All Around Jamaica Day 10 (Jamaica)

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All Around Jamaica Day 10

Published Mar 1, 2004

All Around Jamaica March/April 2003...Day 10
by Liz Maher

Day Ten, Friday (Negril and a trip)

This was the day we'd arranged to go swim with the manatees at Alligator Hole. However, just the day before I'd learned that Nyabinghi drummers would be at Home Sweet Home tonight and we all really wanted to do that, it was at 6PM, so I called Carolyn Barrett (our guide for this trip) and we decided to do YS Falls instead. I hired Carolyn because she is the only guide I know that does the manatee trip; also I have spoken to her online for years and thought it would be nice to meet in person. Three from our group were to play golf at Negril Hills today, the rest of us, plus that couple (so nine) hopped in Carolyn's new van and headed southeast. Carolyn is very knowledgeable about Jamaica, especially history. I sat up front with her and learned a lot that I didn't know.

Some from our group were smokers and Carolyn's van is new so we planned to stop as people wanted to, we couldn't smoke in the van. If you're a non-smoker I'm sure this is a plus. We made our first stop at Bluefields Beach. A lot of sand was lost this winter and now the beach is made of rocks but the water is still amazingly clear and on a Friday, apparently empty. We spent a nice 15-20 minutes or so there and climbed back in the van. On the way through "pepper swim" (crayfish with HOT seasoning sold in the shell in little baggies) land we had to grab a few bags…everyone had one while we drove.

We arrived at YS much faster than I remember that trip taking, 1 1/2 hours, maybe less. As you approach YS from the coast the scenery gets quite pretty. You don't really go far into the mountains but enough to get a different feel than in Negril and Bluefields. We pulled up to the gift shop/restaurant/bar/office at the parking area and hopped out. We were hot but we were hungrier so we ordered some chicken and patties and such at the restaurant and enjoyed the view. The food was not bad and considering they could, a la Disney, really overcharge for the food, it was very reasonably priced. I hadn't been to YS for 4 years or so and even at the parking area things had changed. Grass is cut, there is nice landscaping, a trolley stop with a shelter in case of rain. We hopped on the tractor-pulled jitney-trolley thing and took the 10-minute or so ride to the falls. The ride is very pretty; through the YS ranch…we saw cattle, but also racehorses. Seems they run a s tud farm here in addition to raising the cattle.

When we pulled up to the "Big Tree" at the foot of the falls, everything looked different, and the same. There is now a lovely river-fed freshwater pool, complete with Adirondack chairs set around it on a deck for lounging. I like pools but hate chlorine…this was very refreshing and nice for the older/younger crowd who aren't quite up to falls climbing. There were still the large grassy areas I remembered picnicking on years ago, and the changing rooms, but the big tree has a building built around it's feet and there is a small bar there.

We headed up to the main pool so the adventurous ones could swing off the rope swing into the water. I climbed around and swam a little, I'm not into ropes much :) The water was nice, not too cold and fairly clear, though there had been a little rain. In fact the sky was getting a little cloudy now.

We walked back down after a bit to meet Carolyn who had arranged something for us at YS that's very new, only a month or so at that time. She told me about it when I called to say we didn't have time to do the manatees. YS Falls now has TUBING! I'd so wanted to go tubing on the White River near Ochi but we'd run out of time so I was thrilled to learn we could do it at YS. Everyone else was into it too. We put on life vests, got paddles and were led to a launch by the pool where we were helped into our tubes (thoughtfully not open on the bottom but with vinyl lattice stuff to protect from the rocks in shallow spots :) ). We had two guides with us, not that we needed to know where to go but they did help us with a couple of rapids on the way down.

This trip is mainly floating slowly, nothing big rapids-wise at all, but it was nice to be shown where to tube down one or two of the steeper ones, once or twice they had us get out and climb down a rock. Somewhere along the river (which feeds into the Black River, by the way), it started to rain. We were in jungley-tree cover and were in swimsuits and wet anyway so it was a great way to pass the rain time. The whole trip took about 40 minutes. Before we knew it, we were out.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We go tubing in the US sometimes and it's very similar…except of course you're in clear Jamaican water with Jamaican jungle around you...so it's not at all the same experience.

We needed to head back to Negril and had one more stop so we cleaned up and hopped the trolley-thing again. At the parking area a few people shopped, I got my first Anthony Winkler book there - "Going Home to Teach" and I've since bought two more, they're great. They have a nice shop there, again not too expensive.

Our stop along the way home was at the Peter Tosh Mausoleum/Monument. It's in Belmont, across from a lovely bay, and is pretty easy to miss if you aren't looking hard. There were a few people around, looked like family mainly. We walked into the mausoleum…when one of our group noticed the huge cement "box" in the room I realized I'd forgotten to tell my friends that he is actually buried here :) . There is a small table with cds (I bought one) and t-shirts and similar stuff, and a table with photos and a little sign about the museum they hope to build here. No hassle or hustle at all. I spoke with one of the guys there as I'd brought down some live Peter Tosh cds from US shows and wanted to drop them off here but forgot them in Negril. I explained we'd stop back Monday on our way to Treasure Beach and we headed back.

This ought to end the day; it really should, because we were beat. But we'd come back early for a reason…we had Nyabinghi drummers to see tonight at 6 and it's now about 4:30…

Day Ten, Friday NIGHT (Negril)

We met up with the golfers - they'd had a great day, apparently, congrats to big winner Tommy - and took a rest and shower and swim and whatnot and finally grabbed a bus (yep, a whole bus) to Home Sweet Home on the cliffs. When we arrive I immediately spot Pirate. After maybe 5 years of speaking online, we finally meet. About time, he was very sweet. They found some tables from somewhere for us (it was crowded, all tables were full) and we ordered some drinks and food and enjoyed the drums. The group has maybe 4 drummers and a dancer. They sounded great and I listened, chatted a bit with Pirate and waved to the live Internet videocam. Thanks, Pirate, for letting me e-mail my parents and kids to check in :)

HSH was great but there were some kids around at that time, and it seemed once I got into my Nyabinghi groove-mood, the drummers were finished playing.

Lloydie had come down to join us for a drink, he knew a couple of the drummers from school or somewhere. I got to thinking about the nice cozy cliff at 3 Dives. I don't remember who had the idea but it was decided that since the drummers were finished here, we should ask them to come up to 3 Dives where we could have a bonfire and relax awhile. We elected Mace to offer them something to come and play up the road and they agreed.

We finished up at HSH and walked up. Lloydie started up his signature cliffside bonfire and pretty soon the drummers arrived. We settled in around the fire to listen. I was thoroughly enjoying myself and wished I had a couch or something…my body was tired from the day. Lloydie heard me say that and grabbed a chaise he keeps behind the bar and brought it down by the fire for me. Yessss…this is living.

I'd brought a few copies of a Wailers show down from 1973 to give people, and we'd been playing it a lot at the villa. The first tune on it is Rastaman Chant, a song I love. Lloydie asked the drummers for a rasta chant and it so happened that's the one they chose. I can't really describe the feeling I had at that point. The stars were so bright that night…each star was not only visible but you know how the big dipper has this cloud-looking star stuff around it? ALL the stars had that cloud this night. I've never seen stars so bright and clear. A few people had wandered down to the cliff side…at one point I talked with a Rasta that appeared from nowhere…he said he was walking on the road and heard the drums and had to come down. Quite a few people followed the drums to join our group down by the cliff that night. We stayed there for a long time, just enjoying the music, mood, fire, stars.

Ahhh….Heaven. It lasted about 20 minutes before my friend NeNe grabbed me up out of the chair announcing that she had even gotten Paula down here to dance and why was I sitting down?? This is supposed to meditative drumming, I tell her, doesn't she know that? NO, she says, she has just dragged Paula out of the kitchen and how often do we go to Jamaica together anyway? OK, OK, I'll give up my cozy spot and dance just a MINUTE.

When the drummers finally stopped, we thanked them and Lloydie put some hookah on his stereo. I think I explained about ekoostik hookah before but they are a band we love and see a lot at home, and Lloydie and Paula love them too, saw their shows in '99 and '02 in Negril. We always bring them down some live hookah shows to listen to. The one Paula put on that night has a song on it by Ed McGee called "Pass the Cider, Pass the Rum". It's a song I always took to be about growing up, and wanting things to stay the same but knowing they can't and maybe it's ultimately OK. Our experience in Jamaica made me think of it and we all started playing with the lyrics to the song that night. I finished it in my head after I'd been home reflecting on the experience for a few days.

Here is that song, slightly rewritten (humor me, Ed):

Pass the kaya, pass the rum.
Stoke the fire, my mind's getting numb,
but I'm gonna stay here all night long.
This spot on the clifftop's as good as my home.
We sit 'round the bonfire and our circle's so strong.
We'll still be singing come the light, come the dawn.

I'm down in Jamaica again;
I'm out the cliff with drums and some friends.
But it's all in my mind--
I'd like to go back, it's been a long time,
But I think it's better we stayed.
Those are songs that we've already played.
We'll keep the memories pure as gold,
and let the stories always be told.

We used to climb the Beach House,
we could see for miles, we'd stay there for hours.
We could climb it again--
the view hasn't changed, but it won't be the same.
You know, I think it's better we stayed.
Those are songs that we've already played.
We'll keep the memories pure as gold,
and let the stories always be told.

We were high as the moon and Paula was laughing with us, she says, "we needed the fire to come soon." But that was Lloydie and me,
and now we are gone. I guess it's time to move on. You know, I really wish we had stayed.
There are still a few songs we could play.
Maybe it's all just as well,
but I've got so many stories to tell.
I've got so many stories to tell.

So pass the cider, pass the rum.
Stoke the fire, my fingers are numb,
but I'm gonna stay here all night long.
This field on this hilltop is really my home.
We sit 'round the bonfire and our circle's so strong.
We'll still be singing come the light, come the dawn.

(The real lyrics are here and you can hear the song here.)

That last verse is pretty much the way it was written. I left it because as much as I love Jamaica, my home is here, and I was glad in many ways to be back to our bonfires and our circles....life here is not bad, and thankfully the effects of Jamaican travel stay with me for months after I come home.

While I'm sharing my lyrical inspiration, this is Rastaman Chant. I later discovered that much of this song was read and played at Bob Marley's funeral during his eulogy. Very fitting. You can listen to this song if you click here.

Rastaman Chant (Bob Marley and the Wailers)

I hear the words of the Rasta Man say
Babylon you throne gone down, gone down
Babylon you throne gone down

Said, I hear the words of the Higher Man say
Babylon you throne gone down, gone down
Babylon you throne gone down

And I hear the angel with the seven seals
Babylon your throne's gone down, gone down
Babylon you throne gone down

I say fly away home to Zion
Fly away home
I say fly away to Zion
Fly away home

One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home
One bright morning when my work is over
Man will fly away home

I'll end this night right here.

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