A Travel Letter From Chicago Seacoast Voyage
By: Lloyd L. Hyde
Historically, it has been referred to as the Land of Wood and Water, and perhaps it is. The lyrics of a well known song by Harry Belafonte remind us that it is the Land of the Sea and Sun. It has also been aptly titled the Crown Jewel of the Caribbean, Island Paradise, and Queen of the Antilles. These are just a few of the names that have from time to time been conferred on this tin)’ piece of God’s creation with a rich heritage and a proud people. I am told that many years ago when George Shearing visited the place, although blind, he said as far as he could “see” this is a beautiful country. It is the place where many in North America fondly call home, not to mention those half a world away in various parts of Europe. We are talking about the birthplace of poets, politicians and planters the homeland of artisans, architects, authors, carpenters, cobblers and coopers. The climate is great, the trees are green, the waters warm, the blue seas inviting and the people friendly. Picturesque mountains, enchanting breezes, and lush flora all combine to make Jamaica the perfect island paradise.
Travel with me for a while and allow me to take you on an unforgettable journey to places that will warm your heart, enrich your life, and refresh your senses. Along the way you will see birds and wildlife that are to be found no where else, feast on exotic tasting fruits and berries, and quench your thirst with water fresh from that great green nut, the coconut.
Let’s begin our tour in the nation’s capital, Kingston, a city with a population of roughly half a million. A visit to Hope Botanical Gardens is definitely on our schedule it’s the largest of its kind in the West Indies. However, if you are not taken with lush greenery and breathtaking flora, then we can opt for a visit to the Institute of Jamaica at Duke, East and Tower Streets, where you will be exposed to a good measure of West Indian history; the Art Gallery and Reference Library’ are the largest of their kind.
Remember, we are still in Kingston, so let’s not forget to visit the Bob Marley Museum and Devon House, a historical site and a restored nineteenth century mansion located at Waterloo and Hope Roads. Since we are so close, perhaps we can obtain permission and pay a visit to Jamaica House and Kings House, the residences of the Prime Minister and Governor General respectively. These residences are just northeast of Devon House and are within walking distance for many in the area. Are you a little beat from excess walking or dining, or are you an avid sightseer who refuses to succumb to fatigue? If you are the latter, let me recommend we continue our tour by visiting Mico Teachers’ College, located between Marescaux and Slipe Roads, one of the nation’s oldest colleges, and alma mater to many famous Jamaicans. Just south of the College is the National Heroes Circle the name says it all. Depending on where in Kingston we have started out, we certainly have not gone all over the city, but before our grand tour comes to an end. Let’s squeeze a few more sites into our schedule. The much talked about craftsmarket, Kingston’s many malls, the National Gallery and the Conference Center might be ideal additions to our list. These are right near Kingston Harbor and if you or your party are staying in one of the hotels located in the New Kingston area, such as the Courtleigh, Four Seasons, Sutton Place or the Pegasus, you are more northerly located. Therefore, these latter sites could be on another day’s itinerary. Remember, we are not going to spend all our time in Kingston; visiting the north and south coasts are a must. So why don’t we plan a trip starting in Kingston since we have already seen a few of its sites.
We know that Port Royal, the place associated with pirates and buried treasure, and Spanish Town, the former capital, are definitely on our list of places to see. However, we are planning a whole day for this adventure. Why not travel with me in a northwesterly direction towards Ocho Rios and we will make our first stop Bog Walk in the parish of St. Catherine. We are stopping here because we want to buy some fresh citrus and other fruits from the friendly vendors and check our luggage just to make sure we did take our swimwear along. Our needs met. we continue on past Linstead, taking time to get an eyeful of the legendary Linstead Market. Which gave its name to a popular calypso? Onward we go to Ewarton, site of Alcan Jamaica. Here we should spend a few moments observing where perhaps some of Europe’s and North America’s aluminum had its origins.
We are now continuing on our northwesterly direction past Mount Rosser, and challenging Mount Diablo, past Schwallenburgh and Faiths Pen and on through Moneague. Here in Moneague where the soldiers and/or security forces carry out regular field training exercises. We find a very mild climate. We could encounter some fog here. but not to be alarmed it will be nothing compared to the great fogs of Europe and North America. At Moneague we come to that fork in the road, and since we are going to Ocho Rios we will keep on the right of the fork, bypassing Golden grove and Claremont. In the direction we are headed, the first village we will get to is Walkers Wood, and folks we are on our way to Ocho Rios via Fern Gully!
Here is a roadway the likes of which you have never seen and will not see anywhere else. Ferns hundreds of them everywhere, flowering plants and trees which form a continuum that provides nature’s most artistic shelter of the sun’s ray from the road. One needs no encouragement to take pictures here. This will be all downhill travel in this area. However, let’s look out for other motorists while we sightsee and indulge in the best of amateur photography.
We have now sight seen to our hearts’ desires and we are ready to proceed to Ocho Rios. This will be the first of many of the major stops that we will make. Ocho Rios has many attractions for the visitor or tourist and it is an area that is growing rapidly. Hotels abound, large and small, along with miles of beaches, waterfalls, rivers and unending nightlife. It is this area that the late Errol Flynn visited, and in which he spent considerable time. Some of the hotels located in this area are Sunset Jamaica Grande, Royal Plantation, Jamaica Inn, Couples Sans Souci, Hibiscus Lodge, Shaw Park, Silver Seas, Rooms on the Beach and many more. A visit to Dunn’s River Falls is not to be missed, along with a canoe ride on the famous White River. The shopping centers in Ocho Rios are Coconut Grove and Pineapple Place with others in between. Here we may find some items that may not be found in the craftsmarket in Kingston. Don’t forget. though, as we continue on our journey to Montego Bay that there too will be a much larger craftsmarket. So let’s say goodbye to Ocho Rios and continue westerly with Montego Bay in focus.
We will be traveling along what is commonly referred to in Jamaica as the seacoast, a reference to the close proximity of the highway to the sea. You will not only find this sight very picturesque and serene, but very comforting as so many of the folks you pass along the way will always have a smile and a friendly wave for us. It is said that Jamaicans, old and young alike, are some of the most friendly people in the world and their congeniality is often times contagious.
St. Ann’s Bay will be one of the first towns we will get to after leaving Ocho Rios. Here at the birthplace of one of Jamaica’s national heroes we come to the midway point of our journey between Kingston and Montego Bay. At this juncture we are approximately 60 miles from both cities. So let’s capture some of the town with our 35 mm, instamatic or movie camera and move along. Runaway and Discovery Bays are other attractions on our journey. At Runaway Bay are to be found hotels such as, Breezes, Hedonism III, Royal Decameron and Runaway Bay H.E.A.R.T. Resorts. However, we can’t stop here too long. We have got to go on past Discovery Bay and on to Rio Bueno, Braco, and make a brief stop at Duncans Silver Sands Hotel. Remember our stop is brief, so assuming we have gotten some refreshments and taken pictures of our favorite scenes and people, we are going to proceed to Falmouth, the home of Trelawny Beach, Martha Brae River, and Falmouth Resort. We are now about 66 percent into the parish of Trelawny. Let’s snap a few more quick photos and quickly move on, heading past Salt Mash and Flamingo Beach on over into the parish of St. James.
Some of the first areas of interest in this parish will be the Windham, Rose Hall Beach, and Country Club Hotels. I must tell you that you are now only a few miles from the city of Montego Bay what may be called the island’s tourist Mecca. Quite frankly, it is indeed just that. This area has by far the largest share of hotels and guest houses, beach clubs and beaches literally miles and miles of white, sandy beaches with more than its share of water sports. In terms of cleanliness, it is immaculate. The people greet you in the hotels, on the streets, and just about wherever you go. Don’t you forget that among the many activities awaiting us here are deep sea fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, golf, tennis, and water skiing.
This can also be the take off point to other activities, such as bird watching, a visit to Cockpit Country, home of the Maroons, the descendants of the slaves who battled colonialists to early freedom.
Since we have now spent three or four days in Montego Bay and we have done everything on our itinerary for this trip, let’s move on. We are still traveling westerly into the parish of Hanover towards Hopewell. That’s a terrific name for a place, isn’t it? However, let’s go on to Sandy Bay the home of Tryall Golf and Beach Club. About now you should be asking some travel questions, such as where are we heading now? Believe it or not, we are heading for Negril where we will find Hedonism II and Negril Gardens. Let me hasten to add that these are just two of the many hotels and clubs in this very western tip of the island, and another heavily trafficked tourist area.Remember that we are not yet in the town of Lucea. Bear in mind it is Lucea not Lucia.
At Lucea we are still in Hanover. We have observed the land and seascape, talked with some people, and have had a refreshing glass of coconut water. We should now gas up our rented automobile, repack our cameras, and head for Green Island. Are you a little tired from your road travel? I hope not because we are now in the final stretch on our way to Negril. Here in Negril between the parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland we will spend a day relaxing. relaxing. and relaxing on the beach enjoying the spicy cuisine and admiring the scenery. This. though a small area, has loads of fun and attractions with about seven miles of white sandy beach. From here however, we are about to start on our easterly journey. We will travel a little inland to Savanna la mar to pick up a main road that will take us along the south coast in an easterly direction to the town of Black River, where is found the island’s largest river, in the parish of St. Elizabeth. In Black River, we should make sure we stop at Waterloo Guesthouse, an old, renovated mansion that sits right by the river. The guesthouse provides a unique opportunity for dining on the terrace which practically juts out into the river and allows guests to observe, first hand. the spirited movement of the water.
From Black River we should continue along where about 10 miles away. A little off the main road, we come to Treasure Beach, a very lovely and quiet area on the south coast of Jamaica. Coming back to the main road, a few miles further along, again a little off the highway, we should come to Lovers Leap. It is one of a kind: a 600 foot cliff above the sea. The name symbolizes the story of two slaves who deeply in love, fled their captors to the cliff, where clinging to each other they scaled the cliff, preferring to take their chances over the mountain top rather than risk recapture and separation. It is breathtaking to look over and observe the foaming waves crashing into the shore The romantic, and even the non romantic, will become quickly enraptured here. Some pictures are an absolute must.
We want to pick up a major artery to the town of Mandeville; a very healthy climate abides in this mountain top resort. Its tropical type cooler weather attracted early settlers from Europe. At times foggy, it nevertheless provides enjoyable living, with its tranquil and predictable slow paced atmosphere. Here in Mandeville we are in the parish of Manchester, so let us travel on down Melrose Hill to Porus, where you will find the greatest variety of citrus fruits with an incomparable sweetness and juiciness. Preceding through Porus our next stop is in the parish of Clarendon. We should plan on stopping at Denbigh to see where the island’s major agricultural show is held annually. In Clarendon we may also want to see Colbeck Castle, one of Jamaica’s old great houses built by Colonel Colbeck in the seventeenth century. During the decision making process we went by the town of May Pen and we have now crossed over into the parish of St. Catherine. The town, Old Harbour, is our first stop in this parish. Here we may want to buy some of the best salt water fish that can be found worldwide. The people at the Hellshire may tell you that theirs is the best but the proof is in the eating.
We have all eaten our fish, so it is time to continue on our journey. Shall we stop in Spanish Town? I would say yes, because we didn’t on our wav out earlier in the week. Spanish Town, remember, was the first capital and home of the oldest cathedral in the West Indies. It is the Spanish Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega. There are other sites to see. So let’s look around at some of the architecture. We are now on our way back into Kingston. If you were watching the car’s odometer you would have seen that we have clocked about 340 miles for this trip. Now that we are back in Kingston, let’s relax over this weekend. Our next trip will take us easterly to the parish of St. Thomas around the east coast up through the parishes of Portland and St. Mary. From St. Mary we will travel inland back to Kingston.
This trip, then, will have taken us to the three counties of Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey. We will have also traveled to all of Jamaica’s 14 parishes. Incidentally, did you notice that just about seven of those parishes are saints? Can you tell me why? I hope you enjoyed this tour with me. I have. Remember that after the east coast travel we should go on some inland travel. Rest assured that in the Land of the Sea and Sun we have a lot more places to go, people to meet, and things to see. Would you like to travel with me on my next trip?