Cool Runnings

Published: May 22nd 2014
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I think someone had Jamaicans in mind when the word cool was first defined in the English language. For a tropical country in the Caribbean, there seems to be cool ice running through their veins. These cats are the real deal; and the reggae rhythms, the fist bumps, the languid strides, and the easy rapport of Jamaicans are really starting to win me over. I had a level of apprehension before flying into Kingston, but now that I have settled in and had the chance to explore some of this magical island I'm beginning to understand the great appeal the tropical island of Jamaica has for so many travellers from around the world. The commutes are effortless, cheap and well organised, and the accommodation options and commitment to customer service make Jamaica an island to put near the top of your bucket list. As the locals says whenever they get a chance … yeah man!

The journal continues, from where we left off at the Reggae hostel in Kingston. The boss told me about his other Reggae hostel in the resort town of Ocho Rios, a four hour drive through winding and hilly roads before arriving on the north coast of Jamaica. Now that sounds like a plan, so I booked a ticket on the Knutsford Express bus, a luxury non stop service between the cities for the princely sum of $16. The Reggae Hostel in Ocho Rios looks more like a resort than a hostel, with balconies for the rooms and a big bar on the ceiling. It's right in the centre of town, and only 50 metres from the beach. Now that's my kinda scene for a spell of relaxing Caribbean style, so I splurged out and booked myself in for five glorious nights. There is always so much to see and do when visiting a new country, but in the time available I thought it best to have a relaxed itinerary here in Jamaica. The famous resort town of Montego Bay, and the lush green Port Antonio will have to wait for another time.

The staff and guests at the hostel are an interesting and engaging crowd, but unfortunately my visit coincided with a young German couple whose relationship has broken down while travelling, and they still have a bit of time before checking out. It's been kinda surreal sharing a room with these two people, who are nice individually but the tension in the air is palpable when they are together. It's been the talk of the hostel actually, and I'm not sure about the large knife that seems to be residing in the dorm room, however all seems to be well. Travelling is a very intense experience, and I really feel for the couple who have come to the realisation they are not made for each other while enjoying what should be the trip of a lifetime. Anyways, there are plenty of other gregarious and interesting guests to hang out with, and once you get ensconced in Ocho Rios it gets quite difficult to leave. One thing that surprised me, however, is the high level of security even in an island resort town, clearly the Jamaicans are struggling with crime in the island.

Even the beach was fenced off with a security presence, and you have to pay two dollars to enter. That was a surprise, as was the time I was walking along the beach with my English friend when we were stopped by a security guard.

We had only travelled a couple of hundred metres, but had already come across a private beach resort so had to turn around and walk back from where we had originally embarked. So much for a long walk along the beach, but the water and sand itself are absolutely glorious. Going for a dip is not as tropically warm as swimming in the South Pacific, but nevertheless it's a very pleasant experience frolicking in the Caribbean. There are plenty of things going on in town in Ocho Rios, and we saw a few boats full of dancehall music and partygoers cruising around near the beach. And on my finally day in the city, I witnessed a massive cruise liner moored only around 50 metres from the shoreline, as the passengers disgorged en masse to enjoy the sights of another Caribbean port.

During the last few days at the hostel I was privileged to hook up with another Aussie guy, and we went on a few adventures together. This included a visit to the famous Blue Hole which is less than thirty minutes outside of the city. Travellers and locals leap off the rocks into the gorgeous blue water below, and it's a great spot to spend a few hours in idyllic surroundings. You can just relax in the water and cool off, and enjoy the beautiful tropical scenery that surrounds one of the Caribbean's many blue holes. We also went out to a dancehall local club one night, to watch the locals enjoying themselves as only the Jamaicans can do. There was lots of booty shaking, and a great atmosphere to soak up while downing a couple of Red Stripes. Dancehall was created in Jamaica, and is a faster style of Reggae which is all the rage here in the Caribbean. For a small island country, the reach and influence of Jamaican music on the world is nothing short of extraordinary.

However, my time in Jamaica is winding up, as it's time to get out and explore more of the Caribbean islands while I have the opportunity. It's been a fascinating experience paying my first visit to this remarkable country, and I'm impressed by the grace and style of my Jamaican hosts. There is cricket, there is reggae music, there is outstanding sporting prowess in track and field, and a proud culture and tradition that the local people are very happy to display. The complete Caribbean island package can't help but win over visitors and, basically all of you should be here now!

"Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you're living?" Bob Marley

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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22nd May 2014

Clearly you've been romanced by the caribbean and Jamaica in particular. The hostile situation in the hostel sounds like a bad scene. Hide the knives! I was at Dunn's River Falls in the 80's and enjoyed it.

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