I woke up fairly late Wednesday, due I suspect to my consumption of several Stings the night before.
Tracy calls me into her computer room to show me the cloudy blobs she spotted earlier…they have now merged into one large blob and become a named tropical storm: Paloma.
Forecasters say it will likely become a hurricane by the next day and will either hit Jamaica or come very close. She suggests I may not want to head to Treasure Beach today as that fairly remote area can lose power, get flooded, etc in big storms. And SHE has a generator, tons of food and drink, and plans a hurricane party.
I’m tempted, but I have to go. The reason I am on this trip, really, is the week in Treasure Beach. A few years earlier, October 2004 to be exact, I planned a trip to Jamaica with a group of friends. We booked Sparkling Waters villas in TB. If you remember your hurricane history you know that at the end of September Hurricane Ivan struck Jamaica hard, and the south coast took the brunt of the storm. Sparkling Waters villas were heavily damaged, in fact one of the villas literally washed away. So we had to change plans that time and move to a villa in Boscobel on the north coast where there was less damage, power was on and so on. It was nice but we still wanted to go to TB, my friends had never been.
When Sparkling Waters reopened and everyone’s schedules meshed, we planned this trip. More or less the same group of friends was coming down and I was to meet them there today. So hell or high water – perhaps literally – I was going.
T once again called Ricardo to take me to Treasure Beach. I would not be going alone though, N was going to come with, at least for a couple of days. He is a visitor too after all, though he’s been in Kingston for a month and notleaving anytime soon. I’m glad for the company.
I said my goodbyes to my old friend T and her husband and thanked T for such a great time. T was a wonderful hostess and I loved my time there. Staying in Kingston knowing people in Kingston is, I am sure, a very different thing than showing up and hotel-ing it solo. I am grateful I got to get an insiders view my very first time. It was awesome.
Ricardo arrived at 1 and we set off in his car. We made our way west through Kingston and after a stop at a grocery store to pick up drinks for the road and a few supplies for the villa, we hit that toll highway again and almost flew to Spanish Town. Man that road is fast.
But the road after Spanish Town is not a freeway. It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s just two lanes and goes through towns and winds up mountains and all that, the going was a lot slower. Still, it was beautiful. I didn’t take my camera out on the ride, I am not sure why…just enjoying the views I guess. Sometimes I need to soak things in and a camera is distracting…other times I like to take photos. I guess I mostly take pics when I am alone and when I have a lot of time somewhere.
I asked Ricardo to stop when we got to Spur Tree Hill for a late lunch. I’d been by here before, several times, but I was with others who never wanted to stop. There’s supposed to be good jerk here and I know the views are incredible and this time it was my call.
We ordered some jerk, got a drink and headed up to the roof to take a few pictures.
Here is the Alpart plant, I believe. Something to do with bauxite, not sure what:
And hit the road after some good chicken and pork, red stripe in hand.
It’s less than an hour from here to Treasure Beach now, we turn off at Gutters this way, the same place you turn off to go to Alligator Pond. I haven’t been this way, when I’ve gone to Treasure Beach it’s been from Black River.
One time we went to Alligator Pond and I tried to drive to Treasure Beach from there on the way to Negril – I was driving a rental car. I had a map and attempted to follow it but the third time we passed through the town of Nain (I waved my fist at it as we passed through this time) I gave up trying and got back on the highway.
So this was a new route to me…down through Southfield and Junction and Top Hill and Pedro Cross. We passed the new supermarket in Crossroads, and wound our way down towards the water.
Ricardo is from Kingston and has never been to TB, so we called Treasure Tours (who booked our villa for us) for directions to the villa. They did us one better and met us on the road (to “bring us in for a gentle landing” as Nikell of Treasure tours said). It was much appreciated as it was nearing dark now and roads aren’t very well marked in this area which is remote even for Treasure Beach….which is saying something, if you know the area 😉
We booked Sparkling Waters villas in Billy’s Bay for our group. We have all 3 villas (there are 4 but one is the owner’s private villa). The friends I am joining here a bit later on are comprised of two families with small kids – Dave and Cassie and their two boys, and their friends Holly and Chris and their two boys, and our friend Dan. The families have two villas that are close together and share a pool (Sable and Ocean), Dan and I are sharing Villa Soleil which is a minute or two walk down the beach or road from the others and has its own pool. N will share with Dan and I for the 2 nights he is here. All 3 villas are on the beach.
We arrive at Villa Soleil and are totally blown away. It is incredible.
For some reason I didn’t take many photos of our villa, but Kelly S from PicasaWeb did , and so I am borrowing hers so you can see.
This is the villa from the garden side:
A view to sea from the lower deck with thatch hut and hammocks:
The lower deck:
Our pool had sunny spots and a couple of great shady spots form this mango tree:
This is the villa from the “sandy beach” (we have two beaches, one snorkel-ey and one sandy)
(thanks to Kelly for those pics).
The most amazing feature of this villa is the porch over the sea. I mean LITERALLY over the sea. This is the view of it form inside:
…and from outside:
Living room with TV and DVD:
Our favorite hang out area on the porch:
The nap bed on the porch:
N, T’s friend from France:
Indoor dining room:
My bedroom (both have doors to a side deck that leads down to the lower deck with hammocks and all that):
We are just blown away. It’s pretty dark out so we can’t see outside very well yet, that will have to wait until tomorrow. But we all LOVE this villa.
That first night the others arrive and settle in and we walk over to the other villas for dinner. The staff has bought food and supplies for the first dinner and breakfast; tomorrow we will go to the market in Black River to shop for the rest of the week.
I think we had brown stew chicken that night…every single meal was incredible. All 3 cooks (one for each villa) worked on our meals as we chose to eat together. We could have eaten in our own villas but it was nice to get together as a group at dinner time. As Dan didn’t eat breakfast, I chose to join the others for that too, we did it each day around 10:30-11AM.
Rebecca from Treasure Tours stopped by both to welcome us the night before and to visit the next morning. She manages the villas for the owner. She has a laptop and we check out this storm…Paloma heading for Jamaica’s west side but expected to mostly clear the island. It is now something like a Cat 3 or 4, and Rebecca makes sure we know where the lanterns and such are if we need them. Our porch is over the water in a way that might make some people nervous but I know that this house survived Ivan (though one behind it didn’t, go figure) so I am not particularly concerned.
I haven’t been to TB in a couple of years but I remember it being pretty windy. This time it is even windier, due to Paloma I assume, as later in the week the wind dies down considerably. For now there is a strong constant wind blowing from the east that is stirring up the water, sending waves in and keeping the mosquitoes away. Which is a great thing as it has recently rained quite a bit and there is standing water all over the area and I am a mosquito magnet. It’s been kind of cloudy, with a shower or two a day but no rain lasts more than an hour. It’s perfect, actually, for hanging out, swimming in the pool and even in the sea, because though the waves are big and growing, there is a reef about 50 feet out that they break on…our beaches are like swimming pools.
This was taken from the other two villas, by their pool. You can hear the wind.
We have been warned to avoid swimming in just one area if the sea is rough, a channel that is there for boats to come in and out or for us to swim out and snorkel the outer reef in calm seas, but otherwise the water is nice. Not that clear for snorkeling due to the storm, but perfectly swimmable, even for the kids. The reef is doing its job out there very well and it’s fun to watch the waves break on them from our cozy porch.
The “snokel-ey” beach between our villas (see those steps? The one big drawback to walking to the other villas from ours!)
Lots of shells and cool stuff on this beach:
You can see the waves breaking out on the reef:
A gull either fishing or just fighting the wind…we aren’t sure because his wings are flapping but he isn’t moving at all:
You can see the gull fighting the wind, the outer bands of Paloma are here:
I didn’t take photos in Black River…I preferred to just move and do our thing there. Holly and I take the lead in the supermarket (which has absolutely everything anyone could want, by the way, no need to bring anything from home at all), Chantal and Tanaj (our cooks) take the lead in the veggie/fruit market. We spend an hour or two in Black River doing our shopping, and manage to pick up some ackee (yay!!) by the side of the road on the way back to the villa. Rebecca has also arranged lobster for us and we stop by a fisherman’s house to pick it up. Let me tell you fishing must be a pretty good business at least for this guy because his house is bigger than ours by a LOT. Yet the lobster is very reasonably priced – just $250J per pound. We buy 12 pounds.
It was a hot day in Black River and we are ready to swim and relax when we get back.
Holly says she is really glad she came along to experience the market but would probably let the cooks do the shopping next time. I think it’s cool to do at least once.
The first couple of days we don’t leave the villa other than to walk the beach between the two villa areas. I’ve been on the move a lot so far this trip and this is my chill out and stay put time, at least for a bit.
Continue reading this series:
All Around Jamaica Again: Days 7-8-9, Treasure Beach