All Around Jamaica Again: Day 3 – Duncans to Kingston on the Knutsford Express

Day 3: Duncans Bay to Ochi to Kingston

I think I mentioned I have been to JA some 20 or so times since the late 80’s. I’ve been all over, to most every parish, but never to Kingston.

Why? Well it’s a city…not much for a beach/nature lover to do there. It’s clear across the country from Negril where for one reason or another I spend a lot of my time. It can be expensive, to get to and to stay in. My husband never has had a desire to go there. No one I know in Jamaica particularly likes to go to “town” – it’s do business and get out, for the most part.

But I was raised and lived most of my life in NYC and at heart I AM a city girl. So I guess I was just waiting for the right opportunity to go.

That opportunity presented itself in the form of an invite from my friend Tracy. I met Tracy 10 or so years ago in Negril, we are about the same age and grew up in the same area of NYC and hung out in the same bars and all that high school stuff. We stayed in touch over the years and saw each other occasionally when I was in JA.

So when she invited me to come visit Kingston and stay with her for a few days, I figured this was finally the right time. The relatively new Knutsford Express bus service made it affordable to get there, too.

So here goes day 3.

I woke up early, around 7 or so. I put on a swimsuit and headed to the beach for one last swim in that beautiful water…I know my next couple of days will be spent in the city and are not likely to include beach time. I walked myself down, said hi to the couple of folks out in the fresh post-rain morning, and enjoyed a nice long swim. I said goodbye to the “oldest fisherman” Edwin and assured him I’d be back.

When I returned to Ja Jewel there was time to take a nice long shower before breakfast – ackee and saltfish again because I love it and so do Jitter and R. We all sat down together and as one wished we could stay longer. I think we all agreed that a night or two is just not enough, I know I will be back in March and spend more time here.

I settled my bill, we all took some photos, and Jitter, R and I set off towards Ocho Rios.We left about an hour to get there but had a little trouble locating the bus stop. The Knutsford Express runs from Montego Bay to Kingston and simply makes a rest stop at the Jerk Center in Ochi, but you can board there. We finally found the Jerk Center about 5-10 minutes AFTER the bus was supposed to leave. We pull in and no bus.

At this point Jitter is offering to take me to Portland with her and I’m game…I figure if I’ve missed the bus I am meant to be in Portland, if I make it I am meant to be in Kingston. Such is the beauty of traveling alone and without many reservations or plans. So I knew I’d be fine no matter what…but I really did want to go to Kingston.

As it turned out the bus wasn’t there because it hadn’t arrived yet…it was a bit late. WHEW!! I bought my ticket ($1100J) and grabbed my bags just as the bus pulled in for its 10 minute stop.

This bus is a lot like a Greyhound. You get a bottle of water when you buy your ticket, there is a TV, and the seats are quite comfy. My bus was only about 1/3 full so there was plenty of space to stretch out.

I thanked Jitter and R for the ride and their willingness to turn around 3-4 times in traffic in Ocho Rios to find the damn place, and I hopped onto the bus.
It was a new adventure I was on, again, as I rode the bus out of Ocho Rios, through Fern Gully and into the hills heading south. This is new ground for me, and I love that.The ride was beautiful.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaBk7xv79Po

Luckily Flat Bridge, which had been washed out for some time, had re-opened. This made the trip at least a half hour shorter than I thought it would be.

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You can see the bridge is pretty low but I guess there isn’t another way to do it. This is the Rio Cobre, according to signs I passed. The road follows it for some time.

It had rained a lot the week or so before I arrived in Jamaica. The river was brown and running fast, and in fact it did close Flat Bridge a day or two later.

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I passed places I had only read about…Walkerswood..Faith’s Pen (stop stop I want to eat!!)..Moneague..Ewarton…Linstead…Flat Bridge…Angels…and finally Spanish Town.

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Coming out of the mountains into the southern plains is something to see. And whoosh, just like that, you’re onto a wide, long, fast-fast toll road. We are FLYING, no traffic, just the bus on this huge highway passing these vast green plains.

I am just looking out drinking it all in. Occasionally I take a photo but mostly I am watching and thinking. Gradually the scenery changes and we exit the thruway and return to “normal” roads. We are in Kingston now.

I’ve called Tracy and she has arranged to have a driver meet me in New Kingston, I call when I arrive.

Tracy’s driver met me at the bus (which stops behind the New Kingston Shopping Center in a gated parking lot) and took me the 5 or so minutes to Tracy and her husband’s home.

Tracy really wanted me to come to Kingston Saturday so I could go to a Halloween party in town with her, but I arrived in JA on a Saturday and wasn’t sure if I’d make the bus to Kingston and if I missed it have to stay in MoBay (I am not particularly fond of MoBay), so I decided to make Duncans Bay my first stop and head on to Kingston after a couple of days instead.

As a result, I missed the party…and what a party it must have been, because everyone was still hung over when I arrived on Monday 😉

T had a couple of house guests, cool interesting people, another who knows every dancehall move created and loves to talk about music, and I am happy to just hang at her place for awhile and acclimate. We are in the New Kingston/Liguanea area, with a huge mall across the street, a TGI Fridays up the block and a ton of traffic out on the road…this is not the Jamaica I am used to, at all. But for me NEW and DIFFERENT is what I am after, and I am glad to be here. And Tracy is the mellowest host ever, I am immediately comfy.

I do go online for a bit on her computer – haven’t done that yet – and Tracy pulls up radar and points out some funny cloud patterns to the southwest of Jamaica…far away, nothing really. But funny, she insists. Okaaayyyy whatever T, I say, we’ll keep an eye on it.

Some friends drop by and we consider going to Hellshire or Port Royal but as we hang out and talk the time slips away, it begins to rain and we opt to just go get something to eat in the area. We pile into a car and head to I-don’t-know-where, some casino with a restaurant and a valet/door guy.

We walk through the casino (by casino I mean slot machines and video poker) to a nice dining room with large windows looking out on some mountains and some roads. I have no clue where we are, I just know we are uptown…somewhere.

 The food and drinks are not expensive at all, for a rather nice place as this is. There is no “tourist price” here…just “price”. I have a smoked marlin sandwich and others have oxtail and burgers and such, we have a beer or two and we chat. This is November 3rd now, one day before the US election. So we talk politics, of course. It was neat to get some insight from Kingstonians and I find I am really enjoying the conversation.

 

(As an aside, when I was in Duncans Bay I happened to wear an Obama shirt. Everyone I met was extremely interested in discussing Obama, the excitement that I encountered there was unmatched by even the most fervent Obama supporters at home. EVERYONE was excited about the election. A lot of people asked me if I thought it would be rigged again, if “they” would really let him win. People were so excited yet reluctant to get their hopes up. I had a few stickers with me and I wish I’d brought a hundred, they would have ALL gone. One man I met at Leroy’s bar told me I could have paid for my trip 10X over if I’d cared to bring shirts and stickers and sell them. Ah well, I enjoyed giving out the few I had. I left a trail of Obama stickers – most immediately placed on cars – all through Trelawny.)

In Kingston I find the conversation different…this is town, no one is getting super excited about anything, but cool nonetheless.

After lunch we head back to the house, it is still raining. But T has a house full of football fans and it is Monday…Steelers and Redskins occupy the night. I wish I could explain how cool it is to watch Monday Night Football in Kingston with a house full of beer and rum, an American, two Jamaicans, a couple of German guys and a French guy – all favoring different teams no less, but the words aren’t there. I’ll just have to say I went to bed happy. The Steelers won.

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