For a small country, Haiti has some pretty epic driving. From quiet coastal roads to twisty-turny mountain passes to typically Haitian traffic in the cities and towns, it’s a real treat and a rare opportunity to see how Haitians live outside of the hurly-burly of the city.
The day we traveled from Port Salut back to Port-au-Prince on Route National 2, Haiti’s treats were literal – in edible form of douce macoss, a decadent Haitian sweet, stopping for some delicious grilled pork griot for lunch, and visiting the ruins of Fort des Oliviers, an English fort hiding in plain sight on a small peninsula just outside of Saint-Louis-du-Sud.
Fort des Oliviers: hiding in plain sight
If you don’t know it’s there, you will drive past Fort des Oliviers. Built by the French in the 18th century for their fight against the English, it was taken by the English, who set up a second fort, Fort des Anglais, on a small island across Baie de Saint Louis to protect the mainland from invading forces. As Haiti became an independent republic, and a hundred-plus years passed, Fort des Oliviers went unused and fell into ruin.
We visited on a sunny November afternoon and were greeted by a local guide and a bunch of children. Lucky for us, we had free rein to explore the site. With its crumbling brick walls and panoramic views, there is lots to see, plus lots of nooks and crannies to explore. I met some of the local residents, who were curious about our arrival, but quickly lost interest.
Fort des Oliviers is a very small fort, which is probably why the English built a much, much larger one on the island nearby. There isn’t regular access to the island, but Paul Clammer (author of the Bradt guide to Haiti) hired a local fishing boat to take him out for an exploration, which he described as the most enjoyable transport he took while researching the guide.
These days, Fort des Oliviers sits in relative quiet, visited only by ocean breezes, a few goats, and local children who play on it. For a brief period, it was our secret as well.
Certain parts of Haiti’s history are relatively well-known and easy to discover on the internet, like Fort des Oliviers. So much of the country’s history remains hidden, or only known to local populations, and is in danger of being forgotten or overlooked entirely. I found a visual history project, Mapping Haitian History, where they are working to capture and share all kinds of fascinating pieces of Haiti’s past.
Douce Macoss: The amazing Haitian sweet
Douce Macoss, Dous Macosse, Dous Makos. The spelling is largely irrelevant, just be sure to stop in Petit-Goâve on Route National 2 to buy it. And once you buy it, you will want to eat all of it. Petit-Goâve is a drive-through town for most tourists traveling between Port-au-Prince and the south. You are advised to stop, because Petit-Goâve is the only place in Haiti you can get douce macoss. If you miss out on douce macoss, you are missing out on one of the greatest treats ON EARTH.
It’s a dense, sweet treat, with signature stripes reminiscent of Neapolitan ice cream and just a hint of cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise. North Americans generally equate it with fudge, because of the similarities in the cooking process, though I found it much softer and more pliable than the fudge I’ve had in Canada. We paid 100 gourdes per slice and I have no idea if that’s the going rate, a great deal or what. Whatever I paid, it was worth it and I should have bought ten times more than I did.
We stopped in Petit-Goâve twice, and each time we stopped at Chez Lèlène to buy douce macoss directly from Ms. Lèlène herself, from a small, stocked cabinet in her front garden. You’re getting close when you begin to see signs advertising the sweet in front of almost every house.
For the adventurous cooks out there, I found what looks like an easy-to-follow recipe over at L’Union Suite. Please report back and send me any test batches. For the extra curious with a good working knowledge of French, Université Laval in Québec, Canada has written about douce macoss as part of its inventory of Haitian culture.
Gimme some griot!
Petit-Goâve’s other charm, Griot Master, is a roadside diner specializing in griot, an essential and quintessential Haitian dish of marinated fried pork. It’s in a small commercial complex with a gas station and a couple of other businesses (André 17), but don’t let that discourage you from a second delicious road trip stop. After the heat of our mid-day fortress exploration, a plate of delicious griot with an ice-cold Prestige lager was the best meal I could have asked for. More griot, please!
This was no mere trip between Points A and B, it was a Haiti highlight reel. Delicious food and unexpected discoveries were daily, recurring themes of my trip and this regular travel day, otherwise unremarkable on our itinerary, stands out as a highlight.
All about my trip to Haiti
For more about my G Adventures trip to Haiti, check out my Haiti travel section:
If you’re extra curious, explore my detailed Google Map of everywhere I visited in Haiti:
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