On a work assignment in Haiti, it was easy to see why Port-au-Prince was considered a bit of a no-go zone. Crime and the risk of kidnapping kept us behind coiled-wire barricades in hotels and using alternating routes to drive through the streets, while Brazilian blue-helmeted peacekeepers were stacked, fully armed, into the back of circulating pick-up trucks patrolling the streets. Favellas crammed the steep mountainsides that hemmed in the capital and overlooked the sprawling harbour, fragile and impoverished, and washed away by every passing cyclone. While the scenery was alluring and the people colourful, there was an intensity and oppression about the place that was quite invasive.
The second half of the trip, however, was spent on the island of La Gonave, a half-hour flight by light aircraft off the coast. Peaceful, idyllic and eye-wateringly beautiful, the white rocks and rich green flora leant the place an air that suggested the Swiss Family Robinson could have settled well here. The people were friendly, the village streets safe to walk. The roads were horrendous but the beautiful landscape and diverse vegetation made the journeys worthwhile.
Before catching our flight home, a colleague and I asked the driver to take a detour down to the coastline near the airstrip. In the tropical sun, clouds billowed over the mainland and the white coral beach was searing to look at. Within the reef, the water was still and quiet and bath-warm, translucent and quite magical. We walked a little way along the coastline, then went for a swim in the shallow sea. It was an absolute highlight of our time in the country, and a place that I hold in a special place in my memory.