Cuban Excursion parte siete- Ocho Rios- Jamaica
Cuban Excursion- parte siete- Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Thurs. Dec. 6th, 2018
We were up by 7 A.M as the Sirena drifted into her berth at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We were berthed in the Turtle Bay complex. It had gone commercial big time since our last visit. An attractive beach club, swimming area and a small Marina now catered to the well-heeled. The Holland America’s “SS Veendam” drifted in to her berth just after we did. She moored across from us at the pier of the old bauxite processing facility. It had been featured in the James bond movie “DR. No.” We had been here on two previous occasions. The first time we had walked up the 200 ft. incline that is Duns River Falls, a major tourist attraction in the area. The locals film or photograph you in your walk up the Falls and then try to sell you a copy of the video for $50. During our last visit, we had not gotten off the ship. The mendicants and vendors had been too aggressive to deal with.
The name “Ocho Rios” in Spanish means “Eight Rivers.” In that there are only three in the area, the name is probably a truncation for the Spanish phrase “Las Choreras.” It means “waterfalls” in English. There are 2.2 million people in Jamaica. Kingston is 58 miles away and Montego Bay 67 miles. Both are major tourist ports. The island had been developed by the English. It is most famous for its Blue Mountain Coffee.
We walked our two miles. on the deck ten oval. and settled in to breakfast on the fan tail of the deck ten café. A light mist was falling, covering the very green hills around us with a shrouded mist. We cleaned up some and readied to go ashore. Ships personnel had advised to be warned against pick pockets, hustlers and other rascals. The Customs area is non-existent. We asked about a private tour, hoping for a taxi that would ferry us around the area for an hour or two. What we found at the “Juta” tours desk was a small ten-passenger van that was crammed to the rafters with other tourists. For $30 each we boarded this vehicle. Anne Marie, our guide and Percival her driver gave us a whirlwind tour of the area.
The immediate area around the Turtle Bay is a neon conglomeration of eateries and tourist shops. KFC, Burger King, jewelry stores and restaurants all beckoned hungrily. It was very busy. Gasoline is eight dollars (U.S.) per gallon, but the car traffic is substantial. The locals must be doing okay financially. Our guide said the average wage here is $65 a week. (U.S.) Anne Marie had us all repeating and singing a Jamaican lilt. The three main Jamaican phrases, she said, are “Airee” (everything is alright”) “Ya Mon” (yes sir) and “No problem, mon” everything is airee !
Percival drove us up a lush and tree-lined inclined road,” Fern Gully.” It had once been an old river bed like Dunns River Falls. A 16thcentury earthquake had dammed up the river atop the mountain and left the dry river bed. When it rains hard, the road is awash, like it had been when the river flowed along its length. There were vendors, a man dressed in green leaves and on stilts (Jack the Bean Stalk) and all manner of attractions for the tourist along the route. We watched in amusement at the collective oddities. One carved, four-foot, man-like figure featured a two-foot erect phallus. Hey mon, that is some imaginatio !” Pimento trees and nutmeg bushes abounded in the lanes. You could smell the various spices redolent in the damp air. The locals call the area spice alley. It rained lightly. The air was damp and pungent with forest growth and spices. The winding road that we followed was impossibly narrow and mud filled. Percival drove it with aplomb and commented along the way on the various homes and practices found here.
The Jamaicans are into the whole “Rasta Man” concept. Possession, of up to two ounces of Marijuana, is legal here. It is used in certain of the “Rasta” rituals as well as for recreational purposes. “Hey Mon,” no worries. From high atop Breadnought Hill, we could see the Bay far below. Jamaica gets 72 inches of rain annually. The island is lush and green.
Anne Marie explained that the three rivers in the area are all used for specific purpose. The White River is used for tubing. The Dunns River is for tourist walking up the Falls. The stronger Roaring River is harnessed for hydro- electric power. The tour was brief. We ended up near the afore mentioned neon shopping plaza. Anne Marie ushered us into a very clean “Gem Palace.” All manner of expensive jewelry was on display. They had the requisite tee shirts and tourist souvenirs of Jamaica. We sampled and purchased some delicious rum cream. It is a flavor additive for coffee. Blue Mountain coffee was available for sale at $25 dollars a pound. One woman on our tour said she could get it at home for the same price or less. On our way out, a few of the locals sidled up to us. One young lad whispered “Hey Man, you want to feel young again? I can help!” Another entrepreneur wanted to give us a link of beaded cord. If you took the item he would then ask you for $10 U.S. because you had bought the item from him. We waded through the rascals to our bus and made our way back to the pier. Regrettably, Jamaica hadn’t changed all that much since we had last been here.
By 1 P.M, we had returned to the Sirena. I wrote up my notes and then we ha d a light lunch of fruit and fish at the deck nine café. It was raining, with a light mist across the area. We read for a time and then joined “Ozzie Nelson” for his customary afternoon nap. Life is good. At five P.M. we joined Donna Jablonski, with her pal Del and a couple from Las Vegas, for a glass of wine on deck eleven, as the Sirena dropped her lines and left Ochos Rios, bound for the windward passage between Cuba and The Dominican Republic. It is a pleasant ritual that we never tire of.
Afterwards, we cleaned up some. We were dining in the Specialty Restaurant “Red Ginger”, on deck ten, this evening. Its bright red and lush décor, set off by the black lacquer tables and snowy white napery was reminiscent of an elegant Chinese bordello. We were seated with two charming couples from Los Angeles and Vermont. Like all such encounters when travelling, all parties hoped that they were not being seated with “masters of the Universe,” who would bore you to death with a tale of their accomplishments and merits. I usually start off the conversation with some self-deprecatory comment that lets them know I am not one of the aforementioned talk monsters who will make you run screaming down the deck, shouting “stop, stop, shut the hell up.” Thus reprieved from that kind of pressure, people usually relax and you get to enjoy the very best side of them. We had a nice conversation about everyone’s various families and pursuits. Several of my family live in Southern California, and we had visited the area often, so we traded anecdotes about So. Cal. Lightly fried, fresh Calamari, an avocado lobster salad, wonderful Bay scallops and a rum cake confection, that was mouthwatering, were accompanied by a decent Chardonnay. It was a wonderful meal. We were served by a cadre of Russian and Ukrainian hostesses. I was able to trade comments with them in Russian. I like to trade comments with the crew in their native tongue if I can, because I think hearing their own language, when they are so very far from home, causes them to smile in memory of who they are when traveling so far away in an English bubble. Afterwards, we returned to our cabin to read for an hour and drift off to sleep, after a very busy day. The tour was wearing long on us and we were feeling the tug of home. The next two days at sea would be pleasant before a brief stop at Great Stirrup Key in the Bahamas and then onward towards Miami and home.
Joseph Xavier Martin