Sept-Oct 2004 (Negril after Hurricane Ivan)

Day Three (Wednesday): Negril to Rose Hall to Boscobel, St. Mary

We woke early, had a little breakfast and packed up to move on to St. Mary. This was an exciting day as two more of our friends arrive and we’d meet up with the two we’d left two days before.

We left some of the things we’d brought (some tarps, candles, flashlights, etc) in Negril with Lloydie and Paula and some people at Footeprints and saved the rest for out east where there was a roofless school we intended to cover.
Chicken was our driver, we’ve hired Chicken several times and he’s always really great. He drives a big coaster bus that seats…oh…20 or something, really very cozy for just 8 of us. AC, music, and he’s always on time and always great to talk with. Lloydie recommended him some time ago, saying “he’s fair” and this is true, we have had him pick us up for intra-Negril trips in the past and despite the cushy ride, he charges the same as or less than anyone else.

Our friend Lee works at the Ritz Carlton in Rose Hall, where two of our friends had been staying, so he arranged for the other two to go there from the airport and we’d pick them all up at the Ritz.

Chicken arrived and we piled in. Backtracking the way we came (it didn’t occur to me to ask to go the back way, I kinda wish I had thought of it as we’d been this way once already), we made great time, despite making several stops for some groceries (we were heading to a house, not a hotel), and this and that. We got to the Ritz, found everyone and loaded up for the ride east.

The road to Ochi reminds me of the road to Negril a couple of years ago. Great in spots, awful in spots. It’s about a 2 hour ride, a little more to where we were going – Boscobel, a town just west of Oracabessa in the parish of St. Mary. On the way we hardly saw ANY sign at all of a hurricane, once we were out of Negril everything was green. I know for a fact that there was damage, but whatever there was wasn’t visible from the coast road. The trees and got greener and greener as we passed.

I’m not a huge Ochi fan…cruise ships, all-inclusives, tourist shopping and such seem to dominate the town, but I LOVE the area to the east. After our villa trials (first the one in TB falling into the sea, then the next one we picked had hurricane damage not at first evident, then we waited for a villa at Prospect Plantation to be ready and it never was), we wound up at Wind Jammer villa in Boscobel, about halfway between Ochi and Port Maria, just west of Oracabessa.

I love that area. It’s in St. Mary (the White River is the boundary between St. Ann and St. Mary) and from the house we could see Galina Point and the hill Firefly is on. The east coast just has a lushness and drama to it that doesn’t exist elsewhere in any part of Jamaica I have seen.

Our villa had 4 bedrooms (for 4 couples), AC, a living room with cable TV, a dining room and outdoor areas to eat and sit. A deck had a nice swimming pool over the sea, and steps led down to a sunning platform that gave easy access to the water for swimming or snorkeling. The water was only 3-4 feet deep and protected by a reef maybe 100 yards out, so it was never wavy. We saw a lot of coral and fish snorkeling there.

We weren’t exactly sure where the villa was, just the name and the town, but we found it easily enough. On our arrival we met the staff – Ivan (!!!) the groundskeeper/security guy, Miss Cynthia the cook, Marcia the housekeeper and later, Marlee the woman who came to do laundry.

We haven’t rented a villa in a long time, not since 1999. It’s a great way to stay if you are in a group as the costs are MUCH lower when shared, and you can, for the most part, make your own entertainment. I liked ours because it was both on the water and in a real town, with a grocery store, bars and shops right outside and very few tourists, just a regular residential area that was not particularly poor nor rich looking. There’s a Beaches Boscobel down the road but those people rarely came out of the resort so we were about it as far as tourists in the area and I like it that way.

I took a lot of photos of the villa so I’ll let them speak to that, but suffice it to say we were all very happy with it. Great view, everything the group had requested in terms of amenities, and the staff was wonderful. We could have had a driver for the week but I have friends in this area and preferred to use them for tours whenever possible.

We spent this first night getting settled. I think I was in the pool within 10 minutes of walking in the door, I love to swim. The staff had pre-shopped so dinner was cooking already. We ate a wonderful meal of chicken and fish, sat around chatting a bit after dinner and went to bed fairly early.

Day Four (Thursday): Boscobel

This was to be a do-nothing, get settled, hang out day and for the most part it was. We woke up just before Ivan rang the bell for breakfast (I’d forgotten the bell for meals thing villas do). Those of us that were up ate together, we saved some for the late sleepers. We all laid around the pool, or went snorkeling, or explored the neighborhood, or got started on books this day.

Snorkeling was nice where we were. A reef a hundred yards out left the water calm and protected and we were able to see a lot of coral, anemone, fish, an eel. It’s nice to snorkel as you please from shore instead of going out on a boat…we’d snorkel a little, come up for a rest and drink, go back, jump in the pool…just be lazy. It was nice to catch up with the others who hadn’t gone to Negril as well.

We did need food and we had some tarps and school supplies to give so I called my friends Chef and Libby who live about 10 minutes away, in Castle Garden, where they run a guesthouse on the beach and Chef does tours. They came over and hung out with us, I hadn’t seen them since spring of 2003 so it was really nice to be able to see them for awhile. Chef drove us into Ochi to the supermarket to get some basic supplies (the next morning we’d go to the market with Miss Cynthia to shop). We shopped, and in fact went to the outdoor market for a little while too.

I love the market, there isn’t much like it in the US except maybe a farmer’s market, but his is that and much more…you can buy almost anything there, at one stall or another. We got salted codfish and toilet paper from the same woman. I didn’t see any other tourists there. A couple of guys wanted to help us carry bags and things but since there were like 6 of us there, we didn’t need any help.

Chef and Libby brought us back, picked up the things we’d brought to use and distribute, and I told them we’d call tomorrow to see about arranging a couple of day trips with Chef.

We had a wonderful dinner that night, again, and I think I was in bed not long after that.

Day Five (Friday): Boscobel

I woke to a bit of rain this morning. October is rainy season in Jamaica, and we were at one of the rainiest locations in Jamaica (Portland the Blue Mountains are rainier but that’s about it). Though it rained pretty much every day, it never rained ALL day, generally we had a shower or two each day that didn’t last too long and the sun came right back out.

I loved looking east from our deck, watching the weather come in. Everything seemed to come from there, but some storms we saw would pass to sea and just give us a show, some we’d get, or get an edge of. At night we got some incredible lightning storms out at sea that never brought us rain, just fireworks. I can close my eyes and still see Galina Point, I looked at it so often and so long that week.

This morning after breakfast I accompanied Miss Cynthia to the market – the others stayed home. We went to the meat market first – a behind-the-counter affair where you tell the clerk what you want and it’s chopped and wrapped for you. We got oxtail and spareribs and chicken here. We then headed to the open air market where I basically followed Miss Cynthia around, answering her questions about quantity when asked, otherwise carrying bags and letting her do most buying. We had a lot of fun, just the two of us.

One result of Hurricane Ivan – no ackee to be found anywhere. There wasn’t any breadfruit either. At one point we had a lead on 3 dozen ackee but by the time we found the guy, it was gone. For those who keep track, ackee was offered at $100-$250J per dozen…but even at that price we didn’t find any.
We were able to get finger bananas, potatoes, callaloo, scallions, pineapple, sweetsop and some other good stuff to hold us…we’d keep looking for the ackee.

We hung out around the house again that night…as I recall a few of us stayed up quite late talking….

Day Six (Saturday): Boscobel to Portland for the day

When Chef and Libby were over a couple of days before, we talked about taking some trips. Chef has a lovely van with AC but it can’t hold 9 people, so Chef agreed to find a larger vehicle for us but come along to Portland, which he knows very well and the driver he found for us – his name is Everton – doesn’t. One of our group was really interested in finding a waterfall that wouldn’t have anyone at it – a “secret” one, or a family owned one – not like Dunns or even Reich Falls. Chef suggested one in the Blue Mountains about a half hour in from Buff Bay. It’s used by a Blue Mountain bike tour group Monday-Friday but the tour doesn’t go on weekends so we agreed to go to that one and to go on Saturday when it would be deserted.

Chef and Everton picked us up as scheduled and we set off. First stop was the waterfall and it was as empty and beautiful as promised, with the added bonus of giving us a bit of a Blue Mountain tour along the way. As we pulled in, a few boys came along to guide us, help us over rocks and things. I’d say they ranged in age from about 8 to maybe 13, 3-4 boys altogether. We had a wonderfully refreshing swim. The boys showed us how to get under the waterfall and climb the rocks, and though they dived from the top they said they felt it was too dangerous for tourists to do :).

We’d been having trouble finding ackee, because the hurricane had knocked them off the trees, but we saw a few by the falls. The boys tried to climb up the tree to get us some but the tree was too high and the branches weren’t right so they were unsuccessful. We tipped the boys and headed on our way.
Next stop: Boston Bay for some jerk, we were starving. Chef has a stand he likes so we went there and enjoyed some pork, chicken and fish. I’ve been to Boston Beach before, but this was in town, where there are several stands. There were some tables, and a bar, and we enjoyed lunch.

We thought of going to Long Bay but decided it was a bit far out, so Chef suggested Winnifred Beach instead. I hadn’t been, but had heard about it, and we all agreed, it was very close by, between Boston and Blue Lagoon. GREAT CHOICE. Winnifred is a public beach – no charge – and is well kept. Maybe 10-15 people were there enjoying the day and we swam and hung out for awhile there.

We all wanted to go to Blue Lagoon and were prepared to pay to swim there but when we arrived, the restaurant – the main entry point for swimming there – was closed. However, there’s a driveway that ends at the lagoon so we just went swimming from there – no charge! We enjoyed the floaty sensation you get there, the warm water on top and cold underneath.

Tired and happy, we headed back to the villa. Chef is a wonderful tour guide and Everton was a great driver so if you have a large group, don’t discount Chef, he can work something out :). If there are 6 of you or fewer, I HIGHLY recommend Chef’s tour services, he’s a pleasure to spend a day with and a great driver as well.

Day Seven (Sunday): Boscobel

We hung out at the villa…..swam, snorkeled, ate a lot of food, talked, made some rum drinks…

Day Eight (Monday): A Trip to Luminous Lagoon

I have been to Luminous Lagoon but not at night, for some reason. One of our group HAD been at night but no one else had so we decided to head over this evening. Everton, the driver Chef found for us, picked us up, without Chef this time as Everton knew the way.

I asked Everton if we could grab a quick bite along the way, something box-lunchish, and he took us to a place in Salem-Runaway Bay called the Northern Restaurant. It’s like a fast food friend chicken place but also had goat, stew pork and some other yummies. Prices were GREAT, we were the only tourists in sight, and we all ate very well. I love a driver that understands we want something really Jamaican, not a tourist spot, the whole group was very happy.

We arrived at Glistening Waters restaurant for our boat trip, from Boscobel it was about an hour and a half altogether. GW/Luminous Lagoon is just east of Falmouth. The Martha Brae river flows into the sea in the lagoon, and it is this mix of fresh water and salt water and perhaps some other factor that causes the phenomenon we came to see. Locally the micro-organisms in the water that glow are called phosphorous but the scientific name is quite long and I forget it. When the water is disturbed, as by a fish swimming or a boat motor, it glows green. Really weird. We had our own boat and a guide named Jerry who was very informative. He took us around the lagoon and stopped so we could swim. One of the group jumped right in…I decided I couldn’t miss this opportunity so I went in as well, after assurances from Jerry that there weren’t sharks or anything creepy, and after making the first swimmer swim back over to the boat so the water would be lit up where I was jumping in :).

It’s hard to describe…the water wasn’t salty, really at all…and it was cold on top and VERY warm below. We swam around a bit, making glow patterns in the water. I’m really glad I went in.

The lagoon is only open to the sea on one small end, it’s really protected. One of us took a flash photo of a large tree FULL of those white egrets that follow cows around, there’s a photo in her album.

The cost to go out on a boat is $15 per person and the ride lasted about a half hour, maybe a little more. Well worth the trip, we all felt.

Happy anniversary to Dave and Cass this day – this trip was their idea, for their anniversary and we all enjoyed the ride :).

For trips to the Luminous Lagoon and other tours, you can check out Ocho Rios Authentic Tours.

Day Nine (Tuesday): Boscobel, Last Full Day

Last full day….I always hate that. Still, we had a lot of laying around, swimming and whatnot to do today and we went at it. Eileen and I went across the street to the grocery store to buy some drinks we thought we’d drink this night but alas, Jamaica-it is put me in bed as early as any night this trip, it’s very difficult to stay up much past dinner for me…..

Speaking of dinner, we ate well. We finally got ackee this day, and conch for dinner – yeah Miss Cynthia!! Over the course of the trip we had lobster, fish, chicken, conch, more chicken different ways, more fish different ways, oxtails (mmmm), pork chops, spareribs. For breakfast we had eggs or pancakes and bacon, ackee and saltfish, callaloo, johnnycakes, breadfruit was located for this day’s breakfast as well, roasted over the fire. Most days we didn’t eat lunch because we ate breakfast so late, but Miss Cynthia put tuna salad and things like that together for us to snack on.

Day Ten (Wednesday): Last Day, Heading Home

What to say about the last day? I always hate it. We spent the morning catching up on a little sun, a final swim, taking pictures. Chicken came to pick us up right on time. We had a pleasant if quiet ride to the airport, a quick check-in, did a little shopping. USAir was on time again and we were home before 10PM.

It was a lovely trip…and the only thing to do now is begin planning the next one!!

Photos from this trip: http://picasaweb.google.com/ohliza/Jamaica03?authkey=Gv1sRgCNGh0ueLhcGVoAE&feat=directlink

People places and things from our trip that we enjoyed and recommend:

  • Chicken, our driver in the Negril area: Cell: 1-876-378-3348
  • Delroy, our driver that picked us up at the airport and works around MoBay. Cell: 876-999-5298
  • 3 Dives, our favorite spot in Negril: http://www.maherconsulting.com/3dives

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Thoughts? Questions? I'd love to hear them!