A Bad Day Turns Out Beautiful, Sort of...


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Central America Caribbean » Jamaica
February 23rd 2017
Published: September 6th 2017
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Geo: 18.4888, -77.6558

Before we discuss the events of today, I must divulge some information on a little fun I had with Scarlett. I had trouble with her committing to an excursion that I felt both her and Jonathan would enjoy. I know I would like it and Mom loves the water. Prior to leaving on our trip, I inquired as to whether or not Scarlett and Jonathan would like to visit the jungle and tube down a river. It out started simple enough.

Al: Queenie, do you want to tube down the White River in Ocho Rios, Jamaica? Slow calm river ride plus Blue Hole, a giant pool of clear water. Not cold. $90 all day. This is private tour as ship tour is sold out.

Queenie: Is it clean? Will Mom go with us?

Al: Yes & Yes.

Queenie: OK, then book it. Sounds fun. Looks like a good thing to do. Can Jonathan do that too? Not sure what the Blue Hole is. Can you resend the link to me on that one?

You're kidding me? I already sent you the tour website link. It tells you everything. I bet you never even read it. Wait. What would Al do in this situation? Would he just send the same info again or maybe a different version with more spice? I like spice! So this time I send her info on the Black River in Jamaica. Yes, there is a Black River in Jamaica. I included two pictures. Here's an excerpt from the narrative. The story is true. The spice is mine.

Note that the Black River is very dark and gloomy, nasty looking. The real reason this river is such a big attraction, is that it is home to the largest amount of crocodiles on the Island of Jamaica. There are an estimated 300-400 crocodiles that inhabit this river. If we had youtube'd videos of crocodiles and their jumping and attacking abilities before we went to this river, I would not have step foot on the compound. From what our guide was telling us, they can lunge forward over 10 feet in a split second, they can also propel their entire bodies out of the water. There were several times he had to remind us, that if they wanted too, they could jump onto the boat, but everything was erie because they normally don't attack, unless provoked.

Al: See this link. That's
why you must have a guide when tubing and remember to keep your feet up. About 1 1/2hr long ride on river. Most crocs are small and the guide will actually grab them out of the water but he's always on the lookout for the big ones. The blue hole, sometimes called the black hole because the water is dark and deep, is where you can jump in but most just sit and watch out for anything that moves. There's still space on this tour.

Queenie: Screw that tour!!! Are you scary? I'm not going to do that. You guys swim with the crocs. I'll have your drinks ready by the bar when you return. If you return...

Queenie: Are you guys being serious ...or are you joking around. I won't do that trip.

Al: What about the kid?

No further transmission detected. Maybe she's mad. It's later that I find my story was totally unnecessary. She was afraid from the beginning.

Now for today's report......

My alarm goes off at 6am. I say my alarm because if I don't set it, no one else will. I lay there, pondering what this day will bring. The two ladies are not happy. It's cloudy and still threatening rain, although the high today is supposed to be 86°F. I feel as if it's my last day on death row but I awaken Karen and we prepare to go. We hold on alerting the others for awhile and enjoy the peace and solitude of our stateroom but finally it's time.

First, a little history of our port today. Falmouth was meticulously planned from the start, with wide streets in a regular grid, adequate water supply, and public buildings. It even had piped water before New York City. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Falmouth was one of the busiest ports in Jamaica. It was home to masons, carpenters, tavern-keepers, mariners, planters and others. It was a wealthy town in a wealthy parish with a rich racial mix. Within the parish, nearly one hundred plantations were actively manufacturing sugar and rum for export to Britain. Jamaica, during this period, had become the world's leading sugar producer.

All of the above made Falmouth a central hub of the slave trade and the now notorious cross-Atlantic triangular trade with its economy largely based on slavery. In Falmouth Harbor, as many as 30 tall-ships could be seen on any given day, many of them delivering slaves transported under inhumane conditions from Africa and loading their holds with rum and sugar manufactured by slave labor on nearby plantations. As a result, starting in 1840, Falmouth's fortunes as a commercial center declined after the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire. A new $180 million port was built to accommodate the newest and largest cruise ships, including Oasis class. The port opened in early 2011

Enough of out the past. I have what I would call a "sitiation" brewing right now. While Karen seems to have accepted her fate, Queenie resumes her rant although somewhat subdued. We all had ordered room service because the ship docks at 8am and our guide will be waiting for us right when we disembark. We actually eat the food this morning and, with all that done, we exit the boat at 8am with a gazillion other passengers. We have to ask where the outside tour companies are located and Queenie isn't happy. "See, all the ship tours are right here in these big buses. Where is this guy? I don't like this.", making a face while expressing her disapproval.

We find the location and the Real Tours Jamaica supervisor directs us to our tour guide for the day, Cleon. After introductions, the four of us go to his minibus and we're off. He gives us some info on Jamaica while we drive a little over an hour to the Blue Hole, our first stop. Within 15 minutes of our drive, Queenie is talking and asking questions, laughing about everything. Now she's totally comfortable with him. Our destination is in a mountain jungle. We stop at a roadside stand for Queenie to get water shoes for her and Jonathan. $24, and take pictures of a dude selling "Jamaican brownies". Cleon handles all the details. We pull up at the parking area, all get out and we make the trek to the Blue Hole. It's concrete steps with railings for all elevation changes and not too far in length, maybe 200'. Our driver helps Karen all the way, calling her Mom too. I'd help her myself but I'm the photographer. Now we meet Dante, our diving and hiking guide. With Mom and Queenie comfortably perched on a lookout point, the kid and I venture up the falls, crisscrossing the stream bed and using ropes strategically placed here and there to aid in our ascent. There's a group of 40 tourists, all in life jackets and obviously from the ship, stumbling and bumbling along, attempting to do the same but Dante, assigned to just the two of us, bypasses them and we roll past. We jump into several pools as we make our way back down the falls, always under Dante's watchful eye. The water is cool, not cold, or as he says, "refreshing".. He uses my GoPro to video us at all times. We make the final plunge into the Blue Hole and then, accompanied by Karen and Queenie, return to our van. Our driver, Cleon, has been with the two gals the entire time and helped Karen all the way. We say goodbye to Danta, introduce him to "Andrew Jackson" and leave him smiling. He took care of the two of us. Queenie approves of all the above. "This was fun.", she admits. What? Fun? No way!

Now Cleon drives us down the hill to the tubing place, all while Queenie yaps to him about how much fun it was and how nice the people were. At Calypso Tubing, we meet our guide, Ricky, who will be taking us down the river. He wants us to wait about 5 minutes to let the same group of tubers in life jackets that we saw at the Blue Hole get ahead of us a bit. 40 people with 2 guides, 4 of us with one guide. They're crashing into trees, stuck on rocks, they really suck. It's a typical ship tour.

Ricky readies our tubes and, while Jonathan and I manage to settle in to our tubes unassisted, Mom is helped by Ricky, Cleon and another fellow. She's happy as a clam. Now we all start to float down the river. With the exception of a couple of swift areas, it's a gentle ride of about an hour. We stop halfway at a camp for a restroom break, drinks, photos and any souvenirs. It's a marketing ploy that seems fair enough. Karen finds some wooden fish carving for $15. Back in the tubes and on the river, we finish the last 20 minutes though the jungle canopy where Cleon is waiting for us with the van. I used the GoPro all the way but those pictures will have to wait until I return home to post them to the blog. Queenie gets her money out of the van to pay for some pictures from the paparazzi. Surprisingly, her ship card and money are still there. No way! Really? She shrugs it off and with a smile says, "Oh, it's fine here. I know when it's dangerous. I can feel the vibes. Cleon is OK."

Yah, Mon.

We make a quick stop at an ATM. We're out of cash, Cleon knows it and is eager to assist in any way. Upon returning to the car, I say, "Great. I got 5 bucks. Let's go." Everyone laughs but I know he's wondering about that. Now we stop at our lunch spot, Scotchie's. It's busy with locals and small tours alike. We have to be back aboard the ship by 3:30pm and its 12:30 now. Missing the ship is another one of Queenie's fears but he's already pre-ordered our food and we sit down immediately. Jerk chicken and pork, rice and drinks. It's excellent but Queenie is reluctant. Remember, she got food poisoning years ago in Arizona and will not eat while traveling. While she cautiously sips on a Diet Coke, the three of us polish everything off and board the van for the hour ride back. We arrive at the port 45 minutes before our final boarding time. We say goodbye to a great guide, Cleon, and part with our $80 tip.

Queenie wants to get back to the ship right away since we don't know how long it will take us to get there. The ship is eclipses the sun over the entire port, casting a shadow throughout the entire shopping area and we don't know where the cruise ship is? OK. We get to stop for a few minutes to shop. I splurge for an $8 Jamaican t-shirt and we board after some delay getting through the crowded port side security.

Now we find that it's a formal night tonight, our last chance to dress up, so we don our fancy outfits and report for dinner at 6:30. Lobster tonight. Then it's the so-called Headliner Show, dancing and singing. Hey, it's free and besides, Queenie needs a place to sit so she can mess with her phone. Back at our rooms, Queenie orders room service for some cookies and milk and we're done for the night. The subject of discussion for tonight: The great time we had on the tour today. The people, the adventure, everything we learned along with the personalized service of a private tour, all for $90pp. The ship tour was offered at $140pp, no lunch and a bus load of people.

Tomorrow we will visit Labadee, Haiti where they will find that I've booked absolutely nothing. No activities of any kind. I never received any interest or feedback on what anyone wanted to do so I'll let them decide tomorrow from the options still available. Tonight, I retire in peace, knowing that somehow I've redeemed myself. While the excitement generated today may wane tomorrow in Labadee, I'm fine with the world. For the next few hours, I am a god!




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