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Archives for February 2013

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Sandals Island Jamaica

It’s impossible to ignore this Sandals recreation resort, with its Asian-inspired design, bright red color and unique location on Sandals Island, a private off-shore island near Montego Bay. It is the only hotel in Jamaica that occupies its own island. How cool is that?

Sandals Island

Sandals Royal Caribbean

Guests get to the private island, which has all amenities, including restaurants, a private beach, pool, Jacuzzi and more  by hopping on one of these dragon boats, or by sea kayak or sailboat. Can you imagine the stories they tell when they return home?

Dragon Boat near Sandals Island

Dragon Boat

Sandals Resorts is the largest locally-owned hotel in Jamaica. It operates seven properties in Jamaica, and several more on the islands of Antigua, the Bahamas, Cuba, St. Lucia and Turks & Caicos. All Sandals resorts are couples only.

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!

 

Reach Falls Jamaica

Reach Falls has been on my travel list since the late 1980s when  I had found out that it had been featured in the Tom Cruise movie, Cocktail.  You might remember the one where Tom’s a bartender whose skill at flipping and juggling bottles of alcohol and pouring them perfectly into a glass had everyone dazzled. Frankly, that’s about all I can recall of the movie now but it made me curious about Reach Falls.

Reach Falls

Reach Falls Jamaica

Said to have been discovered by slaves from the neighboring parish of St. Thomas, Reach Falls is located in the tropical rain forest of the John Crow Mountains in the eastern parish of Portland. Though the Falls is on the Driver’s River, it takes its name from Reach, the community that it’s a part of.

We set out from Montego Bay around mid-morning a few weeks ago, and after  a few stops, arrived in Port Antonio, the capital, about 4 hours later. Following the signs to Reach Falls, we turned on to a secondary road that was fringed with a variety of flora. There were many downed coconut, banana and other trees, the result of Hurricane Sandy’s pass over this part of the island but not even Sandy could alter the carpet of lush green that spread to the mountains in the distance. After about 20 minutes of relatively slow going – the road was pot holed and narrow – the entrance to the Falls appeared.

Tree and foliage at Reach Falls

Entrance to Reach Falls

Except for a hotel bus, only a few employees were in sight – Reach Falls was deserted. Following the release of Cocktail, in 1988, the Falls saw a spike in visitors but numbers have leveled off. That might be due to its location relative to Montego Bay. Although Port Antonio is where tourism began in Jamaica (ships taking bananas from the island would bring visitors back), it too, has lost some of its former glory.

Size could also be a factor. At about 11 acres, much of it rain forest, Reach Falls is just too small to accommodate the hordes that visit Dunn’s River or YS Falls annually and with just one plunge pool, there isn’t much to do except enjoy the peaceful scenery. Which was quite fine by me – I like places that not overrun by visitors.

Reach Falls

Reach Falls Jamaica

After we purchased our tickets, our guide led us the few yards through a thicket of hibiscus and ginger lilies down the steps to the Falls.

The Driver’s River rises in the mountains and traverses limestone rocks before it empties into the sea 3 miles beyond Reach Falls. At the Falls, the river cascades approximately 22 feet down a rock face into a sparkling turquoise pool.

Hibiscus and foliage near Reach Falls

Reach Falls Jamaica

Though not as popular as Dunn’s River Falls with its human daisy chain, or as spectacular as YS with its rolling countryside, it is no less beautiful, and because there are fewer visitors, is an oasis of calm. You can hear and see a variety of birds, including the black and yellow billed parrots, overhanging vines, bamboo canes, and over 23 different species of ferns.

Main pool at Reach Falls

Reach Falls shallow pool

At the edge of the Falls, the water is so clear – you can see all the stones at the bottom – we didn’t want to go in. Seeing our hesitation, our guide asked if we wanted to swim. It was refreshingly cool but also quite shallow. The water hit me just above my ankles but it got deeper further away from the edge. The shallow area, he explained, was reserved for non-swimmers, while the roped-off area was for swimmers. Yes, Reach Falls is a great spot to cool off on a hot day.
Foliage near Reach Falls

Reach Falls foliage

The more than 20 rivers that crisscross Jamaica produce almost as many waterfalls. If you’re a nature lover or a waterfall enthusiast, you should check out Reach Falls and take the guided tour down the Driver’s River.

Before You Go

About 25 miles from Kingston and 100 miles from Montego Bay
Open Wednesdays to Sundays and local public holidays from 8:30 – 4:30 p.m.
Cost: Age 4-12 years – US$5; 12 and over US$10
Amenities: Bathrooms, changing areas and store

 

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

This week, I’m also linking up with the Friday Daydreaming series organized by Becca at Rwethereyetmom. Hope to see you there!

The Quakers in Jamaica

Until I spotted this pretty little church in Portland, one of Jamaica’s eastern parishes, I had no idea there were Quakers still on the island.

The Quakers, also referred to as the Society of Friends, were among the earliest settlers in Jamaica having come to the island after the English conquest in 1655.

They believe that God is in everyman, therefore there’s no need for priests to speak on their behalf. That was revolutionary thinking at the time and many were charged with religious blasphemy. Some were jailed in the UK, others were sent to abroad to serve their sentences. In Jamaica, the Quakers continued their religious dissent. They refused to serve in the militia or to be sworn in as jurors.

In 1671, George Fox, founder of the Quakers visited Jamaica and established seven meetings on the island and by the start of the 18th century, there were nearly 10,000 Quakers on the island.

Pretty Quaker Church in Portland

A Quaker Church, Jamaica

Although the Quakers became the face of the movement to emancipate the slaves, for a time some were involved in the trade. Following abolition in 1834, there was an “apprenticeship period” before full freedom, but ill treatment of the almost free slaves continued.

In 1837,  Quakers Joseph Sturge and Thomas Harvey traveled to Jamaica and other islands to investigate reports of brutality on the plantations. Sturge and Harvey’s journal notes were published under the title, The West Indies in 1937, and were used to create the storyboards at the Hanover Workhouse.

In 1898, the Quakers established the Happy Grove High School in Portland. They also created the first public health facility in Jamaica in the 1970s, and boys’ and girls’ homes for orphans.

Today, they are 14 meeting houses and about 500 Quakers in Jamaica. Their numbers have dwindled reportedly because their form of worship – no pastor, singing, rituals or collection of tithes – is too staid compared to the more exuberant congregations that are referred to locally as “clap-hand” churches.

I was curious to go inside but we didn’t have enough time.

This little church can be seen just outside of Hector’s River, Portland, near the border with St. Thomas. It’s about 30 miles from Kingston.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Despite its crass commercialism, it’s hard to ignore the message of love that Valentine’s Day evokes.

There are several stories about the origin of the day of lovers — and they all come back to Valentine. One is of a third century priest who defied the Emperor Claudius and performed secret weddings on young lovers. Claudius believed that single men made better soldiers than those who had wives and children and forbid them to marry. When the emperor discovered what Valentine had been doing, he ordered his imprisonment and later his execution.

Another Valentine rescued Christians from the beatings and torture they received in Roman prisons. Still another Valentine is said to have sent a letter to the young girl who visited him in jail – he’d apparently fallen in love with her. He signed his letter, “From your Valentine.” 

Whatever the truth of the origin of Valentine’s Day, one thing is sure. It’s the one day in the year that lovers, and those who want to be, feel free to express their love by sending flowers, chocolates and cards – though maybe now, they also send emails, ecards and text messages.

Valentine’s Day represents a huge economic boon to florists, restaurants, card sellers. Approximately 189 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day. However, if you waited until today, you’re likely to pay up to four times more per rose than you would have yesterday. You’ll probably also pay more for the meal.

Here in Jamaica as everywhere, lovers will celebrate Valentine’s Day with dinner and flowers.

I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart.
 – Alice Walker

Torch lily for Valentine's

Torch lily

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