|Boy, were we ever lucky ! Just outside of Jamaica
in the famous seaport of Montego Bay we saw a terrible ship wreck caused by cruel pirates
! Just a few minutes earlier and the pirates might have attacked us instead. There
were men floating in the water everywhere, but fortunately we were able to pull them on
board and save them. Nothing will prepare you for the sadness of a sailor who has lost his
ship to a pirate ! I am not kidding. They were so mad they were crying. Those old salts
really took a licking !
After dropping the humiliated sailors on shore, we had a chance
to take a look around. Jamaica is absolutely, breath-takingly beautiful. In addition to
being a total rain forest, Jamaica is also quite mountainous. There are peaks and valleys
and rivers running from the mountains to the sea. Sadly as beautiful as the country is, it
is also dirt poor. Unlike the Cayman Islands, you could see poor people. In fact you
could see plenty of poor people ! They were just about everywhere you looked.
The people of the nation are almost 90% black with their roots mainly traced to Africa.
Although English is their language, the vocabulary appears to somewhat limited. The
Cruisers concluded you could get by with 4 phrases. Heymon : come here. Arramon :
how are you doing. No Problem : say this whenever possible. All Right :
Goodbye. Now you can speak Jamaican.
Do not get Jamaica confused with Cayman. Cayman is flat, Jamaica is rocky. Cayman is
rich, Jamaica is poor. Cayman became the Switzerland of the Caribbean with tax shelters,
international banking, and some say money- laundering institutions. Jamaica popularized
Reggae music, bobsledding, dred locks, and marijuana.
The national economy appears to be nearly totally dependent on tourism. Everywhere we
was thrusting something in our face to buy, handing us something and standing around
waiting for a tip, or dealing drugs. I was offered a "smoke" twice. The sales
people were without a doubt the most aggressive I encountered on the trip. I got off the
bus in downtown Montego and in an instant no less than 3 people came up to me and more or
less tried to drag me into their store.
Don't get me wrong. I really felt sorry for these people. It was just a little hard for
me to enjoy my stay when I could see so much poverty.
I went on a river rafting tour. To a person, every Cruiser I talked to said something
about the roads ! They are so narrow two buses cannot pass each other. The margin
for error is so slim one bus has to stop while the other passes slowly just inches away.
To make things more interesting, the roads wind around mountains and lush foliage. There
were constant Dead Man's Curves where cars would come screaming at us from nowhere. I
clutched the seat in front of me in terror for the entire trip. The guide reassured me we
had the best driver in Jamaica. I believed her. Darwinian Selection had clearly already
eliminated the worst drivers from the gene pool.
The rafting tour was a bit of a disappointment. I hoped we could get in an inner tube
Guadaloupe-style and float down a gorgeous mountain stream. No such luck. Instead we were
placed on a bamboo raft with a Jamaican mountain man, dred locks and all, who poled us
down the river. We could see young, powerful Jamaican men actually walking these rafts
back up the river, a task that takes 3 hours ! I could only shake my head, but to
mechanize the job would probably put many of these people out of business. For cultural
education we received a 30 minute lecture on Bob Marley, the deceased reggae singer who is
now a god-like legend to his people.
Along the way, various other Jamaicans magically appeared on the side of the river and
our raftman would mosey over to check them out. One lady had some punch. One dollar tip.
One man had a floral bouquet. One dollar tip. Another man had a tropical fruit. One
dollar tip. After paying $70 for the trip on board our ship, our raftman asked for a $10
tip at the end of a 30 minute ride. My guilt and my outrage fought a constant inner battle
with the guilt winning most of the time. Somehow between my abject fear on the bus, my
disgust in the city, and my psychic struggle I was able to pay enough attention to see
some of the most gorgeous scenery I have ever experienced.
On the way back to town, our bus just happened to stop 3 times. As
tourists, we were forced to take a minimum of three mandatory opportunities to spend money
and boost the national economy. Margueritaville was one such place which featured some
full monty dancers as part of the entertainment. Let us just say that getting back on
board the ship was easily the most satisfying moment of my entire trip.