Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Hey Mon, No Problem! That seemed to be the phrase heard most often on the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean Sea.  Relaxation appeared to be the key there, as no one was in a hurry.

Landing in Montego Bay, the largest and busiest airport on the island, the country travelers learned that it was necessary to have an actual destination, in other words a reserved place to stay, before being cleared through customs. Sleeping on the beach was not acceptable!  Seemed rather convenient, that someone working at the airport, just happened to have a cousin with a Guest House available.  While we waited to be wisked away to our island retreat, the welcome center greeted passengers with rum, one of the island’s tasty drinks.  Perhaps that was the reason they are so relaxed!  No Problem!

Traveling to the Guest House, a young Jamaican boy raced alongside the car trying to sell sticks of sugar cane. Another one shouted, “Ganja, No Problems,” as they attempted to sell marijuana, which is said to be used by sixty to seventy percent of their rural population. This Jamaican grass can either be smoked, or boiled to produce ganja tea. These young people seem to have no problem keeping up with traffic as they run beside the cars. Maybe this early training is a reason for the fastest man in the world being from Jamaica.  Usain Bolt, from nearby Trelawny, can run about 28 mph!

Staying with the people of the island gives one a different perspective of life on Jamaica vs staying at a resort there. The house had no traditional doors or windows, just screens, and no air conditioning, just fans since here it is summer year round.  For a snack, you could go into the yard and pick fresh fruit from the trees, while breakfast was a delectable combination of fresh fish and fruit.

After renting a car the next day to travel this island, which is approximately 145 miles long and 50 miles wide, headed to a beautiful beach in Ocho Rios, where they believe Christopher Columbus  first set foot on land in the New World.  Close by was the famous Dunn’s River Falls, a 600 foot cliff to the sea, which is the most popular tourist attraction in Ocho Rios. Here you could carefully climb up this cascading challenge one steppingstone at a time.  Since it was quite slippery from the pulsating flow, most people took a fall or two but that was expected, and the reason for wearing a swim suit.

Another great adventure was a ride down nearby Martha Brae River guided by a local storyteller, Tony, from Martha Brae Rafter’s Village. Passengers drifted on a thirty foot bamboo raft down the same route taken by Martha Brae, an Indian maiden legend, who supposedly knew the secret location of a gold mine on the island. When asked to share that secret with the Spanish, she took them down this river and disappeared while going through a cave. Then using her magic, she created a change in the weather, which upset their raft causing the Spanish explorers to drown.

Also interesting were Tony’s tales of the trees and plants that grew along the river.  All seemed to have a medicinal purpose from curing poison ivy to a cold. While he was talking, the guide used a long thin knife and carved a dried calabash shell with designs of fish and flowers… and even put my name on it. Of course, carving names in objects was one of their methods of better insuring that passengers would purchase the item. Upon disembarking, guests could stroll through Miss Martha’s Herb Garden and Gift Shop and purchase many of the herbs mentioned on the rafting experience.

One early morning rode a minibus to the other side of the island to Kingston, the capital and largest city of this independent Commonwealth where Queen Elizabeth II is still called Queen by tradition. The ride was a real cultural experience as the bus, designed to hold about thirty, crowded in nearly fifty. Since there was no air conditioning on the ride, tourists, especially, experienced more than a little local flavor.  People were actually hanging out the windows as the driver drove faster than necessary through the Blue Mountains. These mountains were called Gold Mountains by the locals as here they grew supplies of marijuana, which was their biggest crop.

Shopping in Ocho Rios was a treat as there were little craft shops along the streets with polite sellers, who were very persistent and always willing to bargain. These rough looking establishments held some nice quality handmade clothing and jewelry. Actually purchased a dress from the shop pictured here that was worn for several years.

Anytime you want a relaxing getaway, Jamaica might be the place to explore. Want to enjoy the good vibrations of reggae music? No Problem!

Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean Sea located south of the tip of Florida and approximately 90 miles south of Cuba.  You can reach the island by plane or cruise ship. Most planes fly into Montego Bay, while cruise ships dock at either Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and just recently a port was opened at Trelawny.


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