Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Ile à Vache

Monday is market day on Ile à Vache and we couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity to experience it. Our friendly guides assured us it was going to be no more than a 45 minute walk over the hill, through the island's interior and over to the other coast. We started off at the resort, a beautifully constructed complex very much in harmony with its surroundings, laid out high up on the far point of the crescent bay where our boats were anchored. There were 10 of us, 4 couples from Katarina, Pura Vida, Karma and Rodeo. Plus our guides Carma and Ashley. We took soggy foot paths along the rolling hills of the uplands, climbing up and down among fields and farm houses. Air was filled with the crisp scent of fresh tilled soil and sweet smell of tropical plants. As we made our way further inland we met more and more Haitians on their way to the market. Women with bundles on their heads and men on horseback with hand woven baskets slung over their rumps (the horse, not the men), were quickly making their way forward. We kept getting distracted by the scenery, stopping to take pictures, pausing to smell the eucalyptus. After 45 minutes of meandering it became clear that we were nowhere near the market, and that our progress was painfully slow. Especially to our guides. These guys are used to walking these trails and they kept a pace that was putting all of us out of breath. Among the 8 of us, 4 are seniors and this marathon we found our selves on was shaping up to go on for at least another 2 hours. By the time we got to the open, sun scorched grounds of the market we were spent. It was hard to imagine how people from the other side of the island make this trip twice a week to pick up essentials not available in the bay. Getting around the market and shopping was an endurance test in itself. Small open stalls made of wood posts, topped with corrugated steal or leaves lined the market pathways. Any space unoccupied by a stall vendor was flooded with merchants squatting on the ground with their goods sprawled around them. Narrow paths directed swarms of people through the chaos and we found ourselves floating through the crowds as if in a tidal swell. It was hot, crowded and loud. We couldn't do any of our shopping because vendors would come up with astronomical prices at the site of tourists. So Carma and Ashley had to do our bargaining. With bunches of bananas in hand and bags of fresh fruits and vegetables we made our way to the outskirts of the market, getting a much needed breather from the bustle of it all. Hiking for 3 hours to get back to the bay was out of the question, so we hired a local fisherman to take us back on his wooden sloop. The lot of us ungracefully piled into a boat that can safely probably only hold 8 people. There were 18 of us in it altogether. Two other tourists, some Haitians and a goat were also hitching a ride. We just had to laugh. As we pulled away from shore our captain could barely maneuver his vessel with all of us in it. We had to manually help bring the boom over everyone's heads and across for tacking, but once balanced the boat glided smoothly over the surface. Hand sewn sails, a patchwork of miss matched fabric, quietly puffing up in the warm breeze. Half hour later we were safely back on land. Hungry, but full of verve we made our way over to Jean Jean's restaurant/shack for a fabulous dinner of grilled lobster and conch saus, all the while reliving the events of the day. 

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