Burnt Offerings and Board Games

Published: August 5th 2010
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 Video Playlist:

1: Rachel Swimming (Mind the Stingrays!) 24 secs
2: Swimming in the Rain 33 secs
It's hard to believe we have been here in Jamaica for over a week now. One sunny day seems to roll into another as we lazily lounge around reading or lazily float about the pool on the lilos. Each day features a torrential downpour and rumbles of thunder but thankfully no more injections, yet!

Rachel said to me that there is no point in putting up another blog yet but those of you who have spent more than five minutes in my company, surely know that I can and will talk about anything!

Last weekend was a holiday weekend here and the villa staff (apart from the head of the house) had a long weekend off with their families and we were left to fend for ourselves... sort of! On August 1st Jamaica celebrates Emancipation Day and therefore had Monday as a holiday. The significance of this date is because in 1834, The Slavery Abolition Act was passed and put an end to slavery in the British Empire (how nice of us, eh!?). This week is actually known unofficially and locally as Jamaica Week, and on Friday August 6th, Jamaica will celebrate its Independance Day. It gives Rach and I the distinction of having been in two countries in the last two months where they have celebrated the birth of their country as a nation independant of British rule. Its hard to believe we used to rule so much of the world. Therefore, Friday is another holiday here, so a three day working week will have pleased the local people no end.

We had a culinary first on Friday, the cook had prepared a delicious goat curry with rice and peas for us before she departed for her long weekend. It was really nice, and goat meat is alot more tender than I expected and very tasty. It tasted a bit like lamb and went really well with the subtle spices in the curry. It's definately something I will try and rustle up when we get home, although I am not sure Tesco have a goat section?!

My culinary skills were put to the test on Saturday evening, when I volunteered to cook a small barbecue, in the absence of the villa staff. I prepared some homemade sauce using various Caribbean ingredients including scotch bonnet peppers, thyme and scallions and marinated some salmon and chicken before pre cooking in the oven for 45 minutes. All going to plan, I got cocky! The resultant meal was "extremely blackened chicken and salmon" with a lovely mango salsa prepared by Rachel on the side. My excuse is, and I will get it in now, that I am not used to cooking with a gas bbq and the flame burnt the meat and fish. I usually cook delicious bbq's on the smouldering hot coals of a charcoal fire!

Saturday's highlight, apart from the hours of sunshine and general serenity of the villa, was a thrilling game of Trivial Pursuit after dinner between Rachel and I. As well as providing an hour of fun and laughter, it also highlighted what we already knew, I am a bank of useless trivia and Rachel isn't! Although, as Rach vehemently pointed out to me, she is the one with the common sense and that is much more valuable in life! she doesn't however understand my floccinaucinihilipilification of common sense and the fact I place much more importance on useless general knowledge and its help in winning pub quizzes and the occasional pound or two on the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire quiz boxes in the pub.

We have made a new friend here too, Chardonnay who is the head of the house's (Junior) dog. She is a 3 year old brown poodle and is great fun. She is nothing like the snobby poodles back in the UK and reminds us of Dizzee with her love of having her belly tickled and how excited she gets to see visitors!

Rachel decided to shun the pool and head out for a dip in the Caribbean Sea on Sunday. She informed me afterwards that she was going to swim out further from shore but got scared and kept turning back! Apparently, it was the stingrays that frightened her. There weren't actually any stingrays but the poor girl's imagination ran away with her. Better safe than sorry I suppose!

Sunday saw the 4th Annual Ocho Rios Seafood Festival, and we decided to investigate after dark following a short drive into town. The place was packed!! The car parks were full and with little knowledge of the town and local police we decided against dumping my father in law's car on a street and risking a ticket or worse! Still, the drive around town was great and gave us a taste of the atmosphere of Jamaica after dark. Its tricky to try and describe the sights, colours, sounds and smells of Ocho Rios as we drove round and round looking for somewhere to park, but I will give it a go. As well as the foot traffic heading to and from the festival, there were plenty of people, just hanging out! With the night time providing cooler temperatures, Jamaicans tend to congregate in the streets and outside their houses to socialise after dark, it lends itself to an atmosphere that is full of life and not as threatening as it appears at first sight. People are cooking jerk pork and chicken on roadside barbecues and the aromas given off are delightful and instantly make you hungry regardless of when you may have had your last meal! Add to this the thumping bassline of dancehall and reggae music being played in cars parked and idling around the streets and you start to get an idea of the mix that makes Jamaica the place it is. We stopped at the 24hr service station on the way home to grab something quick for dinner and ended up with
Beans on ToastBeans on ToastBeans on Toast

A traditional Jamaican meal that originated in Kingston in the 1920's. A staple part diet of the pineapple farmers of the island.
a couple of tins of beans and sausages which went great with the freshly baked bread back at the villa! I did push the boat out and adventurously chose spicy baked beans though (a potent mix you may think!)

The sun seemed to turn up the heat on Monday and it was definately the hottest day since we arrived. We spent the morning in the sun and floating aimlessly around the swimming pool before we decided to have a break from the sun before it wiped us out! Monday afternoon was spent on the veranda in Admin mode! We booked ourselves in for a spa afternoon on Tuesday and had a look into changing our itinerary for the rest of our travels. We have now extended our stay in Jamaica for another week until the 22nd August and reduced our time in Hawaii to one week. If I had my way, we'd be in Jamaica until the 21st December and reduce the rest of the travelling to zero! We are also considering a change at the end of the trip, maybe swapping India for a mini tour of South East Asia and the countries of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam or even Malaysia and Singapore. Nothing decided yet, we are just doing our research. I also managed to finally sort out my iPod! I managed to lose my iPod on the way to Heathrow way back in May and with it, all the playlists I had painstakingly created for various parts of our trip. Due to various acts of kindness from various people (for which I am eternally grateful) I got a couple of DVD's with all my songs on and a second hand iPod and on Monday I carefully bred these two together to create an iPod full of the songs I love! It means I no longer have to endure various Whitney Houston songs or worse that infernal Time of My Life song from Dirty Dancing that seems to come on everytime Rachel's iPod gets put into shuffle mode!!

Tuesday saw the return of the staff to the villa and this coincided with Floyd, the groundskeeper coming back after surgery. The atmosphere round the place seemed to lift with "the gang" all back together! There was a fair amount of rain and Rach and I decided to be completely crazy and go for a swim during the downpour! It was great fun and needless to say, we got wet.... The afternoon was spent at the local KiYara Spa where we were treated to massages and "Beauty Rituals". When we arrived we were asked to go and strip down (Rachel to a pair of paper pants and me to my birthday suit) and given a sarong each to hide our modesty. I must admit, I looked ravishing! We were led to the massage area by two Jamaican ladies, the massage area was beautiful, right on the water and surrounded by lush green vegetation and the sounds of the waves and the breeze were all we could here. First up we had the beauty ritual body scrubs.... Rachel's was moisturizing and smelt of Pina Colada, mine was antioxidant and I don't know what it smelt of. As we started this, I was asked to take my sarong off. Excuse the slightly graphic description but, basically a flannel was used to cover the crack of my arse when on my front and the same flannel to cover the twig and giggleberries when on my back! It was disconcerting to say the least! Anyway, after an open air shower to clean the body scrub off, we both had our seperate massages which was a deep tissue massage for me and a hot stones deep tissue massage for Rachel. They lasted an hour and the experience was pure bliss and it was a shame when it was over.

We returned to the villa later feeling very relaxed and had another delicious dinner before spending some time chatting with the staff. Since we have been to New Orleans and seen the Katrina damage, I have been interested in finding out about the destructive power of these big storms. September is the main hurricane month in Jamaica and I would love to be here to see just how powerful they are. I told Floyd about this and he described the destruction caused by hurricanes in 2006 and 1989 and toldme about the preparations they make and damage they cause and that he thinks I wouldn't really want to see one first hand! I'm still intrigued though!

We will be spending the next day or two doing some excursions to local places including a reggae museum and some beautiful gardens nearby before the arrival 4 of family at the weekend. PS - If any of you know how to stop mozzies biting us, let us know!

Additional photos below
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Junior's dog - reminds us of Dizzee a lot!

5th August 2010

'Extremely blackened chicken and salmon'....in that environment...?...doesn't sound TOO much of a hardship......!!!!!

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