Posted by: catamarantwooceans | April 10, 2016

Touring Jamaica

7.4.16 – Thursday – We woke up to a beautiful morning in the west bay of Port Antonio. In the light of day we could clearly see the marina’s dock and motored over. Errol Flynn marina; I wonder how many of my readers know who the man was. People my age remember that Hollywood actor, star of action movies around the middle of the last century. He played Robin Hood, Captain Blood and many other swashbuckling characters. He was an enthusiastic sailor and led a wild, alcohol abused life. Apparently he lived on the island for a while, bought a large plot on which his grandson has a farm and became a local celebrity.

A security man brought us a lot of forms to fill and once we did the various authorities came over: quarantine – who made sure that nobody died or had the plague during the voyage , customs and immigrations. On to town we went, first on the agenda the purchase of a local SIM with data and then fresh fruit and veg. The town, as described in the Frank Virgintino guide, is “rough around the edges” I guess he refers to some people who accost you trying to make a buck, destitute characters milling the streets – a scene of the third world. I had a bad experience with a guy calling himself Noel, who sold me discs of Jamaican music; not yet familiar with the local currency, I gave him 4000 (about 35$) instead of 400. As the man started walking away I realized my mistake and demanded that he give it back. He refused and practically ran away. The local market is very nice and colorful, unmistaken smells waft through the air in places, ganja being a part of the local Rasta culture.

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Gili in the market

Jamaica is a land of great natural beauty; we arranged a tour to Reach Falls, one of the favorites sites we heard about.

8.4.16 – Friday – we were to go out at 1000. Not forgetting the starboard engine problem I had the marina send a mechanic to and see whether something positive could be achieved. A guy named Fitzroy came by, I gave him all the information and we agreed that he would take the starter to be checked and repaired if faulty. I left the boat open for him.

Another item we had to cross off the list was arranging out departure towards Montego Bay with customs and immigration. Custom gives you a document called Transire, which is like a cruising permit, allowing us to sail to Montego Bay. I asked them to put in points on the way, but they said it was O.K, no special mention needed. Contrary to what the guide says, immigrations also want to take an active part and they issue a document called “Shipping Report”. Once you have those, you need to leave not later than 24 hours. Since we wanted to depart Sunday morning, the correct procedure would have been to call the authorities on the Sabbath, pay 60$ overtime and stay in the marina all day because one doesn’t know when they would come; we of course, had our tour planned for that day. Paul, the marina manager, who mans the office during the weekends, said that if we left Sunday morning at 0600 “It would be alright” so that’s what we did. Left the required forms at the office to get them stamped at the end of the day.

Harry, that’s Harold Anderson, waited in his new, air-conditioned van. He took us to the falls, which were a bit of a surprise. Not briefed about the place in advance and having visited quite a few impressive falls elsewhere Reach seemed very poor, small and not having big water-flow.

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Reach Falls – Homer awaits

Touring the falls is done with a guide. Gili decided to give it up out of sheer disappointment. Yaron and I joined the guide and followed him towards the right side of the fall. Homer, the guide explained that we should dive into a narrow, short tunnel that would be the start of the tour. Yaron, who has a knee problem and is a man with considerable girth dropped at that point and I was left alone to follow Homer. Not being prepared made the progress even more exciting; I was sorry I did not think of bringing the GoPro. Going on there was another pool to swim, another tunnel to pass and the best was last – a cave you entered and exited diving.

As we stood there, Homer pointed at a figure approaching from the bank. Gili, who was alarmed by the length of time my outing took, had another guide describe the way to go and find us. When she understood what she missed, she asked Homer to take her through the cave and continued all the way down enjoying every bit of it. Once you get back to the rocks above the pool below the fall you are challenged to either an eight meters or 3 meters jump into it. The first one required a good leap forward that I did not want to take a chance with;  three meters were good enough for me and going back mentally many many years, I muttered an old war cry we had as children, literally translated:”On the Life and on the Death” and leapt, hitting the cool water in a dignified, controlled way.

Going back towards Port Antonio, we stopped for lunch in what they call here a “Jerk Center”, “Jerk” being a way of cooking meats, fish and poultry.

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The food we got was delivered on (baking?) paper and was not a culinary achievement; the price was outrageous – tourist pricing at its worst.

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Jerk chef and Gili

The area is full of attractions to tourists; the man below was selling cane juice spiced with ginger and lime. Doesn’t he resemble a famous movie actor, gap between front teeth and all?

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On the way we passed a lot of wall paintings of the local culture heroes and the top man is, of course, Bob Marley.

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To end the tour, our driver took us to the local version of the “Blue Lagoon” which is a tourist trap if I ever saw one but still a nice spot. We made up our minds to go for another tour tomorrow: the Blue Mountains and Kingston town. That tour was priced not inexpensively so we decided to try and find two more people to join it; I thought that the German couple on s/v La Paloma, who arrived twelve hours after we did were good candidates. I dinghied to their boat, which was on a mooring and presented our suggestion. Ferdinand and Elke gladly agreed.

Back on the boat we saw that Fitzroy did nothing of what we agreed about. I called him up to tell him his service was no longer required.

9.4.16 – Saturday – We closed our account at the marina’s office and boarded the van together with Elke and Ferdinand. On the way to the mountains we got to know them a little better; Ferdinand used to work in construction and most of his working life was spent in the Middle East and Africa. They have a web-site in which promises to be interesting, telling about their life in all those places. Ferdinand turned out to be very knowledgeable concerning marine subjects and gave me a lot of valuable information.

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We climbed the mountain roads, through tropical vegetation up to an altitude of 4000 feet and stopped at a farm cum coffee house belonging to a Rastafarian family. A man named David took us to see some of the plants they had there, including coffee trees, cinnamon and spices.

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  David – note the Rastafarian items on the wall

They had all kinds of flora there including an easily recognizable plant used for medication as well as recreation.

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Harry says that in Jamaica possessing 3 oz. of the stuff is legal or at least tolerated. We sampled some of their products and found them interesting.

We then continued to Kingston, with the intention of seeing the Bob Marley museum; entry price a whooping 25$. Four of us said they were not so enthusiastic about the subject and gave it up. I wanted to go but then found out that one had to join a one hour and twenty minutes guided tour and that it was not allowed to see it unattended;; I gave it up too.

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                             In the Bob Marley museum

Harry took us to a marine equipment store hiding in a remote residential neighborhood. No name on the store, one needs local knowledge to find it, which Harry has. Ferdinand found it to be very well stocked.

We started driving back to Port Antonio, stopping on the way for lunch at a Jerk Center which was run by two ladies; the owner, named Patra, a good looking woman, let us enter the kitchen and showed us the food that she cooked.

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She said she was a singer and suggested that we Google “Patra Jamaica” and find out all about her. We did and it was quite interesting.

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The food was good and the price right but we think we would take a break from Jerk Food for a while.

Back at the marina at the end of a satisfactory day, we said goodbye to Harry. He is a good man and can, in addition to his capacity as a driver and tour organizer, help with everything you might need including technical matters. His telephone number is 1 876 462-0996.

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