Casa de Bender> travel> Jamaica, January 2003
Got up at the god forsaken hour of 4 am. Hound dog was confused, especially when the cab showed up at 5. Shelley rasseled her outside and we were on our way.
Boise airport was uneventful, except for the crazy new route to the gate. Some random kid (Shelley says he was 16 or 17) got arrested while we were waiting to board.
Flight to Dallas was just another plane ride, but then things started to go sour. We were surrounded by baby Mormon's on their way to missions in the waiting room. I almost snapped at one kid who was practicing broken Spanish in a Speedy Gonzalez accent. AAAARRRGG!
We waited an extra hour to board because they didn't have enough people to clean the damn plane. It was an eternity, but just the start of a very long day.
Because of the delay in Dallas, we landed in Miami about 5 minutes after our connection to Montego Bay was scheduled to leave.We hauled ass over to the gate, but we were too late.
In the plane we had briefly talked to an old guy who was trying to make the same connection. He showed up at the departure counter about the same time we did and was even more pissed than we were at missing the flight. Johnni Hollan and his annoying sidekick Paul would turn out to be our companions for about the next 14 hours or so. Paul was a loud and pushy guy who obviously thought he was more important than all other creatures on the face of the planet. He tried to read the ticket counter guy the riot act and kept mentioning that he was going to meet with some guy or another whose in charge of some foreign division of the airline and heads were going to roll.
Finally some nice man got us some rooms for the night in Miami and some dinner and breakfast vouchers and we were on our way to the holiday inn for the night. While waiting at the curb however we ran into loudmouth jackass again, who convinced both Bryan and and I to go back in and ask to be transferred from the holiday inn to the Radisson that was according to him much closer, more convenient, and where according to him they would lavish upon us toiletries and incidentals to make us feel at home since we had to leave our bags behind with the airline or risk some horrible loss then next day.
We got to the Radisson after standing at the curb for about half an hour only to be very coolly greeted by Javier the angry Radisson desk manager. He had no interest in making us comfortable, in fact without giving them a credit card we couldn't even use the telephone to make local or 1-800 number calls. When I asked them how they were going to feel when I died in the night because I couldn't make a 911 call and when we sued them bankrupting the company, they weren't amused, but I a was very tired and testy too.
As the evening progressed we went to try and get some food, ran into loudmouth jackass in the bar and ended up having some drinks with he and Johnny Harlin, the other actually funny old guy. A business associate of theirs came with his wife and took us all to dinner at some really yummy Cuban restaurant where we had fried plantains and cafe de leche. It was delightful. We went back to the hotel, tried fitfully to sleep, wherein neither one of died much to the relief of the Radisson I am sure.
The next morning we woke early thankfully because otherwise we would have really been up a creek. The night before we washed most of our clothes in the sink and hung them around the bathroom to dry, but they didn't. We ended up blow drying and ironing our clothes dry for about 45 minutes. It was quite a Chinese laundry.
We made it to the airport in time, in time to sit around for another late plane. But finally we did get out of Miami. Let hope our return flight through Miami is less eventful.
So here we are now in Jamaica. When we landed we both were struck by how much the place immediately looks like Fiji, but that is really the only similarity so far. As soon as we made it out of the airport our driver was waiting for us. A nice enough kid named Peter, but like everyone else on this blasted island, a little too accommodating about the local custom. Bryan had a man hand him a little baggy of weed, which he obviously turned down, before we were even out of the airport parking lot. There was another couple in the van that we took to Negril. I have nicknamed them chucklehead and his girlfriend twinkletoes, a couple of pain in the ass kids from Indiana that asked Peter to stop and buy beer and weed in two different locations. Chucklehead got a piece of my mind, and now does his best to avoid me whenever possible.
When we finally reached the Sam Sara we were given a room in what we later learned from another couple from New York, was called the ghetto rooms. It was dark and dingy and stank of mildew. But we unpacked, put on bathing suits and got some drinks; luckily we arrived right at the beginning of happy hour. I ordered a Mai Tai, but it tasted weird and I later learned that was because they made it with vodka. Who makes a Mai Tai with vodka. Jamaica is famous for making rum, or I am wrong here. We found a pretty spot to sit and watch the sunset and a couple from New York, Hillary and Kent came and joined us. We visited with them for the rest of the night,and even ended up having a delicious lobster dinner with them outside at the cliffs at Xtabi. It was beautiful and fun, but I drank way too much. I even went and raided the closed bar in the middle of the night, because I was so thirsty. Weird but true.
Today we woke up in bright spirits. We went and had a yummy breakfast across the street at the all natural place. I even had banana juice with my salt fish and something else I can't describe. We came back and laid on the cliffs all morning, snorkeling a little, reading a lot. I called Patty and Paul to ask them to try to get the referral from my scuba instructor and make him e-mail it to me. If I get it then I can finish my scuba tomorrow and the next day. If I don't then Bryan and I are going to take a river trip and see some falls. Either way it should be fun. We also took a nice long nap in the afternoon, went to dinner at the hotel here and now we are about ready to head to bed I think.
Check back later.
Day four of our little adventure started out by rubbing me the wrong way. As I suspected my diving instructor from Moscow did not send via any electronic transfer device my scuba referral. The seas were too rough anyway and we would have been dashed to pieces on the rock. ( A little drama for the prose.) Also the river trip we wanted to take left this morning at 7 am, and the back up trip required horseback riding which Bryan is very opposed to. It is not a strange thing to be opposed to, many people dislike horseback riding in sweaty third world countries. So we went to have breakfast, mine mostly consisting of egg-shell by some inopportune twist of the serving spoon. Bryan's was entirely egg shell free. I was pretty crabby by now and went to read on the patio and get some sun, but first I had a little pity party about how I didn't get to do anything I wanted to do in Negril. Apparently, lying in the sun drinking daiquiris and reading good books with your husband just isn't enough for some women. I got over it and we pulled together the energy to the beach and look for some tasty food. Also I wanted to be able to get in the water, and I was serious about the being dashed to be pieces on the rocks thing here at the cliff side.
We grabbed a cab outside the gate and took it to Legends. I really wanted to eat some pizza from Mr. Slice, but when we asked the cab driver to take us there instead he drove us down a kind of creepy little alley and then proclaimed that they must have moved. Back at Legends a little jerk shack was just setting up so we went to the beach and decided to check back a little later for some jerk. Lucky for us there were plenty of them already at the beach. (Budumbump!)
All over the place there were folks who really should have thought twice before leaving the house in those bathing suits. Why do European men think they look good in speedoes. Someone needs to say something to them. Also there were a lot of really helpful people at the beach offering to sell all sorts of things. Like, do you want to rent a bike, if not then would you like some pot, or, would you like to buy some fruit?, no, then how about some pot. There was even a guy that when Bryan turned down his offer to sell him some pot, he offered him a trip to a ganja plantation. I'd say that is probably the biggest drawback to this place.
I frolicked in the surf for a while and it was warm and fun. Then we went and got some of the finished chicken from the guy at the road. It was extremely good. I thought it needed more jerk sauce but Bryan was smart enough to soak it up from the bottom of the package. Really good stuff. We wandered around town for a while pondering if we had ever in our lives sweat as much as we did there, then caught the bus back to Sam Sara. The nice vinyl covered seats that made horrible flesh rending fart noises every time I moved.
We got back and showered the sand off. Next we had a couple of banana daiquiris and went off to dinner at the Rockhouse. It was a really pretty place and I picked up some information about it to pass on to Ginger when we get home. We both had the snapper, some more conch fritters and topped it off with a piece of chocolate cake with heavenly, home-made I think, ice cream. We got ripped off on a cab ride both ways.
When we got back our hotel was having live music and a flame blower, some guy referred to as the Jamaican dragon, but we were both too tired to hang out at the bar and just came back to our room to settle in for a long nights rest.
Time to get the hell out of Negril and see what Montego Bay has to offer. We packed up and went for breakfast. Mmmmm, fresh pineapple. Checking out of a hotel is always a little weird I think. Especially when you're not just jumping in a car and heading away. We piddled here and there after breakfast and finally decided to go down to the desk with all out stuff. (Note to self: figure out how to leave all the crap that never gets unpacked at home next time.)
Peter was supposed to pick us up for the ride back to MB, but apparently he found something better to do. The desk girl sent someone out to find out where he was and a big old guy claiming to be Peter's father showed up. He grumped around for a while and eventually they called back a van that had just left to take a couple back to the airport. I didn't catch our driver's name, but he was a hell of a lot better than Peter.
The trip back up the coast was throughly uneventful, but a little cramped.One thing they've got in spades down here is nice scenery. The ocean is a gorgeous blue and the mountains are covered with pretty jungle.
We made it down to Montego Bay and the driver found the Glouster just fine.Check in and up to the room. The room wasn't anything too exciting, except for the fact that it hung right over the very noisy street and the mattress was probably 30 years old. Well we're old hands at this by now, so on the way out to find some lunch and stretch our legs we asked at the desk for a room away from the street.
We walked around for a while just to see what was here. I loved the fact that they actually built sidewalks in MB. They are a very good thing. I think I only got offered weed 4 or 5 times in the half mile or so that we walked. That may have something to do with the amount of cruise ship traffic in the area, or maybe everyone had just sold their allotment for the day.
We had a late lunch at The Brewhouse, mostly because it looked like they had"normal" food on the menu. They also had a pretty wild looking pirate as their logo/mascot. He looks something like a Rasta Captain Morgan. The food was good, but not fast. Island time.
Back to the hotel and they had a couple of rooms we could choose from. The first was a little nasty because it was on the ground floor and sheltered from any breeze. It's very important in the tropics to have access to moving air or the humidity will make everything stink like an unventilated bathroom. The second rooms was great though: second floor and back by the pool. We went back and packed our things, traded keys at the desk and move din.
We decided to trade in our complimentary drink coupon and hang out by the pool for a while. Shelley and I found out that what we call a Mai Tai is arum punch here. Tasty and strong. The sky had clouded up and the pool looked cold, but it was a good place to read a book.
When we got back to our second room it was pretty obvious that the air conditioner wasn't working properly. It was surely moving air, but it wasn't very cold. We called the desk and Kodia came up to check it out for us.Apparently he figured we just didn't understand how to work the damn thing.He piddled with it and kept telling us it was working ok. Shelly finally convinced him to check the compressor outside and he noticed that it really wasn't working. He piddle some more and said to call the desk again if it didn't kick on in 15 or 20 minutes. It didn't.
We packed up for the third time that day and moved to a room that was mostly like the first one we were in. It's slightly further from the street, but not enough to notice at all. Oh well that's how things are here in the bush.:)
Dinner and reading and a little tv. Time for bed.
Today's itinerary says to head to the beach. Lots of sunscreen goes on before the swimsuits. We head down to check out the breakfast that comes with the room. Not much to exciting, but decent food and more fresh pineapple.
During breakfast we notice that its raining. Hard. Shitty beach weather, but it should clear up later. Until then we can read and lay around (which is mostly what I like to do a the beach anyway).
The rain breaks eventually. It's still gray and drizzly but Shelley needs some stamps so we go out for a while. The stamps cost more than the postcards they go on, but I guess that's not too crazy.
The hustlers are all over us on the street. Apparently everyone's still holdup in the rooms watching the rain and we're the only people they can find to hassle. I get this greasy feeling every time someone says hello. It's always a prelude to an attempted drug deal or something similar. I'm not good with cities and strangers to start with and most of the locals on the street here really rub me the wrong way. The only part of Fiji I remember being like this was the Trader Jack's tourist junk store. Even in the shell markets nobody was really trying to hustle; they just put their stuff out and you could buy it if you wanted.
Back to the room to read and wait for sun. It will come, eventually.
We woke this morning, luckily in time to catch our bus to Dunn's River falls. I say luckily because the wake-up call I had requested didn't come. We woke up only about 10 minutes later than we had planned so we still had time to shower, dress, pack the back pack for the day, and grab a quick bite of breakfast before 8:30. We were in the lobby promptly at 8:30 in time to receive the call from the tour director telling us that they didn't have anyone else to take the trip with us today so they weren't going to take the trip, but out of the goodness of their heart they had booked us on someone else's tour and they were going to be there at 8:30. That was funny news since it was already 8:40, but they made it eventually and we were on our way. I sat next to Boris and Natasha and Bryan was stuck on the jump seat ahead of me.
Our tour guide was very sweet but she wanted me to be a joiner and say my name, where I was from, and one thing I liked about Jamaica. I don't like those sorts of things and at that point I couldn't think of anything I liked about Jamaica so I passed. The road was terrifying. People here drive like their asses are on fire and they are trying to get away. They have absolutely no patience either. They just pass and pass and pass with very little regard for whatever might be coming at them in the opposing lane. Very scary, but we survived.
The first stop was some little roadside gyp joint where they were trying to rent us shoes to wear in the river because of the high lime content in the river which they seem to believe is fatal to all shoes except the weird little alien booties they were renting for $5 or the aqua socks that they sold for $15. We politely explained to them that our Tevas were made for running rivers. They looked at us incredulously and we politely declined their shoes and we were all eventually on our way, after gathering up the two groups of silly high kids from some local resort. There appear to be groups of them everywhere we go.
The next stop was the first really horrible high jacking of the day. We went to some "craft-market" where covens of angry women yelled at us to come into there "shops" read plywood cubbyholes crammed back to back in a row. Each of them sold exactly the same crap straight from China, but each of them either claimed that they made the wares themselves or that their children carved the crap with their own two little hands. I bought two little rag dolls from a little old lady. We were supposed to be there for 30 minutes but after the first five I yelled at some lady who told me to get off her back. Bryan ushered me away to get a diet coke and a Ting and we sat for the rest of the trip. While sitting we got to know Boris and Natasha (not their real names, which I never caught) who are now from New York but were originally from St. Petersburg Russia. Natasha worked for Martha Stewart one block from ground zero on 9/11 so it was interesting to talk to her about that.
The group of high kids spent all of their money and were eventually gathered up to move on to the next place. They announced to us that next we were going to do some duty free shopping, but I started an insurrection and the duty free shopping was nixed. We went directly to lunch, not the falls. Lunch was at a place called Bi Bi Bip's and it was crappy. Bryan and I each paid eight dollars for a plain hamburger, and grilled chicken burger, respectively all while listening to a really load, and really bad live reggae band. On the upside out front they had really cute turtles in a pond that we stopped to visit with. Well, I visited with them and Bryan laughed at me.
We got back in the van...again...and were on our way we thought to the falls, but we ended up in front of the DUTY FREE SHOPPING center. The insurrection erupted again and we got away without having to do any more shopping. It was about a 15 minute ride on to the falls. They were like Disneyland, lots of little windy paths with pass through gates but the lines actually weren't too long. The falls were a lot of fun. We climbed down to the bottom and started at the ocean. It was about a 950 foot climb to the top. There were some kind of precarious places but for the most part it was an easy climb.
On our way back were both exhausted. It was about an hour and a half drive and I drifted off and hit my head on the window twice. I think Bryan would have slept some too, but it probably took all his concentration to stay balanced on the little jump seat. When we got back to the room I went right to take a nap, and after Bryan had his shower he joined me. We slept for a solid hour. It was very very nice.
When we woke up we were both starving so I decided to find us a good restaurant close by, and I succeeded. Dinner was at Marguerites by the Sea. It was a very swanky joint. We had to eat in the dark again, but they did offer us little flashlights to read our menus by. I had sesame seared tuna, and Bryan had the Kingfish. We started the meal with two of the best green salads we have ever had. Very fresh and with a little mango and toasted coconut to top it. Then for dessert we had proliferoles; three cream puffs stuffed with ice-cream and covered with "decadent hot fudge".
So now we are back, and stuffed and about ready to drift off to sleep. Also, it rained all day again today. Tomorrow is our last day here, and we are hoping that the sun finally shows tomorrow.