Several years ago we stopped in Montego Bay, Jamaica and spent the day there as part of a cruise we took with the kids when Adam graduated college and Haylee graduated high school. This trip was just the two of us and we stayed at an all-inclusive resort on the western side of the island nation in Negril.
The resort we stayed at was part of the Sandals chain along what is called the "famous seven-mile beach." I had not heard of the "famous" beach before, but that certainly doesn't make it any less famous.
Several folks had told (warned?) us about leaving the resort premises. So the first night we're there what does my wife want to do but walk the beach.
During the afternoon of that first day we went to the beach, of course. And for the most part the peddlers weren't that big of a problem. They stayed along the water's edge but would walk by or call out whatever particular product or service they were offering.
Glass bottom boat rides are popular attractions although we didn't take one. Parasailing and jet skis are also big, no surprise.
Vendors offered us everything from colorful bracelets, fruit, lobster (don't know how they thought we were going to cook it, though), ganja - what Jamaicans call marijuana but according to the Urban Dictionary is actually a Sanskrit word for hemp - and mushrooms, not the sautéed kind either.
We sorta knew to expect this from our last visit and for the most part these folks weren't intrusive, just a little annoying.
Anyway, I digress. As I said my wife wants to walk the beach after dinner. We start to head out across the sand and the resort's security guard comes over. He wants our name and room number. My wife wanted to know why he needed that information.
"It makes it easier to identify the bodies," I told her.
We walked for a while and never had any problems. There were a few other folks out as well and even though we did get asked whether or not we needed anything there weren't any problems.
We also walked the beach a couple of days in the mornings. Again with no problems but we did pass one resort where the visitors apparently get up really early, because one woman was in such a hurry she forgot the top part of her bathing suit.
We also walked alongside the roadway outside the resort a couple of times. Again, the security guard asked our name and room number. After the first time walking along the road I could see why. I think it was more dangerous to walk on the shoulder of the road than the beach. These people drive like crazy and fast.
One day for lunch we went to Rick's Cafe, known for its "World Famous Sunsets" and cliff jumping into the sea. The cafe/bar is built right on the cliffs overlooking the Caribbean Sea and it's mostly an outdoor facility but the restaurant and bar are covered. It really is pretty.
We had lunch which consisted of a couple sandwiches and fries (yes, Lee really ate some fries) and a couple of refreshments. The sandwiches were listed at $7 and $8 so it wasn't necessarily overpriced. So when the bill came I was a little surprised to see it was almost $40. Then I noticed an 18% consumption tax tacked on.
We walked around the place before we sat down to eat checking out the cliffs and some of the spots where folks were jumping into the water. We didn't see any diving while we were there, but there was a lot of jumping.
At the edge of the cliffs, the highest point on the ground is a tree that goes another 40-50 feet into the air. Near the top of the tree is a platform local jumpers have built for themselves.
We saw one guy climb the tree while we were there. Once he got to the platform he then climbed up another six feet or so and starting doing chin-ups, putting on quite a show. All this time he has a cohort on the ground soliciting tips from tourists. Once he got the signal from the ground that the money was right he jumped.
I don't know how high it was, but a fellow sitting near us made the comment that he had been in the 82nd Airborne and jumped out of several perfectly good planes. "There's no way I would jump," he said.
On the trip back to the resort we had the driver stop in at the local craft market (world famous?). Put aside the question of whether or not you're overpaying for stuff you probably don't need and really don't want, it's interesting to visit with the local folk.
I would have to say everyone was very friendly and courteous, even the folks trying to sell us stuff on the beach. Negril is located about an hour and a half cab ride from the airport in Montego Bay. That's the only downside. Although along the way the drivers pointed out sites such as the location of where "Cool Runnings," a movie based on the true story of the Jamaican bobsled team was filmed as well as some scenes from the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die."
I saw the top of former heavyweight boxing champ Lennox Lewis' house and passed a golf course where the Johnnie Walker Classic was played for about four years in the 1990s.
Air travel is still a bear and apparently not going to get any better. Our trip going to Jamaica wasn't too bad, but a four-hour layover in Charlotte, N.C., made for a long trip home.
No word on where my tour director is taking me next, but she's working on it and I'll let you know.
Bud Hunt is publisher of the
Daily Dunklin Democrat, Daily Statesman, Delta News-Citizen, Missourian-News and
North Stoddard Countian.