Jamaica is a country full of life, colour and joy. The smells are intoxicating and the people sure know how to party. When you've been to Jamaica once you feel like you are always welcome to return
In the words of Mr Eardley Ruddock, our driver, “all roads lead to No Problem!” This was Jamaica…
We arrived late in Montego Bay on Saturday 10th February and a taxi drove us the two hours to Negril. We drove through the warm night air full of the sounds of cicadas and reggae and the smells of bonfires and cooked chicken. The wooden shacks, ramshackle along the road, had their turquoise, red, yellow, shutters open to reveal candlelight and rows of Red Stripe. The Saturday night pace was easy, voices murmuring a rough lilt out through the dark.
My hotel recommendation
Our hotel Foote Prints in the Sand (2 star- cheap and cheerful: Norman Manley Blvd, Negril Beach Road, Negril) is white-painted and full of vibrant tropical flowers. A wooden path leads to the bar, an open veranda on the white beach. Our room had a balcony overlooking the beach and a man with a banjo would periodically come and serenade us as he stood singing in honey tones under the palm tree. Breakfast is in the bar, so we would eat fresh fruit and piles of pancakes and maple syrup while listening to a Jimmy Buffett CD and watching crabs scuttle past us on the soft sand. Further up the beach a man sells jewelry made from shells, and brightly coloured sarongs float in the light breeze on a wooden stall. The rooms are simple and clean.
Exploring the Island
On Sunday morning we arranged to meet a friend, Beryl, at her Church in Grange Hill. We passed donkeys carrying loads of cut bamboo, we passed bony cows and skitterish goats. We passed the fields of sugar-cane and tractors laden with the burnt stalks, taking them to the factory to be made into sugar and rum. The houses were huddled close to the roadside, dilapidated shacks, wooden shacks with extensions, painted shacks, concrete houses with corrugated iron roofs and colonial style mansions all mixed together but delineated by rusting metal fencing, wooden posts and lush tropical bushes and trees. Down the dusty, potholed tarmac road would occasionally walk a mother or a granny in her colourful Sunday finery followed by a small child carrying an umbrella against the already blistering sun. Beryl’s church was set back from the road in a parched yard. A scrawny brown cow munched the dry grass in the field next door and the congregation came slowly in ones and twos, stopping to chat and greet us, full of smiles and welcome. They entered the cool, simple church and took their places on wooden pews. Little girls in frilly frocks giggled and frolicked outside until it was time to come in. All are welcome to come and join the congregation.
Many of the houses are topped with a red roof, typical decorative white grills on the windows and surrounding the veranda, with gardens full of fruit trees: avocados, paw paw, coconut, chilli peppers, papaya, and mangos. After lunch the clouds usually open and there is a downpour of warm rain. It rains most days but only enough to refresh the air and bring out the smells of the blossom.
We had a romantic time walking along the beaches but we also wanted a bit of fun too! We hired a jet ski from the beach just along from the hotel on Negril beach and we also went out on a boat from which we snorkled amongst the tropical fish. Just along from the hotel we hired horses and with a guide we rode through villages up into the hills.
One of Jamaica's greatest assets is the people. They always come up for a chat on the beach and if you don't want to, they take it in good spirits and wave a cheery goodbye. If however you are feeling sociable there is always someone to chew the fat over with and they are always delighted to talk about music, the sun, and their beautiful country. All in the spirit of "No Problem".
On the reception at our hotel Foote Prints in the Sand they had a framed copy of the following poem.
"Some people come into our lives and quickly go…
Some stay for a while and leave footprints in our hearts,
And we are never ever the same…"
I certainly will remember the Joy of Jamaica forever.