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The Road To Negril Circa 1994

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Old December 18th, 2004, 08:51 PM
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Default The Road To Negril Circa 1994

The Road To Negril (Circa: 2/94)

I consider myself lucky to have experienced "The Road To Negril" at
least once before the new road came through.

It was February 1994; highway 2000 was still on someone's planning
board. I know many of the more seasoned Negrilistas will read this and
think, 1994?!?!?! You should have seen it in '68, back then we had to
hack our way through the jungle, it was uphill, BOTH WAYS!"

I totally give in. I'm sure I missed so much. It's great getting there
in an hour and fifteen minutes now, but the charm is much reduced.
Someday my daughter may write, "I long for the Negril I knew before the

It was my first trip to Jamaica. About to turn thirty, recently
divorced, my first vacation since my honeymoon 10 years earlier. I was
traveling alone and was headed to Hedonism II. I got off the plane,
through immigration, baggage and customs, and herded onto the Hedo
mini-bus. It was all just a blur.

Sitting on the bus as people filed in, I was so excited! I was in a
real foreign country on a beat up old bus with ten other people headed
to paradise for 5 days of hedonistic wildness. After a few minutes and
a few official looking people poking their heads into the bus, a large
imposing black man got on, he looked us over, did a head count and then
broke into a big smile and introduced himself, "My name is Satchwell,
The Driver, Two Hours to Hedonism!" We all cheered!

As soon as we cleared the airport complex Satchwell started handing
back ice cold Red Stripes from a red cooler on the floor. That cold
beer hit the back of my throat and my stress level instantly dropped.
Vacation! Ya Mon!

Driving through Montego Bay was wild. You have the beautiful azure
Caribbean out one window and a bustling third world city scene out the
other. Wow, I was really in another country, I could tell by all the
Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFCs. The poverty was obvious, the people
seemed happy though. I had a hard time getting my mind around it all.

About two beers out of Montego Bay (it wasn't Mobay for me yet) we
stopped for a pee break. Of course there just happened to be a series
of makeshift craft stalls for us to peruse as we got out to pee or
stretch our legs. They sold everything from souvenirs to TV's, even a
carburetor for an 84 Honda Civic. There were several very friendly
red-eyed gentlemen who offered us ganja (Jamaican Marijuana for the
uninitiated). I wasn't comfortable enough for that yet, and I decided
not to buy souvenirs till later in the trip. Hedonism was all-inclusive
but I was skeptical and wanted to preserve my cash. I did buy a couple
cold six-packs since Satchwell was running low.

Back on the bus, the alcohol buzzes started on the plane were getting
back to party strength. Ya Mon! There was no air conditioning and the
Jamaican sun felt great on my pasty white skin. I was wearing jeans and
a t-shirt so the only thing I could do to keep cool was to drink more
Red Stripes and keep my window down. Several women on the bus weren't
so inhibited. They decided to change into their bikinis right there on
the bus! Can I get another Ya Mon!! Oh, this was going to be a fun

We drove through a series of small towns, we saw school children in
neat uniforms doing the things children do, people working, walking and
waiting for busses. Several times when we slowed young men with baggies
full of ganja seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. I'd heard of
a place called "The Ganja Bridge" it was famous for this, but I never
noticed it happening near any bridges. It was cool seeing how the
people lived. Poverty was pervasive but no one seemed angry or gloomy.
Hell, it's 89 degrees in February how gloomy could you be.

A great part of the road to Negril was the town of Lucea. Pronounced
"Lucy" by residents, it's horseshoe harbor with a panorama of lush
green mountains takes your breath away. The town itself is but a shell
of it's storied past. In colonial times it was Montego Bay's big
sister. A major port town, its small natural harbor, regional sugar
plantations and the Lucea Yam, brought captains from all over the world
to trade and supply their ships.

One of my favorite and uniquely Jamaican stories is how the majestic
clock tower in the town square got there. Sometime around 1817, a large
clock was ordered by the island of St Lucia. Things got screwed up and
this large ornate clock showed up at the port of Lucea. The townspeople
were so enamored with this huge clock that they decided not to give it
back. A local German merchant offered to build a clock tower for their
newfound booty on the condition that he would have sole discretion in
the design, thus its resemblance to an old Prussian infantry helmet. To
this day the old clock keeps perfect time! St Lucia soon found out
their clock was keeping Lucea on schedule and petitioned the British
for restitution. Lucea's townspeople eventually anteed up.

After leaving Lucea we stopped near Cousins Cove for another
pee/commerce break. This place was a much more laid back, people lived
here it wasn't a market or a tourist trap. My bus mates went to look at
the food and craft offerings, while a girl named Lisa and I walked
across to this little bar/jerk stand to see if we could get her a glass
of water. Lisa was an attractive woman, albeit a very drunk one who
seemed to be a third wheel with an older couple (I didn't ask). We
walked into the yard and a pretty teenage girl welcomed us. The vibe
was very different here; this was a family place in the country.

We walked into the bar, Lisa found her water and I ordered a beer. In
the corner was an old man wearing a bright green, yellow and red knit
hat that contained huge amounts of dreadlocked hair. He was the most
authentic looking Rastaman imaginable, right out of the Lonely Planet
Travel Guide though not as scary in person. I smiled at him and he
nodded and said, "I tirsty mi fren. H'bout ya get me ona doze beers?" I
slid him my beer and ordered another. He smiled and I turned to make
small talk with Lisa who was becoming more and more beautiful with
every swig of Red Stripe.

Soon the old man began laughing. Ok I thought, old men in the subway do
that all the time. I turned to see what he was so funny and I realized
it was me! I guess he'd caught me staring hopefully at Lisa's humongous
breasts, breasts that seemed to be in a constant struggle for freedom
against the bounds of her teeny bikini top. I was of course rooting
against the bikini. Still laughing, the old man rattled off a string of
unintelligible patois I could never hope to repeat it here, but the
gist of it was, "lady, you should buy a t-shirt before Fatboy's eyes
bug out." I laughed, it seemed the right thing to do. Lisa laughed too,
somehow knowing her boobs were the subject of conversation. I'm sure
they often were.

Without another word the old man pulled out a huge spliff and lit it.
Doing that in Philadelphia would have you in handcuffs before your eyes
could get red. Smiling at my apprehension he just toked away and the
fragrant, sweet ganja smoke filled the room. Soon his friendly hand
emerged from the purple cloud. I took the spliff and I hit it slowly,
not wanting cough like an amateur. Within seconds a warm feeling filled
me that was more than the ganja. MMMM, I sat back against the bar and
closed my eyes. Ya Mon, I like Jamaica!

As the three of us toked on the cigar-sized joint, the old man broke
into a story. I could barely understand a word of it. I doubt if Lisa
could either. It had something to do with Rastas, his father, the
Maroons and tourists from "The States." He'd often touch my shoulder or
hand, as he relayed his dramatic tale that ranged from raucous laughter
to deadly near whispering serious. His black eyes twinkled and his
three-toothed grin was warm and genuine. I'd hoped to have a true
"Island Experience" on this trip, never once did I think it would
happen an hour out of Mobay while still on the road to Negril.

Just then Satchwell stuck his head in and said, "Saddle-Up", which
sadly meant, "We're leaving."

As I turned to leave the old man stopped me and toasted me with his
beer, "Mutual Respect Mon." It was like we were old friends parting
once again. I didn't know how to react, it didn't help that I was
stoned out of my gourd. He bumped my fist with his, he looked me in the
eye and said, "You and Me, Mutual Respect." I replied "Mutual Respect,"
the intensity of the moment was palpable, this was important. I got it!
Man-to-man, better yet, person-to-person, One Love, Mutual Respect.

Lisa was already stumbling back to the bus as I walked to the yard. The
pretty girl was beaming, she knew something, I said goodbye.

Wow, what a moment, I felt great! Yeah I was so baked I could barely
see, but it was more than that. It took me a long time to realize, but
the Jamaican bug had just bitten me and the only treatment is to come
back again and again.

I got on the bus and Satch gave me a knowing look, being paranoid I
thought it was the smoldering spliff in my hand or maybe he knew the
old Rasta man. I sat next to Lisa and asked Satch if I could light up,
he smiled and said not till after the next bridge. Several of our
fellow passengers had also scored ganja and the bus was cloudy with
thick smoke by the time the out rear wheels cleared that next bridge.

Lisa and I shared "Our" spliff and as soon as it was done she went back
to her kinky threesome thing in the back of the small bus (I still
didn't ask).

The bus got really crazy now, the reggae was blasting the women were
dancing topless in the isles. People honked and waved as we drove by.
We were a big green and yellow, mooning, flashing, smoke belching party
bus!! I sat at the front leaned back with a big smile and enjoyed the
party. Present in that moment, all else left behind. Ya Mon!

Soon tiled mosaic sign announced we were at Hedonism II.

As I got off the bus I swore to myself I would come back and hang with
the old Rasta man again soon.

I never have.

Vinny from Philly

Old December 19th, 2004, 12:43 PM
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On 18 Dec 2004 11:51:36 -0800, wrote:

The Road To Negril (Circa: 2/94)
It was February 1994; highway 2000 was still on someone's planning
board. I know many of the more seasoned Negrilistas will read this and
think, 1994?!?!?! You should have seen it in '68, back then we had to
hack our way through the jungle, it was uphill, BOTH WAYS!"

Actually, my first trip to Negril was around 1974/76 or so. The Negril
Beach Resort - later renamed Hedonism - had just opened. It was an
early entry in the All Inclusive concept and they hadn't gotten it
quite right yet.

Cash was not used. To pay for drinks and sundries, you bought strings
of pop beads shaped like shark's teeth that you bought at the front
desk. But drinks were free at meals. Oversight was loose. I noted
people taking bottles of wine from the ice bed when they finished
lunch or dinner. That probably lead to the end of that practice which
I noted on my second visit a year later.

The place was a hotbed of sex with some interesting multi-partner
events in and around the swimming pool - and of course, back at the

Except for an expensive and largely deserted hotel next door,and a
dive shack next to it, the entire seven miles of beach from the resort
to the small older hotels in Negril itself, was totally unspoiled and

On a number of occasions, friends and I walked it - at times unclothed
and cat times clothed - without seeing a single tourist along the way.
At times we slipped into the water and found ourselves being nibbled
and tickled by very tiny fish. One one such occasion, before going
into the water, we had shared a few cups of an herbal tea at a
roadside shack. The tea produced a mild psychedelic high accompanied
by heightened sensory sensitivity.

These walks were always in the morning not long after sunup. Every
mile or so we'd encounter one or two fishermen who were sorting out
their catch. We bought fish for something like 20 cents a pound. We
met an old woman who was huddled under the shade of some tall bushes.
She had a charcoal fire and was preparing ackie. For 50 cents she
cleaned and grilled our fish to go with her own offerings.

One evening I took a motorbike taxi to a small shack on the beach near
the Negril traffic circle. For $3 I had a superb lobster dinner and an
ice cold beer sitting on a wooden plank and a tree stump for a table.

The dive shack guy sold huge baggies of grass for $5. On my first
visit, when I didn't have change for a $20 he gave me the bag and told
me to come back with the $5 when I could. When I came back two days
later I explained that I'd lost the two days to his product and
totally forgot that I owed him. No problem, man.

But when I returned the next year, the change had started and it was
not good. There was a barbed wire fence around the resort property.
Armed guards patrolled it. They discouraged guests from passing beyond
it onto the longer beach. Then I learned that non-guests were being
charged some outrageous fee just to come into the property and have a

So on subsequent visits I moved down the beach to the similarly named
but totally different situation at Negril Beach Club, close to town.
There were only two or three small motel-type places there and a house
with a large porch and some wood shacks in the back.

Oh, I just recalled, there was one house along the entire 7 miles. It
was reputed to be owned by the author Arthur Haley who just died
within this past month or so.

I went back to Negril two or three more times during the 80s but by
1987 it was "over." It became a victim of it's own success. Too many
hotels, too many people, too much too much. Noisy, crowded, a
grotesque mockery of the peaceful and genuinely friendly place it had

I now go to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It probably will be the
last place in the Caribbean to be spoiled by over-development. Its
islands are too small to support big hotels with all their
infrastructure needs. About 95% of the accommodations are in
properties that have fewer than 20 rooms. Most are family owned and

If you saw Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl,
you've seen SVG. It was filmed there. The production company is
returning shortly to start filming two sequels simultaneously.

Farewell, Negril. For an all too brief time you were special.

Old December 20th, 2004, 03:43 PM
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We were in Negril for our honeymoon in '82.
Everyone was so nice and friendly.
We stayed in Papa Lawrence's Tigress Cottages. We had Jenny's Special
Cake and enjoyed those cold Red Stripes.
It still seemed pretty quiet then but no doubt the change was already


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