Two cricket matches, Bob Marleys House and Murder!

Trip Start Mar 16, 2007
Trip End Mar 26, 2007

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Friday 16th March

So Adam, Gregrian and I set off for the Caribbean, Adam and I had never been before but we had our trusty guide Gregrian who was born in Jamaica and lived there for many years. Even though we live in California it surprisingly took three flights to get to Jamaica, we landed in Montego Bay and were greeted by Gregrians Uncle Smiley who had kindly waited for 3 hours as our flight was delayed - thanks Uncle Smiley !

We then rented a car, a task which is straightforward in most countries, but not Jamaica. All the agencies (including Hertz and Avis) said they don't follow global policies, they have special ones applicable in Jamaica only ! You also have to pay a LOT for insurance and even then there's a $1000 excess you have to pay if you damage the car....yes, read that again, you pay a large amount for insurance each day and if you incur any damages you pay the first $1200 !!! Can anyone say 'scam' ??? We eventually negotiated to pay a little more with the agreement there would be zero excess required should damage occur.

We enjoyed some excellent Jerk chicken with Uncle Smiley and then set off on the 3 - 4 hour drive across the island to Kingston. Gregrian took first driving shift to Ocho Rios where we picked up his brother Cameron who had kindly travelled there from Kingston just to meet us and then drive back to Kingston - thanks Cameron ! I took over the driving and spent the next 1.5 hours winding through narrow lanes containing many blind corners, now the majority of those reading know that I'm no slouch behind the wheel yet I was overtaken regularly !!! In my defence the majority of overtaking was undertaken by taxis, the drivers of which I can only assume have a deathwish as they constantly cut in front just as a vehicle would hurtle past in the opposite direction. I haven't looked it up but I'd be interested to know the life expectancy of Jamaican taxi drivers !!! Maybe if they make it through 5 years they're paid a pension for life ?

We met up with Gregrians friend Sophie in Kingston and she had done a great job in finding apartment-like accommodation which was far cheaper than the hotel we had reserved - thanks Sophie ! You'll have hopefully noticed a theme already which is that everyone we met in Jamaica, particularly Gregrians family and friends looked after us superbly. They really were brilliant hosts and it was non-stop fun hanging out with them all trip. Thanks again to all.

Saturday 17th March

We had an early start on the first day of our trip as we had tickets to see Pakistan V Ireland in Kingston which was due to start at 9.30am. Seeing Ireland play on St.Patricks Day was a fantastic experience and there were lots of people wearing costumes to celebrate the occasion.
We had some draught Guinness to get into the spirit of things, it'd be rude not to :o)   As there are many people reading who likely know very little about cricket (yes I'm largely referring to my US readers !) I'll try to provide a brief overview, I'm deliberately going to throw some baseball comparisons in because these should help highlight the differences between the two sports more clearly :

- Cricket is a game. Note: we did not travel to the Caribbean to see jumping insects with ears in their knees.
- There are two teams each with 11 players
- The pitch is oval and the batsman can hit the ball in any direction 360 degrees to score runs (so cannot 'foul' a ball)
- The objective is to score more 'runs' than the other team, each team has a maximum of 300 balls to score as many runs as possible. (In cricket a 'ball' is good unlike in baseball where a 'ball' is bad).
- There are over 100 cricket playing nations recognised by the International cricket council
- Each batsman only bats once, when they are out they cannot bat again
- Only the player catching the ball when the bowler bowls at up to 95 miles per hour is allowed to wear gloves. The other players have to use their bare hands to catch the ball should it be hit in their direction !
- The team which wins the Cricket World Cup will be world champions, this is official because any country in the world has the opportunity to try and qualify for the tournament, the US baseball champions each year are rather confusingly labelled world champions. The first official baseball world cup took place in California in 2006, it was contested by 16 teams and won by Japan, with Cuba in 2nd and the other semi-finalists Korea and the Dominican Republic. The US team did enter and contained major league players but didn't get through to the last 4.
For more information on cricket see Wikipedia

To give a bit of background Pakistan are one of the stronger nations who play cricket and are seeded in the tournament, whereas Ireland are one of the 'minnows' of the game (the official term, not mine !). Therefore nearly everyone expected a comfortable Pakistan win. I always cheer for Ireland as my second team after England and so was supporting them on the day, I also had a feeling the Irish might pull off an upset as it was St.Patricks Day so I bet money on them to win.  The Irish played fantastic cricket all through the day, they held on to some great catches in the field and put Pakistan under a lot of pressure which restricted them to a total of 132 runs (Pakistan would have been thinking they'd score at least 200 runs, and likely more in the 250+ region). Ireland batted second and managed to score enough runs to win the game !!! This was the shock of the tournament and my bet won me $100 ! One of the funniest moments was when an extremely drunk but harmless Irish fan started some banter with the crowd and got a drink tipped on him(this was for mooning them which is highly offensive in Jamaica), I was lucky enough to snap a picture as the drink was poured.

We celebrated that night with dinner at Cuddy'z which is a great bar and restaurant owned by the legendary West Indian cricketer Courtney Walsh, unfortunately we didn't see Courtney but were told he's there regularly and was there just two days before. Some of his memorabilia is on display such as bats and boots which was cool to see.
We then went on to a great club called Quad and partied with many Irish into the night.

We heard the tragic news the next day that the Pakistan coach had been found unconscious in his hotel room, was taken to hospital and died a few hours later. The Pakistan coach was an Englishman called Bob Woolmer, he played for England and also coached South Africa to a World Cup win before becoming the coach of Pakistan. He was hugely respected throughout the cricket world and was known as one of the friendliest people in the game. At first it was thought he died of a heart attack but the autopsy revealed a broken bone in his neck, the police are now conducting a full investigation of his murder. At the time of writing it looks as though the defeat of Pakistan by Ireland resulted in the tragic murder of the Pakistan coach (although there are other theories being investigated, and it is now understood he had poison in his system before he was strangled). May you rest in peace Bob, I really hope they catch those responsible.

Sunday 18th March

After our drinking and partying all day and late into the night on Saturday we didn't have the earliest of starts on Sunday, so around lunchtime headed into the Blue Mountains to visit Gregrians Grandad (known as Uncle Stanley) and to see the fantastic scenery. Blue Mountain coffee comes from here and there is also a lot of sugar cane and bananas grown. Once we were a few miles out of Kingston the condition of the road deteriorated drastically, there were quite a few hairpin bends, blind corners and even a river to drive across at one point, needless to say I had a lot of fun trying to avoid the potholes and other obstacles (and yes some crazy taxi drivers did overtake here and there) ! The views were really great and we enjoyed spending time with Uncle Stanley, he cut some fresh sugar cane for us to chew and suck on, it was the first time I'd had fresh sugar cane and it tasted great, although be warned you need strong teeth to bite through it! We also saw a newborn calf which was just one day old, it's amazing how quick they're up and walking around !!!

We next drove to Port Royal which is a town about 20 minutes from Kingston, it's the former capital of Jamaica but was sadly almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. Unfortunately we got there just a few minutes after Fort Charles closed for the day so we couldn't see the Giddy House or the fort in more detail. The Giddy House is so named because it was tilted by the earthquake of 1907. We were able to see some of the defenses and canon's which gave us a feel for the Fort.

Monday 19th March

We got an early start and headed to Bob Marleys House before heading to the cricket. Although there's not a huge amount to see I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of looking around the home of one of the most impressive musicians of all time. They were very strict in stopping people taking pictures, so I only managed to snap a couple :o)  A visit to Jamaica wouldn't be complete without a visit as literally everywhere you go you see and hear the influence of Bob Marley.

We next headed to Sabina Park again, this time to see the West Indies V Zimbabwe. The West Indies are the home team so of course there were many more people at the game which made for a brilliant atmosphere. We were sat amongst the home supporters and it was carnival atmosphere throughout the game which the West Indies won comfortably. It was great seeing Brian Lara in action, one of the greatest cricket players of all time who still holds many records including scoring 400 runs not out (against England - D'oh) just a few years ago !

After the match we headed to Ocho Rios which will be my next entry. Click on the photo album to see more pictures !

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