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What to Do When Rain Threatens Your Vacation

A Carnival cruise ship pulled into port this morning for its daylong stop in Montego Bay and within two hours of docking, clouds covered an anemic sun and the rain began. Immediately, I thought of the passengers who undoubtedly would be looking forward to a day of sun and fun. How would they spend their day, if the rain continued? 

Carnival Cruise Ship, Montego Bay

Carnival Cruise Ship, Montego Bay

Call me pollyanna but I always thought the vacation gods would smile on all my trips but I know differently now. Here’s what I recommend:

* Pack Rain Gear: Since weather is unpredictable, it’s always advisable to put a small umbrella, rain slick or hat in your luggage, especially when traveling to tropical destinations.

* Check the Weather: Outside of the hurricane season (June to November), except for the occasional rainy day, the weather is usually the same from day to day. But if you happen to be traveling between June and November, there’s a chance (even though years can pass before a hurricane actually hits), a hurricane can form. If you’re concerned, plan cruise vacations outside this period. If a hurricane does form and threatens to interrupt or prolong your vacation, follow the advice of the cruise lines and stay safe.

* Indulge in Indoor Activities: Take a book or magazine to read if the weather turns nasty. If you have internet connection, catch up on email. Visit a museum or go see a play. Spend a day at the spa. Do some shopping or catch up on sleep.

* Keep a Positive Attitude: The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. Don’t let bad weather ruin your mood or spoil your vacation.

5 Things to do in Montego Bay if it rains:

* Take a taxi to one of the Great Houses – Both Rose Hall and Greenwood Great House offer guided tours of their properties. Rose Hall was the home of Annie Palmer, also known as the White Witch of Rose Hall. Greenwood Great house belonged to the family of the English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Both charge admission fees.

* Visit the Rastafari Indigenous Village – Catch the vibe at this indigenous village located about a 15 minute drive from the port. Listen to drumming, get a lesson in plants and herbs that are native to the island and enjoy an ital meal.

* Pamper Yourself – Book a Jamaican Coffee or Sugarcane Body Scrub at the Ritz-Carlton Golf & Spa Resort.

* Have a meal – Montego Bay’s “Hip Strip” a section of Gloucester Avenue populated by hotels, restaurants (Margarittaville, the Bobsled Cafe, etc.) and shops, is a great place to eat or spend a rainy day.

* Explore Jamaica’s rich ethnic and cultural heritage with a trip back in time at the Outameni Experience.

When planning a vacation, be prepared for bad weather and plan accordingly. Most importantly, enjoy yourself!



A Visit to Roaring River

I grew up in a community close to Roaring River in the parish of Westmoreland but discovered its underground cave when I was in high school. Back then, it was a local secret. Now, it’s a well-known tourist attraction called Roaring River Park.

For long as I can remember, Roaring River has been known as a very close-knit community. Many of the residents have lived there for generations; some are even related. Visitors go because of the series of limestone caves, mineral springs, blue hole and the river, which supplies water for much of the parish. Even during the dry season, a deep green carpet of wildflowers and grass blankets the area.

Munching goat

Goat in field of wildflowers and grass

Roaring River is located on lands that were once part of the Roaring River Estate. Before sugar lost its importance as Westmoreland’s main crop, much of the lands surrounding the community belonged to the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO), formerly a major employer in the parish. Now that sugar is no longer ‘king,’ many residents earn much of their income by leading tours of the cave, springs and the blue hole.

Part of the Roaring River in Westmoreland

Part of the Roaring River in Westmoreland

We traveled to Roaring River a few weekends ago, not to visit the cave or the blue hole but to see a man (Robbie, a relative) about a goat for a friend of the family. As we drove down its narrow dirt road, the only one into and out of Roaring River, we were greeted warmly by everyone we passed.

Once the goat was purchased and was being prepared, we walked down to the river. The water was so crystal clear, we could see the stones at the bottom. We sat at the river’s edge, watching children frolicking in the shallow part. At one point, three young girls, round 8 or 9 years, raced each other to the edge, stripping off their clothes and jumping in, oblivious to the adults, including a young man, around them.

Walking back to the car, a little boy with two buckets, one almost half his size, caught my eye. I looked around but no adults or older children were nearby. He headed to a spring, caught some water in one of his buckets then with it spilling every which way as he struggled to carry it, he plunked it down in front a horse that was tied nearby. Someone said the horse belonged to his father. When he thought the horse had drunk enough, he splashed the rest on its body, to cool him down, I guessed.

Boy and horse

Boy and horse

As we were loading up to leave, Robbie came running towards us. Don’t leave yet, he said. They’ve gone to get you some bananas and breadfruit. Shortly after, a few of the older children that we had seen, returned with a bunch of bananas and several breadfruit.

Robbie with breadfruit

Robbie with breadfruit

Random photos of Roaring River.



Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

I was thrilled to see this Doctor Bird, our National Bird. He flitted from tree to branch while I fumbled with my camera, hoping he’d sit still long enough for me to take the shot. Thankfully, he did.

Doctor Bird

Doctor Bird

Roaring River warning

Roaring River warning

Wattle-and-Daub shop

Wattle-and-Daub shop

Painting of Roaring River by John Boydell, from Wikipedia

A 1778 Painting of Roaring River by John Boydell - from Wikipedia

Wattle-and-daub, an old tradition of building that used to be quite popular in Jamaica, especially in the rural areas. Here the wattle, interwoven wooden strips, has been set up. Later the daub, which could be made either from a paste of soil, animal dung or sand will be applied.

I will post a follow up when I visit the cave and the blue hole again. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the blue hole at Roaring River from YouTube.



Jamaica: Rastafari Indigenous Village

The drums are what drew me to the Rastafari Indigenous Village in Montego Bay. The sound seeped through the lush jungle of breadfruit, ackee, banana, coconut and assorted other trees and urged me to shake my feet.

I decided to follow. Moving closer, I walk in rhythm to the boom, boom of the bass drum, then quicken my steps, dancing to the music that was meant just for me.

Rastafari Indigenous Village

Rastafari Indigenous Village

I push open the bamboo gate, walk pass the garden with 100 different herbs with names like Dog Tongue,Search Mi HeartFever Grass and Moses in the Cradle scripted in bold letters on joints of bamboo planted near each bed.

Dog Tongue

Dog Tongue

I greet a group of German tourists being given an introduction to the Village and head straight to the location from where the drumming is coming. Five Rasta bredren (men) and one sistren (woman) are gathered in a circle beating the drums and singing a song I don’t recognize.

Drummers at the Rastafari Indigenous Village

Several rows of chairs face them and on each sits a rattle, made from a small calabash gourd. I pick one up and start shaking it in time with the bass.

A few minutes later, the visitors arrive accompanied by Iionkanaka, who’s leading the tour. They’re invited to take a seat and the drums go quiet. Iionkanaka explains each – the bass, which keeps the rhythm, thekumina, which is used in traditional dances, and the repeater, which repeats a chord continuously. Another Rasta walks into the circle and begins to sing.

Five or so songs later, they invite the visitors to join them for a short drumming session and take photos. Following the end of the morning tour, they move to the on-site craft market where small items made by the Rastas can be purchased.

Who are the Rastas?

The Rastafari movement began in Jamaica in the late 1930s. It is more of a way of life and a system of beliefs than a religion. Rastas revere Emperor Haile Selassie I, whom they call their spiritual leader and Africa the home of all mankind.

Rastas belong to several houses that have their own set of rules and focus. Some of the better known ones are the School of Vision, Twelve Tribes of Israel, Boboshantis, and Nyabinghi. Rastas believe ganja (cannabis) is spiritual food and use it especially during their reasonings (discussions). The weed is chopped and smoked in a chalice, sometimes called a chillum pipe. (The chalice works on the same principle as the hookah.) Note: Although the Rastas freely smoke and use ganja, it is still illegal in Jamaica with stiff penalties, including jail time, especially if you’re caught leaving the country with it.

Rasta preparing the chalice at the Rastafari Indigenous Village

The Chalice, Rastafari Indigenous Village

Taking a toke, Rastafari Indigenous Village

Taking a toke

The Rasta ital diet relies heavily on herbs, fruits and vegetables and includes no meat or alcohol. The coconut is used extensively to add flavor. Following the teachings of the Bible (Numbers 6:5), they Rastas never cut their hair, wearing it in locks. They’ve also developed their own language and colors,

Iionkanaka at the Rastafari Indigenous Village

Iionkanaka explained that this Village, also referred to as Iion Station, was started three years ago. The group performs poetry and drumming sessions at the Village or at events around the Island and offers tours to teach visitors about their way of life and the importance of herbs and natural living.

The Rastafarian Indigenous Village or Rasta Village, is located about 10 minutes from the Westgate Shopping Center in Irwin, Montego Bay, Jamaica. 876-285-4750. Tours start at $40 per person.

Why an Airport in Jamaica is Named for Ian Fleming

Most people are puzzled when they learn that an airport in Jamaica is named after Ian Fleming.

The airport, formerly known as Boscobel Aerodrome, is located in the parish of St. Mary where Fleming, a Naval Intelligence Officer lived and created the British spy, James Bond.

Ian Fleming, photo from the Internet

Ian Fleming, photo from the Internet

Fleming fell in love with Jamaica on his first visit in 1943. The Jamaica of Fleming’s time was the playground for the rich and famous. Katharine Hepburn, Noël Coward, Errol Flynn and others were regular visitors to the island. Coward, Fleming’s neighbor was best man at his marriage to Anne, at the town hall in Port Maria, St. Mary.

Fleming loved Jamaica and for nearly twenty years, retreated to the island where he wrote the 12 novels and short stories that feature Bond. The island became the backdrop in several of his books – Dr. NoThe Man With the Golden GunLive and Let Die and Octopussy are largely or partly set in Jamaica.

He might have also borrowed the name of his fictional character from a famous ornithologist, James Bond, on whose family estate in Jamaica he was allowed to write.

Two of the Bond movies, Dr. No and Live and Let Die were also filmed in Jamaica. The car chase in Dr. No was filmed on the Palisados road that links the Norman Manley International Airport to Kingston. Ursula Andress (Honey Ryder) emerged from the sea at Laughing Waters Beach in St. Ann, and other scenes were shot at the aptly named James Bond Beach, in the same parish.

Bond returned to St. Ann where several locations including the Green Grotto Caves were featured in Live and Let Die.

Speaking at the opening at the Ian Fleming International Airport on January 12, 2011, former Prime Minister Bruce Golding addressed critics who thought the airport should have been named for a prominent Jamaican noting that Fleming gave the island “an image much larger than it otherwise would have had.”

Ian Fleming died in England on August 12, 1964 and was buried in Kent.