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3-in-one Jamaica trip report

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  • #91
    we walked through the hotel and ended up on the beach. walked past a man in a red shirt sitting under an almond tree. It was Mel, the turtle man! walked a few steps more and there was Nikola and the gang! i had ended up at the turtle hatch after all.


    Shanique's friend was a little further along, swimming in the water with her two grand children. Told me their names and i promptly forgot them, as i've been doing through this whole trip with cousins' kids. i only remembered the names of adults and dogs.

    the boy
    DSCN0368.jpg

    the girl
    DSCN0367.jpg


    Lovely kids, happy and enjoying being at the beach even though they were the only ones in the water. wished they were my grandkids.
    <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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    • #92
      killed time taking pics of the scenery and gazing out at the beach while Shanique and her friend chatted. it was really quite beautiful and serene. the beach butted up against cliffs, and there was a sheltered feel to the place.

      DSCN0371.jpg

      Shanique and her friend
      DSCN0372.jpg
      <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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      • #93
        We noticed some buses pull in and knew it was show time. We hustled over. We were going to jim screechy into Mel's presentation. I was nervous, i thought somehow it was a paid thing and we were sneaking in for free. But no one else seemed to care, and Nikola and her guests were already making their way. The two kids were already up there.

        DSCN0374.jpg
        <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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        • #94
          turns out it was a UWI eco camp come to hear Mel speak about turtles. My heart leapt with joy. the idea that environmental camp was a thing in Jamaica felt like such progress to me, so great that the youth are being engaged. over the years the local environmental movement had struggled to be taken seriously by government who just are so willing to sacrifice Jamaica's precious natural heritage on the altar of business and profit.

          DSCN0378.jpg

          by the time i reached the group, Mel had just finished having an intense conversation with Nikola. i saw her shake her head and turn away. drat. i really wanted to get at the root of their beef.
          <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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          • #95
            Mel is an expat Englishman, works for NEPA - the National Environmental & Planning Agency. He tags and tracks hawksbill turtles who come to that beach and that part of Oracabessa to nest and lay eggs, recording the number that hatch, then overseeing their safe return to the sea.

            his presentation is detailed and fascinating, and the kids are engrossed. then, it was time to reveal the hatch, baby turtles who'd been collected in a bucket all the while. Mel passed the bucket around, and encouraged the kids to each take a baby turtle, holding the shell between thumb and forefinger.

            DSCN0383.jpg

            even the grandkids participated. i felt proud of them that they were not squeamish.

            i noticed one of the camp counsellors had on glasses without lenses and seemed quite shameless about it. turns out is a style trend started by Lebron James.
            DSCN0387.jpg
            <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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            • #96
              soon it was time to release the turtlets. you couldn't just put them into the sea, they need the scramble from nest to water calibrates their inner navigation system or something. Mel collected the turtles into a bucket, had the kids form an aisle, then turned the bucket on its side. the turtles started their mad dash, drawn to the bright light shining off the sea.

              excuse the shakiness and lack of focus in the video, i was so excited.



              closeup of the tracks, very distinctive.
              <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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              • #97
                sublime moment when the baby turtles reach the water's edge and are transported by the waves.



                Shanique's friends grandkids helped a couple of the babies reach their destination


                i'm weeping a little as i rewatch the videos of these two young children. i'm so happy they have embraced the welfare of the turtles so wholeheartedly. i want them to grow up to be tree huggers, part of anew generation to take up the stewardship of Jamaica's natural history.
                <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                • #98
                  and the turtles swam away, riding currents that over 18 months will take them, if they're lucky to survive hazards such as birds, bigger fish, humans, over to the coast of africa. of course, not a lot of them make it, i forgot the actual survival rate but it wasnt great - something like 1 or 2 out of the 80 odd released today will make it back to nest.

                  forgot to mention - because of the high temperature in the nest, all the turtlets were female.
                  <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                  • #99
                    some kids came back to hear more from Mel. I went too.
                    DSCN0392.jpg

                    Mel imparted a LOT of knowledge. He knows each female that comes back to nest and lay eggs, giving them names like Anna (using the same naming convention as that of hurricanes so that by their names he can tell when he first encountered them). He identifies them by the barnacles on their shell, and spends many nights walking up and down the beach when he sees signs they are around, shooing away people he thinks may obstruct them as they go up to the base of the cliff to dig their nest and lay their eggs.

                    internet photo of a grown hawksbill turtle. they are a protected species, i believe, and that little beach in Jamaica is known world-wide as one of their premier nesting places.
                    Last edited by mountaingal; 08-17-2014, 12:46 PM.
                    <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                    • Inevitably, Mel's concern for the turtles put him in conflict with the local fishermen. The fishermen were killing turtles as they see them competing for fish. From Mel's pov, the fishermen were overfishing the area anyway. Somehow some mutual agreement was reached because someone convinced the fishermen to focus their efforts on catching the invasive lion fish instead.

                      lionfish_invasion_23.jpg

                      these beauties got loose when some aquarium attraction in Florida smashed in a hurricane (one of the recent ones, cyaan memba which). they have since run rampant in the Caribbean, nyamming coral practically to extinction.

                      lion_fish_01.jpg

                      apparently they make good eating.

                      Since Mel talked about conflict, i worked up the nerve to ask what was going on with him and Nikola (yes, mi fass that way sometimes ). Ascording to him, Nikola a) carry her dogs to the beach despite him telling her not to cuz they disturb the nests; and b) she was charging guests to watch Mel's turtle hatch presentation. I told him i was not charged. He still had a problem with her dogs, and said that's what he was arguing with her about earlier.
                      <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                      • it was late after the hatch, so i decided against going to Oracabessa. i meandered up the hill in the fading light, reflecting on the wonderful experience i just had. i prayed that Oracabessa would remain a fish sanctuary (it has been designated as such), and that any tourism initiatives by the government or business will be able to peacefully accommodate the natural wildlife of the area.

                        DSCN0400.jpg

                        big things are coming for that little zone where the b&bs operate. a politician has bought land and plans to build a mansion into the cliffs. and of course, Usain's plans for Golden Seas. if anybody have money to spare, i suppose now would be a good time to buy. wish i had that chance.
                        <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                        • that night, after having some curry chicken (salty, dammit), i decided to socialize in Nikola's cafe and bar. The lumberjack and K were there, "smoking" and drinking.

                          We chatted about the hatch, and I told them what Mel said about Nikola's dogs. K came to Nikola's defense. He said because a lot of addicts hang around the derelict property, his lady and Nikola take the dogs on their early morning walks as a form of protection. He made it sound a bit too that Mel was part of a greater consipiracy against black man.



                          the lumberjack is working up a deal to do some building project for a local millionaire, and recounted his harrowing experience driving through Junction to Kingston for further discussions. he apparently had some close call with a big truck coming the other way, luckily he was on the inside. his wife's blood pressure went right up and she was back at their villa recuperating.

                          the lumberjack started telling me again how grateful he was that K taught him how to fell a royal palm. you insert the machete at the root, chop it and the tree falls over. something about that nagged at me from the first i heard it.

                          i turned to K - "that's how you fell a royal palm? that tree so big and tall..."

                          K replied, sotto voce, "a banana tree him a talk."

                          aye sah.

                          the German family came in and had dinner by themselves. they did not socialize.
                          <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                          • Next day woke up to a dry house - NO WATER. Calamity! Nikola turned on her tank, and i showered under a pitiful trickle. Shanique was out for the morning, so just had coffee for breakfast.

                            the German boy was lounging in the hammock. he seemed to really enjoy being there. however, i soon saw his parents coming from their villa all packed up. the lack of water was apparently a last straw. they loaded up, called to the young man, and in no time they were driving off up the street like a bat out of hell.

                            i wasnt sad to see them go, but felt sorry for Nikola, who only got one night out of the original 5 that were booked.

                            the Canadian couple decided to go James Bond beach for the day, and I decided to walk by myself into Oracabessa before the full heat of the day. needed money anyway and hoped there would be an ATM in town.


                            early morning football
                            DSCN0406.jpg

                            DSCN0405.jpg
                            <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                            • The beggar spotted me from afar and lost no time approaching me.

                              "Miss, miss. Beg u some money so mi can buy some food. Miss, miss." Ach.

                              i applied my usual reaction to beggars and preacher/solicitors on minibuses: i pretended they were not there. no eye contact, no talking, no break in pace.

                              man, this guy was persistent. i spotted an ATM, and hesitated a bit - mi no want him falla mi go deh. walked past the ATM, but turned back shortly - nuff places were still closed, and it looked like in two twos i would have walked out the other side of the town (it's that small).

                              so i went into the ATM, got some money, and lingered for a bit, pondering my options. i knew he'd be outside. i peeked through the glass, but mi neva seem. spotted a police car not far from the ATM door tho, and feeling safe, i stepped out. beggar guy was sitting on the ground beside the door.

                              i slipped into a restaurant next door, turns out that's where the cops were, buying breakfast. bought a drink, and sat sipping it, watching TV ( a local station interviewing friends of a gay man recently murdered), and observing the customers.

                              DSCN0407.jpg

                              DSCN0409.jpg
                              <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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                              • as soon as the cops left, my friend re-appeared. "Miss, Miss." the restaurant girl tried to run him, to no avail. i took out my camera thinking it might make him go away, but no brah.

                                DSCN0408.jpg

                                ah well. no point holding myself hostage inside Susie's. i ordered an ackee breakfast to go. beggar guy had disappeared by then, but i knew he'd be waiting outside.

                                surprisingly, he had disappeared by the time i left the restaurant. not for long tho. i went into a supermarket, and he re-appeared at the door. "Miss, Miss." One of the cashiers tried to run him, saying he only used the money to buy weed. She had some luck, he wandered off, and did not bother me when i left to walk home.

                                had the Susie's breakfast for my lunch that day. it was passable, except for the yellow yam which was excellent. i liked the variety of food.
                                DSCN0412.jpg
                                <span style="font-style: italic">All Glory to The Hypnotoad!</span>

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