The Road Less Travelled
Trip Start Jan 29, 2008
10Trip End Feb 15, 2008
We noted a lot of sugar cane farming en route. Cane is being harvested this time of year. A couple of times were got behind trucks loaded to the gills with sugar cane; we saw a boy on the side of the road jumped up and grabbed a piece of the cane to chew on, a big grin on his face.The villages along the coast are mostly sleepy fishing villages
The trip to Port Antonio also took us by a limestone quarry. Bauxite, for making aluminum, is mined in Jamaica. The backbone of the Jamaican economy is tourism, bauxite and agriculture. Unfortunately, the country carries a massive burden of debt to foreign lenders - much of the foreign currency earned goes towards paying the interest on their debt load.
Valerie had talked us into checking out her other property, also called Mikuzi, just out side Port Antonio at Winnifred Beach. (At one time, she also owned a place in Negril that was destroyed during hurricane season.) Valerie's grandfather was a sea captain from the Bahamas and he used to own the property. This Winnifred Beach Mikuzi was very similarly decorated and had a nice garden, but was a little more rustic. Although it was within walking distance from one of the prettiest beaches in Jamaica, it was also right beside the main road. Everyone should travel equipped with earplugs!
Steve, aka Tooloo, was a manager of Winnifred Beach Mikuzi. His mother, "Sixteen", also worked for the Mikuzi cleaning rooms
It's quite isolated at Winnifred Beach. There's no restaurants close by (except a couple of places selling rice and peas and the restaurant on the beach which is open only for lunch), so it meant grabbing a cab every time we needed to go into Port Antonio to eat, go to the bank, do some sightseeing, etc. We had some very interesting rides between our accommodations and town, some in official taxis, others crammed with the locals into private cars.
There were several other people staying at the Winnifred Beach Mikuzi, mostly Europeans. We met a young Swedish woman who had spent three months volunteering in Guatemala and had travelled to Jamaica to meet up with a friend. Holed up in one cabin was a German Rasta woman who, besides being white, looked and played the part of a Rastafarian. She even had the patois down. We got mighty tired of the loud reggae music she played over and over and requested that Steve to ask her to turn it down. He assured us that it wasn't the first time he'd had to remind her.
There's been very little live music here which has been disappointing. All we've heard is what's been on the radio or what's being played in the background in bars or restaurants. (One exception was the singing we could hear from the Winnifred Beach Mikuzi at a nearby church, if you want to call that music. It was bad.) Our guide indicates that concerts in Jamaica often don't start until after midnight (and then maybe not at all) and they play until early morning. We never stayed up late enough to find out if that was true or not!
Because we were out of town, obtaining food (especially breakfast) was a bit of a problem. The Mikuzi did have a kitchen, but we had not brought along any food with us. The first morning we were there Martin walked to the closest shop and bought a dry spice bun for us to eat. There was no coffee in sight. Even when we did try to buy some yogurt at a store in Port Antonio, it was difficult finding a shop with a refrigerator, let along one that carried yogurt. We had to settle for a pineapple we purchased in the market.
Winnifred Beach is right beside the Blue Lagoon of Brooke Shields fame. Unfortunately, we discovered that it is only accessible by boat for which, of course, you have to pay
Port Antonio (population 10,000) was a popular spot in the 1950s and 60s, a place well-known Americans such as Errol Flynn used to frequent. These days it is a sleepy little fishing village, though a new, beautifully landscaped marina, the Errol Flynn Marina, gives tourists who do venture to this out-of-the-way spot the impression that tourism is rebounding. From the marina, you can see Navy Island, once owned by Flynn. (Legend has it that Flynn lost the island is a poker game.) A major harbour for exporting bananas, it was Port Antonio that inspired the the banana boat song "Day-O" sung by Harry Belafonte.
Though there's not a lot see in the town itself, Musgrave Market was worth checking out. It's mainly a food market, but there is also a section selling tourist trinkets and carvings. Since Martin collects masks, he bargained for one with "Rock Bottom" whose mantra was "love, peace, unity and respect" (always accompanied by a corresponding set of interactive hand motions)
Back at the Mikuzi, a couple we had seen at the Kingston Mikuzi arrived and were in the room next door to us: Suzanne and Arthur. Suzanne was from London and had taught English and ESL in high school and then at King's College. She also taught in Jaipur, India for six years. Arthur was an retired American from New York who has spent most of his career with an international company, mostly out of Singapore. They now lived in France and spent their winters in Jamaica where they rent a house at Falmouth, near Ocho Rios. They were touring around the island by car.
We made friends with numerous "beach dogs" who follow tourists to the beach looking for food and attention, then follow us back to our lodgings. One in particular we grew fond of was "Smiley", a bitch who had no front teeth and whose tongue lolled out the side of her mouth. Steve encouraged us to move the mat and chairs from the patio inside of our rooms every night so that the dogs wouldn't have a place to stay, but, I must admit, we didn't always follow orders
My birthday was spent at Winnifred Beach. We lazed around the beach in the morning and when we got rained out (our only rainy day), ate a delicious lobster lunch at the beach restaurant, then slept the afternoon away. We were both pretty tired has we hadn't gotten much sleep (earplugs or no earplugs) with the traffic noise and because of dogs fighting with other dogs, dogs barking at the chickens which roam freely in these parts, dogs whining and roosters waking us up at 4 am.
For our evening meal (our last day at Winnifred Beach), we had intended to go out for supper to a restaurant down the road, but, instead, were invited to eat with Suzanne and Arthur. We enjoyed the opportunity to spend a bit of time with them and to listen to their stories about living all over the world. The food was delicious, too: chicken and peas, callaloo and green beans. Dining in the backyard of the Mikuzi by candlelight under the stars was a perfect way to spend our last evening in Jamaica.