Public Transit in Jamaica

Published: July 2nd 2018
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Yesterday was the solstice. In about two weeks Maine will start to lose minutes of daylight, declining over an hour by the end of July, losing almost two hours from peak daylight by the end of August. It's a very quick, steep decline in northern New England, a fast slide from long, easy, warm summer days towards our bitterly cold, snow-filled, very long lasting winters. Here in the Caribbean the daylight doesn't change much with the seasons, and it is no surprise that it is consistently hot in summer. But in Jamaica AC is everywhere, making life much more comfortable, although, as in the US, it is frequently turned on much too cold!

I like what I've seen of Jamaica so far, but I am tired of waiting for and riding in city busses. In the DR my daughter called for ubers when we wanted to go further than what we could reasonably walk, a mile or so in the 90+F humidity. Uber rides showed up quickly, and usually had AC, short and dearly needed respites from the heat. Almost nothing in Santo Domingo had AC; we sweated pretty much constantly, even with fans turned directly on us. So taking an uber was a very appreciated break from the heat. Here in Jamaica uber does not exist yet, but in Kingston there is an extensive system of affordable city busses, each ride costing 100 Jamaican dollars, under $1 US. We again crammed our days full of museums, historic sites, parks and gardens, plus just walking around exploring the city, taking a bus or two whenever needed. Usually they arrive within about ten or fifteen minutes, but at one point yesterday we waited for almost an hour for the #74 bus to take us to the Hope Botanic Gardens. The bus finally showed up, but the route back was convoluted and very long, as somehow this bus had to ride us around and through the whole city (or so it seemed) before our being deposited a short walk from our lovely B&B. So while I appreciate them, I am very tired of riding uncushioned Kingston city busses.

Our B&B is located on a quiet street blocks away from the hectic, busy parts of the city. But there are so many people in other parts of Kingston I joked that I thought we had already seen most of the two and a half million people who live in Jamaica right here; it is so crowded in many places. Jamaicans are generally kind and friendly, but in some parts of this city it is so crowded, so loud, so excessively full of people, garbage, raucous sights and noise that I wonder how such a beautiful island could have gotten so messy, so extreme, so unclean, and uncomfortable. Paradise has allowed itself to become hellish in several places, and still so many people choose to go or live in those parts. (We did too, but only by necessity enroute to somewhere else.) It is true that most major cities have their sometimes enormous pockets of ugliness and poverty, and even though Kingston is the capital of Jamaica it seems most tourists do not go there, travelling to destinations such as Ocho Rios, Negril, and Montego Bay instead. I am glad we had a few days in Kingston however; we learned about Jamaica's history, its heroes, its struggle for emancipation. Kingston's parks are lovely, very well maintained and filled with statues and memorials; its museums are air conditioned, provide extensive information and gorgeous art, and it was here that the exceptional museum guides taught us everything we learned about Jamaica and its past. This was a good visit. Tomorrow we head to Montego Bay.

So now it is tomorrow, Saturday already, and we arrived in Montego Bay hours ago after a long and comfortable bus ride from Kingston (on an express, not a city bus). We passed through incredibly beautiful areas as we crossed this island country, driving past gorgeous beaches and alongside stunning sea views. This is in stark contrast to the noise and trash and poverty we saw in parts of Kingston. I am so glad that much of Jamaica is still undeveloped, if not exactly pristine.

One thing I've learned on this trip is that Santo Domingoans have attitude, and Jamaicans have an easy sense of humor and acceptance. When my daughter went into a take-out place to buy snacks for our bus journey, a woman leaning against a nearby car said to tell her to buy one for her too. A laugh escaped me before I could think whether this woman was actually serious; it was such a surprising thing to hear from a total stranger. And when she heard me laugh, she simply said to enjoy the day. A similar thing happened this evening as we were shopping in a little market on the "hip strip" in Montego Bay. Laila was buying a sorrel beer (delicious, but too sweet!) and another shopper told her to buy one for him too. She looked at him and said that where she came from a guy usually buys a drink for a girl, not the other way around. His benign reply was, "You ladies have yourselves a nice evening." We've heard that a lot here in Jamaica: "Enjoy your day." "Have a lovely evening." "Hello, pretty ladies." "Are you enjoying Jamaica? Good, good." Such a verbally generous culture we are finding here!


2nd July 2018

We actually went there on a cruise. We rented a car and headed for the famous falls. Traffic was stopped due flooding from the rain. We were advised by the locals to return the car as it was dangerous driving in parts of town trying to avoid the flooding. Glad you had good experiences getting around except waisted time.

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