A Travellerspoint blog

Living the HIGH life...

and other Jamaican observations

sunny 32 °C
View WESTWARD BOUND on beckywicks's travel map.

We’re pretty spoilt in Dubai but it’s nothing like the holiday-makers at the resorts we’ve been staying in this week. All inclusive hotels dot the coast of Negril and feed the whims of mostly American tourists looking to taste Jamaica from a silver spoon. It’s a costly business but everyone gets their money’s worth. Free flowing drinks, endlessly available food, live entertainment in the evenings, massage classes, jewellery making… you name it, you can do it. Yesterday there was even a tarot card reader in the main restaurant area, dishing out relationship predictions by checking who was and who wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, probably.

I like her game though. At Couples Negril, an interesting pastime is watching the people wandering or lazing about, hand in hand, arm in arm, smooching in the pool, and guessing where they met, what they do for a living, what pisses one off about the other. You really do get some odd couples. Love is all around us here.

One of the most interesting themes that resonates around these resorts however, is how little most people are willing to explore outside them. We’ve hired a car and the man used to live here 15 years ago, so although some things have changed in light of time and commercialism, we’ve had the chance to drive about and he’s shown me the colourful characteristics that first made him fall in love with it. It’s really quite sad, having experienced the warmth of the local people, the spicy fire of fresh roadside jerk chicken, the twisty winding jungle paths en route to Bob Marley’s hometown high in the mountains, that the majority of people arriving by coach at their all-inclusive holiday spectacular are happy to say they’ve seen Jamaica, when they really haven’t.

We’ve heard people verbally expressing their fear about stepping outside the confines of their hotels. On our first stop in Ochi Rios a young couple told us they’d ventured out and been instantly surrounded by guys asking for money and drinks. They were escorted to a taxi stop by a concerned bar lady and once home, safe and sound, they swore never to leave again. The thing is, they ventured out at night on independence Day, when gaggles of drunken guys from Kingston, high on weed and life had been dancing in the streets all day – a fairly intimidating sight for the pasty white sight-seers and an interesting one for the party people too. Other people say it’s dangerous to leave the hotel in Negril. How do they know? Someone told them. Word spreads like wild fire and sadly many people leave this place with false impressions of the world outside their all-inclusive windows.

The night we went out in Negril, we met a couple, Nick and (mind draws blank) from Miami who’ve been coming here to party for 20 years. They’re friends with a gentle rasta guy called McKenzie who supplies them with all the weed they need and can always be found, without fail, at a bar called Alfred’s. We were offered some of their infamous good stuff but I refused. Apparently mind-draws-blank smoked a bit in their hotel room before coming out and had to lock herself in her bathroom for two hours, just to avoid the “bats”. Nick then spent half an hour looking for his dogs, convinced he was still at home and they needed a walk. Seeing as my imagination is pretty unstable at the best of times, I thought it best not to trouble a bar full of people enjoying a drink, so I sipped a rum and ting, which is dark rum and grape juice. Mmm. Tastes a bit like kool aid, but alcoholic, naturally! No odd imaginings on my part after that, just a bit of dancing on the sand to some live reggae beats. Actually… it was probably more painful to watch than a stoner’s freak-out, but at least I knew where I was and the bats kept away.

The resort does run certain trips to the outside world. Couples pile onto buses and “explore” set places with strict time limits and instructions. One such place is the awesome Rick’s Café, right at the end of the coast, where the towering cliffs form a perfect drop to the stunning aqua sea and pumped up cliff-divers pose and jump to the ooohs and aaaahs of camera snapping tourists. Fifteen years ago, Ricks was just a small cliff top bar. The divers were still doing tricks and the cocktails were still flowing before the very best sunsets mother nature’s got to offer, but now it’s twice the size. There’s a stage for a live band. There’s a swimming pool for people spending money on drinks and one minute after the sun sinks into that sparkling sea, 50% of its custom files out the door, eyes on their camera screens, happy with their obligatory photos, back onto their waiting buses with the engines running in anticipation. God forbid they stay out after dark.

Some organised trips are worth doing – the ones that feel slightly less touristy perhaps? We took part in a horse-riding trip up into the mountains and the guides sang songs and made well-rehearsed jokes the whole way. The scenery up there is stunning – we learned all about the local fruits and sugarcane plantations. You can explore the waters by glass bottomed boat, jet ski, kayak… the man even had a few wind-surfing lessons! And we took a catamaran out with a group to swim in some caves, which was gorgeous.

It’s definitely the high life, whichever way you look at it out here. Even the people living in apparent poverty, sitting outside their rainbow coloured shacks selling snappers, breadfruits and bananas always seem to have a sparkle in their eye. Simplicity is their life. Music their master. Don’t worry, be happy is of course, their motto. I think I could stay here for a lot longer if we didn’t have to move on. If only more people would kill their fear of the real Jamaica and experience life outside the resorts and organised tours. It seems like such a waste to sit sipping free cocktails all day on a snow white sandy beach. And there’s something I never thought I would say!

Posted by beckywicks 10:30 Archived in Jamaica

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