“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?”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.