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Montego Bay, 5th July, 2012 (Thursday)

August 12, 2012

Doctor Cave Beach, Montego Bay

Continued from Part-I

The bus dropped right at the gate of Doctor’s Cave Beach Hotel. For $90 per night, I got a spacious room with breakfast. The hotel was just across from Doctor’s Cave Beach which was said to have been donated in 1906 by Dr. Alexander McCatty, an advocate of the therapeutic benefits of sea bathing.

After a short rest, I came out of the hotel and step right into “Hip Strip” running along the water front with duty-free shops, art galleries and stores selling rum, liquors, perfumes, glassware, cashmere, local arts and crafts. There was a string of bars and nightclubs with interesting names like Rush Hour, Moves and Rehab.

Montego Bay, affectionately called Mo-Bay, is the second largest city of Jamaica. A short stroll on its Gloucester Boulevard would reveal white-sand beaches, golf courses, 5-star hotels, private villas and plenty of resort.  About one million visitors make it their annual vacation choice as the place is known for sunny-skies, rollicking music and easygoing environments with the backdrop of palm-tree dotted hills. Not far from my hotel is Aquasol Water Theme Park with a nice beach considered safe for snorkeling, jet-skiing, banana boat-rides, kayaks, pedal boats, and glass-bottom boats.

Also, there are museums notably Stone-Cage built in 1806 to hold captured runaway slaves and sailors.

I continued walking till I entered downtown, a sharp contrast to the wealthy part I had just left behind. It was a densely packed shantytown with a dirty bus-terminal and over-crowded markets. It was difficult to move as it was jam-packed with vendors, stalls, hagglers and hustlers. While moving around, I came across St. James Parish Church, located in a large graveyard featuring tombstones from over 200 years. It had a nice stained glass windows and plaques adorning its walls.

Near the church is an old building previously known as Slave Ring and now used for cock-fights. It is quite thrilling to watch two specially bred roosters fight to death. It is illegible but goes on. “This is both a rich and a poor man thing, so it is getting bigger and better because bets can range from US $5 all up to $5,000” told me owner of a stout bird. He narrated the process. First, the roosters are given a trial-run. The owners get them provoked to do a mock attack by tossing the birds at each other then pulling them back over and over again.  This is to give the spectators an idea on which cock to bet on.

Ackee and salt-fish

By now, I was feeling hungry and entered a modest cafeteria.  There I had a taste of ackee and salt-fish, two traditional national dishes. Ackee is actually a fruit which becomes like scrambled eggs when cooked. Salt-fish is dried codfish.  When ackee and saltfish are cooked together, it makes an incredible and hearty meal to be served with fried bread made from cassava flour.

In the evening, I went to Doctor’s Cave Beach. Surprisingly, no one asked me for 6 US$ entry fee. I pinched a chair and spread myself like a bona-fide client. The sun was setting in. The water was changing its color from moment to moment. There was a complete silence except for gentle lapping of waves.  As the sky darkens, the lights of far off hotels glimmer and twinkle, the stars begin to light up. I was lost and slept for quite a while on the reclining chair.

May Field Falls near Montego Bay

There were quite a few shops run by the Indians.  The owners generally sitting at the door would look at me with smiling faces and when I returned the smile there were always friendly greetings like “hello-India or Pakistan?”  Sometimes, it is hard to distinguish between the two due to mass-migration of people from both sides at the time of independence in 1947.  One, Badrinath, became more friendly and introduced his cousin Chakradeo to me.  We had tea together and chatted for a while.  It appeared Chakradeo had arrived a week before and was cramming for going around.  We joined hands and went for Mayfield Falls, about 20  km.  The falls were hidden in the mountains. We parked the car at the top of a hill and walked down a steep path rubbing shoulders with bamboo trees, thorny bushes and thatched huts, also crossing many “Indiana Jones Bridges” to reach the falls. It was amazing experience as there were numerous pools for “Jacuzzi” type massages, swimming and diving. Once we were in, we felt like being tossed into a washing machine which ‘rinsed and washed us’ thoroughly.

I wish I could stay more but my time was limited. While moving in the city, I had spotted a modern bus and traced its terminal.  It was Knutsford Express having its station at Harbor side.  Next day, I boarded this bus and headed towards Negril, about 81 km away. It was a very comfortable journey with reclining seats and I reached there in about two hours.

Negril, 8th July, 2012 (Sunday)

There was one taxi near the bus-station, which demanded J$1,000 for taking me to the city.  Through hard negotiation, I brought it down to J$400 on the condition that the taxi driver would find for me a place for around US$ 50 per night.  He agreed and started asking around till he reached a newly constructed guest house, Willogate Resort. The owner was an elderly lady was happy to fetch some new business.  Before me, there was only one guest.

After a brief rest, I came out on the road.  Route taxis were coming and going in plenty.  These can easily be identified by their red license plates. For one dollar, these would go to specific places but may take a side trip to drop or pick someone up or down a lane. I got into one for going to The Rick’s Café known for cliff diving.

There was no entry fee.  A large number of tourists were inside around a pool of blue water.  They were looking towards cliff where a girl was taking a position or saying a prayer before jumping. On her way down, she stretched her arms to

Cliff Jumping at Rick’s Cafe

balance her body while onlookers held their breath to see what was in store for her after a 40-foot jump. The diver splashed clean through the water and swam towards the edge.  Meanwhile, another person, sometimes a old man or woman, took the post and repeated the performance.

There were some professional divers who went a step forward.  They had taken cliff diving to new highs. They climbed in a tall tree and lower themselves onto a billboard and jump from a height of 80 feet.

Sometimes, a novice would try to toe their path but with regrets.  I was told that last week, a young lady got injured. According to her, she felt her body crushed as if she had hit a thick sheet of ice.

I stayed for long and observed the jumps.  In-experienced divers landed hard on their asses bruising butt cheeks and thighs. Moreover, landing in a sitting position causes severe pain. It is quite hard to keep the body straight. Some land on their back and the result is obvious.

A few minutes before sunset, I went upstairs to the restaurant.  I decided to hang the expenses and ordered an expensive dish of lobster.  Meanwhile, there was a fabulous sunset and place became cool when sky blackened and stars appeared. It was pleasant to see far-off sea vessels with the dim lights.

In about 20 minutes, the waiter brought a heap of tender lobster and pasta along with home-made hot garlic bread. In the background, an in-house band was jamming true Reggae.  This made the food more delicious and I had a hearty meal oblivious of high cost which was US$ 22 plus $ 3 tip and another dollar for taxi ride back home. If I continued in this way, I would bust my budget.

As I was tired from day-long activities, I had a good night sleep.  Morning was pleasant with cloudy skies and sensuous fresh breeze from sea just across the road. I went next door to Blue Cave Castle Hotel, built above an old pirates cave overlooking the crystal clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Stairways have been chiseled from the cliff for an easy access to the sea. I had traditional breakfast of beef sausage, egg and cheese with coco-bread plus plenty of coffee for just US$ 7.

After breakfast, I stepped onto the 7-mile beach where no building was taller than a coconut tree.  I had with me swimming costume and it was no big deal to get into the water.  It was rather shallow and I was amazed as I walked in the water long way before it got to my neck. The water was gentler, sand was whiter and softer.

Bathing and swimming for about an hour, I came out and walked on the beach.  There was a natural growth of coconut trees.  At one place I saw an abandoned hammock under the shady palm trees and occupied it instantly.  Soon a person carrying a load of coconuts passed by.  I stopped him and ask for fresh coco-water. He picked a piece, cut it open with a machete, put a straw and presented it to me in a ceremonial way. I relaxed in hammock for free, drank in-expensive coconut water with pretty sounds of songbirds in the background. What else, one could wish for!!

Back in 60s and 70s, Negril was known as ultimate destination for “hippies or flower children”.  In particular, it was ‘nirvana’ for the weary Vietnam War veterans. At that time, there were no paved road, no electricity. But there were free lifestyle of sex, drugs and reggae. Hippies were followed by affluent people whose concept of paradise went beyond a hammock and palm-thatched hut.  So luxury hotels begins to sprout.  But hippies left their marks as the place is still carefree and laid back.

Continued ……

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5 Comments
  1. Ubedullah Khan Mahsood permalink

    Very well work you done,
    it is so interesting and informative,
    and thanks for sharing with us.

    • sharif shafique permalink

      Dear Hafeez Malik: it is very appreciative of you to give us a wonderful accoiunt of your travels in Jamaica. No doubt you trave tales are captivating and informative. Thank you for posting.

      M. Sharif Sharique

  2. michael schmidt permalink

    I’m not a foodee – but with lobster for $22 I could become one! Yum!! A tasty & interesting tour!

  3. Irfan Muhammad permalink

    Dear Hafeez you have beautifully expressed your lived experiences. It contains a lot of useful information. Opening of a new perspective.

    Best,
    Irfan Muhammad

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  1. Jamaica in 2012 « Travel with Hafeez – Jamaica in July 2012

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