All Around Jamaica March/April 2003…Day 2
by Liz Maher
Day Two, Thursday (St. Mary)
I woke up before sunrise, realized it was dark and went back to sleep…for maybe an hour. Our cottage faced east, so I just knew there was a spectacular day starting out there and since it was dark when we arrived, I was eager to see what things looked like, so I got up. After a short time, the family became aware that we were up and we met Marcia, who would cook our breakfast and take care of the cottage. First order of business was coffee on the verandah while the sun did its thing…nice. The Sinclairs had asked us what we’d like to eat and we said everything sounded great, surprise us. Marcia got busy on callaloo, some cakes, fresh fruit and these awesome coconut/banana milkshakes that are her morning specialty. While we were having coffee, Libby came by. She is exactly as friendly as she appears in her photos and online, I felt comfy with her right away.
We had a nice long chat and caught up on things, had some good belly laughs, got scolded for not calling when we arrived the night before and generally got ready to enjoy a day in St. Mary. We decided pretty quickly not to head on to Port Antonio today and just hang out here and have a relaxing first full day. We promised to come down to the beach later on and Libby went back.
After our most healthy breakfast (the Sinclairs are mainly vegetarian and organic and use all local produce, in most cases from their own land. Everything was delicious), Mr. S went down to the beach and we took a swim in the pool and explored the property. Wow…it’s hard to describe how pretty the place is, I’m glad I have pictures. One of the children acted as tour guide for us and we checked out the recording studio, outbuildings and got a tour of the jungle, complete with stream, paths for walking and a BBQ area.
When we were ready, we hopped in the car to the beach, 2 minutes away. The S family also owns some beachfront property nearly adjacent to Libby and Chef and Mr. S has a crew of 10 guys or so down there working on a retaining wall for the hill and a new beach bar sort of structure. Eventually (maybe this winter) sand will be brought in to make a beach…right now there is a nice somewhat narrow beach with clear, calm water and a reef for snorkeling right offshore, plenty of shade trees. We snorkeled happily for an hour or two, saw lots of small fish (no jetskis or parasailing around here, thus a healthier reef), staghorn coral, brain coral and fans. There is a great view back to the mountains and towards Port Maria and Monkey Island from the water there.
Libby and Chef run the aforementioned Sea Lawn Coral Beach, a lovely property down by the beach with two rooms for rent, (hot water, private bath, $35…I’d do that anytime, great vibe down there) camping space on a grassy flat lawn and a little beach bar. It’s just down the villa road and off the main a bit, maybe a 15 minute walk but 2 minute drive. You can look at the sea right from their porch…it’s maybe 15 steps down a hill/cliff to the sandy beach but the bit of height offers great sea views and a constant breeze. The youth club is building some little fishponds and such down there and they also keep things clean…it was really nice.
When we arrived, Libby pointed out a surprise (to me) guest…Bill Evans aka Accompong! I had no idea he was there and it was a great treat to meet and talk with him for awhile. He’d be around for a few days.
One thing about this beach and Castle Garden in general…we met several people that morning and not one asked us for anything but a conversation. Being a Negril regular and rather used to the "No thanks we’re all good" routine, this was a very welcome chance to just talk with people and we did or rather I did…P is quieter than I am, friendly but not the most talkative guy…we’re a good pair that way. Tim, the Youth Club president, (he proudly told us) was an especially nice kid.
We were getting hungry so we headed back down to the beach to investigate Mr. S’s claims of lunch on the sand. Sure enough, the construction guys were on a break…one was frying up some freshly caught fish over a fire on the beach, escoveitch-style. I LOVE that stuff…scotchbonnet peppers, onions, vinegar and spices make that fish like nothing else. P doesn’t love fish, as I said yesterday, so a box lunch of chicken and rice was picked up for him from somewhere…I think we paid $2 each for these lunches and they were both delicious. In fact, everything was cheaper here…no such thing as tourist price and local price since there are so few tourists. We finished lunch, ran a few errands in Port Maria and headed up to the house for a pool swim and a nap.
After a rest, we went back down to hang out with Libby, Chef and Bill some more and decided to go to dinner in Ochi – the Big City, as it were. It’s only about 30-40 minutes away and we went to Bi Bi Bips for seafood on the water…very nice meal, not cheap but very good and P was able to have something other than fish :). The meal knocked us out completely and upon arriving home and NOT having locked any doors that we shouldn’t, we collapsed into bed around 9.
Tomorrow, we really are going to head to Portland but we’ve already thought about spending a night here again on the way back. We are liking the people, being near friends, the lovely scenery and our little cottage.