My trip to Jamaica started out with the airport routine. And what a routine it was. After my wife, Karen, and I checked our bags in it was on to the airport security checkpoint. I was given a little security plastic container to put my palm pilot & glasses into. Karen, my wife, walked through the security checks just fine. I walked thru & the light went off. That’s when the excitement started 2 men beckoned me to walk through another checkpoint. Karen stood patiently watching me as she had already secured our belongings. On exit they took me aside & started to frisk me with their metal detector. Pass number 1. The detector went off.
I was then told to empty my pockets in a plastic basket I was handed. Then came the second frisk. Pass number 2. The detector went off again
I was then told to remove my belt & reveal the lining of my pants waist. I was told to remove my shoes. Frisk 2 and my shoes was frisked
They ran my belt & shoes through the x-ray machine. They gave me back my things & I thought to myself: scot-free. As we began to walk away a lady at another checkpoint beckoned for us to come over. I was asked again to take off my shoes, which were put through a machine. Our belongings and I were finally allowed to enter the Terminal. It was a long walk to our departure gate but this is typical of Miami Airport. The departure gate was packed & within 5 minutes of us sitting we were boarding our American Airlines flight to Montego Bay (Mobay).
The flight was not bad. My only complaint was the less than filling snack. On Air Jamaica you normally get a decent meal. There were a few bumps due mainly to the uneasy weather in the Caribbean. I had brought a few magazines with me & read most of the way. Karen was listening to music. The pilot announced that we were approaching Montego Bay. Karen & I peered through the plane window at the coastline. It was cloudy & raining but the water was still blue. We landed smoothly at a wet Sangster Airport and disembarked. It was my first time flying into Sangster. The airport was nice. There was even a group dressed in Jamaican National costumes that were singing folks songs and dancing as we were clearing immigration. It made the lines seem less of a wait as you listened to them.
We cleared immigration quickly but were delayed at the baggage claim. They announced that there was a problem & that the baggage was on its way. I was listening to the announcements attentively for the next 20 minutes as we stood & waited. Then I heard an announcement ‘Xavier Murphy your party is waiting in the airport’. Wow I thought. Solomon, who would be taking us to Negril, was outside waiting. Just then the baggage carousel started. Within 2 minutes we found our bags, got through customs and were on our way outside. As we exited customs into the airport lobby, we were greeted by few drivers who lined both sides of the exit door forming a human fence.
“Need a taxi”? A few asked.
We kindly told them we had a ride already. At the end of the human fence we saw a smiling Solomon. We greeted each other and I noticed a little cardboard sign in his hand with my name. He realized that I saw it and explained that his wife Sienna thought I might not have recognized him even though it was only a year since we last saw each other. Karen jokingly said to Solomon that the only thing that changed was his dreadlocks had grown longer. The walk outside the airport to the car was not long. I recognized the Toyota Corolla station wagon. We had driven in it last year on our memorial trip to Accompong last year. As we drove out of the airport I looked around. The last time I had visited Mobay, I was a small child living in Kingston. I looked around to see if I recognized the place. I did not. Karen and I were hungry so we asked Solomon if we could stop somewhere on the way to get a bite. It did not take us long to find a place to eat. It was at a Kentucky fried chicken store at a roundabout in Mobay. It was the only place I recognized. I know this is fast food but Kentucky fried Chicken in Jamaica just tastes different. As we entered the restaurant I asked Solomon what he would like. He insisted on nothing but when I pressed he said the smallest piece of chicken. The chicken was good. Soon we were on our way.
The drive out of Montego Bay was smooth and soon we were out in the countryside. The ride from Mobay to Negril would take us through Sandy Bay & Lucea. The smooth road had no signs of flooding due to new construction. There were a few patches of rough road that was still under construction. The Drive in was cautious due to the rain. It rained from Mobay to Negril. Solomon told us he was taking the coast road, which was longer, due to the flooding that took place on the shorter route through the hills. It had been raining for 2 days and the roads were wet. There were signs of mudslides along many of the hillsides and there was mud along the roads. Many of the rivers were overflowing from the rain. Solomon was a nice driver & very dependable. At one point we came up on a cow in the middle of the road. Salomon calmly swung the car behind the cow, even though there was more than enough space to pass on the front. So I asked Solomon why did he not drive in front of the cow? He explained that cows do not move backwards therefore if he had gone in front he would have scared the cow into moving in the only direction it can move and it would have rammed the car. As a town boy I learned something new that day. The rest of the drive was uneventful for the most part. There were not too many people on the street. There were a few kids here and there. We talked religion mainly about Haile Selassie 1 of Ethiopia, Rastafarianism and Christianity. The conversation was very enlightening to both of us & with a few surprises
As we drove by the Negril airport I knew we were near our destination. We kept on talking. We were so engrossed in the conversation that we almost passed the property we would be staying at, the Whistling bird.
It was raining all the way to Negril but it seemed to just stop as we pulled up in front of the Whistling bird. We pulled out our luggage and entered the gate. The property was green & lush & looked exactly the way we left it 2 years ago. Trees everywhere with the cottages spread about the property but strategically built to have a view of the beach. In the middle there is a building with the kitchen and dinning area. Also in the middle is a little thatched roof office with a pay phone on the outside. Lilly, one of the staff members, was coming up the walkway.
How unnoh do” “Whey de children dem” She greeted us
Our last vacation here, 2 years ago, we brought our two daughters. We explained that we left them left with my parents.
She gave us a sly smile and said ‘”A wan second honeymoon dis”?
As she walked us to our cottage she explained that it had been raining all week and that Vivien, Bim and herself were the only staff on the property for the day. We asked for Chef Turner who was in charge of the Kitchen the last time we were there. She told us was in London. Vivien was now in charge of the Kitchen. We asked for Andrea who was the manager on property and was told she went to Kingston for some engagement.
We got to a cottage that had a view of the beach. It had 2 bedrooms, a living area and a bathroom with a powder area. The rooms at the Whistling bird are tropically decorated and really feel homely.
Solomon helped us take our bags in & we made arrangements for him to take us back to Mobay.
We walk over to the kitchen and greeted Vivien. We asked what was for dinner. She said, “What do you want”? Karen and I looked at each other and knew it would be fish.
“Do you have any parrotfish?” I asked.
“No but Bim can get it for me. How you want it cooked?” she asked
“One fried & one steamed” I replied.
The last time we were here we had fish every day. I think we will probably be doing much of the same again. The fish just tastes better because it is freshly caught. It was late evening and the rain had stopped. Karen and I decided to walk along the beach. There was barely anyone on the beach and the restaurants along the way were empty. This may sound selfish but I love coming down to Negril when it is slow. We saw most of the places from our last visit. We did see new construction of an interesting pink hotel. Although the colors were bright it just seemed to fit. On the way back we passed a few more couples walking on the beach.
When we got back to the Whistling Bird, Bim was already back from buying the fish. He met us as we were entering the property and asked us if we wanted jelly coconut. There many coconut trees on the property so Bim did not have to go far to climb a tree. Yes, he climbed a coconut tree. He picked a few coconuts & used his machete to chop the top of for us to drink the water. The hotel bar was a few feet away so he got straws for us to drink the coconut water. We sat on beach chairs facing the beach sipping coconut water. Once we were finished with the water Bim split to coconut into 2 parts and made a spoon from one side of the coconut.
We sat out on the beach and talked for about an hour before went back to the room to bathe and get ready for dinner.
As we headed to the kitchen we could smell the sweet fish. Vivien started to prepare our plates as we entered the dining area, which is attached to the kitchen. We were the only ones dining at this time. The food was so nicely decorated on the plate that it was unfortunate we had to eat it. As we were eating our meal we could see Lilly moving from cottage to cottage with mosquito spray. She also gave us mosquito destroyer to burn at night.
After a great meal Karen and I sat outside the room listening to the sound of the night insects with the background of the ocean waves. Peep, peep the insect screamed. A full moon was overhead. The night was a perfect end to day one in Negril. Can’t wait for tomorrow…. Day 2 will be published next month