Deep West

2015 turned out to be a pretty stressful year….I won’t go into detail you’ll just have to trust me on that. As I do every year, I skid into my trip to Jamaica and this year was different only in that I felt I needed the respite more than I ever have, including the fateful year when seven of my people died on me.

I have been told to “reflect”. Even though the person who demanded this of me certainly did not mean for me to reflect on my recent stay in Jamaica…that is EXACTLY what I have reflected upon. I share those reflections with you.

This season we didn’t do a whole lot of running around – no motorcycle rides, no road trips. We were very content being homebodies for the most part. For thirteen years now we have been doing our “extended-stay” thing, all of them in the same yard, nine in the same house. We love our yard and our home there and we generally spend that first week nesting and stocking the house. This year, no different. We have a beautiful pool and seafront and I relished my mornings with my book and coffee on my back patio, facing the sea, taking the early morning sun and listening to the yard wake up, taking in my environment with every sense I have.

“Our house, is a very very fine house….with two cats in the yard…” Yes, we had “vacation pets”. Well, we shared them. Our dearest friends there have two cats, one is fourteen and a bit wobbly on his feet but still sweet and gentle though frail and senile. The other is a 2 year old “cat” who doesn’t really behave like a cat. Karma is quite the character and makes herself at home pretty much anywhere. She slept with us a few times when we couldn’t extract her from the house. She’d come over for dinner…she had her own plate and her Mama would feed her what we were eating. I’d come downstairs and find her snoozing on the couch as her partner and crime overtook the lounger on the back deck. They were a joy to have around and really took the sting out of so missing my cats back home, the only shadow I ever have on my stays in Negril. She followed my husband down to the cave below my house one morning, climbing the rocks, completely alert and definitely “looking” for something when all of a sudden Les hears a loud squeal. Upon just a little investigation Karma showed him a Seagull sitting on a nest of eggs deep within the twisted rock – we would never have known she was there. Karma and Pita were a huge part of our experience this year. In fact, I’ve dedicated a decent part of my movie recap to them.

I am not a gardener; in fact, I tend to kill things that come out of the soil. While cleaning house one day Les discovered what looked like a bean sprouting in a “puddle” of icky water by the sink. Upon closer investigation we discover it is not a bean – it’s a peanut. My husband being an avid gardener dropped it in the soil. Like everything in the tropics this thing just took off. My “bestie from the block”, Karma’s Mom is a botanist and explained exactly how peanuts grow. They flower but then the flower’s stem, aka the “peduncle” bends towards the soil so that the flower touches it. From there, the peanut grows. Most think the peanut comes from the root but no, it comes from these flowers, bending over and literally “planting” it below.   Well, this revelation was too cool for words and we honestly did not expect to see this happen but within a day there it was – a peanut flower! By the end of the day it had “done its thing” and bent over into the soil. Each day, a new flower…sometimes two, sometimes three…each doing their “thing”. We were enthralled with this plant and it flourished so in the short time it was in our care. In fact, we were so obsessed with this that another friend referred to it as our “ant farm”. When we left we gave it to our yard guy. We fully expect at the very least that he will harvest a ton of peanuts (having grown up in country growing them on a regular basis) or perhaps he will corner the market in Negril Peanut Farming and become a gazillionaire. Wayne the Peanut Mogul…that would be too cool.

I’d say a good part of my stay was spent preparing food, making the most of the incredible ingredients I could source locally – fresh produce, fresh fish and more chicken than anyone would ever want to eat. My house has a two-burner gas range, no oven. I plan to put my recipes together and call it “two burners, one love”. (Soon come!)   My “focus” ingredient this year was Plantain and I developed a nice recipe for Plaintain Latkes, inspired by something I ate at Zimbali one year. It’s basically a potato latke using both green and ripe plantains shredded instead of the potato. Fried in coconut oil…it was a huge hit. I also gave a try at Plaintain Lasagne…it came out good but does need perfecting. I pulled out and perfected my brown stew technique on fish and chicken and came to a realization that when cooking chicken on a two burner range “brown stew” technique applies no matter what the seasoning and vegetables are with the chicken. Using this technique I made Chicken Adobo, a Kerali-Style curry Chicken and Chicken Tikka-Masala to name a few. We find some Spring Roll wrappers at the supermarket and made spring rolls with Jamaican ingredients and flavors. Of course, with fresh fish from the fisherman’s village you can’t wrong with Escovetch or even a cornmeal crusted fried Bonita, kinda New Orleans catfish style. For all the food-centric stuff I’ve described I returned home a few pounds lighter, as I always do. Aside from eating clean food for the most part, keeping it seasonal and local, just as I do at home I am way more active there than here when I’m parked for most of the day at a desk in front of a computer.

We did manage to eat out on occasion. Breakfast at Jus Natural a couple of times, take-out from Sips and Bites, had my AhBee burger, German Bar and of course LTU. Got Jerk Chicken from Tony and once from Bourbon Beach (I like Tony’s much better, it was a time and place thing for Bourbon Beach.) We celebrated two occasions at Ivans, my favorite restaurant in Negril – once was hub’s birthday and the other was our last night in Negril.

Which brings me to Bob the Duck. Hey, just because our posse has “settled down” a bit doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned our motto of “practice random acts of silliness”. Anyone who’s been to Ivans knows the famous Ivans Ducks. You, know, the wooden ducks with rain boots. They are everywhere, we often tease the owner about that. The night of Les’ birthday one of those ducks…Bob…hopped in the back of our friend’s pickup with us and spent the night. I came downstairs in the morning, bleary eyed a bit from the Vodka-Grapefruits of the night before and saw him there on the table. “Right”, I said out loud. “THIS happened”. From there it was a runaway train. Our friends from LA and Toronto came over and with their encouragement Bob went out on the town…a vacation from his post at Ivans, he was bent on seeing all Negril had to offer.

Bob hung out in the yard, spending time at the pool and taking in the views from our patio. He met Karma. Bob played dominoes at Doras. He drove Niah’s van. He visited the Lighthouse. He went to the beach. He ate chicken at Bourbon Beach (a duck eating chicken?   Yeah…Bob’s a bit depraved). He went shopping at HiLo. He went to Ricks where he became an immediate celebrity, having his photo taken with many tourists for their vacation albums. He caught sunset at LTU. Then he went back to Catcha, took his place amongst his bredren where we noticed that he was the only one there with red boots. As Bob told his tale to his fellow ducks his escorts enjoyed a cocktail and a quick game of Trivial Pursuit with a couple from LA that I only knew online but was so pleased to meet in the flesh.

We rarely went out at night, only a handful of times in the months we were there. We checked out AhBee’s music thing which was nice…the band was good and the vibe mellow. LTU is our go-to spot for evening fun and we definitely went there a few times for drinks and company.

Then of course there were the “parties” we were invited to and planned. Our friends got married at Half Moon Beach and it was an awesome wedding. They had a “regular” ceremony with a great officiant who did use the word “God” once followed by a full on Hindu ceremony (they flew the Hindu priest in) which I found to be totally interesting and moving. The ceremonies were on the beach and they had their reception over on “the island” better known to most as Calico Jacks.

Our friend had his 60th birthday party at LTU and it was a blast. He went all out with food and a quasi-open bar. Tons of people there….lots the poor guy didn’t even know but who felt “welcome” enough to glom his food and drink, lol. I think he might have gotten a date out of it but you know how people can be. Didn’t bother me, the place was packed and the mood festive. My girls and I even jumped up on the bar for a dance, something none of us had done there in a good ten years. Considering the number of friends and tourists with cameras I know my image looking completely spastic is out there on someone’s vacation video.

With the success of that party hub decided to throw me my own “surprise” party there the Saturday before we left. The surprise was of course that my birthday was still a week away. It was a great way to gather all of our peeps in one place for our “last hurrah” for the season. I love sitting at that bar and looking around and seeing every face there is a face I know. The love is overwhelming.

I enjoyed plenty of day-time reveling. Every week the ladies would gather at Canoe, take our corner table on the newly expanded veranda and soak up cocktails and solve the problems of the world. This was usually followed up with a stop at Hermine’s Bun Bun shop right across the street from our gate for another beer and more problem solving. Big up to the women with whom I am so close, like sisters with…there was a core group of six of us, all but two full time residents in Negril…and have been for decades, two and three times longer than some who expound poetic about their newly “found” lifestyle online. I’ve learned so much from these ladies over the years about how to really LIVE there that I have no problem saying that is exactly what I do for the relatively short time that I do it. Big up to these women who own their own businesses and know what it is like to etch out a living on a Jamaican economy and not to rely on a North American pension as a retiree. They are tough but gentle, not bitter as some expats become and fully and totally have a love and pride of place that I’ve never seen before anywhere. They are truly wise about the way of the world there in a developing country where the living is not always easy.  They take the good with the bad and we discuss plenty of bad in Jamaica but they never forget why they chose to live there and always appreciate the great parts of living there that for them outweigh the many tough issues and times. Between them and my Jamaican friends I’ve learned so much about being one with the island and at the same time I’ve learned more about myself and what I do and do not want to do with my future. Just ten years ago we were seriously contemplating buying and building there. Now…we are more than satisfied with what we are doing and our “big plan” is just to do it for a longer period of time when that space opens up for us. I’ve learned appreciate where I live for most of the year, and I’ve learned to be grateful that I am so blessed to go from one garden spot on the planet to another. I can come home to Bodega and stand out on my porch overlooking the pastels of sunrise to the east or the brilliance of the sunset to the west…I can inhale deeply and smell and smile the distinct aromas of rural Northern California. I can fill my eyes with the lush beauty of winter here – the verdancy of the meadows and hills, the pops of yellow as the first daffodils of spring come from the earth. I can attain that same peaceful feeling that I have in Negril when I do the same thing early in the morning facing the sea as the day breaks and the sweet smell of the tropics fill my nostrils and I give full thanks for LIFE.

This year was about finding balance as it turns out. Taking time to appreciate my surroundings, my loved ones and the food that nourishes us. Keeping up with work that keeps my boat afloat without a minute of resentment, rather full joy and full creativity with a relaxed and open mind. Such a difference when I look back just nine years ago, when I read my blog entries and it was all about the party, the fun and the non-stop “adventure”. I wouldn’t change those experiences for the world but I can now sit back and say “I did that, I loved that…maybe in a small way I miss that…but I was there WHEN…”. Despite recent horrors, gun violence, traffic accidents and the sudden and tragic death of a young man who called me Auntie (thank god, not violence but a seizure) – I will be back “same bat channel, same bat place”.   I look forward to that but moreso, I look forward to the next nine months with a peaceful mind and love in my heart.

Here’s my annual video…enjoy.

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Another Jamaican Movie…

Our trip this winter – set to music in 8 minutes (that’s just under a minute per week)

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Tale of Two Road Trips Part VII – Photo Gallery

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Tale of Two Road Trips – Part VII

Part VII

 “Gone are the days we stopped to decide; where we should go, we just ride” Robert Hunter

Welcome to Treasure Beach

Welcome to Treasure Beach

December 15, 2013

We had no clue where we were going to stay in Treasure Beach. We had the name of one guesthouse that we couldn’t even check out; the “road” to the place was buried under sand and we knew motorcycles and sand are not a good mix. We proceeded down the road slowly; keeping an eye out for a guesthouse or Inn that would suit our modest needs and modest budget. We spotted a hotel right on the sea and pulled over. Sunset Beach Resort was a hotel that Thing 1 had once recommended to us. Thing 1 had also raved about Bath, so we approached dubiously. I was optimistic; while Thing 1’s tastes in excursions might be suspect based on our Bath experience I knew the guy did not stay in dumps.

Sunset Beach Resort, Treasure Beach

Sunset Beach Resort, Treasure Beach

The hotel was a ghost town. This was not surprising considering it was off-season. With Jakes right next door I imagined the place to be a second tier alternative to one of Chris Blackwell’s places in his prestigious portfolio. The views of the sea definitely appealed to me. The pool was partially empty and appeared to be undergoing a cleaning in preparation for the busy holiday season. Since my new bathing suit was in the wayward pack this did not concern me at all. Overall the property looked clean and well-kept so we went into the office to inquire.

Sunset Beach Resort

Sunset Beach Resort

We passed through the humble restaurant to the woman who was sitting in the small cubicle-type office. We asked the rate.

“$150.00US per night”

Our eyes grew wide, then narrowed. Ron began the negotiation from the local angle.

“We live in Negril…do you offer a local’s rate?”

They did but it wasn’t too far off the $150.00 rack rate and still a bit too rich for our blood. I then took over, using my hospitality experience.

“Can I ask what your occupancy is tonight?” I knew any property that has less than 80% occupancy should be more than willing to deal; empty hotel rooms only cost money. The woman shifted slightly in her seat.

“I guess you’d be it.” Bingo. “OK, “ I continued in my sweetest voice, “How would $75.00 per night work?” We whispered among ourselves, deciding at that moment to extend our trip by one day. “Guaranteed two night stay”, I wanted to sweeten the pot just a bit. She still looked concerned and said she’d have to consult with the owner. She pled our case simply; she had four potential guests that were from Negril, the only guests for the night it would seem, willing to pay $75.00US per night for two nights. The owner agreed, money was exchanged and everyone was satisfied.

Our decision to stay an extra night was based on more than just the discounted rate. We were looking forward to getting off the bikes for one solid day and from the looks of the place and our wish to see more of Treasure Beach it seemed like the most logical thing to do.

We were led to our rooms. They shared a small porch and were side by side. It turns out they were two rooms in a larger apartment-type unit that had a full kitchen. Each room had its own bath, a king-sized bed, air conditioning and cable TV. We were far uptown from our previous accommodations; we were far uptown from our own living accommodations in Negril as far as room amenities went. For the first time on this trip I didn’t feel compelled to use our own bedding either. And the view from our porch did not suck.

The view from our room at Sunset Beach Resort

The view from our room at Sunset Beach Resort

After washing the road off of us in a nice hot shower with good water pressure we gathered to watch sunset and headed off for dinner. We decided to keep it local and see what the hotel’s restaurant had to offer. When we opened the menus I was pleasantly surprised at the prices. I would come to find out over the next two days that restaurant prices, particularly seafood offerings, were lower than they are in Negril. I spied lobster for 1200JMD and even though I rarely order lobster in Jamaican restaurants I had to go for it. They did a pretty respectable job of not cooking it to death and even brought out a plate of “leftover” tails for us to enjoy. Bellies full after a long day we hit the hay and I actually enjoyed being lightly air-conditioned for the night.

Jakes, Treasure Beach

Jakes, Treasure Beach

December 16, 2013

We made plans to meet our friend Ted and his dog Flora at Fisherman’s Beach. We first met Ted five years before on our first trip to Treasure Beach; he was our boat captain that took us on our first trip to Pelican Bar. Every year since when we’ve taken visitors to Pelican Bar or on the Black River we’d call Ted. Today we were just meeting up with him to catch up.

We rose early. I put on the same yucky clothes I’d ridden in the day before, giving my teeth a “brushing” with my finger. We decided to walk and stay off the bikes for the day. On my agenda today was replacing essentials lost in the pack such as a toothbrush, tooth paste, a hair brush and something more clean to wear.

We decided on Jakes for breakfast. On our first visit to Treasure Beach we’d spent some time at Jakes swimming in their salt-water pool and eating lunch. Much to our surprise then, lunch was very affordable. We were hoping breakfast would be as well.

As empty as Sunset Beach was, that’s how busy Jakes was. I headed straight for the sundry shop, I figured most if not all I needed would be right there and since I did not know the area I was not inclined to do a “search and destroy” type of shopping mission. One and done, that was my mission. Save a hairbrush, I got everything I needed there including some clean articles of clothing that I immediately changed into to.

Jake’s breakfast menu was posted on a chalkboard at the front of the restaurant. Short but sweet, every item tempted the palate and we had a hard time choosing what to eat. The prices were sweet too, confirming our memory of our affordable and tasty lunch five years before. Being genetically pre-disposed to craving smoked fish, I chose to have the smoked marlin and bagel. OK, not too Jamaican but thoroughly delicious.

This tree will just have to do!

This tree will just have to do!

We’d planned on retracing our steps from five years ago to get to the beach. That would mean walking off-road, the sea to our side on a narrow trail that would ultimately descend to the beach area. I was looking forward to re-visiting that awesome and gnarly tree that we all climbed on perched on that day. Sadly we couldn’t take the road less traveled; the path leading away from Jakes had been blocked off.

Fisherman's Beach

Fisherman’s Beach

We took to the road, keeping an eye open for a short cut that would lead us to the coast. By the time we left Jakes it was close to Noon and the hot sun overhead was beating down on us and slowing our roll. After a few non-starts we found an uninterrupted path towards the shore. Along this walk we marveled at the almost desert like environment that surrounded us; shorter Cypress trees, dried grasses and cactus. The beach also has its unique features in comparison to Negril; the sand is brown, a chocolate-brown and the beach is carved into soft sandy cliffs. Fisherman’s beach is just that – a beach where the fishers come in with their catch, moor their boats and sit around in little wooden shack bars sipping beer and rum and telling tales of the “big fish”. We met Ted and Flora and made ourselves at home at one of these shacks.

The nicest "Don't Piss Here" sign I've seen yet - Fisherman's Beach

The nicest “Don’t Piss Here” sign I’ve seen yet – Fisherman’s Beach

We spent a few hours talking with Ted and playing with Flora and then headed back to the hotel. Once there we settled in for a nap, a bit of TV watching and a little air conditioning; the late sun was hot and blasting into the room so we drew the shades and enjoyed the dark and cool environment for a while.

We stopped at Jakes to take a look at their dinner menu. We weren’t impressed by the offerings so we continued on to another familiar place, Jack Sprats. The place looked pretty much as it did five years earlier and we placed our orders at the counter. The pizza was good as I remembered but I decided to go with the Brown Stew Fish, a decision I was happy I’d made. As we walked off to find a table we saw the big change that had taken place during our five-year absence. Jakes had installed a long and wide wooden deck out towards the sea. That magnificent tree we all fondly remembered was now encased in Jake’s deck. We chose a table near the tree.

We were pleasantly surprised when the German couple we’d met at Rasta Villa walked in. They were traveling in a similar trajectory to us; they’d stayed at another guesthouse in the Blue Mountains closer to Kingston and had now met up with friends in Treasure Beach. We shared our stories of the road. They told us of their day’s activity, which was a snorkeling trip at Font Hill beach. Unfortunately Font Hill was closed so they had gone on a Black River “safari” instead. They warned us that the road from Treasure Beach to Black River was pretty terrible. We recalled that it might be however five years before we were traveling in a van with seven other silly people so the road conditions either flew over our heads or we just didn’t care.

December 17, 2013

The road from Treasure Beach to Black River

The road from Treasure Beach to Black River

The road lived up to its reputation. It was slow going as we navigated the potholes that left small islands of pavement scattered in the center. We grabbed a bite to eat at Bluefields Beach par then headed out on the South Coast road westward.

No road trip can end without a visit with the police, and this was no different. On our way into Sav la Mar we were waved over at a roadblock. No big deal, we were “old hat” with the routine already and we handed over the paperwork.   The female officer dealing with Ron and Peg was reduced to giggles watching the couple bicker over where they had stashed it. Our guy wasn’t as jovial. He looked at the rental paperwork, and then walked around the bike, inspecting it carefully. Apparently it was missing an inspection sticker. I pointed to the rental company’s sticker and phone number telling him we had rented the bike assuming everything was in order. He pondered the sticker for a moment then let us all go on our way.

The Road from Treasure Beach to Black River

The Road from Treasure Beach to Black River

We figured we’d ridden about 400 miles that week. We’d ridden on roads that rivaled North American highways; we’d ridden on roads better suited for donkey carts. Of all the roads and all the miles we’d ridden on this trip the one on which I most feared for my life was the ten-mile stretch from Little London to downtown Negril. It has nothing to do with road construction and everything to do with the drivers. It’s as if everyone driving that stretch of road learned to drive in a boxcar derby. I’ve often said that when you are riding a motorcycle in the States you are invisible; in Jamaica not only do they see you, they aim for you!

On those ten miles we were practically run off the road by a truck and closely passed by a chain of no less than a dozen route taxis. Middle fingers and bumbaclots were flying until we turned the roundabout and found ourselves safely on West End Road. Only then did I stretch out my arms and put my face to the sun with a big smile – mission accomplished.

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Tale of Two Roadtrips Part VI – Photo Gallery

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Tale of Two Road Trips – Part VI

Part VI

“I finally felt myself lifted definitively away on the winds of adventure toward worlds I envisaged would be stranger than they were, into situations I imagined would be much more normal than they turned out to be.”
Ernesto Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey

December 15, 2013

We waved goodbye to Bobby as he headed down the road towards Kingston. The four of us took some time to enjoy our surroundings before we got back on the bike to navigate the spectacular road from hell in the same direction. As if on cue, Ron and I sampled one of the red coffee beans off the bush; it was sweet and juicy and did not taste like coffee but I could tell that the “pit” in the middle of the fruit was indeed the bean that we all knew and loved. I was putting my helmet on when I heard Les say, “Where’s the pack?”

Bubbles Bar

Bubbles Bar

My stomach fell between my legs. We hadn’t been up there for more than ten minutes so Les jumped back on the bike and slowly descended down the hill scouring the sides of the road, re-checking Bobby’s parking lot to see if he’d forgotten to strap it on in the first place. He came back up the hill empty handed. I would not accept that it had just disappeared so he and I took off on foot for a slower and more careful look. I left him at the crest, knowing that I would not make it back up easily and joined the rest above. My optimism faded to pessimism as I recalled what I thought was an innocent transaction earlier. A care with four young men had come up the hill and paused at the top by the bikes. They’d asked if those were our bikes, we replied that they were, and they drove off. The bikes do draw attention, especially in the more rural areas; people will come out to take a look as we ride by. Now though I was wondering if this innocent exchange was more than the young men’s fascination with anything on wheels. I wasn’t completely surprised when Les came back up the hill empty handed again. He’d left word with the staff at Prince Valley and his phone number in case the pack turned up.

Bench with a view of the valley

Bench with a view of the valley

We did a quick mental inventory of what was in the pack. Thank God our cash was not. Clothing, toiletries, my brand new bathing suit, a bag of cords, and our Jawbone speaker and…..Les’ IPhone 5, the one he usually uses in the US.

Les grabbed my Jamaica IPhone and activated the “Find My Phone” app. Nothing, apparently his phone was off. The only reason he had it with him was that it was his favorite camera to travel with. If you have an IPhone, this app is a must. With it you can locate your phone from any other Apple device. If the phone’s on, the internal GPS will tell you where the phone is. Had Les’ phone been on, we could have seen exactly where the phone, thus our pack, had gone. Les would check this app regularly for the rest of the trip, even after he had reported it lost/stolen.

Pack in the wind, so were we. We took off. About a mile down the road we ran into Bobby who was on his way back. We told him about the missing pack and he promised to ask around the neighborhood to see if he could find it and get it back to us. We thanked him even though I knew this was a long shot and I’d resigned myself to fact that it was gone and that next year we were bringing bungee cords from the US.

Heading down the mountain - FLAMES

Heading down the mountain – FLAMES

The road heading south to Kingston was as spectacular as it was coming up. It was equally as gnarly too; potholes, washouts, narrow and shaded and in some spots there was moss growing on the surface. One of our stop and smell the roses stops was at a more developed area, which turned out to be the gathering point for the Blue Mountain Downhill Bicycle tour. We took in the view, chatted with the nervous cyclists and I even treated myself to a spendy but delicious cup of Blue Mountain coffee.

City Limits - Straight Ahead!

City Limits – Straight Ahead!

I noticed that this side of the mountain was more developed with nice guesthouses and hotels. Kingston was close so it made sense there would be more accommodations for the city-folk to enjoy the mountain’s fresh air. When we reached the bottom we turned right and in no time we were riding in Kingston. We pulled in to get gas and confirm our bearings. The plan was to skirt around the city for a short distance and get on the T1, or toll highway where we’d zip into Clarendon at 100kph. I’ll admit the prospect of raging down the highway at top speed made me a little nervous but it was the best way to go. We were about half-way to the toll plaza when we saw Ron turning off into another gas station.   This can’t be good.

It wasn’t. Ron’s bike had conked out. We pulled in and the boys got straight to figuring it out. Thinking it might be the battery Ron bought some jumper cables hoping it would do the trick; but no, shit. We were kind of in an odd spot in Kingston, an industrial looking area and aside form the area where Ron and Peg used to go for immigration paperwork none of us knew the city at all.

I think it was Peg who came up with the idea to call the mechanic in St. Margaret’s Bay. Who knows? He very well could know someone in Kingston. Lo and behold, he did! The guy was at the gas station within ten minutes and had Ron up and running in no time.

Murrays

Murrays

The “super highway” was not as terrifying as I’d imagined and it seemed just as we got on, we got off. Once in Clarendon we pulled off at Murray’s hungry and psyched for some of the best jerk on the island. I had chicken, Ron and Peg enjoyed chicken and some of Murray’s famous jerk sausage. Les enjoyed the special of the day: jerk rabbit.

South Coast

South Coast

Now in the south we road and I saw again the wonderful and ever changing landscape of Jamaica. The southern part of the island is much drier than the north, even with this year’s more abundant rainfall. The area around Treasure Beach can be almost desert-like. Rolling hills of green and gold grasses, cows grazing and the occasional Spanish tiled roof on the horizon can be reminiscent of Tuscany. Around Spur Tree Hill where a huge roundabout spokes into every conceivable direction we got a bit lost, veering into small towns only to turn around and retrace our steps. It was at once funny and fascinating but finally a relief once we got headed in the right direction and saw a sign “Treasure Beach – .5K”.

"We're the Fukawee"

“We’re the Fukawee”

December 25, 2012

It was late afternoon when we approached Lucea. I had never seen the street so quiet. The city always had a noisy and crowded bustle to it but this afternoon there was barely a soul around. Barely – except for the two police officers on the corner right at the main intersection in town. We hadn’t even crossed the intersection when one of the cops stepped out in the road with his hand up. Blue started to pull over. The cop very suddenly stopped him and began yelling. He had told Blue to STOP, not PULL OVER. Blue tried to explain that he was trying to get safely out of the road but the cop didn’t want to hear it. In his most condescending voice he loudly explained that he wanted Blue to STOP and Blue had no business doing anything else. Blue was finally “allowed” to move the van out of the road and to the curb. He and the van owner got out. They handed the requisite paperwork over but the cop was not even close to being done with his rant. He couldn’t have been more than 25 years old and we watched and listened in horror as he went on, and on, and ON about “respect” and “acting good”. He kept repeating the same thing over and over with a few digs thrown in about Blue and the van owner’s “ignorance” and how they should “act good” with “tourists” in the vehicle. Even if they had wanted to respond there was no way they could get a word in edgewise. As this was going on an older woman walked by; she rolled her eyes and threw a teeth kiss in the direction of the cop. My blood pressure was rising but I kept my shit together, hard as it was, taking a cue from Blue and the van driver who had to be biting their tongues bloody at this point.

The cop finally shut up for long enough to dramatically flip through the paperwork that was handed to him. Then, he was off again, flinging the papers around and speaking loud enough to be heard in Green Island. He started carrying on about how the papers were no good; they were photocopies. I sunk in my seat as he continued to rant about how he might have to impound the vehicle until this got straightened out. I was mentally preparing to interrupt Niah’s Christmas when I heard the van owner speaking in the most respectful manner he could muster. Whatever he said worked because the “mad man of Lucea” quieted down and released us. We were back on the road, no worse for the wear.

We drove in silence for a short while. I looked at Blue; he was seething. I muttered “what a dick!” and those three words unlocked an angry patois sprinkled tirade that included every “clot” I knew and a few I didn’t. Blue and the Van Driver exchanged rants – all the anger that built up in those minutes with that cop got vomited all over the van. The evil cop from Lucea was the topic of discussion the whole ride into Negril.

After a week in sleepy little Long Bay I experienced a bit of culture shock when we hit the beach road in Negril. Negril, once as sleepy as Long Bay, erupted in front of our eyes with traffic, tourists and activity buzzing all around us. I was disappointed, as I often am as we headed down West End Road, once a scenic drive with awesome views but now those views are hidden behind rock walls. I really wanted to show off Negril in a nice light to our Swedish friend but those dramatic views would have to wait until we passed the lighthouse and headed towards our yard. While very different than Portland he appreciated and took in Negril’s differences the way any traveler would. I love European travelers. They are always up for anything and complain about NOTHING.

We quickly picked up Renee and Don and the bags of groceries and headed towards the yard. It was great to be home. The house was dark and cool and while I busied myself with opening it up Les took our guests on a brief tour of the yard and our special caves. The ten of us enjoyed a cold drink and the sunset from our back patio; I presented a simple platter of Anchor cheddar cheese and some crackers, which everyone enjoyed. As much as we encouraged Blue, the van driver, his son and our new Swedish friend to stay the night they were anxious to get back to Portland. After sunset we hugged everyone up and after they left we got settled into preparing a simple but festive Christmas dinner of shrimp pasta and fresh veggies.

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Tale of Two Road Trips Part V – Photo Gallery

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