An island of beauty

Kingston Travel Blog

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Me with Bob Marley at his Kingston house,now a museum

Finally we were at Miami Airport waiting for our flight to Kingston.  That in itself was entertaining as the passengers gathered to wait for the same flight.  We were seeing Jamaicans who were probably resident in the USA returning to visit family, some looked as though they had been on shopping expiditions and were the more wealthy ones.

A few delays.  A passenger who had boarded had lost all his paper work for travel so by law was not allowed to fly.  He had disembarked  but his luggage had to found and removed.  Then they got a message that a part was needed for a broken down plane on the runway of Kingston Airport and our flight was to courier it along with a mechanic so we waited for them too.

Views of Kingston from Beverly Hills

We took a taxi to our hostel which cost around $US52. Travelled along the city roads that had huge pothole craters passed through areas of dreadful slums.  Past the big sporting ground that the driver proudly told us all about.  Soon discovered that the language spoken by most Jamaicans was patois and it took extreme concentration to understand what they were saying unless they toned it down a lot.

Our hostel was a large two storey house set in a compound.  A young man sprang out of a sentry box when our taxi tooted and opened the huge gates.  We had an upstairs room and dragged our suitcases up in the stifling heat.  Once we showered in the cold water (there was no hot tap or plumbing for one) we went downstairs to chat to the staff.

  We seemed to be the only ones there in the seven roomed hostel.  The staff told us they could organise transport to go where we wanted and didn't encourage us to explore on our own.  Our reading of other travelogues warned us about personal safety in Kingston.  We arranged a taxi to take us out for dinner as the kitchen seemed to be out of bounds except for the staff who made breakfast there for us.  This was not the case as we later found out.  We took the opportunity to try Jamaican food and had a great dinner.  The owner of the hostel came to tell us that our taxi was on it's way after dinner and that they had more guests and they were Australian too!  Unknown to us at this point we had set our watches wrong by an hour and had rung to find out where our arranged pick up had got too.
out in the Jamaican countryside

Indeed the new guests were Australian and they had a daughter aged 5 with them and were doing an extensive world trip too.  We picked up tips from them about what not to do in Egypt and listened with envy about their train trip on the Orient Express over about two weeks.  Next day along with them we arranged a tour of the city.  The highlight was of course, the Bob Marley museum.  I was not a devoted fan of his before but I appreciate him much more now and loved the stories of how he used his stairs to keep fit.  He would spring up the two flights of wooden stairs taking three at a time and he was quite a short man!

By now we were already planning how we would get to Negril on the west coast for our 10 day stay and had quotes of $US170 for a taxi.

before Rebel Salute begins at Port Kaiser
  Then we found out that there was to be a big music festival in the parish of St Elizabeth at Port Kaiser, called Rebel Salute.  This was about two thirds of the way to Negril, so we tried to formulate a plan.  That evening three Spanish, twenty somethings, arrived at the hostel and we told them of the concert.  They too were keen and we eventually arranged for the 5 of us to go together.  After the concert the driver would take Andrew and I to Santa Cruz to the bus station to find a connection to Negril for us.  Our fare was now $US100.  Montserrat (girl) had the most amazingly long dreadlocks, her brother Oswaldo had cut his off a few years ago and their friend Benare had less English but was good company too. 

We didn't get away until 3.

our Spanish companions we met at the Kingston hostel
30pm on the Saturday but the concert didn't start until 8pm and went until at least 9am the next day.  The drive gave us insight into life outside of Kingston with a tollway that had good fast roads to the single lane, potholed roads with vendors selling their wares by the side of the road.  Joseph stopped at a service station to get a cold drink and a young boy sold us a bag of cashew nuts.  His eyes went wide when I told him we were going to Rebel Salute and would have to stay awake all night not to miss anything.  He solemnly told me that I should be sleeping now!

The closer we got to Post Kaiser the more roadside vendors there were.  I find Joseph's driving erratic, punching the accelerator then the brakes.  After close on three hours the ocean was in view and the air temperature was cooling down.  In the middle of nowhere, a huge sporting venue and music coming out of it.  Joseph found a spot on the roadside to park the van and we were told that he would leave promptly at 5am next day.  Outside vendors were calling to us to buy sugar cane, fruit, Red Bull, cigarettes, Jerk, lighters - overwhelming.  Tickets were $J1000 and after a body search, we were in.  The vendors had stalls around the perimeter and there were hundreds of them on foot pedaling their wares.  Those that were selling cigarette lighters seemed to have a black plastic bag over their free arm and I then realised that they had a sprig of ganga in their hand.  It was everywhere and we seemed to be some of the few who weren't smoking the stuff! 

It was a Rasta run event so no meat or alcohol was sold.  The live music began at 7.40pm with a bunch of singers and musicians singing two very long Maroon inspired hymns.  The Maroons were the group of slaves that escaped hundreds of years ago and lived in the hills.  New artists were showcased in the first four or five hours.  The Jamaicans sang along to the songs they knew but did not applaud at the end of the songs, though the tourists did.  I was told later that applause was only for church!  A young man called Gyptian played some good stuff and the women all around me stood transfixed and sang all the words with great feeling.  I am now a dedicated follower of Gyptian.  At around 3am Burning Spear did his bracket, then Inner Circle.  Multitudes of Rebel Salute flags were waved and much use of the words Irie (everything good), Rastafarrian, Yeah Mon, Are you Ready?, Jah and so on were sung or shouted.

At 4.30am we found the Spaniards by chance in the 45,000 stong crowd, looking a lot tired too.  We agreed to find Joseph and leave as I couldn't stay awake for Luciano even if he had been next.  Joseph wove the mini bus through the vendors outside the grounds, then roared off into the night at reckless speeds.  Near one of the towns he hits a dog while tailgating another car but doesn't stop.  Looking back I didn't see the dog get up.  Had he remembered Santa Cruz to drop Andrew and I off?  He must have as about three quarters of an hour later we pull up in the darkened streets of a town.  The bus station is a taxi rank of sorts.  There really don't seem to be any buses as such.  Taking our backpacks out we kiss the Spaniards goodbye.  Incidently they put forward a very forceful case as to why we should adopt them for the rest of our trip.  Massages, suitcases carried, food cooked for us and drinks brought whenever.  Montserrat took to calling me 'Mummy' to show me that it would be a great idea!!!!  Joseph asks a price to drive us to Negril and Andrew negotiates it down and we get in. 

This becomes the nightmare drive I never want to do again.  The seatbelts were stuck behind the back of our seats and couldn't be extracted.  It was a small station waggon and had low backed seats.  I didn't dare sleep as the driver took numerous mobile calls, I watched the road as he took his eyes off for far too long.  As it was Sunday the radio in his car played religious reggae music.  Andrew fearing for our safety asked him to drive safely and he said he would, and went even faster!  Finally I saw the ocean and we were in Negril at 6.45am.  In the compound of our accomodation, the dogs barked and a woman named Faye got up from her sleep in her nightie and took us to a wooden hut at the beach end of the grounds.  Got into the sheets (that is all there were) and fell asleep for 3 hours.

Another place with only cold water plumbing.  When we surfaced a guy called Ronting who appeared to be the 'security guard', asked us what we would like to do.  We told him eat and he took us across the road to a roadside diner where we had ackee and saltfish, rice 'n' peas, yam, potato and curried goat.  The soursop drink was like a fruit milk shake served in a re-cycled ketchup bottle was quite delicious.

travelingJacq says:
Great review ... congrats on being featured :-}
Posted on: May 02, 2011
nyprne says:
Congratulations on your featured blog!
Posted on: May 02, 2011
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Me with Bob Marley at his Kingston…
Me with Bob Marley at his Kingsto…
Views of Kingston from Beverly Hil…
Views of Kingston from Beverly Hi…
out in the Jamaican countryside
out in the Jamaican countryside
before Rebel Salute begins at Port…
before Rebel Salute begins at Por…
our Spanish companions we met at t…
our Spanish companions we met at …
photo by: tj1777