This was to be one of the other great highlights of our trip. The drive was quite nice through the country and up into the hills. It was a pretty long ride, but just the right amount of time to whet our appetites and to get the commercialism of Ochi out of our blood. This drive was the real Jamaica. Well needless to say Danny was in his glory upon arrival. He was as close as he was going to get to one of the icons of his life.
Many Rasta’s were there to greet us, give us the tour and offer their ganja. The whole tour was deeply moving, and Danny took to our guide, who claimed to be Bob Marley’s cousin, Fuzzy. He later took Danny on a walk to his house, which you could see from the museum, and a tour through ganja fields. Many were there to give you the ganja field tours, but Danny only wanted to be with Fuzzy.
We are so sorry we have no pictures of him. He was not pushy, or just looking for a dollar, but enjoyed my son and his love for the experience and being there. We tipped him well.
We lingered awhile hesitating to leave, but we had a long ride to Negril via Montego Bay ahead of us. It was a lot longer than I expected. Our back and necks were beginning to ache from the driving, our clothes were already gross and dirty, and I think we all needed to unpack, shower and rest. Chef stopped at a jerk place, as I had wanted desperately to taste this chicken for days. It was delicious and while I ate I sat in the direct sun as it was blazing by now. After winding down the hillside, and through a town called Brownstown, the rest of the drive was kind of tiring. Montego Bay has beautiful water, but it did not appeal to me as a town to hang in, except for a possible night. We landed quite exhausted and worn out in Negril at about 5p, and to a hotel called Sandi San. It is right on Negril Beach. This did not look at all like the Internet site picture, and I was a little disappointed, but willing to give it a chance. We were given an okay room, but it was far away from the beach and right towards the road where you could hear cars whizzing by, and there was no view. By morning, we didn’t want to remain there. The previous night after arrival we bid a sweet farewell to Chef who had been with us for 3 out of the 5 days. He had been both guide and friend. Sienna (another friend of Bills), and Sala our tour guide to be for the last few days of the trip called and wanted to come meet us. While I too wanted to meet them, we all needed space and quiet. We had spent so much time driving with Chef that we wanted to be alone as a family. We usually travel by ourselves, so being accompanied was new for us. I recommend it, but even so, time alone is needed.
We walked down the beach to Famous Petes where we sat outside on picnic tables and ate delicious garlic lobster. By the time we got back to the hotel, Sienna had arrived and was totally upbeat and full of energy. I on the other hand was so tired and barely could focus. I forced myself to stay awake and chat awhile, as she is one of the loveliest most helpful and informative people I have met. She is very involved with the tourism of Negril, and had put together a nice folder of the area for me. She was ready and willing to aid us in any way. I felt bad that when we finally arrived on her turf I was spent. I was trying not to admit it even to myself, but there was no way of hiding it after awhile. Bruce and Danny were too tired to really talk to her, and stayed in the room while I went down to the bar to meet Sala, her friend, and my next guide. He was very quiet when we first met. I presume he may have been overwhelmed by the speed in which I spoke, and also by what I was saying, which is that were very tired, are glad to be out of a car, and were not looking forward to getting back into one in awhile. At this point we were still planning to go to Treasure Beach and the south coast area with him in a few days, but I was beginning to toy in my mind with rearranging our plans. I was so tired. I excused myself to go to bed and said I would call soon.
The following morning Bruce and I walked up the Negril Beach to Charela Inn, a place we stayed 10 years earlier and immediately wanted to move there. Bruce negotiated a price better than Sandi San and we had a much nicer room, with a nice garden view, at a better location on the beach. We did not accept the first quoted price, and we soon learned if a hotel has a lot of vacancies, which this one did, it is easy to almost name your price. We walked back to Sandi San, and I asked Bruce to give them the word, as I embarrass easily and feel guilty about leaving even when I know I shouldn’t. I mean we should stay where is best for us, not to stay because someone was sweet to me on the phone and Internet when I made a reservation. Sandi San is also close to the music hot spots, Risky Business and Debuss, so it can be quite noisy at nights. I quickly threw all our stuff into our bags and sat in the parking lot waiting for a taxi to whisk us up the beach to a more tranquil French Inn. When we got to Charela and unpacked it was really the first time we began to unwind. Danny was bitten all over and was a nursing a bad neck, Bruce had a sore arm, and I was just plain worn out and tired. We needed to absorb what we had done and to relax. We spent that day sunning, swimming, walking the beach and checking out all the local restaurants and craft shacks. Bruce and Danny made a deal with a man renting jet skis for so many rides for a certain price over a period of days. Danny savored each and every of 4 rides, and became very proficient at it. I personally hate jet skis, but I am not a 14-year-old boy enamored with power and driving, so I tried to resist putting it down. However, it slipped out once in awhile when he tried to get me on the back and I had no interest. Charela Inn also had a kayak and a catamaran both of which Bruce used. He is an avid boater and loves the sea. It is also worth mentioning that Charela has some of the best food in Negril. After this full, restful and happy day we all sort of knew we didn’t want to pack up again and move to an unknown quantity.
Danny was happy on this beach, as most teenagers would be. He jet-skied, found some Rasta musicians whom he befriended, and hung out with for hours on end down the beach. He also walked down the beach around 9:30 at night solo (as Bruce and I fell asleep), to listen to reggae music. He never stayed more than an hour and a half, as he had to walk solo back up the beach and he is only about to be 15. He never felt threatened or afraid. There are times on the beach when you are hassled just a bit too much and asked to come see my shack, eat at my place, or to buy ganja, but generally you can just say no and there will be no problem. Once or twice people got a little testy, and I felt some discomfort with this, but I let it go. It is hard to find a nice way to say leave me alone when your not in the mood, and not to be rude. I don’t know that I ever mastered it. Most people have no trouble with this, but for some it can be upsetting or annoying after awhile. If it really bothers you it is easy to avoid by staying on the quiet end of the beach, and not walking to the more congested areas.
Negril has exquisite water, but for me it took a day to get used to all the action. I tend to like quieter places with less activity, but my son was glowing and I at least had beautiful sunshine and my bare feet. We literally never put on shoes for 4 days! By the next morning I had to call Sienna and Sala to tell them we had decided not to leave Negril for Treasure Beach, but to make this our last stop. It would mean changing our return flight from Montego Bay instead of Kingston. On my first try to the airlines they told me nothing was available, but by the next day I had seats. I was supposed to pay a fairly large surcharge for the change, but they never collected it at the airport, and I was thrilled. Meanwhile, I had to reach Sienna and Sala and I was nervous to cancel. Being Jewish I get the guilt thing easy. I never want to disappoint anyone or to hurt anyone if it can be avoided. I thought Sala might be disappointed and not understand. I sat at the front desk trying to reach them for an hour and never got through. Finally the girl at the desk said she would willingly call, and I accepted as an easy way out. I knew I would contact them later. She reached Sala and gave him our news and said he would come by to see us. I later called him back and we spoke briefly. I thought he was angry with us, but later found out he totally understood and I read him wrong. I am sorry it took me until our last night when we actually met again, and talked for an hour that Sala was a kind, gentle man that I think all of us would have enjoyed immensely. He could have just shown us around the Negril area not going too far, but possibly taking in the Peter Tosh mausoleum, which Danny had so much wanted to visit. I felt it was a lost experience and I felt saddened. I wanted to do something for this kind man, as he was so generous in spirit. He and Danny and Bruce would have hit it off well. When we met he gave Danny a reggae tape, which was such a nice gesture.
The remainder of our time in Negril was spent walking the beach, eating at local places on the beach, Danny and Bruce playing billiards to keep out of the intense sun, going to the cliffs for diving and dining, and for Danny hanging with the musicians. We ate like pigs, Bruce drank many red stripes and I had many a Pina Coloda. I grew restless of Negril about a day or two before we were to leave, but the boys didn’t. On retrospect now I realize I could have gone to Treasure Beach for the last night and still left from Montego Bay instead of Kingston some 4 hours away, stupid me! I think the south coast would have been a favorite for Bruce, as it is known as series of local fishing villages and Bruce is a man of the sea. It is also more laid back, which I would have liked. I don’t know how Danny would have enjoyed it, but he would have liked to see the Peter Tosh mausoleum and several other stops we would have made. One good thing. We can save that for our next visit.
As we rolled away by taxi the following morning to our departure from Montego Bay, I thought it fate that on the outskirts of town we passed by a young man animated in conversation as we whizzed by. I recognized it was Sala. It touched my heart, and again I felt sorrow for not spending time with him. I yelled to everyone, “that’s Sala”, because my husband had not met him, but our taxi sped forward. The drive back to the airport was beautiful as we went a new way than the way we arrived. We drove through the country and mountainside dense with orange plantations. It was a nice little trip, and as we drove Bruce and I really enjoyed it, as we were now ready to be back in the car traveling about.
I think for us we need to balance the time spent in a vehicle and the time spent relaxing in one place. I also think if one had access to a vehicle, like in Port Antonio and Negril = you could just take off for quick jaunts but remain in the same place. I wish we had done that with Sala in Negril. Oh well. Next time.
I sign off as I hear my son downstairs learning to play “No Woman No Cry” on the guitar. He is forever enchanted and changed from this experience. Anyone wishing to write or ask me questions. Jammica see you soon.