Everybody in Negril tries to sell you something, Danny from the local market was no exception. He got a bit excited when I said I was going to Montego Bay that afternoon because he lived there and would be driving home in a few hours. I told him I would only pay $6, the same as the taxi fare. After some time he accepted. It worked out really well for me, only having to take one car from door to door instead of 3 taxis. I stayed the first 2 nights at Bethel Court Guesthouse (hostel), $20 for a dorm. Was a nice friendly atmosphere. I checked out the yacht club and put up a notice, hoping to find a captain sailing to Cuba in a few weeks time. I’m not the biggest fan of the yacht club scene. It seems that yachties hardly leave the marina complex and their impression of a city or even country can be based on such a small area. Of course the prices are inflated too.
I spent the next few nights at Cedar Ridge Guesthouse for the same rate. I was looking forward to some quiet time in the mountains (only 10-15 mins drive to town) to do some research and writing. It certainly was very remote. There is no public transport to get there and I was the only guest. Gregory is a young guy who has just started running his massive family home as a guesthouse. He is nothing short of a legend. I arrived there on a Friday. He and his neighbour had organised a bbq for the Saturday afternoon. He had told his mate Chris to turn up at 15.00, who decided that 15.45 might be a bit more appropriate, knowing Gregory. When he arrived, I was the only one home. Not only that, but I didn’t have a key and was a prisoner in this house. We chatted through the bars of the door for half an hour before I finally found a key. This key was good news, because Chris had brought a bottle of rum and was not rude enough to drink alone. We polished that off and then some I had floating around with Gregory and many others appearing at some stage in the proceedings. The bbq jerk chicken wasn’t actually ready until 23.30! Epic, to say the least.
I realised that my retreat was not so quiet. Sunday was the best day. It wasn’t the earliest start, but we went to a beach, paid $3.50 to enter and then a further $7 to buy a cup, which can be refilled as many times as you want until 18.00. We smashed down a heap of rum, went and did some backflips on the floating pontoon and just generally ran around crazy on the beach. It’s not a massive party, but really good vibes.
Chris told me how he was starting up a business with a mate, doing online marketing, including for Kite Boarding Jamaica, in return for some free lessons. I thought that sounded pretty cool and decided to go and check out the joint with him. The place was beautiful. A proper white sand aqua water palm tree paradise, away from the big crowds and associated hustlers. There was accommodation available, but at $45/night it was well out of my budget. It was paradise. I wanted to stay. I struck a deal with Julia, the German owner of the school. I would pay $15/night to sleep on the couch in the shop and only get charged local rates for lessons and equipment hire. This was perfect. I ended up staying there for 11 nights, boarding for 9 of the days. It took me 8 days to be able to say that ‘I can kite board’, meaning actually stand on the board and not get blown down wind. I had some quiet time in the mornings and evenings, but not boredom. There was a German couple staying for a large portion of the time and we shared a few beers here and there.
We visited the all inclusive hotel down the beach. It was really nice, but absolutely horrible. All inclusive means that people really never leave the complex, hardly a Jamaican experience. It could be any hotel in the world. It’s really no more than a change of climate for these people. Our favourite line was, ‘Ok everybody, follow the flames to the beach, and remember, this is a party atmosphere!‘ We had a couple of free rums and games of pool and got out of there.
On the Friday night we went to Pier 1 in Mo Bay, along with Julia, 2 of the instructors – Santino and Shaun, Chris and Gregory. It was a fun night and interesting to see the Jamaicans in party mode, with some good daggering on the dance floor. Jamaicans are very homophobic. There was a small hens party, dancing around with a blow up dude, dude included. Normally guys constantly try to dance with girls, but this doll kept them away. I asked to borrow him, put him on my shoulders and walked over to the boys and said, ‘Have you met my brother? He’s a bit of a dickhead!’ They freaked out, slapping him off me, ‘Get that off ya!’ Julia thought it was funny and wanted to take a photo, but the boys wouldn’t allow it. The night was so good that I actually went back the following Friday for another session.