The real Jamaica

Port Maria Travel Blog

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The bus station and markets from our appartments Port Maria

Our first glimpse of Port Maria was a breathtaking bay with an island in it, steep hills climbing up from the beach and township.  As we continued we noticed the beaches were littered with bamboo poles and other debris.  Later we were told that this had come down in the rivers during heavy rains.

The instructions to finding the Sunrise Apartments said to find the beach front bus station, look back towards the town centre and the apartments were there along a one way street.  There was a bustling market surrounding the "bus" station and with a little difficulty the driver found our place.  The streets looked very seedy but they had formed gutters and people were everywhere.

The beach at Port Maria
  Dave looked anxiously at the town and said if we didnt like our choice we could just head back to Negril and there would be a vacant hut at Ansells!

Tall, solid double steel gates with a picture painted across the front had a security hole to put your arm through to open them.  The booking details had told us of the resident dog Ruff and indeed a large dobermann bounced up to greet us.  Eventually the only other residents of the 4 apartment block made a phone call for us to get the manager to come along and let us into our place.  Our place had a lounge room with kitchen and dining area, a bathroom with a hotwater tap and a large airy bedroom, all with tiled floors.

Noel Coward's house Firefly and the room with a view
  It had TV and the kitchen was well stocked with utensils, a coffee machine etc.  The block of land had a high concrete wall around it and an immaculate tropical garden.  From our upstairs rooms we could see a sea of plywood huts with blue tarps randomly strung across the narrow walkways.  From here there was the most incredible cacophony of sounds and especially reggae music emanating from it night and day.

Our first walk to the new supermarket ( three chains from the corner said Winston the manager!) and we saw only politely curious black faces.  In the supermarket 3 young school girls said "Hello and how are you today?".  They followed us around helping us with our selections.  The meat section displayed chicken feet, pigs tails, smoked pigs tails, cow feet and many other wonderful choices.

Firefly's view
  I found honey cured bacon and it proved to be the very best of bacon, just like I used to have in England 36 years ago!

Next day we walk along the beach and back.  On the street corner a woman calls us over to "take a picture".  The men sitting beside her have caught a small shark and it is slowly dying on the roadside.  Further on through the village a rasta man comes up to us and tells us all about Tacky's monument.  Tacky was a slave who escaped and when the soldiers had him within their sights, Tacky decided he would rather die than be recaptured so he jumped off some sheer cliffs with a waterfall and killed himself.  The falls are now called Tacky's Falls.  Rollin (our new rasta friend) marches us around places he thinks might interest us and mentions that our beach walk might not be the safest stroll as some tourists were robbed there a few months ago!  As we take our leave of Rollin who is busily trying to arrange a fishing boat trip for us the next day on our suggestion, he broadly hints that he could use a donation for his time.

Looking back to Port Maria from Firefly

In the early evening Rollin arrives at our gate and calls to us.  When we go outside the compound to meet him he hands us two plastic bags.  He has made a dinner for us of traditional Jamaican food.  There is festival (a cornmeal fritter), callaloo, ackee, fried plantain slices and a bottle of sorrel juice. I put the chicken soup I had made in the fridge for the next night and thoroughly enjoy Rollin's meal.  We enjoy the next few days mingling with the locals, a smile at a woman with a beautiful baby boy and she hands him to me for a hold!  She tells me I could become his Godmother.  Rollin takes us through the fruit market to the meat market where the butchers are cutting up whole pigs and goats as people point to the cut they want.  A woman laughs at Rollin being there as Rastas dont eat pork, so I tell her that I will make sure he doesn't buy any!

Through the night the winds get up and our boat trip never eventuates as the rough seas stay for several days.

Rollin & I at his house with a million dollar view
  Rollin takes up up the mountain to see his house.  It has a million dollar view but his house is a two roomed shack with rusting iron on the roof and a tarp.  Rollin shows me the plants and trees as we walk and the medicine plants.  He also strongly hints that some finacial help would be appreciated.  On our last day there we take a taxi about 10 miles around the coast towards Oracabessa to a house called "Firefly".  This house was owned by Noel Coward and the view from this place are unrivalled.  When he died he left it to his companion who in turn gave it to the Jamaicans to keep as a museum to Noel.

A man takes us through the modest one bedroomed house.  We see the room where he painted, the sitting room with two baby grand pianos, the dining room that is open to the NW where amongst so many famous people, the Queen Mother came to lunch.  The very plates, cups and wine glasses sit washed and stacked on the sideboard behind the table.  Then there is "the room with a view" he wrote about.  What a view over Pt Maria with Carbarita Island in the bay.  Noel is buried in the garden in his favourite spot looking over that view.  The land was once used by the infamous Captain Morgan and the small stone cottage with two foot thick walls and gun slots that is centuries old was built for Morgan to watch for his enemies along the coast!

Noel Coward bought the land and cottage while he was staying a little further on with his friend Ian Fleming.  Many scenes from Dr No were filmed on beaches around Jamaica and James Bond was known to only drink Blue Mountains coffee, the best in the world from Jamaica!

 

ronman2006 says:
I hope you did'nt give him money and are not sending money to him, if he volunteers to show you around, his problem, if he offers in the begining for a price and you agree well thats business, too often these guys use intimidation or trickery to force tourists to hand over money
Posted on: Feb 02, 2008
ronman2006 says:
You fell into the trap so many who come here do, thinking we are all sweet friendly islanders, yes we have those but for others the friendship comes at a cost. In our rural and tourist areas are the majority of the residents are the poor and uneducated/underducated. I am happy to see you finally found hot water...i was wondering man these people have the worst luck in choosing places to stay, now you have convinced me to write my own blog
Posted on: Feb 02, 2008
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The bus station and markets from o…
The bus station and markets from …
The beach at Port Maria
The beach at Port Maria
Noel Cowards house Firefly and th…
Noel Coward's house Firefly and t…
Fireflys view
Firefly's view
Looking back to Port Maria from Fi…
Looking back to Port Maria from F…
Rollin & I at his house with a mil…
Rollin & I at his house with a mi…
Port Maria
photo by: clearviews