Jamaica is a powerful beautiful island, with crystal clear waters in rivers flowing into the blue ocean. The green mountains and farmland full of banana, mango and coconut trees invite to explore. I am grateful to share my travel experiences off this Caribbean island in the next 11 mini blogs; Jamaica, my story. Read all about the lively people with their history, music, the beaches, blue holes and limestone hills.
1. Down town – Kingston, Jamaica
I walked with curiosity from Fletcherland, Down Town Kingston, into the hustle and bustle of Orange Street, the market and the Parade. Everyone looked at me. School children touched my hair, street sellers greeted me and an old woman grabbed my hand; welcomed me right out of her grateful and loving heart. I was surprised, but felt comfortable. As if I lived here all my life. Jamaica reminded me of my travel experiences in Africa.
The hustle and bustle attracts me, and the lively people were very friendly. Quiet places I found at the harbour. Here a cool wind is blowing, young men dive for fish, and children jump from the rocks in the ocean. I used to drink my fresh coconut juice a little up by an old fruit seller who makes me sit somewhere, somehow. I appreciate those little moments.
2. The sweet smell of fruits, travel experiences – Ginger House
A melon street vendor, who is great in lyrics, invited me to his parent’s house. We travelled from Kingston to Ginger House, Portland, by route taxi.
Chickens roam freely in the yard, cold water pipe for showering stands next to the banana tree and cooking on wood fire takes place at the back in the yard. They welcomed me with warmth!
The next day we went hiking. We followed the stream, where we could have a swim and went up the hills to explore farmland. Everywhere I looked I saw banana trees, breadfruit and palms. I got to know yam and quenched my thirst with fresh coconut milk. This is the real richness! Although farming is tough and dependent on the weather, I felt the freedom of living with nature.
At night I watched domino players, and took a sip of my first magnum. The river across the street sang her lullaby.
3. Off the beaten path – Gut River
In an area of dry bush and mountains, the stunning Blue Hole was inviting me to jump in.
There are no shops, bars, electricity or Wi-Fi access at the isolated Gut River.
We pitched our tent on the beach, as we did not bring mattresses. Although feeling muscle and bone pain in the morning, I decided everyday to stay one more night.
We hunted caves and walked for hours up the mountain to Cross Key, picking mangoes from the trees. After that we grabbed a beer at the hotel, while enjoying the stunning view, before we descended.
Dusk came in. As a result, Rasta Gully in front of me, starts joking, while from behind I heard prayers of Everton trying to keep spirits in a good mood.
One morning fishermen pulled in their catch, and we watched them for hours. We got some small left over fish, and when they dropped us on the beach, we preserved them through drying and salting. For weeks we could eat dried fish.
Al those days we cooked on wood fire, watched the sunrise and the waves of the ocean. We walked along the beach and at night we watched the moon and the stars. Timeless and completely happy!
4. Rastafari travel experiences – Nine Mile
There’s a natural mystic blowing through the air in Nine Miles, especially at sunset, when haze surrounded the green hills and the mausoleum closed long time. I stayed a while at Donna’s yard.
She brought me bush tea every morning and we worked on the farm a couple of hours afterwards.
Terribly tough though!
Donna’s neighbour, Sledge – the cousin of Bob Marley – who played in the eponymous documentary, liked to tell stories of the great legend, the village and family. And then there was Rasta Alvin, one of the drummers of the Nyabinghi band of the mausoleum. He taught me the ‘heartbeat’.
It is always lively at the gate were venders waiting for tourists. Through a little hatch in the wall they used to sell ganja. Some of them were holding old medicinal books, and they read from the bible. The bar around the corner sold cold drinks. The owners of the bar do have farmland and cabbage were waiting for a pick up. From this part of Jamaica trucks are coming early morning for fruits and vegetables, to sell on the Kingston market
I felt connected on a spiritual way with this village, her friendly people and the green hills.
5. Hike to the peak – Blue Mountains 1
When hiking to the peak of the Blue Mountains, you need a 4WD from Mavis bank. Therefor, I waited in front of the police station together with a couple and a child. The trip lasted an hour.
Trees surrounded Whitfield Hall and at night inside candles shone a warm light because, there is no electricity. Unfortunately it did rain a lot the next coming days, or was I lucky for making short hikes and learning everything about coffee? It elevated my travel experiences.
We left around 3 am and walked up the mountain hill on wet, slippery, mud paths. Right in time, before sunset, we arrived at the peak. Which, was a magnificent moment. For instance, I saw beautiful soft colours in pink and orange all around us, and clouds below us as we were in heaven. We tried to see Cuba and Kingston, walked up and down making pictures, while hiding from the cold wind. I needed a snack and something to drink before our descent.
Now I could see all the beauty of ferns, flowers, trees and many more views. It was an easy route downhill to the coffee plantation, were a delicious breakfast was waiting.
6. Hike – Blue Mountains 2
The chef at Whitfield Hall knows how to cook! I also found out the possibility of walking back to Mavis Bank, the short cut, which should not give me trouble. I love adventure and I felt energetic, therefore, off I went with the typical Jamaican way of giving directions.
Luckily I met some people who showed me how to go, and I found my way to the wide river. The current seemed stronger because of all the rain, and I puzzled where to cross.
It is intense when travelling alone and you have to overcome obstacles. However, it is such a joy when reaching at the point you like to be. The travel experiences you remember best are often exciting.
Halfway crossing I heard singing. This is what I like about Jamaica, because people are feeling free. A young man came down to the river for a bath and looked surprised at me. ‘No I am not a mermaid, just on my way to Mavis bank!’, I said. We laughed.
At Mavis Bank I went to the bar for cool water and crossed the street as three yought were calling me. Their brave faces turned into politeness and they asked me all kind of questions. They really looked shy now, and we chat a bit till one of them said: ‘Thanks for talking to us, normally woman don’t come when we call. But, you have to go now, because your taxi just arrived.’ It makes me happy and comfortable to meet friendly people during my travel experiences, who are taking care of me, and to laugh with.
7. Hidden gem – Treasure Beach
After a long travel from Kingston by route taxi’s, I arrived at Great Pedro Bay, where I took a room at Vikings. From my roof terrace I overlooked the ocean, and saw the graves of his ancestors in the yard. I walked along the coast, over rocks to reach Frenchman Bay. It is one of the four bays of Treasure Beach which, is becoming more and more popular.
In the little village I met a Rasta, who invited me to explore a nearby river. We jumped in the river and sat under the tree. You know that satisfied feeling? Everything cool!
I am not smoking the herb, but when a spliff passed, I took a puff. Honestly, I don’t know why. It was a mysterious feeling. We walked along the river and I saw a huge plantation, which was very exiting in a period you could end up in jail by smoking a spliff on the street. All together it felt as if I was in a different world, a fairy tale.
8. ‘Tour de Jamaica’ – Blue Mountains
Though endless green, with spectacular views, I descent like a professional cyclist.
I followed the empty meandering road along coffee plantations, and waterfalls. So now and then I needed to go a little up hill, while avoiding potholes.
Farmers shouted from their house: ‘Whitey, What a gwaan?’ And I felt awesome! This is one of my most spectaculair travel experiences in Jamaica, because it was a stunning day, but tough as well.
At a certain point the road was gone and I needed to follow a narrow path with a deep, scary abyss. Later that day I would find out a diversion.
The river following into the village I could take a break on the pebble beach, where I enjoyed the marvellous trip. I didn’t stay too long though, as sunset is around 6 pm. But when I touched the peddles still in the heat of the sun, I could not manage it, therefore I took another break in a restaurant with splendid view over the river.
‘Going up again!’
People must have thought I am crazy, and I started to hesitate myself. Around 3 pm I forced myself on the bike, and struggled up hill. The same people came out the fields and their houses, and shouted; ‘Whitey, you go up again? You brave!’ It did lift me up, because it gave me smile to get a treatment like that!
After many hours, some little breaks and sips of water, I wondered how far the cap could be, however, after every corner there was another one to take and another house or waterfall or mountain….
Dusk fell and a couple of minutes later it was dark. I took my headlight and I got a phone call from Oxx, the Rasta at Mount Edge Guesthouse; ‘Where are you now, are you all right?’, he asked. And he did that 2 more times. Every time it gave me strength, so thank you Oxx!
Finely I reached the cap, now it was only a couple of corners down hill, passing the military base to Mount Edge.
Exhausted and hugely satisfied I stumbled of the bike right to the chair, ready for a Red Stripe beer, and spaghetti. I was the hero of the day, the year, forever!
9. Exploring caves & old slave paths – South Coast
We gathered early in the morning to explore the caves in the hills, were in ancient times slaves were brought in. Those mountain paths are bushed up, but still in use by some of the fishermen. They lead all the way to God’s Well and Alligator Pond.
As one goat was missing and needed to be found, we left a bit late. However, it was no problem, ‘everything is gonna be all right’. Four tough Rasta men and I smiled as we took off, for an adventurous hike through bush, and over sharp limestone rocks, as a result to get real exciting travel experiences, never to forget.
On our way through historical Jamaica, jokes were told, and stories were shared. So now and then we stopped for a ganja spliff, rum or a picture. We passed a mystical crater, in other words it is about the story a mermaid lives in it, therefore we needed to be quiet to not to disturb her.
Arriving at the ocean
At a great spot, where the river meets the ocean, I did put up my hammock. My friends did make tea and prepared a lunch with crab and dumplins, and wondered if I could manage the hike up later on.
I had a great, marvellous view over the ocean, and felt the excitement of the possibility of crocodiles in the river. We could not resist a swim though, and assumed they left the area because of our noise.
So we freshened up, before heading up hill again.
At a certain point we lost our way, just when darkens fell. I noticed the Rasta’s didn’t feel comfortable, and that worried me. Therefore, I tried to increase my pace, because I knew I was the slowest.
We turned back till the point they recognized and luckily they found the mountain trail again.
Relieved we followed our way in the dark quick and fast up to ‘Needle Point’ till we reached an open space of grassland.
Relaxed again the Rasta’s paused; they made a wood fire for a good, hot cup of bush tea and teased each other. An enriching bond was formed for life!
10. Lively scenery – Roaring River Cave Park
My first experience visiting Roaring River was shocking to me, as so many local persons tried to make a dollar. However, I’ve been visiting the village many times, because the river is cool, the scenery is beautiful and the Jamaicans, well, they’ll get to know me.
The green hills surrounding Roaring River, the quietness and the possibility to cool down in a fresh river always attracts me. The river has many spots to explore, for instance in the cave itself, which has a spiritual, meditation atmosphere. But several places in and outside the village are giving me that special opportunity to connect with nature.
Jamaicans love music and rum, they love to chat, shout and sing. They will drive their car almost in the river, build a spliff and make noise. It is my wish to cool down, enjoy the view, the trees, flowers, and the fresh splashing water, while having my time out. Therefore, I can rebuild energy to face the city life later on again.
So I am always hoping there will be a moment I will be totally in silence, and melt with the river.
Till that time I make fun of the liveliness of the people, while I am undergoing the blue and green colours of the crystal clear water, the birds with their songs and the rustling leaves in the wind.
Everything else fades into the background.
11. A Real fishing village – Manchioneal
There are many travel experiences to tell, and this is a precious one.
I went to Fi Wi Roots Festival, travelling with my backpack assuming there would be a guesthouse to stay overnight. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. Luckily I got an invitation of a Rasta man to stay at his house. In the middle of the night, after quite a long drive, we arrived at a huge, yellow house far east in Jamaica. They showed me the room without a lock, but with mosquito net. They told me I could stay as long as I wanted.
The following days I explored hidden gems. For instance, abandoned, blue bays and crystal clear rivers. I got to see all kind of herbs and trees in the yard, and enjoyed every minute.
Early morning, with my cup of bush tea on the balcony, I watched the people passing by on their way to get water at the pomp. My host took his tea to the street, and chat for hours to them. At night Gigi, the housekeeper, cooked fantastic ital food and we eat all together somewhere in the yard, sitting on a rock or piece of wood.
Manchioneal, a laid back fishing village embraced me; for a couple of days it was my home.
More Blogs about Jamaica from the author Sandra Smits on this site.
Don’t want to travel solo? Take a Rasta Tour Guide to explore the real Jamaica on the Natural Way!
Read all about Music, Culture, Food, News and Travel at Jamaicans.com