Driving from Montego Bay to Negril One Town at a Time Part 2 – Driving in Jamaica

Last month we started in Mobay and only got as far as the edge of town. Our next stop is Reading. This is really one of those don’t blink you’ll miss it towns. The center of town is made up of a post office, a Roman Catholic Church, a private school and two small seaside resorts. The importance of Reading is, as I mentioned last month, the gateway to the south coast. By turning left you proceed up Long Hill to Anchovy and to Montpelier. From here you can go right to Savanna-La-Mar, shortened to Sav-La-Mar by locals. Turning left will take you to Black River or, at another fork, to Mandeville. The route through Mandeville is also one of the two ways to get to Kingston, although somewhat longer, is more scenic. At some later date, we will explore this part of the island.

The drive from Reading is quite beautiful. The road hugs the coast high enough to offer great views of the multi-colored water. In the distance behind you, is the cruise ship port, and Sunset Beach Resort which is two high rise buildings at the end of Freeport. Beyond that, one can see the city of Montego Bay. Numerous hills above the city are filled with several communities, densely packed with homes. To the left, on the edge of the ocean, is Sangster International Airport, Air Jamaica’s hub.

Shortly past Reading is a distribution warehouse for Desnoes & Geddes Ltd, otherwise known as brewers of Red stripe beer. They also bottle and distribute Pepsi products plus their own line of flavored soft drinks. When you look at a bottle of Red Stripe you will notice the D&G logo. Jamaicans will tell you that really stands for “Damn Good.”

The road from here to our next destination of the month, Hopewell, is sparsely populated. Along the coast can be seen small fishing boats in the early morning hours. Later in the day, these same fishermen stand on the side of the road selling their catch of the day. These fishermen are not alone in the water looking for fish. The coastline is dotted with herring type birds looking to fill their own stomach.

The next area we come to is Unity Hall. Much smaller than Reading, it consists of only a few houses built along the banks of Great River. About ten miles inland, this river is home to Mountain Valley Rafting. Not as exciting as other rafting tours but enjoyable just the same.

From Unity Hall we pass from St. James Parish into Hanover Parish. On the right is the world famous Round Hill Hotel & Villas considered to be one of the most expensive and exclusive in Jamaica. Some of the famous people who have stayed there include Paul McCartney, US Senator Edward Kennedy and fashion designer Ralph Lauren, according to “Insight Guides – Jamaica.”

Highway 2000 has numerous small wooden structures containing bars, restaurants and souvenirs all along the road. The local name for these places are “shops.” For instance, a restaurant is called a “cook shop” where they mainly serve jerk chicken, salt fish and ackee and other Jamaican specialties on a take out basis. The food is quite tasty and inexpensive. The health standards, however, are questionable.

As we approach Hopewell, the highway narrows to the original width and location of the existing town roads. This is true of every town the highway passes through. The integrity of the towns weren’t compromised for the sake of modernization. While this does slow driving through towns dramatically, it does give one the opportunity to see life in a small town.

The road leading into town is narrow, steep and snakelike. At the bottom of the hill is Hopewell. This is a small but bustling town. Cars, trucks and pedestrians vie to get to their destination. It is a case of the boldest and most daring who succeed in getting to their destination as quickly as possible.

The town consists of several very old buildings, including a three story commercial structure with small shops above an independent supermarket. Near this complex is the town’s open air market where local, as well as, imported produce can be purchased. Next door is the police station. The rest of the town, other than a few more shops, is lined with small houses. There are several side roads leading to residential areas. The length of this main street is only about two blocks but is extremely busy.

Next month’s stop on our way to Negril is Lucea, pronounced “Lucy.”

About the author

John Casey