The tinny ring of my travel alarm, slowing as the spring wound down, filled the wooden cabin with its annoyance but neither Sergio nor I moved to shut it off. The long day before had taken its toll and now we just wanted to sleep in a little, yet, we wanted to get moving at the same time. The outdoor shower with mountain spring water resolved that problem in a hurry, as we were now wide-awake and shivering! It was about 5:00am and we decided to rush up the road to the bus stop to catch the first transport down to Barbicon. As we approached the top of the lane, we saw the Mazda 9-passenger van going past our stop virtually empty. Well, no reason to rush now! We would catch the next bus. The bus returned up the road about a half hour later and stopped. We told the driver that we were going down but he said to get in now and find a comfortable place to sit. When we reached the turnaround at the top of the hill, I understood what he meant as at least 10 school kids piled into the van.
NOW I was thinking we were full and we would descend without further stops….Wrong! We stopped a couple more times until there were 15 people in the van and two hanging on to the sliding door opening! When we got to the bottom of the hill the school children bounded out of the vehicle and headed for school. Sergio and I asked the driver how to get a bus to Mandeville or Black River and we were directed to take the Barbicon bus to Half Way Tree and we were to catch another transport from there. After two wrong buses we finally arrived in the Kingston Bus Area and were shoved into a bus getting ready to depart for Santa Cruz, about midway between Mandeville and Black River.
The bus was a rather new Mercedes 20 passenger with some semblance of air conditioning that at least moved the air around a little so we could keep the windows up most of the way. Peanut, gum and box-juice vendors knocked on the windows trying to sell us breakfast but with a shake of our head we indicated we were not interested. The young man driving was jamming his way through the Kingston streets and shot out on to Spanish Town road. This area had some of the worst slums that I had seen since my travels in the Far East. I didn’t want to look but found myself staring blankly at the zinc fences and the cardboard structures that were home to so many. Passing through Clarendon, we started the ascent up the coastal mountains to a plateau where a sprawling Mandeville languished in the midday sun. Mandeville is a very modern city that has a lot of stores and single-family residences. The Alpart (Alcoa Aluminum Partners) Plant has its corporate offices at the summit of Spur Tree where the awesome 2000 feet high vista gives a panoramic view of the valley below and the Santa Cruz Mountains on the other side. We began the twisting descent of Spur Tree and crossed the valley to the town of Santa Cruz where we would get a transport to Treasure Beach.
The Santa Cruz Bus area was bustling with people making connections to the far reaches of the island. We located a man who offered to take us to Treasure Beach in his car for $50 US and interested bystanders assured us that was a good price. It was. We passed through Mountainside and Williamsfield as the climate started to dramatically change from the wooded, green highlands to a semi-desert environment. The calabash trees were displaying their hanging gourds and the lignum vitae tree was awash with the dark blue flowers that are the National Flower of Jamaica. We switched from one seemingly unmarked secondary road to another, but it was obvious that this driver had been here before as people waved a greeting as he passed. Two young ladies were signaling that they wanted a taxi so I told the driver to stop and pick them up and we would pay for the ride. The ruddish complexion of the ladies told of their mixed heritage as early Scottish settlers were plentiful on this underdeveloped coast. We turned at the Police Station and headed for the beach as the ladies asked to be let off at the Sandy Bank School where they worked. They thanked us for the ride, smiled and wished us a good trip. The road turned right and ran parallel to the beach as we passed many guest houses mostly vacant for the off season.
We finally arrived at Golden Sands as the driver pulled in under an ackee tree. Mr. Lewis, owner of Golden Sands, was seated at an open gazebo, which was on the edge of the mostly vacant beach. When he stood up to greet us, I felt dwarfed in his presence, as he was about 6′ 5″ and maybe 300 pounds! His imposing form hid the heart of a true gentleman and Jamaican. We paid $25 US for a two-bed room with a bath and fan. We wasted little time in changing into swimwear and heading for the beach. Unlike Negril, the waves broke on the sandy shore so we tried our hand at body surfing – to the obvious pleasure of two little boys playing in the sand. After a few rolls in the surf and a beaching or two, we decided that a good meal would be in order. Mr. Lewis told us that a Maroon resident cooked authentic Jamaican meals on the premises and that we could order now to have it ready in about half an hour. The meal, which cost $200 Jamaican, was Escovitch fish, yam and rice with peas. It was delicious!
We decided to take a stroll down the main street of Treasure Beach and began by heading east. We walked till we reached Jake’s Place. We walked over to the bar and met a Jamaican named Jason Henzell who, with his mother Sally, runs Jake’s. Jason told us that his father, Perry, directed “The Harder They Come” classic where some of the filming took place on Lime Key where we had been snorkeling only one day earlier! Small world some times! We hung out for a while swapping stories and then decided to head back towards our room. As we walked back towards Golden Sands, the wall thumping of a “session” echoed from down a path to Fisherman’s Bar. A newly built concrete building housed the massive sound system and DJ, with both locals and some European tourists from a house across the road dancing to the primal beat. Sergio danced a few Soca tunes with one of the local ladies while I finished another Red Stripe then we continued our walk. When we got to Golden Sands, some of the several European tourists who were staying there had congregated within the gazebo and were talking while watching the light of a full moon dance across the surface of the tranquil ocean. I couldn’t make out what was being said as we approached but later learned it was Austrian German.
Helen and Robert were on a 6-month tour around the island and we began comparing places we had visited and had stayed. We recommended Mike’s place near Port Maria and Peter’s place on Jack’s Hill and they recommended a garden paradise called Apple Valley Park in Maggotty. We took out the trusty book and read that section about the park. We decided to stop there on our way to Accompong. Helen said that the owner’s names were Patrick and Lucille Lee and that one of their sons, Kenloy, was coming down the next day to run on the beach and we should talk to him and we agreed. They invited us to eat breakfast with them at TransLove Bakery where they said tourists and locals alike met every morning to discuss the world’s problems. While Helen, Sergio and I were talking, Robert retrieved his radio and tuned it to IRIE-FM, which happened to be broadcasting a live Bob Marley tribute.
Reggae, moonlit ocean, and friends….. perfect way to end a perfect day!
Respect Bill Evans