Monday, February 16, 2015

Departing Jamaica

Caribbean paradise was fun but it was time to return to reality. Also we'd been eating about 6 meals a day in order to taste as many fun plants and animals as possible. I'm not a doctor but I think one weekend was enough of that.

Not only was the hotel full of travel agents but it had a shady palm reader.

Our flight was leaving midday so we had one last lunch on the hotel's dime before heading to the airport. 

We noticed they still had a couple drinks left so we drank them.

What the taxi drivers kept telling us ended up being true: "In Jamaica there are no problems, only situations."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Walking Tour and a Far Out Fish Hut

We switched things up a little and went on an architectural walking tour of the nearby town of Falmouth. We hired a cab to drive us there. You know the cab fare is inflated when the cab driver insists on waiting 2 hours, for free, for the privilege of driving you back to the hotel 2 hours later. He even loaned me a little cell phone that I could call him on.

Falmouth started out a little scary. There was a very aggressive beggar who'd spotted us and had his grimy hand out touching the van window before we even got out of the car. Both our driver and the tour guide we came to meet tried valiantly to shoo the guy away but he was a tough one. They both kept telling him we had no money which was such an obvious lie that it made me uncomfortable. Not uncomfortable enough to give him anything though. Eventually he lost interest and beat it.

Our guide, Simone, was excited that we had heard of the tour and wanted to know more about how we found it. Usually the tour only operates when the cruise ships are docked, so we had this tour all to ourselves.

Falmouth was a big deal port town back when Jamaica was the world's largest sugar producer. The guide book claimed that the town had running water before New York did. 

Our walk began at the courthouse.

The town square. There was a food tour available that we wanted to do but since it was Sunday most of the restaurants were closed. Loud, boisterous sermons could be heard echoing out of many of the churches we passed.

I liked that this church's graveyard foliage was being maintained by several goats.

Simone does a lot of talking with her hands which makes her a good photo subject.

Some of the buildings were in better shape than others. I got the impression that this historical heritage was a bit of a mixed bag for Falmouth. On one hand having awesome things in your town is awesome, and the recently built cruise port makes it clear that it's something that tourists will pay to see. The downside is that it's really expensive to restore/maintain these old gems and many of the people living inside just can't support them. As a result many of them were looking pretty run down. The government won't let you knock them down, so one trick that we heard is that people will secretly build a cement block house inside an old house and then knock it down afterwards. Pretty sneaky.

Lastly we got to see a school which I think Lydia enjoyed. There were lots of educational things painted all over the place.

The school had the most excellent playground ever. It was right next to the ocean and had a colonial armory on it complete with a cannon. Can't beat that.

I hadn't planned on stopping at the Far Out Fish Hut but I spotted it on the way back to the hotel and asked our driver if he would mind stopping. I felt extra guilty when it took them like an hour to cook our food. 

Lydia had shrimp and okra which was nice and spicy. Well worth the wait.

I was pretty excited about getting pulled over because I got to see some up-close daily life happening. The driver was less excited about it. He had committed the grave sin of passing when the center line was solid. I think the fine was like $10 USD so my advice would be to just get over it.

We did some resting back at the ranch.

Sure we'd already eaten, but I needed to see if they had anything fun. The Hilton did a really good job of having a couple local things available for every meal in addition to the pizza and more boring stuff. Clockwise on the plate is oxtail, coconut, starfruit, and then unchewed and then chewed sugarcane.

It was pretty overcast again. We didn't really do any beach time on this trip. We were just too busy.


Later that night we took a group night bus tour to the Glistening Waters Luminous Lagoon. The water there is filled with some sort of luminescent algae that lights up on contact. Our first glimpse of it was a speedboat zooming by with a bright blue trail behind in the black nighttime water. Swimming around in the water produced a sort of light halo that would follow you wherever you went. The splashier you were, the brighter the effect. Pulling your hand or face up out of the water made you crackle with little specs of light. It was the closest thing to magic that I think I've ever seen. I brought my trusty GoPro with me to capture this phenomena but it was just too dark and that failed completely. Luckily there was a photographer on the boat and we bought a few shots from him. It was epic.

This place made our trip to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland seem completely boring.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Shady Dolphins and a Murderous Plantation

The Hilton was filled with tour company employees. There was an official desk in the lobby, but they were also just setting up shop wherever there was a spare table and chair. There was always a guy in a blue Hawaiian shirt waiting by the bar for his next customer. Sitting around at a bar at a Jamaican resort all day is not the worst job in the world.

Anyway we went to the official desk in the lobby to see what was available.

Discussing the dolphin swimming experience that was advertised took a strange turn and felt like negotiating with an underwater prostitute. The cheapest package on the brochure was called "the encounter" which allowed you to ""touch", meet and make friends with the dolphin".  Why does touch have quotations? "Why?" If you've got the cash you can upgrade to the next tier where you can "enjoy a kiss, perhaps a splash or two and have a real up-close experience while getting a belly-ride." A belly-ride? Really? Dolphins have no shame.

We purchased a much more wholesome tour for the next day and were then on our way. There were tours available for the nearby Rose Hall Great House, but it was so close to our hotel that we decided to just walk.

The walk along the road provided a nice view of the hotel's golf course.

Touring old houses in Jamaica is so dangerous.

Looking at this picture right after Lydia took it was the moment I realized I have a big red birthmark on the back of my head. Don't look at me I'm hideous.

The inside of the house was terrifying. The wallpaper is some sort of silk and the nearby ocean's spray wrecks it periodically. I got a Disney Haunted Mansion vibe immediately.

This tour was most interesting because of the uncensored stories regarding the treatment of the plantation's slaves. Apparently the slaves had to whistle while carrying food into the house or it would be assumed they were eating some of it and they would be killed. If a chamber pot wasn't emptied fast enough its contents would be dumped on a slave as punishment. The White Witch of Rose Hall (racist) was the main character of many of these stories. She had a bad habit of murdering her husbands, having a slave dispose of the body, and then murdering the slave to cover her tracks. It's amazing anyone had time to do any work at this plantation, what with all the murdering and poo throwing.

There was even a bear trap example that would've been used to catch runaways.

They had some awesome tiki torches made out of empty beer bottles.

Our last stop was the White Witch's (racist) grave.

We checked out a touristy mall across the street from the great house.

Well we had been outside of the hotel for about 2 hours so we had to hurry back and rest.

The dolphin pimps are always nearby.

We had some jerk pork and fish fritters for lunch.

We did some other things that apparently were not worth taking any pictures of, and then we took a cab to eat jerked meat again. Rough life, right?

Scotchie's was cool because there seemed to be locals and tourists enjoying themselves at the same restaurant.

Logs and corrugated metal is apparently the Jamaican jerk secret ingredient.

I expected the jerk chicken to be really spicy but it was pretty mild.

Back at the Hilton we popped in to the cafeteria just to sample the day's weird fruits. These are star apple slices.

I tried an otaheite apple too but wasn't real impressed. It had the consistency of a mushy pear.