Jet Lag Journal: Ocho Rios, Jamaica
In January, I was hunkered down in my office literally pounding both fists on my desk and groaning like a baby grizzly. The floor to ceiling windows behind me, while normally a perk, were showered all day with hail – plunk….plunkplunk….puh-LUNK – and it was just so gray and disgusting that I was convinced I would never see sun again. That persistent gray and precipitation – it is just soul-sucking. Like Ghost of Jacob Marley-type soul-sucking. I whined and whined. And then I turned my head ever so slightly to the left and looked at my roommate Dewi, who was similarly moaning and groaning and pounding and whining, and said “UGH. Let’s just get out of here and go to Jamaica.” She shrugged and said, “Well, OK. Book it.” She was too busy to plan so … I was in charge! My favorite thing! Being in charge of fun!
With trusty Tablet Hotels as my curator yet again, I booked a three night trip to Ocho Rios to stay at Hermosa Cove, a sweet, secluded collection of colorful villas on a private turquoise beach. Oh that sun! Oh that warmth! THANK YOU! Clumps of bananas hung from the trees, multicolored caterpillars and little kittens roamed the property, treehouses were being built, and there were birds of paradise of both varieties – both the curvaceous neon flower and the actual aviary kind.
We checked into the Breadfruit Suite, a one bedroom villa with a private plunge pool and an outdoor shower. We never bothered with the pool; I am sure that comes in handy when skinnydipping on a romantic vacation, but why would we dip in there when we had an entire Jamaican beach to ourselves? There was banana bread in the fridge, and hummingbirds dipped their long needly noses into a feeder by our gate. I spent a nice afternoon drawing in our garden (with woodchimes lazily knocking together – a heavenly sound). One night, we stayed in to watch Motorcycle Diaries. Dewi was beyond thrilled – she did her nails, used a face mask, and didn’t even have to read the subtitles. The heart of Hermosa Cove is the giant cotton tree at its center, with giant roots that look like alligator tails curving across the grounds. It is magnificent to behold.
It is easy to tell with one quick glance that Hermosa Cove is a labor of love. Its owners filled every nook and cranny with local woodcarvings, paintings, straw lanterns and stained glass. The owner takes resort guests to the Pineapple Craft Market every Tuesday morning to introduce them to his favorite artists. We were not so lucky to be there on a Tuesday, but we did go to the market like big girls all on our own, and we did admire all of the decorative art throughout the grounds. I loved photographing them, particularly at the beach bar, The Broken Rudder.
One of our favorite days was spent paddling around like happy little kids through the waterfalls and lagoons of Blue Hole. This serene, unblemished swimming area in the mountains of Ocho Rios is staffed by local young guys who spent their days swimming here as little kids before it was cleared for tourists to visit. They swung from rope swings and climbed up to the top branches of the trees to dive deep into the waterfalls. So now they know exactly where to step, where to jump, and where to climb into and out of the rock caves. They also act as photographers and take a million photos of you while you’re swimming. Dewi looked adorable, I looked like a monster. Seriously, you should see these pictures. Actually, you shouldn’t, and I can’t either because I deleted almost all of them. Here’s one below that is approved for public consumption. Below is Little T, who is busy laughing at Dewi for being a wimp about jumping off cliffs.
Rashaun, one of the staff members, took us to the store to pick up squatty little bottles of Red Stripe to keep in our fridge. Red Stripe and my book were loyal companions throughout this trip, where I basically spent all my time sitting in various locations. I sat on a beach lounge, I sat in a hammock, I sat on a bar stool, I sat on some sort of bamboo campaign chair on a dock. So much sitting. So much reading. So much sunshine.
Let’s take a moment to talk about jerk chicken. At Scotchie’s, you can order at the counter and then sit under corrugated-roofed huts to eat jerk chicken with “rice and peas” from a foil container. The jerk sauce is super spicy, and it’s possible you’ll be the only white person there. This is a rare occurrence for me. Sometimes while I was in Jamaica, I just felt like…. well, like a highlighter.
One day, our bathroom flooded with water. No big deal, we just needed someone to bring a mop. But it turns out that a water main in town broke, and the Breadfruit Suite was the only villa at Hermosa Cove affected. This meant we had to pack up all our things to move rooms – to Ginger Hall, a three-bedroom, two-story house with a wraparound porch. This was a terrible turn of events (on opposite day).
Ocho Rios treated us well: we saw live reggae, visited a craft market, jumped off waterfalls, and ate a lot of banana bread in the sunshine. (Well. Dewi worked a lot. I’m ignoring that part.) I visited Jamaica once before – Negril Jet Lag Journal here – and it had never been on my bucket list. But it’s such a special place that I can’t resist going yet again next year! Sunshine and beaches can be found in so many places, but the Jamaican philosophy of life just feels good. Now, back to the desk and the gray. But I have a tan on my face and relaxation on my mind. Respect, mon.