the sleek design and the mix of marble and wood. The bathroom had an open shower design that I want to implement in my dream house.

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Sorry to say, the best pics I took of the room were of the bathroom. Right next to the open shower was a bathtub with doors the opened into the bedroom. I fully enjoy using my Lush bath bombs to enjoy the tub. All these details were exciting to see and the open floor plan is why this hotel is arguable one of the best in the Caribbean right now. J.W. Marriott Santo Domingo 3The clear balcony is one of the hallmarks of the hotel with a view straight down to 17 stories below. J.W. Marriott 6 The view of Santo Domingo!J.W. Marriott 5

I had a great time enjoying Santo Domingo as a “tourist”. Until next time, beautiful city!! To check out the hotel for yourself, click here

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leaving Dominican Republic

Let me be honest. I left the Dominican Republic is a hastily and rushed fashion through no fault of my own. I was ready to stay another four months and luckily had begun to get my head in the job search game. Basically, the organization I was working for began running low on funds..very low. Instead of accepting a decrease in a pay which was already minimal to a American salary, I decided to return to the United States. To avoid paying another month of rent, I was forced to pack up everything and leave within two weeks.

Packing up was easy as I sold the majority of my possessions at a price that brought every dominican to my doorstep asking what I had in my apartment that was usable. Leaving the DR and organizing my thoughts about where I go from here was the difficult part.

Side Note: I FINALLY made it to Haiti. It was everything I wanted it to be except my time there was way too short. I left straight from DR to Haiti where I relaxed with a good friend for a few days and then booked a one way ticket from Haiti to New York. Wish I had been able to take more pics, but being in the center of Port-au-Prince it was too risky to go around taking pics. 

While I thought that I had done all I could do at the organization I was with, I was not ready to go quite yet, I hadn’t truly thought out a life back in New York for another year and had not adequately done a full account of the pros and cons of my year+ in the DR. I have a couple of months until I hopefully  start school so now to figure out what to do next. In the meantime I am doing temp work and trying to get some financial goals in place.

For me, the most important thing is to use this “in between” time for its full value. Im thinking about my next steps very carefully. I want to make sure that I am fully following my passion. It is a topic  I will will talk about further in another post. I think that I have been going strong in one direction for the last 4 years since graduating and I am now re-evaulating if it is the right direction for me. I love international development and helping to improve the lives of people all over the world. At the same time, ID is a large field, and it can take time to figure out what exactly you would like you job/career to look like. I hope I can take people on my journey of figuring it out because I know others are in the same boat.

Life. It always surprises you.

Ashley

Living in a given space guarantees that you will be so caught up in your own life that you forget to appreciate that space and properly explore it. Kinda like how so many people living in NYC have not been to the statue of liberty.

Imagine my surprise when a good 10 months after living in Santo Domingo, I found out about Los Tres Ojos (The Tree Eyes) which is a group of caves right outside the city. For only $100 pesos ($2.50) my main DR travel homegirl and I were dazzled at what we saw when we walked down the stone stairs. Honestly, for a tourist attraction outside the typical tourist areas, I was not expecting much. My camera doesn’t do it justice (it’s a S3, so it doesn’t do any picture justice now-a-days). The caves were discovered by the Taino indians before the those pesky Europeans discovered the island and back when water was a bit more plentiful , was used as a place to play, do laundry, and hangout.

Tres Ojos Santo Domingo is a safe bet for those who rather not spend everyday at the beach. Hopefully the pictures entice you enough to visit if you are ever in Dominican Republic, just avoid the peddlers when you leave.

tres Ojos DR

Tres Ojos DR

Tres ojos DR

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