The shuttle from our B&B in Montego Bay met us at the airport (where our bus from Kingston had let us off), deposited us at our hotel, and promptly disappeared. Once we were ensconced we wanted to go exploring, and we needed food and water. Learning that the beach/town shuttle only ran twice each day, and that we had missed the last run, we wondered how we were to get into town, given that everyone said it was too far to walk. The lovely woman at the front desk spoke with another employee who was finishing her work for the day, and asked her if she would show us where to catch a taxi into town. Andrea was willing, and the three of us walked down the hill and waited until the right taxi came by. Andrea was leading us in this endeavor, and we trusted her guidance. After a ten minute ride we were in town, said good-bye to Andrea, paid the taxi driver 100 Jamaican dollars each (less than $1 US), and began exploring. We found beaches, shops, people selling pot everywhere, a restaurant that served some vegan food for our dinner, and a tiny little market that was thankfully air conditioned. But how would we get back to the hotel? Andrea had schooled us well in what to expect around here, and told us to take only the Flanker taxis, that it should cost no more than 150 Jamaican dollars each for the way back; she also said to ask a policeman to get a taxi for us or otherwise we would be overcharged. So I asked a policeman in the little market if he would do this for us, and he agreed. We all walked out together, but he went up to a van, not a taxi. The driver said that given it was night, and that the hotel was outside of town, it would cost us $30 US. "What!" we said, shocked. That was far too expensive for a ten minute ride and nothing close to what Andrea had told us it should cost. We told him we would pay even 200 Jamaican dollars each, but that was as high as we'd go. So the van driver left. And there we were, with the policeman trying to convince us that thirty dollars US was what we would pay at night, when a real taxi drove up; it happened to be the same driver who had brought us into town. He had recognized us, and said he'd take us back for 150 Jamaican dollars each, exactly what Andrea had told us to expect. Such a relief, as I envisioned our being stuck in town all night since we weren't going to pay thirty dollars for a ride back. Norman was his name, and he was the same driver we called to take us to the airport for our flights home on our last day in Jamaica.
So even though we've been in the Caribbean ten days now, today was our first beach day. It was glorious! We are staying at the Relax Resort in Montego Bay, and as it is unfortunately too far to walk into town or to the beach, we took the first shuttle of the day and were let off at the famous Doctor's Cave Beach. The shuttle was scheduled to leave at 10AM; Laila and I were ready early, but two other guests had left their beach towels in their third floor room. There are no elevators here, and climbing up so many steps in the heat is not so easy; neither one of them wanted to go back up. With a disgusted look on his face, our punctual driver said that while they were retrieving their towels he would go take a shower and drop us off on his way to church. Jamaicans as well as Dominican Republicans have attitude! So Laila and I had to wait longer until our clean and well dressed driver returned. The forgetful couple never even apologized for holding the shuttle up, but finally we got to the beautiful and still quite empty beach.
The sun is so potent here we decided to rent an umbrella, 750 Jamaican dollars or $6 US. A deal. A young worker carried out a large blue striped umbrella over to a far spot that we had chosen on the beach and he went about setting it up for us. We laid out our towels and sat down, but I couldn't sit for very long; the gorgeous turquoise waters were calling me to come in. So I went. I swam as far out as the buoys allowed, but they were very far out so I didn't feel at all restrained or enclosed. No one else was swimming that far out; I had that part of the Caribbean Sea just to myself. Heaven! I love to swim in the ocean; it is one of the ultimate pleasures in life. Finally I made myself swim back to shore; it was Laila's turn to enjoy the water while I watched our belongings. Such a delightful morning!
But for many of those hours we had been watching heavy dark clouds build up and move over the relatively distant mountains, and when we saw lightning and heard thunder we decided to move to the covered terrace, a bit of a walk away since we were at the very far end of the beach. Some people stayed in the water, but when I was a lifeguard many summers ago I had learned that when you hear thunder, get everyone out of the water. Apparently Jamaicans do not follow this rule, but I still think it's a good one.
The torrential downpours lasted a few hours. We used this time to eat lunch at a little Jewish restaurant that was very vegan-friendly, and that served Jerk Falafel. Both of us had really wondered what Jamaican Jerk Chicken tasted like, so this was our opportunity to try vegan Jerk something; why not falafel? It was beyond delicious! Jerk Falafel is so wonderful we might go back to this same restaurant tomorrow. Wow is the only word that comes to mind in describing this taste.
While we were enjoying our spicy lunch the skies were clearing and the rain had almost stopped. We walked back up the "hip strip" to Doctor's Cave Beach and found that our umbrella had been taken away as we had not left our towels there to get soaked in the rain. No worries: another beach employee brought us a different one, a red umbrella this time, plus he also dragged over two beach lounge chairs. So we sat like royalty while digesting our lunch, and then I couldn't wait any longer and went back in the water. I swam all the way out to the buoys again, but this time the current was running in the opposite direction. In Thailand I always used to play in the ocean, kicking up over high waves, trying to keep sight of where I had entered the water as currents pulled me one way or another, sometimes very far down the beach. These Caribbean currents and waves were much more docile so it was an easy, pleasant swim back to land. Laila had her turn and then we just sat and watched all the families who had come out after the rain, to enjoy a Sunday afternoon at the beach. Children were everywhere, mostly dark skinned, but a few white or blended, all playing together. Many families here seem to be mixed, so the children are all shades of brown, from the very fair and pale to the darkest almost black. It is a beautiful sight.
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