By U.S. standards, roads in Haiti are nearly non-existent in most areas outside of Port-au-Prince, the capital. While dirt roads connect town to town, these passageways are vulnerable to the wear and tear that rains, hurricanes and heavy vehicles have on dirt and mud. There is almost no gravel, and roads are rarely ditched or properly contoured for the water to run off. Not only are the washouts and the ruts often 18 inches deep or more, making navigating sections of the road tough, there are also few bridges crossing the rivers and streams. So vehicles must maneuver through them – if they can. As a result of all this, vehicles in Haiti have about a two year life span, which can be increased a bit by creative mechanical engineering:
Excerpt from Haiti Outreach Country Director Neil Van Dine – September 2002
We have many other truck parts we’ll be needing. And I think we’re going to have to look at rebuilding the motor for the Chevy pickup very soon. I had another weeklong nightmare trip that was hard even by my rather loose standards.
I left my house last Wednesday morning. Broke the fan belt before we got to Hinche, and upon arriving in Hinche found that the oil filter was cracked. Couldn’t find another one in Hinche so I sent Roge back to Pignon on the motorcycle to get one from Pignon. He came back that night on a flat tire.
Next morning, Thursday, while screwing the filter in, I noticed that the motor mount was completely torn loose from the frame. Spent 4 hours welding it temporarily in place. Got to Cange and the front differential falls out of the truck. I manage to jack it back up in place and tie it up there, limp to the next town and weld it, again, temporarily. Then I notice the lower ball joint is shot on the front suspension. I limp to Port-au-Prince Thursday night (pretty much given up on trying to get to Boukan Carre at this point). There’s not a ball joint to be found, so I have to swap out the entire lower control arm from another truck in the garage and finish there Friday night.
Get up and leave Port at 4am Saturday morning, back along the coast cause I don’t have 4 wheel drive anymore (the differential tore out the axle shaft). I get about half way to Gonaives and the road is blocked with manifestations. I have to leave the truck running because it won’t start anymore when it’s hot.
Get through there about 7am, then around Saint Marc one of the brake pads falls off, so I limp to Gonaives, spend three hours fixing it, notice that the chassis is cracked in two spots and get that welded.
Then off to Cap Haiten. Leave Cap about 8pm Saturday, get to St. Raphael at 10pm and the river is high. Can’t go back through Rankit because I don’t have 4wd. So I sleep in the truck until Sunday morning, cross the river around 5am and get home 5:30am Sunday morning.
Just another week in Haiti.