Aruba, Jamaica, Ooh I Wanna Take Ya...

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Feb 20, 2014

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Beach, Bars, YS Waterfalls

Flag of Jamaica  ,
Thursday, March 7, 2013

Terrible title, but I had to make reference to the Beach Boys Kokomo song at least once. And although I would've liked to visit Aruba, the Jamaica part is relevant as I arrived in Kingston, the capital of this country, on the last day of Feb. It was a 1.5 hr flight from Provo aboard a smallish aircraft. In fact it felt like I spent longer in the immigration queue than on the the very slow/long drive from the airport to my hotel in New Kingston. On the way I passed the stadium where Usain Bolt trains and a statue dedicated to Bob Marley. The streets are run-down and appear like it would’ve been nice in the 70’s but lack of maintenance has degraded this city to standards just a step above Accra. I’d only booked this hotel the night before and it is in a perfect location – walking distance to the things I wanted to see and right around the corner from the place I would catch the bus to Negril the next morning. The Bob Marley museum is ~2 km from my hotel and when I mentioned to hotel staff if it was walking distance they just laughed and said "oh noooooo, you need a taxi". They are not walkers...or it’s a scam to get money from me into the pockets of cab drivers. Given my short time here (1 afternoon basically), I taxi’d to the Museum and then walked back to the hotel taking in a few sights along the way including the Governor General’s residence, the PM’s residence and Devon House which is a 1800’s mansion built by the first black Jamaican millionaire and recently restored. During the walk, I had a random local chat to me as he pushed his bicycle along and seemed harmless enough. Security at the Gov Gen’s gates asked if I was ok and not being harassed. Funny thing is that I expected this and surprised I wasn’t confronted by more locals trying to sell me stuff – come to think of it, I was the only tourist I saw that day other than in the Marley Museum. My new friend accompanied me all the way to Devon House where security wouldn’t let him in with his bike. That was fine by me cause I was wondering how I could unhurtfully ditch him.

Prior to touring the Bob Marley Museum, I had very limited knowledge of this musician and his life other than his passion for marijuana and reggae. But now I know he died at 36 from a melanoma on his toe that spread cancer throughout all his vital organs; his biggest sales came after his death; he was nearly assassinated in his own home and the 2 bullets remained in his body; he believed that an Ethiopian Prince was the second coming of Jesus; his speaking voice is barely understandable; he is half white – his Mum was 18, Dad a 55 yr old English army captain; and I know many more songs of his than I thought I did. The Museum is in the house he lived in with his wife (who I think now lives in Ghana!) and you are taken to each room by a guide who sings his songs along the way. After the tour I was keen to purchase his Best Of CD and get to know this artist better. But, after my 6 days in Jamaica, I would be quite ok with not hearing another Bob Marley song again...his music is everywhere and his face emblazoned on nearly every souvenir item.

I felt a bit on edge walking around the Kingston streets. I’d heard there were parts to definitely steer clear of. But I didn’t know what these parts were and I couldn’t be bothered researching. So for my only night in Kingston, I ate in the decent hotel restaurant and watched an MTV marathon of 'Ridiculousness’ which is one of my fav tv shows – a bunch of clips of people getting hurt playing pranks or doing stupid things. Next morning I was on the Knutsford Express coach bus for 5 hrs heading around the north of the island country to Negril on the west coast which would be my Caribbean getaway for the next 5 nights. The bus trip included free wifi and I was able to forward Amy her flight check-in email from United Airlines. She replied with a somewhat confusing statement about really looking forward to our trip next week. I replied asking if she realised that this flight was for tomorrow morning to which I received numerous whatsapp messages declaring her slight panic cause she had thought it was for next Saturday! Fortunately she was able to drop everything and be on a flight to Jamaica within 12 hrs. Phew.

I arrived Friday 1st March and Amy flew in from Houston the next day as planned. I picked Negril as it was highly rated on Trip Advisor because of the 7 Mile Beach and relaxed atmosphere. Our hotel was perfect – nice part of the beach, not too big or small, beach bar, central, great food, and a rain shower. The beach is not as nice as I’d imagined...but I guess after Provo my standards were sky high. But the water is warmer! The weather turned bad on day 2 & 3 and not good for swimming with rain in the evenings. But we didn’t let this deter our nights out to places along the beach with live reggae bands. Rick’s Cafe in the Cliff’s area was definitely worth the taxi trip to relax, eat Jerk Chicken (a local dish with a humours name), and watch people jump off the cliffs into the sea below. A place that has been wiped out twice by can understand why they keep rebuilding in this fantastic location.

I had originally booked 4 nights here and left 1 night open for Montego Bay where we both fly out from. But we both enjoyed Negril enough to stay in the one place that extra night. Plus our limited exposure to Montego (me on the bus trip, Amy via airport transfer) was not that impressive. I was expecting something like Monaco or an Italian coastal town, but it looked like a dive. So with our extra full day, we hired a driver and took an excursion 2 hrs out of town to the YS Waterfalls. These are in a rural setting and popular day trip, but fortunately for us most of the crowds were leaving by the time we got there and gave us time to have some of the incredibly clear pools to ourselves. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. We capped our last full day in Jamaica with a very tasty and well served dinner at the hotel restaurant.

Our flights out of Jamaica were scheduled 9 mins apart in early afternoon, so it was a beach breakfast and then shared shuttle bus for the 90 minute trip to Montego Bay airport where we said our goodbyes as Amy headed back to Houston and I to NYC for my connecting flight back to Accra. This time I was all within the same terminal and I again paid $120 extra for a Premium Economy seat. I now type this last paragraph in a random hotel in Accra (the company guesthouse was booked out) where the internet connection is slooooooooooow and the tap water has stopped flowing. And so after 3 very different countries, 7 flights, and 4 hotels, my 12th break comes to an end with a medley of Bob Marley songs swirling in my head and memories of great beaches, Mayan culture and fun nights out.
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