Article by Marie-Julie Gagnon, originally published in the Atmosphere magazine. Read the latest edition here.
It only takes a few minutes in the Jamaican sun for us to realize we’re arrived in the cool capital of the world. It’s amazing how the spontaneous smiles of the locals and their calls of Ya, man! are enough to loosen up the most uptight tourist on their Jamaica vacation.
Nine Mile, the Home of Bob Marley
We head to Nine Mile, birthplace of Bob Marley. Halfway there, the bus stops in front of a handicraft market. Curious, we get off the bus. Suddenly, amid the profusion of goods for sale, we spot a statue that is, to put it delicately, exceptionally well endowed. “It’s the big bamboo!” the vendor shouts out cheerfully. We leave splitting our sides at this first cultural encounter in Jamaica.
The road from Runaway Bay to Nine Mile is well worth taking. As we wind our way through the mountains of Saint Ann, we take in the fields of cabbage and the little shacks pieced together from odds and ends. We can’t help but notice the poverty in this country. And yet, the horizon is painted in shades of green, and the clouds seem to cling to the mountain peaks; it is all so calm…
“My name is Captain Crazy!” announces a dreadlocked character upon our arrival in Nine Mile (population: 300). Perfectly embodying the Marley spirit, the guide laughs and bursts into song throughout our visit. His anecdotes are all tinged with admiration for the reggae star, and draw us deeper into his world. It’s the perfect introduction to the singer whose voice will accompany us throughout our trip to Jamaica.
The Most Beautiful Beaches in Jamaica
Jamaica is also known for its many magnificent beaches. The most beautiful? “Seven Mile Beach in Negril” says Claudia Cole, former sales rep for the Jamaican tourism bureau. “It’s miles of perfect white sand. But you’ll find other beautiful beaches all over Jamaica”. Negril is also home to one of the island’s most famous bars: Rick’s Café, often captured in pictures of divers flinging themselves off the nearby cliff as the sun sets gloriously in the background. While it may no longer be the little establishment that existed here back in 1974, when Negril was still just a small fishing village, patrons still enjoy Rick’s Café, where they can sip multi-coloured drinks to the sound of the latest hits. The place can get crowded, but it’s definitely a fun place to hang out.
If you’re looking for tranquil beaches and a chance to do some water sports, head to the southwest of the country, where you can still find the unspoiled Jamaica of old. Having said that, even the more touristy Jamaica attractions can yield some surprisingly wonderful moments.
Prospect Plantation in Ocho Rios
During our visit to Prospect Plantation in Ocho Rios, it soon became clear that we were touring this 18th century property for a lot more than the bananas, sugar cane and coffee. With their deadpan humour and witty repartee, the guides stole the show!
A sense of humour is probably one of Jamaica’s greatest assets. We laughed so much during our seven-day trip to Jamaica that our abs got a real workout, not to mention our attitude. Hearing “No problem!” several times a day made the hyperactive little hamsters in our heads trade in their wheels for parasols. Ya, man!
Check out these useful terms that you can use on your trip to Jamaica:
I feel irie: I feel good
Da da wa: Peace and love in Amharic
Zion: Paradise on earth
Of Bobsleds and Greenery
The film Cool Runnings, starring John Candy, tells the story of the Jamaicans who participated in the Calgary Olympics in 1988. The bobsled has since become part of the culture. At Mystic Mountain, not too far from Dunn’s Falls, one of the best-known tourist sites in the Caribbean, fans can bobsled right through the forest. Though not as wild as a roller coaster, this environmentally-friendly Jamaica attraction definitely provides a serious adrenaline rush, right in the heart of nature!