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Bus Ride from Kingston to Port Antonio

Written by Helen Hutchinson

In doing a project I was working on I wanted to get some scenic pictures of Jamaica, so on this trip I had been travelling to a lot of places that I had never been to, even though I had lived in Jamaica most of my life. My trip was coming to a close and I realised that I still had not visited Port Antonio which was a must see on my list of places to visit. Furthermore my father grew up there and I have never been there. He is always telling my sister and I every chance we have allowed or he has taken, stories of him carrying banana on his head to the ships, his days of playing cricket at Titchfield High School and of his having to walking three times a day home bare foot to go to school to go back home for lunch and again at the end of the day. Also of his fighting at school so I wanted to go to see this place he was always talking about. Plus I had read in so many travel magazines how beautiful and untouched by tourism it was.

The day my sister and I decided to go we had no ride to get there, as my parents were unavailable. I didn’t want to drive by myself, as I have never been there and didn’t know the road and my sister doesn’t have a driver’s license. So my sister called a friend she had there and he said if we got there he would take us around and then take us back to Kingston. My sister agreed to this. So I asked her, “how are we going to get there” she said, “by bus of course”. Now I had grown up in Jamaica and I had taken buses all my life through high school and while going to UWI and trust I did not relish the idea of taking a bus on my vacation. I wanted no parts of that. She was like don’t worry I have done it before and its no big deal. So I asked her how long was the bus ride and got some other details so I could just prepare my mind to deal with it.

So Saturday morning early, we got ready and my father dropped us off in Half Way Tree where we could get the bus. This was after much pleading because I didn’t want to take the bus to Half Way Tree also, so he agreed and told me that this would be a good experience for me because of the project I was working on. Once we got to where the bus was we were immediately bombarded by bus conductors trying to get us to take their bus. Anyway we decided on a bus that had some music playing, as we didn’t want to be bored the entire trip. We got our seats and there were sellers trying to sell us drinks, chips and other snacks. Anyway after what seemed like forever the bus pulled out. We were comfortable the music was pumping my sister and I were talking which was good, as this trip I hadn’t spent a lot of time at home. So it was a good chance for us to send some time together. So we were on our way, anyway before the bus headed up the hills of St Andrew the bus turned like it was heading back to Half Way tree. So my sister and I looked at each as we were wondering what was going on, so we guessed the driver must be going to a gas station or something. But to our surprise and disbelief the driver pulled into a plaza so that his lady friend could pick up a cake she had ordered at a bakery so she could take it to Port Antonio. The bus was in an uproar; people were cussing and getting on bad. I laughed and said to myself only in Jamaica.

After some time the lady returned with her cake and seem not to be flustered or in any hurry even though she had an entire bus or more than 40 people waiting on her, who were by now irate. After that we were good to go. So the bus started going up the hills and started stopping at other bus stops along the way picking up people. I must say that I was beginning to enjoy the trip and the beauty of the Jamaican countryside. It was wonderful. My sister was saying to me,now you see why I love coming this side so much. It was great. It was untouched, unspoilt, natural beauty. Anyway after all the stops the bus had been making the bus was getting fuller and fuller, so I was saying to my sister after one stop that this must be the last stop because I had no idea where they were going to put more people. But they kept stopping and stopping and they kept finding places for people to sit here and there. But when again I thought the bus truly could not hold anymore people to my dismay, at the next stop the man picked up this lady with some huge bags and her son who also had some huge bags. So I was saying to myself where are they going to go (well not quite like that but you get my drift), to my horror the woman was being placed right beside me with this big bag which she refused to give the conductor to put away. So I turned to my sister quickly and asked how are we from Port Antonio, she said about an hour or so. So here I was crushed between my sister on one side and this woman with this big bag which was also resting in my lap. I started giving her the evil eye. So I was mad, as it was most uncomfortable. I mean its not her fault as she was just trying to get where she was going but right then and there I was mad and I was showing it.

Anyway the next stop, which I am sure, was 15 minutes or so after the last my sister told me we were there. So I said to my sister, “how comes we reach so quick, if I knew Port Antonio was this near I probably would have come already”. Plus I was glad to get off the bus from beside that woman and I am sure she was glad too because by that time she was pretty much annoyed with me as I was with her. So we got off the bus and I started looking around while my sister was calling her friend on the cellphone to say that we were here. But when I looked around I saw I sign that told me we where nowhere near Port Antonio we were still a long way off. She was getting that same message from her friend on the other line. So her friend said it was still too far for him to drive and meet us plus it didn’t make sense for him to come all that way as we would be standing around waiting for another hour or more. So we had to get back on another bus. So while waiting on the other bus of course some guy who must have seen we weren’t from around there started asking us our names so we gave fake names and he started asking us where we were from and all sorts of questions, anyway thanks to another bus we were rescued. As the other bus stopped the conductor who we saw in Kingston was like see you should have taken my bus in the first place so we started to laugh. We got on the bus and this time we weren’t sitting beside each other but I kept looking back to make sure my sister was ok. This was a good trip for us as I felt we were bonding a little more and I actually was surprised about how protective I was of my sister and also how much she had grown up and could take care of herself. This bus also stopped at a lot of bus stops and soon became full. So since I am small bodied or should I say petite they decided just like that without asking me that they would be moving me to a little seat at the front of the bus beside the driver to give a woman 10 times my size the seat. To get to this seat I had to exit the bus and go around to the driver’s door and climb over something I don’t remember what to get to the seat. I don’t like sitting at the front of buses because at the speed they were driving anything could happen and I didn’t want to be at the front. I was nervous at first but after awhile it was cool because I was getting jokes from this guy and the driver was making jokes and he was also stopping along the way trying to get some ackee to take home. It was funny as he was so serious in trying to find some that everybody on the bus started looking out to see if they saw any along the way for him. Also since I was up front I was seeing much more of the countryside and then of the sea so I was fine. There were also quite a few tourists on the bus and I noted how they seemed to be enjoying the bus ride and the Jamaican countryside and I was pleased that they were doing this and that they were ok. When I looked around again this guy was talking to my sister so she seemed ok. Anyway as the bus started to get into Port Antonio it got emptier. So when were getting off the bus the conductor asked of course if he could follow us etc. Of course when I was getting off I made sure to ask my sister if this is where we were to get off. After leaving Kingston at about 8:00 or we didn’t get into Port Antonio until 1:00 or so because of our little stop.

We were starving, so we went to my sisters friend father’s restaurant to wait on him and to get something to eat. Let me tell you I don’t know if it was because I was hungry but those patties tasted better than any patties I have ever eaten and trust me I have had them all. They make them right there at the restaurant and they were excellent. So we had a few and since my sisters friend was a little busy we decided to walk around on foot and get some pictures. While doing this my sister saw someone else she knew but not well and he decided to take us around until my sisters friend could meet us. Which was kind as we didn’t know him well and here he was walking around the place with us. Let me tell you this was how it was the entire trip, people who we didn’t know us were helping us everywhere we turned. It was a wonderful experience. Out of all the places I had visited this trip Port Antonio was the most memorable, well because of the bus ride but also because the people were so wonderful and the place is absolutely beautiful. We got some wonderful pictures and made some great friends. People we never met were welcoming us in their homes for dinner, to use the bathroom and to get a rest from all the walking we were doing. I also got to visit where my father went to school and stand on the cricket field where he played cricket, which was great for me as I now how much it meant to him that I went. I must admit though, that I wasn’t prepared for the walking around in the sun and started to get a bit tired during part of the trip. But my sister was there and we made best of the situation and I realised that she is much more of a trooper than I gave her credit for which again surprised me because I always thought that she was so soft and delicate and couldn’t take any stressful situations but she handled herself well.

We didn’t get back to Kingston until 11:00pm that night. This was after having my sisters friend in Port Antonio carry us to St Mary as he couldn’t take us back all the way to Kingston. Now let me tell you I don’t know if the bus ride was worse of his driving. All I knew is that I was on my cellphone telling a good friend of mine that if I didn’t make it home alive to know that I appreciated the friendship, as I thought I was going to die. No matter what I said he would not slow down. My sister, who was in the front seat and the other people in the car said nothing and all seemed ok with it. Even though they were being swung all over the car and holding on to everything they could find they said nothing but trust me I wasn’t overreacting and because I know old bones don’t set quick I was nervous, no, I was scared out of my wits!!! Gratefully we made it to St Mary ok and then some of our friends from Kingston had drove down to carry us the rest of the way which we appreciated so much. Due to the trip I though I had missed my mother’s chicken foot soup dinner, which I love so much and didn’t want to miss as it was my last Saturday home for another couple of months but when I got home she had put it up for me. I was also tired from all the walking around but the trip was well worth it as I will never forget Port Antonio. I would recommend doing this to anyone that really want’s some adventure and want to see the country-side. Sometimes when you are driving around in a car you miss a lot of the beauty of the place and the Jamaican people.

Thank you Port Antonio for such a memorable experience!!!!

About the author

Helen Hutchinson