1 October -
Boston, USA – Montego Bay, Jamaica - By plane
And, so arrived
the day of my departure to Jamaica. It was time to say goodbye
to the US and its friendly people and go in search of warmer
grounds. I was up at 3h00 and packed the last of my belongings
into one bag. Steve was dead on time and drove me to the airport
where I boarded a plane to New York City and onwards to Jamaica.
All went well except for the fact that with Delta Airlines one
pays for your luggage. The only luggage that is free is you
carry-on bag. First bag $25 and the bike $150!! That all worked
out to a rather expensive flight. At least they did not weigh my
It was incredible
to see the clear blue ocean from the plane, it was so clear that
I could see the bottom of the ocean! Tiny islands could be
seen, all looking very idyllic, and then suddenly there it was
After landing in
Montego Bay, I first had to buy an onward ticket before they
allowed me in. I bought a ticket back to Miami for 27 November,
as that should give me more than enough time to cycle around
Jamaica and spend a month or so in Cuba, if I wish.
I collected my bag
and bike and took a taxi to Gloriana’s for a night or two. That
night I opened the bike box to reassemble the bike and found
that the bike shop took the entire bike apart before boxing it!
I did not have the right tools to reassemble it and only did
what I could and left it at that.
2 - 3 October -
Montego Bay, Jamaica
First thing in the
morning I took a taxi to the bike shop and asked them to
reattach the derailleur and do the other bits I could not do. It
is times like this that I wish I was cycling with someone who
could work on a bike!! In the meantime, I went in search of a
bathing suit, as one cannot be in Jamaica without a bathing
Needless to say I,
straightaway, fell in love with Jamaica. I love the people and
their way of speaking, in fact, when they speak to each other, I
don’t understand them at all!! I went to the hairdresser and
nearly walked out with my hair dreadlocked.
That evening I sat
next to the pool, had a decent cup of coffee and then ordered
the curry goat, which I washed down with a rum punch!! What a
life!! Although, I must admit that I’m kind of shocked at the
prices! It is rather expensive and nothing comes cheap.
While I sat
sipping my morning Jamaican coffee next to the pool at a
Hibiscus adorned table, I decided to stay another day. I lazily
contemplated what to do with the day. In the end, I walked the
not so far distance to Downtown where I found a bit of Jamaican
history, as well as the local supermarket. I did my shopping and
then walked back past numerous beach bars where rum comes in all
colours, shapes and sizes.
4 October -
Montego Bay – Fisherman’s Inn - 42 km
It was boiling hot
as I packed up and left Gloriana’s. I slowly cycled down the
road, stopping at beachside bars to get water and chat to the
locals. I soon reached Falmouth, a typical Jamaican town with a
long history. The centre of town had a few old buildings, but it
was too hot to spend time and I continued on along the coast to
where I reached the village of Rock, home to a phosphorous
lagoon. I believed one could see phosphorescent at night.
I decided to stay
and wait for darkness to witness the spectacle. I took a room at
the Fisherman’s Inn which appeared to be closed as nothing
worked and there was hardly anyone around. I got a room for
cheap so I could not complain and it was right on the lagoon and
it had a pool. Fortunately, there was a convenient store at the
gas station where I could get some snacks and a beer.
That evening it
started bucketing down and in the end the boat did not go out! I
was rather sad about the missed opportunity.
5 - 7 October -
Fisherman’s Inn – Ocho Rios - 77 km
I was not going to
stay another night waiting for the boat, so I packed up and
cycled to Ocho Rios. It was terribly hot again and the going
rather slow. Cycling was not as easy as expected as there were a
few hills on the way. At least I had butterflies darting around
my head and not flies trying to crawl up my nose, as in other
parts of the world.
Besides the heat,
it was an interesting day past Runaway Bay and Discovery Bay. I
stopped for lunch, which consisted of Jerk Chicken with rice and
beans. One cannot stop at a local spot like this without someone
coming to strike up a conversation and, soon enough, will invite
you to come and stay at their home. I declined and continued on
to Ocho Rios.
In Ocho Rios I
found The Reggae Hostel, which was well-located, a stone’s throw
from the beach and right in the centre of town. It was a real
cool place to stay and everyone staying there was equally
laidback. In the end, we all stayed longer than planned. I made
use of the time to go scuba diving and, wow, what fantastic
had. The water was a bright blue and the fish colourful and in
abundance. I did two dives and thought it well worth the effort
Back at the hostel
I discovered that Sheldon (a really friendly Jamaican guy) and
his girlfriend had a bracelet made for me in the Jamaican
colours and with my name on it!! How awesome is that?
8 October -
Ocho Rios – Port Maria - 45 km
I could not hang
around Ocho Rios for ever, so finally packed up and cycled on
along the coast. I did not get very far before being flagged
down and offered a room along the way.
The Jamaicans have
the most wonderful way of addressing a person. They’re always
calling out: “Be careful, young lady” or “Hello, pretty lady.
You need a room?” even to an old hag like me!!! But then it is
not about being young or pretty; it’s just what they call
It was a real
local place with a stunning view and a surprisingly modern room
(compared to the rest of the place). I was in no hurry, so
stayed for the night. Again, I felt that Jamaica was not for the
single traveller but that it should be enjoyed with friends -
the more the merrier. No good having a romantic room all by
I, however, had a
good time sitting around listening to reggae music and watching
the locals rolling and smoking their joints while they were
slowly swaying to the rhythm of the music. Oh, I love the
Jamaican way, slow to move but quick with a smile!! I cycled
the three, or so, kilometres into Port Maria, picked up some
food and, while cycling back, I discovered that by then the
entire town already knew me. I guess that a white woman on a
bike can hardly slip under the radar in Jamaica!!
9 - 10 October
- Port Maria – Port Antonio - 78 km
The road swung
inland over the hills, past small rural villages seemingly
untouched by the lively tourist trade along the coast. I soon
came out at the coast again and continued until I reached Port
Antonio. My bike was giving problems so I looked for a bike
shop, which I found, but it was closed. The town itself was a
bit of a dump, mainly because they were working on the roads and
the whole town was in a mess.
The following day
I took the bicycle to the bike shop and they adjusted the gears
as best they could.
Jamaica is truly
amazing. It’s not only the picture postcard scenery, but it’s
the combination of the people, the food, the music and the
culture. I took a walk to the marina, savouring not only the
occasional waft of marijuana, but the wonderful aromatic smoke
that came from the innumerable jerk stands.
11 October -
Port Antonio – Morant Bay - 75 km
Again the narrow,
potholed road hugged the coast for the first 40 kilometres or so
and then veered inland over the hills to Morant Bay. I stopped
at the Blue Lagoon for a dip, but I sadly did not resemble the
14-year-old Brooke Shields in the movie of the same name!
12 October -
Morant Bay – Kingston - 65 km
I packed up at
leisure as I knew it was not far to Kingston. Again, it was a
real stinker as I followed the coastal road, which seemed to
deteriorate the closer it got to Kingston. Fortunately, it was a
Sunday and the road was not all that busy. There were, however,
a few nasty little hills along the way, on top of that a bee
flew in under my cap and stung me on the eye!!!
Once in the city I
looked for the Reggae Hostel which was on the outskirts of town
but still walking distance to shops. I was pleasantly surprised
to recognize other travellers whom I had met in Ocho Rios (It’s
a small island)
morning I woke with my eye swollen nearly shut!! I got
antihistamine syrup from the pharmacy but it made me so sleepy
that I did not take it again. There was not much to do in
Kingston (except party). I stayed one more night, did my laundry
and walked around to see what it was all about.
14 October -
Kingston – Milk River Spa - 88 km
It was time to
move on and instead of taking the main road, I decided to follow
the seldom-travelled coastal route. I could tell by the comments
and looks along the way that not only was it a less visited
area, but also that a white woman on a bicycle was a rarity.
Towards the end of
the day I reached Milk River, a tiny village, with a few
churches and a large school. A road sign indicated that there
was a hotel and spa and that it was the best hotel in the world!
Judging by the condition of the sign I did not expect much but
went to investigate. It was an interesting place with a few
private baths. The hotel was an old wooden building with
comfortable but sparsely decorated rooms along a creaky veranda.
I wasted no time to submerge myself in the bath as it was
rumoured that it provided a cure for numerous ailments. The room
price included dinner and breakfast, which I was happy about as
I was extremely hungry. I was the only person staying at the
hotel and was treated like royalty.
15 October -
Milk River Spa – Junction - 44 km
I had one more dip
in the hot spring and then followed the coastal road further
west. It was a rather interesting day.
I visited “God’s
Well”, a deep sinkhole, off the side of the road and rumoured to
be inhabited by the ghosts of a Taino maiden and a scuba diver
(unrelated) who both drowned there. The scuba diver died whilst
trying to establish the depth of the well.
Further along the
road I stopped at Alligator Pond for lunch. Little Ochi is a
well-visited restaurant where one can order freshly-caught fish
right on the beach. The tables were in brightly painted boats on
stilts and Reggae music blared from the bar.
After lunch, I set
off up the mountain. It was midday and stinking hot. The road
was steep and in poor condition. People kept calling me in,
telling me to take a rest and rather take a taxi and that it was
not achievable by bicycle. I nearly believed them as the going
was rather slow and exhausting. By the time I reached the small
village of Junction I spotted a sign for a Guest House and there
and then decided to do the rest of the way the following day.
The guest house was cheap but nice and even had a pool.
16 October -
Junction – Treasure Beach - 30 km
I was up early and
on the bike trying to do the rest of the climb in the cooler
morning air. I soon discovered that there is no such thing as
“cooler morning air”, and early morning it was already hot.
There are days
that I truly doubt my sanity! Today was one of those days!! In
the heat, I wrestled my bike up the hills. It did not help that
the locals told me that I should rather take a taxi as it was
not possible to get to Treasure Beach by bicycle!! Fortunately,
there was only one hill to climb and then the downhill started,
taking me all the way to the small village of Treasure Beach.
This side of the
mountain was surprisingly dry and barren. It looked distinctly
African with thorn trees and goats roaming the streets.
Treasure Bay was
home to a few restaurants and guest houses and fortunately not
“all inclusive”, as yet. No lounge chairs on the beach, just a
few fishing boats. I found myself a room right on the beach and
parked off in the shade.
18 October -
Treasure Beach – Black River - 30 km
At Black River, I
took the boat up the Black River and into the Great Morass. It
was an interesting boat ride with plenty of birdlife and a fair
share of crocodiles. Black River is a tiny village but
interesting, with a little promenade and a few old wooden
buildings dating back to the early days of Jamaica. I stayed at
Waterloo Guest House built in 1819, reputed to have been the
first place in Jamaica to get electricity.
19 - 20 October
- Black River – Negril
I arrived in
Negril, the party town of Jamaica, where everything is
overpriced and rather touristy. I will spend a day here to float
in the crystal clear water of the Caribbean Sea before cycling
the last 75 kilometres back to Montego Bay where I started.
ladies can “Rent-a-dread” or “Rastitute” as it’s called here,
and it is not unusual to see middle-aged ladies strolling hand
in hand with handsome young studs!! I believe that some European
women have ongoing relationships and return regularly to Jamaica
for the lure of the “big bamboo”, or that is at least what I’m
21 October -Negril
– Montego Bay - 75 km
It was an easy and
interesting ride back to Montego Bay. The road hugged the coast
and it was the first day that I actually got caught in the rain.
Not bad, taking into consideration that it was supposed to be
the rainy season.
As the rain came
pouring down, curio sellers along the road called me to take
shelter at their stands. I wasted no time in making use of their
generosity. It turned out to be right next to the Tryall
water-wheel and as soon as the rain abated I went to
investigate. The gigantic Tryall water-wheel is nearly 200 years
old and still turning!
traditional breakfast in Jamaica consists of salt fish and ackee,
served with callaloo and a side plate of yam, dumplings and
plantain. Both ackee and callaloo are from West Africa.
22 - 28 October - Montego Bay
Once in Montego Bay, I found
myself a room at Gloriana’s and settled in. The next flight to
Cuba was only in a week’s time, so I had plenty of time to
explore. I tried all the local dishes, including the famous
Jamaican breakfast. Breakfast in Jamaica consists of saltfish
and ackee (a fruit), served with callaloo (a spinach-like
vegetable) and a side plate of yam, dumplings, and plantain.
Both ackee and callaloo are from West Africa and most likely
arrived in Jamaica on one of the slave ships.
Temperatures in Jamaica hardly
change from one day to the next and stay at about 25 to 30
degrees Celsius. It was still the rainy season and in the
afternoon clouds gather and there were thunderstorms for an hour
or so before it cleared up again. Amazingly all this happened
with hardly any change in temperature.
The tropical Caribbean climate in Jamaica
facilitates a diverse ecosystem. Jamaica's plant life has
changed considerably over the centuries. When the Spanish came
here in 1494, except for small agricultural clearings, the
country was deeply forested. The European settlers cut down the
trees for building purposes and cleared the plains, savannahs
and mountain slopes for cultivation. New plants
introduced but, fortunately, there are still some indigenous
plants to be found.
In the following days I walked
the streets of Mobay, which were packed with curio stalls all
selling the same kind of thing. The interesting part is that on
cruise ship days the prices double and it’s not a good idea to
go shopping on those days. In the meantime, I looked for a bike
box but could not find one anywhere. In the end, I stuck two
boxes together and hoped that it would not fall apart before I
got to Cuba.
Cuba is situated a mere 90 miles
north of Jamaica, but the cheapest flight I could find went via
Panama!! As far as I can ascertain, there is hardly any internet
in Cuba, so I knew I would be out of touch for the month of