All Around Jamaica March/April 2003…Day 6
by Liz Maher
Day Six, Monday (Castle Garden to Negril)
Up for sunrise as usual and Marcia has found ackee! Woohoo, ackee and salt fish for breakfast again! (P, my non-fish-lover eats toast and fruit and callalloo). While we wait for breakfast I chat with Mrs. S and after our goodbyes and promises to return with the kids, we head down to pick up Bill.
Chef is home now and I remember to ask him about the car scrape we got at Reich Falls. He says definitely fix it ourselves if we can so we plan to do that on the way. Chef would be my pick for a driver/guide anywhere from MoBay east, he’s very knowledgeable and friendly and great to talk with. He has a page on tours on the Sea Lawn web site.
Bill hops in, we stop in Ochi for supplies and JA$ and what-not and head out. Somewhere around Runaway Bay (again), we locate a body shop and pull in.
The guys take a look and say they can fix it, no problem. P asks how much? They get a little offended and tell us that "not all Jamaicans are tief!" but P won’t let them move the car until he knows if we can afford it so with Bill soothing egos all around, we get a price of $500J ($10US) and let them at it. Turns out the damage that looked so bad is mainly blue paint from the other car on our bumper (figures we get licked by the only blue car in Jamaica…ours is white). It took about 10 minutes for them to get some gook and take off the paint…good as new. Major relief, now we can return the car without worrying about losing our firstborn.
That episode made me realize a few things. First, in a resort area as this place is, probably many tourists DO think all Jamaicans are "tief" and I doubt they are very polite about that. We didn’t, we just didn’t have that much cash and needed to know the price. Bill says Jamaicans usually discuss price AFTER the service is rendered, that’s normal. Interesting sociology lesson and with handshakes and smiles all around, we’re back on the road again, refreshed from a cool drink at the auto shop’s bar to boot.
We had only one planned stop, at the new Ritz Carlton to see our friend Lee Weinstock who is the VIP tour manager or something like that there. He was our driver/guide the first time P and I went to Negril solo, turns out he is a friend of many of our friends in Ohio, and we always try to see him when we come down (or he comes up). He introduced us to our best friends in Negril at 3 Dives and is a lot of the reason we returned to Negril again and again. It would be a 10-minute visit this time as he was working and we didn’t get to see him again. The Ritz is an awfully fancy resort. Not my kind of place at all (and certainly not my price tag), but if you’re into fancy and pretentious and really need a little flag on your beach chair to raise when you want something, this would be a great place.
The waves on their beach were really big, unusually so for the north coast, and this would be our first taste of what was waiting for us in Negril. We drove through a little rain (first time this trip except for the little shower the first day). I was kind of sorry to be going to Negril as we’d enjoyed "the other side" so much, and I knew Negril would be back to the hustle of a tourist town.
BUT, and this is a big but, we had friends coming in that day to join us for the Negril week and we were excited to see them. ekoostik hookah, a band we go see at home all the time, camp with, party with and from whose show scene many of our friends come, had been to Negril twice before, in 1999 and 2002. They’d planned to come for 2003 but alas, everyone was still broke from last year so not enough people had signed up and they had to cancel. A few diehards – 10 of us – decided to go anyway and we’d rented a villa at Beach House Villas for the week. Some of us had been before, a couple hadn’t. In any case, we were ready to change gears and party at night and sleep in for a while.
The road between MoBay and Negril is finished. Wow. It’s like a real highway with shoulders, bus stops (with signs!) and no potholes – yet. Once we got through downtown MoBay it was an hour, maybe less, to Negril. I miss passing through all the towns the old road went through but the speed is nice and probably good for Negril.
We dropped Bill off at the Negril Yacht Club (no, it’s not really a Yacht Club, it’s a restaurant/bar/live music/hotel place) and went straight up to 3 Dives to see Lloydie and Paula. This is always our first stop in Negril. We met L & P in ’99, with Lee, and they’ve been great friends to us ever since. They make Negril feel like a friendly place to me, the cliff there is like my home away from home. We catch up a bit and tell him we’ll all be back for sunset in a couple of hours, it’s time to find our friends and check in.
Woohoo, everyone is at the Reef House – the place is great – and we are all so happy to be together, and our friends are still in their first day excitement. Many of them hung out at 3 Dives last year with hookah so they’re psyched to go up too. We unpack, this time actually putting clothes away as we’ll be here a whole week, and they yell up (we are on the second floor) that we have a visitor. Solomon and Dave are here!
Before we left I’d arranged for Sala to pick up our friends at the airport and bring them to Negril and since there were 8 people, he decided he ought to bring two vans so everyone could spread out. Above and beyond the call of duty, that was. I’m sure it cut Sala’s pay for the trip but that’s the kind of guy Sala turns out to be, he really wanted them to have a great experience and they all said they did.
Sala and I had never met in person, though I’d met his wife Sienna several times over the years, but we hugged like old buddies and enjoyed an hour or so of excited chatter about the runnings. Sala’s uncle Dave (Tano, I believe Sienna calls him) was a sweetie too. They both do all kinds of tours.
We finally think to take a look at the beach. Oh my. The waves we’d seen on the north coast must have been hitting here first because I’d never seen Negril like this. The sea was coming up and over many of the beach bars and there was seaweed everywhere in the water and on the sand. It was pretty dramatic. We’d been in Jamaica for days of course, but I hoped things would clear up soon for our friends who didn’t get in that first-day swim.
We were supposed to return the car today but called to keep it one more day, so we could grocery shop and whatnot. No problem. We get ready for dinner and drive up to 3 Dives where Sala and Dave and Sienna and Bill will join us for dinner.
We get there and the sea is crashing up over the cliff bar…Mace took some great photos of this but I gave my camera a break. It was really cool, though, we had to run from the cliff edge to avoid getting soaked. Luckily 3 Dives has tables by the road too, quite dry, so we ate up there. There are always new improvements at 3 Dives each time we visit. This time there was a new higher roof over the seating area, a roof leading to and over the grill (crucial in the rain). The storm knocked out the power up and down the west end at some point, so we had a little delay while Lloydie went to get his generator (yay for that!!). He hooked it up and we were back in business, well-lit and listening to tunes again.
This was March 31, last day for legal lobster, so that’s what we had. Delicious, as usual, and enough for at least two people. We also hung out with JackSprat and Mr. Sprat – hadn’t seen them in a year or two so that was really nice. They always stay at Xtabi, within yelling distance of 3 Dives, so are easy to find if they are in town :). I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with Sienna and Sala too (Sienna made it later, after work). Overall a great first night party.
This night the others were a little travel-tired but Philip and I hung out at DeBuss/Bourbon Beach for awhile and checked out a reggae cover band…nice night back in our old stomping grounds.