Jamaica - Evry Ting Irie Mon

Trip Start Dec 29, 2009
Trip End Jun 22, 2010

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Flag of Jamaica  ,
Friday, March 5, 2010

We arrived to a stinking hot and humid day in Montego Bay wearing our gear from a freezing cold Dallas morning. Waiting in the customs line at the airport we got the low down on how to survive in Jamaica from this nice guy in line behind us. After getting through customs (and buying 2 cold Red Stripe beers for $6.50 each!) we arranged for our shuttle to take us round to the Grand Palladium hotel which is located near the town of Lucea (Lucy). The bus ride took a lot longer than what it should have as the driver was willing to stop for beers and toilet breaks (it took about an hour for a 35km trip). The slow drive was worth it as we could take in a lot more of the scenery and locals. What an eye opener, the main town parts were a bit crowded, and dirty. There were shacks and lots of rubbish, buildings that seemed half built or half torn down, we weren't sure. Other than this the natural landscape of ocean and tropical plants was beautiful. This is still an un-spoilt place in that sense.
We arrived at what we thought was pure luxury, the Grand Palladium is huge with enough "apartments" to hold about 3000 people! Everything there was huge, the rooms, the food and the biggest swimming pool we have ever seen! With an equally big poolside bar of course! We spent most of our days just lounging around the pool sunning ourselves and taking in the USA/Canadian rivalry that would go on nearly every day that we were there. There were also chanting wars going on “USA, USA” and “Canada, Canada”. I think this had something to do with the Winter Olympics being on. One day a drunken Canadian was walking around yelling US Silver US Silver (Canada had just beaten the US at Ice hockey), pretty amusing!!!

The Grand Palladium was an 'all inclusive’ place, which means that you pay a flat fee once and all food and drinks are included. It was all great quality too. We did our best to try all of the restaurants which were creole, Indian, Italian, Asian and a steakhouse. I had some delicious snapper with a capers and spicy sauce at the Creole place and tried some fresh guava juice at the breakfast smorgasbord, it was soooo good! I found out that guava is a native fruit of Jamaica…maybe that’s why it was so good. I also tried soursop juice (It’s not as sour as the name sounds) this is a native fruit too.

The only service that was a little too expensive at the Grand Palladium was their laundry service ($2.00 per pair of underwear!). I can only say that having a massive spa in our room came in very handy…if you can guess what I mean!!

We tried lots of cocktails, hummingbirds (Creamy chocolate/banana cocktail), Mai ti’s, Pina Colada’s, Dirty bananas, Miami beach and the hotel rum punch and of course Red Stripe beer, it’s great on tap!

After 6 days of sloth like activity, a little too much sun tanning and over eating we left the Palladium and headed in our hire car around to Negril. This is a small place on the Western coast of Jamaica. I drove as Matt had a nasty ear infection. Let me tell you driving in Jamaica is very different. No amount of Mario Cart or Daytona could prepare you for this! The first obstacle of mass destruction was the goats!! Yes goats roaming freely, eating their grass at the side of the road! I think they do it on purpose to freak driver s out! There are dogs too that look pretty mangy, you wouldn’t want to be a dog lover this place would break your heart. There are speed signs in Jamaica (That’s good) and we are driving on the more familiar left hand side (that’s good)…..but 90% of driver’s don’t do the speed limit…so you can choose to keep to the speed limit and have cars trying to attach themselves to your rear bumper or you can go with the flow. I do a little of both which includes pulling over so the cars behind can go past. There was one section of road where I slowed down to a stop for a herd of goats and the card behind had to overtake so they wouldn’t hit me…they nearly collected the goats!! The other scariest bit was on a windy road where around the corner a truck was coming straight for us on the wrong side of the road!!!  Not much I could do but put the brakes on. The truck was purposefully taking it wide to get up the hill…weird driving here??

We drove down a skinny road with hotels on the beach/cliff side and other houses and little shops/stalls on the other side.  The beach side of the road was mostly walled, so that you couldn’t see the ocean, behind the walls were a variety of resorts. Matt luckily spotted the sign for our next place, Catch a Falling Star. This place was really really good. We had our own little cabin with wood paneled walls and wooden louvers to let the breeze in.  We could make our own tea and coffee and had a TV, fridge and a cute back courtyard surrounded by lush tropical plants and looked down to the cliffs and ocean (about 50 meters away).  There is a bar called Ivan’s bar at Catcha, named after hurricane Ivan that hit the coast about 10 years prior. Next to the bar is a little swimming pool and spanning the coast/cliff length of the property are little nooks and crannies to sun bake. These are made of concrete paths and stone walls.

The weather was a little overcast and a huge swell came in which sent waves crashing into the cliffs and massive spray jets shooting up into the air. This became the latest and greatest subject to practice our photography skills on.

We took a trip into Negril town so that Matt could see a doctor for his ear. We found a place that was pretty good. The nurses were friendly and the doctor gave Matt some antibiotics and ear drops. We went to the Sunshine plaza for some groceries and to the pharmacy. The shops were ok and there were security guards around and people wanting to give us a ride in their taxis. Generally it seemed pretty safe, there were school kids running around and most people just going about their business.

We ate at Ivan’s, which was really nice. I tried their jerk chicken (Jerk is everywhere in Jamaica). The spice tastes like ginger powder, allspice, chilli…yum. My favorite dish was the papaya (paw paw) fish.  This came in a ˝ hollowed out papaya shell, the fish was really fresh, cut into bite sized chunks and covered n a papaya, coconut sauce. On the side was an upside down cup of slightly spiced rice with beans mixed through and salad with a horseradish coconut dressing. I had a great Pina Colada too!

On our first night we discovered that there were bats flying around at dusk over our cabin roof. They look just like small birds but have a more shaky flight pattern. Daily there was a truck that drove by in the street with advertisements being shouted out of a megaphone, not sure if these were for reggae shows or what.  We saw hummingbirds eating the nectar out of the flowers surrounding our cabin courtyard, they are really small and fast…just like on the Nature channel…lol….brings my best David Attenborough voiceover to life…lol

We took a drive to the 9 mile beach, it was way too windy so we went to the lighthouse instead. This was ok…not too much to see as we couldn’t go into the lighthouse. Got some photos though.

For our last night we went to the famous “Ricks Café” that claims to be one of the top 10 bars in the world. It was a huge place and crowded with tourists when we arrived. The main attraction at Ricks is the cliff diving!! There is a tree about 15 meters high with a diving platform, this grows on top of the cliff which is about another 15 meters drop.  The local guys dive straight down into the water, which is in a small u shaped cliff formation…it’s amazing. Of course there is a tip bucket which will help the divers on their way! We had dinner at Ricks and watched the sun go down. The crowd dropped dramatically after this, I think the tourist busses had to go. There was a local reggae band that played some Marley tracks.

Friday we packed our stuff and headed off early to drive 6 hours to Port Antonio, basically the other side of the island. The drive was energy zapping..so much to look out for. The roads don’t go around towns they go directly through…imagine driving through the centre of the Fremantle Markets (Perth) on a little wider road.  In between towns it’s ok, just goats and other drivers to watch for. In the towns it’s slow going, probably less secure and so much to look out for.

Were off to Boston Bay, Blue Mountains next. Stay tuned for more Jamaica updates....
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