We normally take a family vacation during August and disappear to a villa somewhere in Treasure Beach or in Trelawny. This summer though, H’s schedule did not allow us to plan this treat. So we decided to make this summer one of weekend road trips. Can I just say it has been wonderful! Two weekends ago, we went to the eastern end of the island, the lush parish of Portland and we spent one night there so we wouldn’t have to rush back once the sun set. Here’s what we did in Portland: absolutely nothing. And it was simply wonderful and even magical. I’m about to write a whole post about doing nothing and how wonderful it was. Sit back, clear your mind and come along…Continue reading Road Trip to Portland, Jamaica: Goblin Hill & Swift River
Road trips rock! And on an island like Jamaica, the options of where to go and what to do are endless. What’s not to like about a road trip? The open road (and we have highways that take us from north to south and back again with ease and breathtaking vistas, as well as from central out west), good company, the prospect of an adventure or two, the certain knowledge that you’ll meet memorable characters along the way and the promise of food! And even if you’re keto like me, there’s no reason why you can’t honour your keto way of eating while on a road trip in Jamaica. In fact, it’s easy! Here we go…
I’m heartsick. I’ve been putting off this particular post for two years now, but no more. So here goes.
Dear Jamaica: We have a garbage problem. We are nasty.
We’ve perfected the art of the road trip. We can now turn on a dime and head north, south, east or west. Easy: keep vehicles properly maintained, stop at the grocery the night before or on the way out, procure water, juices, rum and chasers, nuts, cheesy snacks, granola bars, keep the igloo clean at all times, keep one bag clean and packed with cups and ground sheet at all times, and at the word go, load up and head out.
|View from Black Hill, Portland|
And so we explore our island at any and every chance we get. Portland’s beaches and hills, St. Ann’s beaches, Trelawny’s beaches, rivers and beautiful vistas in its center, Negril’s beach, St. Elizabeth’s rolling landscapes and St. Andrew’s rivers and breathtaking mountainscapes.
|Driving from St. Mary into Portland|
|Beautiful Duncan’s, Trelawny|
|Abandoned tunnel in Portland|
|Paradise, aka Negril|
|Black River, St. Elizabeth|
|View from New Castle, St. Andrew|
I’ve been very selective in my picture taking, choosing to overlook the nastiness that coexists with the beauty that abounds everywhere.
Yesterday we drove through St. Thomas to Long Bay, Portland. Long Bay is one of the best kept secrets in Jamaica. There it sits, part of the main road through east Portie. There are no huge hotels, no fancy famous restuarants, no “attractions.” But there are always tourists there, walking on the road, sleeping in one of the many BnB’s that you can find on the internet, rolling a spliff, sucking on a cold red strip or swirling a plastic cup with ice, White rum and Ting. Heaven. The surf is rough but the water is blue and the sand is white. And it is all mere steps away from the main road. There are no loud sound systems. And tourist harassment… what’s that in Long Bay?
|Long Bay, Portland|
Yesterday we simply turned in off the road, parked under some coconut trees, unpacked our igloo and grill, turned up (just a smidgen…) our music, and enjoyed a few hours in Paradise. Easy. But when we looked to our left and then to our right, there it was: garbage: styrofoam, plastic, latex, glass…ugh.
I averted my eyes quickly and kept my focus front and centre. As we left and were heading back, the garbage deposited where it ought never to be all along the coast was inescapable. I said to H: “Can you imagine if we kept Long Bay EXACTLY as it is now: humble BnBs, rustic cook shops, roadside bars, but cleaned up the garbage?”
|Deep, white sand right off the main road, Long bay, Portland|
There is a lot of talk about our tourism product, creating visions of more rooms, more high prices attractions, orchestrated, pre-packaged tours, all things shiny and new. But simply cleaning up the garbage would result in a step change in what is our current vibe and what we offer to locals and visitors alike.
We visited Jackson Bay, south Clarendon about a year ago. This is way off the beaten track, winding south through wetlands. And there was garbage here. How? Styrofoam and plastic as well as scrap metal in the form of old vehicle chassis and discarded appliances. God.
Almost any hillside in upper St. Andrew is a potential dumping site: check out spots in Irish Town and Red Hills for example.
|When last was garbage collected?|
|When last was garbage collected?|
So how do we fix it. Huge sigh. One perspective is that leadership in Jamaica has lost the art of implementation and has become preoccupied with speeches and box-ticking. It further posits that those in positions of influence and power have managed to insulate themselves from certain Jamaican realities and therefore expend nothing on fixing those ills besetting others; think private schools, private education, private security, gated communities, vehicles that shuttle them from A to B, high off the ground in air-conditioned insularity. They vacation in exclusive locations, out of the line of sight of road side dump sites, and in all-inclusive, created experiences, totally separate from the speak-easy that exists beside a pile of garbage uncollected in two weeks. Out of sight, most definitely out of mind.
And so priorities are set based on a particular skewed perspective and outlook by the powerful and wealthy. And those who see and know and feel The Other Side of Things, in their quest for the Great House quickly adopt the priorities of those who are where they want to be, eschewing the urgent and real needs of our present context.
Dear Jamaica: we are on the cusp of an environmental crisis of humongous proportions. The garbage in and around us is piling up.
I’m unwilling to relinquish my safety, health and peace of mind so easily though. Community Action has to step to the front of the line now. Local leadership: YOUR TIME NOW! I have latched on to grass-roots activism as one of the first steps towards making our present system of governance redundant and shifting the current paradigm towards one that is more proactive and relevant to us. Yes, I know nothing can really substitute for national policies that are framed and resourced and enacted by central government as we seek to move from here to there. But I cannot wait. Jamaica cannot afford to wait.
Imagine this happening at the Community level:
1. Education campaigns about improper garbage disposal. Get a local company to sponsor a poster competition in the community schools. Tell them to include actual pictures of what is wrong in their community.
2. Again get a local company to sponsor the printing of dozens of the winning poster and then commission local groups like the 4H Club, Scouts, church youth group to strategically, and with permission place these posters in central areas.
3. Set a small goal of creating a garbage free zone in a public area enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Make noise about it. Use social media to spread the news of this success story. Replicate this in another area.
4. Get the Councillor and MP on board: THEY have to pressure NSWMA to cart the garbage away regularly and reliably. KEEP UP THE PRESSURE! Use social media to shame and congratulate. Because make no mistake, there are those who make every effort to bag and discard their garbage properly, but their best efforts are thwarted by the non collection of their garbage! There’s no reliable schedule of collection and public skips seem to be a thing of the past.
I think one clean area, one locality doing the right thing, made visible, will result in spread of ideals and practices. Naive? Maybe. But I’m not ready to give up. And current leadership practices have resulted in Jamaica being buried and drowned in nastiness.
Dear Jamaica: We can do this. We must do this. Get Jamaica clean and keep Jamaica clean.
About a year ago, I did a post speaking to beach erosion in Negril. Read it here. That post had pictures of a severely eroded shoreline right by Negril Tree House Resort, Negril, Jamaica. I took those pics April 2013. In March 2014 we returned to Negril Tree House resort and I noticed something different. Where water once lapped up against the bar, there was solid at least 25 feet of powdery, white, gorgeous Negril sand. The beach appeared to have magically extended. Naturally, I started to ask questions of the staff.
“De sea did tek it weh, and it gi we back now”.
“A so it go enuh…give and take”.
So there was no addition of sand? No one came and dumped sand here to reconstruct the beach?”
*laughing* “Noooo, Man…a so it go. It just come back so.”
|There’s the bar in the back ground…see how much sand now between bar and sea|
|That low concrete ridge is where the sea used to lap up against…only glorious sand now|
|No sea encroaching here anymore….at least a brand new 25′ of white sand|
Ok, then. I really want to understand what is happening here. This last week, Negril has been very topical in the news. This commentary in the Sunday Gleaner of May 5 gives a useful summary and perspective I think.
And you know my love-affair with that piece of Paradise that was simply gifted by God to us. We didn’t have to buy it. We didn’t have to make it. All we are asked to do is two things: enjoy it and take care of it.
I already enjoy it. Please help me understand what is happening so I can do my part to take care of it.
|View from my room at Negril Treehouse|
|The sea lapping at the bar at Negril Treehouse|
|See the damaged wall from increasing battering from the sea|
|Close up of the damaged wall|
|(Futile?) efforts to halt the march of time…|
The same “doan cyah” mentality is evident in how we treat our heritage sites…Port Royal, Three Finger Jack monument in St Thomas, that Columbus site in St. Ann, Lovers Leap and Fort Charlotte to name a few are run down and unimpressive.
|Fort Charlotte in Lucea…a potential moneymaker in ruin!
They represent potential money earners for the communities within which they exist and for Jamaica as a whole. I’ve been on a quite a few glossily presented (pricey) tours overseas that lack half the authenticity and wow factor that our own history offers us. To be fair though, I saw adverts last week for private persons to take over the management of specific heritage sites. That’s a win-win approach.
This week, a friend asked me how I do all the stuff that I do with the kids. “You must have a huge budget, Kelly!” he remarked. The answer is no. I do not have a huge budget. But when you have kids and you work too, it is critical to do stuff together where everyone (and that includes you!) can relax. You get to de-stress and you build memories too. It is possible here in Jam Down with a little planning. So this post is dedicated to EY. May you have fun times with your girls and build memories for a life-time.
MY MUST HAVES FOR A FUN TIME
1. Working vehicle
2. Tank full of gas
You see, with all of the above in place, there are so many options open to you. Here are some of my favourites:
1. BEACH TRIPS:
Ocho Rios Public Beach, Frenchman’s Cove (Portland), Doctors Cave (Montego Bay), Negril, Ft. Clarence. Any of the above can be done in a single day. For Negril and Mobay, leave home early (think 6am). Buy patties en route for breakfast or make sandwiches from the night before. Pack your own snacks and fruit that you bought in the grocery, and pack water and juices, soda and rum for Mummy. Admission to these beaches ranges from 150.00 per person to 400.00. Now many of these beaches don’t allow you to bring your own food. Some of the food options on the beaches are really overpriced in my opinion. So for those beaches with the expensive options, I still carry my snacks and frozen bottles in my beach bag, and promise the kids to stop somewhere more affordable for food on the way back. This adds another dimension to the road trip. Kids are usually more than satisfied with the low budget options available like BK and KFC, and I also use the opportunity to expose them to various jerk spots and “decentish” cook shops where you can get get good Jamaican food for under 500.00 (there are great places with parking along the Northcoast highway like that spot opposite Green Grotto Caves, Lyming, jerk in Blueberry Hill, St. Mary, Spur Tree curry goat. On every road trip I look out for potential stop-offs and plan for them on my next trip.
2. THE ZOO IN KINGSTON:
I think it is now 500.00 for adults and 200.00 for kids. This is a central oasis that doesn’t require big planning. Stop at KFC or your favourite take out place, get your food, carry a blanket (or not!) and head off to the zoo. The zoo has recently been transformed and the grounds which were lovely before with huge expanses of lawn, are even lovelier now with the addition of many many palm trees and the creation of new picnic areas. You can picnic in peace and quiet under the mango trees and enjoy the quietude and breeze. The children will enjoy running up and down looking at the animals and you can walk with them or not. It never gets tired. There are new animals with the promise of more to come. There are interactive exhibits where for a little more money (think 200.00 per person) you can feed the birds or pet specific animals. Check it out! It’s a fun, hassle-free way to take a few hours off and just relax.
3. THE NATIONAL GALLERY
An hour and a half in the gallery on a quiet Saturday morning down town Kingston is a wonderful way to expose your children (and you too!) to another side of our culture. Sometimes there are exhibits and activities there geared towards children. Admission is free I believe. Parking is secure. And when you are finished., just take a walk with your children along Harbour Street. Take them into Burger King for a little treat. Easy, fun and memorable.
4. TOM REDCAM LIBRARY
I could almost copy and paste the verbiage for the National Gallery here.
5. EMANCIPATION PARK
The park is lovely in the evening, just before the sun sets. It’s still light, but it’s cooler. There’s an icecream shop opposite the entrance to the park. Get a single scoop of your favourite flavour and saunter slowly into the park. Chat, walk, people watch and grab a seat on a bench or on the grass. From time to time there are shows there that you can enjoy for free. But even without a show, the park remains a great choice to just exhale and clear your mind. Really young children love it. The huge expanses inspire them to just run, and by the time you get home and bathe them they’re ready to crash! Hint: keep those toddlers awake in the car on the way home so they sleep when you get home, and you can relax with a glass of wine in from of the TV. Heaven!
6. HOLLYWELL PARK
It’s just a 45 minute drive from Papine. Pack a picnic, wear your sneakers, carry your sweaters and lots of drinking water and fruit. A regular car can make that drive. Once there, I think you pay a nominal entry fee (something like 200.00 or 300.00 per adult and way less per child). Park and take one of 2 main hiking trails. Young children can do these walks. Each trail is 45 min long with great views along the way and lots of interesting things to see. Check in at the Ranger cabin so someone knows you are out there. Ensure that you have your cell phone and get to walking. Aim to get there by 10:00 am. and do your hiking then. The afternoons get overcast, misty and rainy…great picnic weather huddled under one of the many gazebos on property.
7. DRIVE-OUTS IN AND AROUND KINGSTON:
So I love to drive! Grab your favourite music, make a big deal of it, and load up the car. Head out to the lighthouse near the airport. Watch the planes come in, look at the sea. Talk. Collect rocks along the shore.
Drive through the more affluent neighbourhoods like Beverly Hills, Norbrook, Cherry Gardens and do some harmless House Hunting. It’s fun. You can chat along the drive.
Do the Port Royal Tour. I don’t think it’s more than 500.00 for adults. It’s fun and it’s informative.
I highly recommend the Bob Marley Museum tour. Can’t remember the fee, but it is way less than a movie for sure. Even children will find it interesting.
Go for ice cream at Devon House. Saturday afternoons are good. It’s not too crowded, and it feels like such a treat to break your day and just sit under a tree or gazebo eating great ice-cream.
Mayfair Hotel in Kingston is a great spot for the kids to swim and Mom and Dad to have a drink. For 350.00 you can swim and relax under a huge mango tree out back. There’s a bar and grill. It’s central, quiet and safe.
8. LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION!
Palace Amusement rocks. I loooove the movies: the dark and cool and nachos and my sneaked in flask of tonic to take me through animate features (I hate cartoons in any form). Nowadays, I consider movies a big budget item! So I carefully choose what we’ll go to see and make an event of it. And to be perfectly honest, I go by myself after work from time to time. Ain’t nothing nicer than sinking into that cushy seat by yourself, in the dark with your snack of choice, enjoying not having to talk for 2 hours and being entertained. Try it…
Take the kids to an age appropriate local play. My kids enjoyed Breadfruit Kingdom
They enjoyed the Pantomime last year too.
Save some $$$ and look out for all-inclusive hotel specials and do this once per year.
Create your own rituals. In my house, Sundays are special. I throw down on a Sunday and we lounge around at the dinner table for 3 hours eating and talking.
Always be on the look out for festivals, free shows, exhibitions, etc that you and your children could be interested in. Naturally, this list is not exhaustive. There are numerous big ticket items like the Water Park in Negril, paint-balling in St. Thomas, Mystic Mountain and swimming with the Dolphins. You can plan for these. I haven’t spoken about Castleton, heritage stops in various parishes, and the many other beaches around Jamaica Land we Love.
My next road trip will be a drive to Black River to do the Black River safari (1600.00 per person). I may stop at the Grace agro-processing facility in St. Elizabeth on the way back and get a tour of the facilities. We’ll see…
It’s always more about building the memories and creating an environment and context where your children feel safe and loved. Have Fun!!!!!
To say that the last 2 weeks have been stressful is an understatement. So, not one to wallow in unhappiness and stress and strain, I hastily planned a weekend doing some of the things I enjoy best! The yells of joy when I informed Little Master and Miss World confirmed that I had made the right decision.
ROAD TRIP! Yep, I absolutely love a good drive out, and the state of our roads notwithstanding, the Jamaican countryside is soooooo beautiful. I decided to head west to my all time favourite place on the island: Negril. Here’s the thing about Negril: that 7 mile stretch of white sand and clear, blue water and the absence of the more commercial, high-rise complexes and the way Jamaicans and tourists quietly co-exist make Negril’s vibe relaxing and therapeutic. There is never loud music offending you, but always the quiet, low throbbing of a comfortingly familiar reggae beat, gently lulling your soul into a state of rest. The beaches are shallow and waters calm, allowing for children to frolic safely and allowing you to paddle and soak and just be. And when the sun sets, there are no words. The beach comes to a standstill for a few minutes while everyone basks in the awesome sight of the sun dipping below the horizon. Negril sunsets never, ever get old.
I have been staying at a modest hotel right on the beach for the last decade or so called Negril Treehouse Hotel. This is where Stella got her groove back! Well, before she discovered that her groover was bisexual/gay/whadeva…Oh well, Stella aside, I ALWAYS enjoy my stays there. The rooms are modestly priced and modestly outfitted. But really and truly, when you are in Negril, you really only need the room to shower and sleep. All waking hours are best spent on the sand which is literally footsteps away from your room. I walk with my igloo and my beverages of choice (woohoo!!!!) and set up camp under a huge almond tree and happily pass the hours away there. Negril Treehouse is owned by the Jacksons (Mr. Jackson passed away late last year…may he rest in peace) and you can feel the impact of these owners/managers throughout your stay. There’s a real family feel there.
But before I got to Negril, I had to drive four hours to get there from Kingston. We departed at 6:30am, a cool, clear Saturday morning. It was an uneventful, enjoyable drive. The ubiquitous speed traps were largely absent and the radio station of choice was on point with their selections. We enjoyed lots joking and laughter and singing and even some quiet time as at one stage I was the only one awake!
|Bamboo Avenue, St. Elizabeth|
I decided to stop in Middle Quarters for “peppa swims” (read: peppered shrimp). The shrimp are prepared in the shell with lots of salt and a whole heap of hot pepper, stuffed into small plastic bags and sold by the roadside.
Eating the spicy treats was an adventure, but being the prepared traveller that I am, bottles of Catherine’s Peak spring water were quickly deployed to deal with the burning! Apart from the spice, beware the spiny claws and other appendages on the shrimp. They stick…hard!
|Peppered Shrimp from Middle Quarters|
Negril was just what the Doctor ordered…the kids played, I relaxed, I napped and I really enjoyed having what I thought was great conversation with Rachie and it was just, well…perfect…
|Negril Tree House|
I should mention that Negril Tree House serves a great breakfast that is included in the cost of the room!
|Callaloo, ackee & saltfish, johnny cakes, ham & cheese omelette and pineapple|
Yes…it was a well needed break. Sometimes you just need to put down the load for a while, regain some strength and then you can take it up again once you’ve rested a while. I put down my load this weekend for sure!
|The view from between my legs 🙂|
Reluctantly, we packed up midday Sunday morning. Sigh…back to life, back to reality. Cho man…
It was a great day for driving and at Miss World’s request, I decided to drive back via the North Coast. That’s a 5 hour hop!
|Road Warriors on the move|
We stopped for cold coconut water in Trelawny and for soup at Scotchie’s in Drax Hall.
Thank God for a moment of fun in the middle of living. Tomorrow is another day. And we will continue the struggle having rested a while. “Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow”.