Skip to content

A Sunday Outing

December 3, 2012

Yesterday after church I decided the time had finally come to do something I had been promising myself for over a year.  I hired my friend, Molet, to take me on his motorcycle to Saint-Marc to visit one of the old forts atop the mountains on the north side of the city.

After Haitians won their independence in 1804 by defeating Napoleon’s army in a bloody 13-year revolution that cost a third of the former slaves their lives, there was fear that the French would invade Haiti to try to take back their most prosperous colony.   Shortly before his assassination in 1806, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Haiti’s first emperor, ordered the construction of the forts at Saint-Marc, along with 21 others, to defend the country.   All were built over the next 20 years.

Molet is not very familiar with the city and I was unsure of exactly how to get up to the fort.  I had walked to the base of the mountain on which Fort Blockaus stands when I was living in Cité Dalencourt, but I did not know which street to take to find a path to the top.  We approached by the route with which I was familiar.  Stopping to ask directions of a local resident of the neighbourhood at the base of the mountain that has taken the fort’s name as its own, we learned there were several paths up to the fort, and all were difficult.  He recommended one as being a bit easier.

To interject a short note about changes to Saint-Marc in the year since I lived in Cité Dalencourt, there are now street signs everywhere.  I had at one time undertaken to map the parts of the city I frequented, as very few streets were marked, making getting directions very difficult.  Now the trick is to find a city map.

When we reached the end of the road, Molet parked the bike in the yard of a family who promised to take care of it and we started out on foot.  The trail wound its way up between the houses perched on the mountainside.  I wondered at the people who have to climb those paths on a daily basis to go about their business.  As we climbed, the goat track became steeper, until in places it sloped up at more than 45°.  The loose gravel made footing treacherous at times.  My legs kept reminding me that they were not used to such a workout; I was amazed that I didn’t get short of breath.  We left the houses and continued on our quest for the top.

Finally we rounded a corner through the brush and agave, and reached the ruins of the fort.  Not much of it remains.  Most of the walls are gone, and those still there have been reduced to a couple of feet in height.  I speculated that local residents probably removed the stone to build their homes.  I tried to envision what it must have looked like long ago, but there is not much to go on.  The fort’s rounded west-facing defensive walls are the most prominent feature.  Standing in the ruins it was easy to see that the fort must have been nearly impregnable.  The slopes on all sides are very steep and it would be easy to pick off anyone trying to stage an assault long before they reached the walls.

Fort Blockhaus

Fort Blockhaus

As we walked to the opposite side of the fort, it was immediately evident that an approach from that side would have been much easier.  A main street climbed to much closer to the summit, and the slope from that point to the top of the mountain was quite a bit gentler.  So much for the “easier route”.

The view was spectacular.  I could see below me the chaotic cityscape that is Saint-Marc, clinging to the mountainsides and spilling down to Baie Saint-Marc, the natural harbour that provided the reason for the city’s existence.  The afternoon light was not ideal for taking pictures, but I managed to get a few before my camera batteries failed me.  It seems I have a good set and one that won’t hold much of a charge.  Guess which ones I had in the camera?



On a nearby mountaintop is the south-facing Fort Diamant (Fort Diamond), more impressive, more intact.  My research informs me that there are still cannons there and it it easier to envision the original structure.  My research also tells me it is less accessible.  My telephoto lens greatly shortened the perspective and the picture does not give an accurate idea of the distance; I would estimate it is more than half a mile away.  I had hoped to visit that fort as well, but without a working camera, and with my legs already complaining about the climb we had just made, I decided to leave it for another day.  Besides, we had no idea of how to make our approach, and there was no obvious route that we could see.  I will make some inquiries before making that trek.

Fort Diamant
 Fort Diamant

I find it interesting that there is very little information available on the Internet about these forts.  I could only find a few pictures of Fort Diamant, and none of Fort Blockhaus.  The same was true of Fort Delpeche, which I visited almost two years ago when I first arrived in Haiti.  The principal source of information online about that fort is from my blog.  Nothing is being done to preserve these historical sites, and they are fast crumbling.  It will not only be Haiti’s loss, it will be the world’s.

Just a postscript to My Barrel Runneth Over.  For three days after I wrote that post there was no water from my standpipe.  I was beginning to wonder whether I had been hasty in my assessment that my water problem was temporarily solved.  Then on Saturday evening at about 9 PM my neighbour’s son came excitedly to my door, calling, “Barry!  Barry! Dlo! (water).  The pipe was running at full force.  By the time I  got organized (I was making supper for myself at the time) the barrel was three-quarters full.  It continued to fill as fast as I could haul water into the house.  By 10 PM I had 80 gallons of water in the house and the barrel at the standpipe was full.  The water continued to run until morning.  I was wishing I had more storage capacity.

God is good.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: