Jamaican Sandals Royal Caribbean

Our exploring over for the while, we returned the car to the depot at the airport and met up with the Sandals Representative in the luxurious private lounge in the arrivals hall.  Our luggage was tagged and taken away while we were offered an ice-cold drink and then escorted to our mini-van.

Beach at Sandals Montego Bay

Beach Sandals Mo Bay

We traveled with other passengers who had just flown in to the island, many of whom were returning Sandals guests, something we found not to be uncommon.  We were booked to spend the rest of the week at Sandals Royal Caribbean and as such were the last to be taken to our hotel.  We were able to get a peek into the Sandals Carlyle Inn and the Sandals Montego Bay on our way.

All of Sandals Resorts are adult-only luxury included resorts and sold as such with the emphasis on “couples in love”.  I was a little skeptical about this and not at all sure if I would find it to be a little cloying and even uncomfortable.  How wrong I was!

Ocean and beach view at Royal Caribbean

Ocean and beach view at RC

From the minute we arrived, the high standard of service and discretion that the staff employed was reassuring and it turned out to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable vacations we have ever enjoyed.  Imagine no whining or screaming kids to detract, no childish demands to impinge upon your time, nobody else’s bad mannered children to irritate – just no children!

In addition, the emphasis on couples in love means that everyone is taken care of, “hooked up” or “coupled”, so you never find yourself in a position where you are being picked up, propositioned, or made to feel uncomfortable.  It’s such relief!  And makes for easy friendships and conversations whether you are in your couple or having some alone time while your partner is at the gym, or diving or whatever!

Keith windsurfing

Windsurfing

It is as easy to spend time just the two of you, as it is to meet new friends or even plan to go as a group of favorite friends.  It’s the perfect resort to enjoy a destination wedding with only your adult friends in attendance, or travel with your close family.

Sandals Royal Caribbean resort is spread out in such a way that there are so many different places to go and things to enjoy that you have to make a plan to meet!

Private coves at Royal Caribbean

Private coves at Royal Caribbean

With gorgeous landscaping all set around buildings offering different experiences from swim-up rooms, to beachside walk-out suites, there is bound to be something to appeal.

This resort is designed around a series of little coves all looking west over their private island and beyond the stunning sunsets.  It is an exclusive, intimate and very inviting place to enjoy some special time with your precious partner.

Sunset on Jamaica

Sunset on Jamaica

Jamaican Island Exploration

The afternoon rain storms seem to have set in over the west and so we drove in the opposite direction with little other agenda than that of exploring.  We followed the coastal highway east from Mo’ Bay towards Ochos Rios.  We discovered much of the countryside to be so familiar to that of parts of Zimbabwe, that at some time I said to Keith to “pinch me!  This looks and feels like we are in Mutare!”  In so many ways it could have been –  Mutare by the sea!  Flamboyants, figs, bananas, sugar cane, bougis, even trees that looked remarkably like our acacias!

Inland roads

The road wound away from the coastline at times and through gaps cut through limestone toward the interior.  At some points we were driving with some relatively high limestone cliffs on our inland side and noticed plenty of caves and crevices reminding us of Jamaica’s pirate history.  We drove off the main road to visit the coastal town of Falmouth where a brand new cruise terminal is being constructed and will be one of the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines ports of call. It will be the only new thing in this little town which looked to all intents and purposes like a film set for Pirates of the Caribbean!

Falmouth church

Weather battened and beaten stone buildings hold solid place besides tiny wooden houses once painted bright tropical colors but now faded to pastel shades.  Buzzing shops and informal markets are alive with a sudden mass of people, cars, mini-buses and battered pick-ups all thrusting and shoving their way through the little tangle of town streets and all following their own set of rules.  We just brought our own set into the general melee!

We escaped the sudden chaos and set back onto the coastal highway heading towards Runaway Bay and whatever else we would see along the way.  The lure of the mountainous inland proved too much and we branched off towards the interior.

Traveling through the steep hills we wound our way ever upward on narrow and often pot-holed roads that twisted like some tormented serpent through the impossibly thick and lush vegetation.  Little communities clustered around make-shift church buildings, goats and chickens, evidence of farms and small-holdings with dwellings set further back and surely with the most fabulous views over the ocean far below, are carved out of this bush.  Impossibly speeding mini-buses roar around the corners honking horns to warn of their imminent arrival, send the occasional bicyclist and ubiquitous goats scattering or hugging the crumbling edge of the road.  It never fails to amaze me how one always seems to find the fastest drivers in the most laid-back cultures!  Nothing else ever seems to be in a rush or has only the vaguest awareness of time!

Fishing at sunset

It was fantastic to find ourselves high above the coastline and in the Jamaican hills.  There were views everywhere you looked.  Toward and out over the ocean, taking in the bays and coves and distant headlands, the reef showing in places with gentle surf cresting white waves against the shallow coral shelves and inland to west and east, mile upon mile of rolling hills and deep valleys all cloaked in impenetrable dark green vegetation.  As a descendant of pioneers growing up in a land dependant on agriculture, the impression of rich untapped agricultural wealth was overwhelming.  But then I suppose it could be looked at too as rich virgin nature in a world of ever increasing over development – and relished as such.  We certainly did.

Jamaica B&B

It was easy to follow the directions to our bed and breakfast guest house, although a little disconcerting.  Once we ventured off the main highway through the port city of Montego Bay and on to the small back roads, it was hard to decide if the dirt was interrupted with asphalt or asphalt liberally sprinkled with dirt!  It was just as well that we had a little SUV. We lurched our way up the hill on what appeared to be a seldom used trail between half-built houses and empty lots, under tangles of power and telephone wires haphazardly tied until suddenly we were confronted with two very nice houses on either side of the road.

View from balcony

Polkerris turned out to be the double story on the upper side of the road.  It is surrounded by lush and well maintained gardens resplendent with blooming tropical plants and shrubs such as tumbling bouganvilla, thumbergia in riotous colours and the ever-present multi-hued croton plant.  Wide double doors led into a cool foyer and up a spiral staircase to a view-to-die-for or at the very least, to happily pay-for!!  It was an expansive view over the little town, around the bay and the ocean beyond.  A Cruise Ship was in the middle distance docked at the cruise terminal for the day.  Later on that evening we had the pleasure of watching her steam out of port and head west into the sunset toward her next call.  But for now, we were greeted by our hosts and welcomed graciously to their home.

Polkerris pool

The rooms are beautifully laid out and all off a covered verandah which surrounds the house on all sides.  Our room looked out over the private swimming pool and the splashing waterfall.  Everywhere you gazed the gardens were lush and filled with contrasting shades, colors and textures leaving the eye feeling most satisfied.

 

 

 

Jamaican Jottings – intro to the “eyeland”

Ridiculous to assume and yet we all seem to!  We go on pre-conceived notions that are simply just not true or at the very most – have only a particle of truth.  Take Africa for example.  How many times have you heard someone say “Africa” and “jungle” in the same breath?  Well, yes, there is certainly some jungle in Africa and even rain-forest but what about the miles of desert sand, savanna or even teeming cities?    In the same way, the word “Jamaica” seems to immediately bring certain images and life-styles to forefront.  Reggae, Rum and Rastafarian to name a few!

Jamaica from the air

So it was with more than the normal curiosity that we embarked upon our latest adventure and traveled to the  island of Jamaica in the Caribbean ocean.  Most of our trip was to be spent in the luxurious environs of a five-star Luxury  Sandals Resort, but we had also decided to take an extra couple days and explore on our own.  It is not something that many of the thousands of tourists that visit Jamaica each year do.  Many arrive and are met by their Resort Representatives and escorted to one of several all-inclusive resorts catering to almost every type of person or vacation imaginable.  Most hardly ever feel the need to leave their beach-side retreat.  And for many this is probably the best way to do things.  However, if you are at all adventurous or class yourself a seasoned traveler, Jamaica is a treat waiting to be savored!

As I began to research this destination before our arrival I found more and more of fascination and interest in this island.  It was one of many “discovered” during Christopher Columbus’ epic sailings.  It was later fought over between the British and the Spanish and when the British took control in the 1600’s they turned it into a pirate haven.  They allowed pirates to wreak havoc upon Spanish galleons for some pirate return and to British gain.  Later still it became a place of plantations and wealthy gentry while there was still a fortune to be made in sugar.  Runaway and freed slaves formed their own communities in hide-a-way and hard to find places on the island. Sailors, soldiers and others generally seduced by island life have continued over the centuries to add to the exotic mix of peoples.  During Manley’s government rule it became synonymous with the free-wheeling lifestyle of the 60’s and 70’s and Jamaicans were known for liberal attitudes towards anything amoral.

Forgotten sugar mill aqueduct

While there will always be some around to hold to this image, they seemed no easier to find on the north coast of Jamaica than they would be on the east coast of America!  Instead we were delighted to be met with a friendly, enthusiastic welcome from a people genuinely pleased to have us visit their “eyeland” who, upon discovering that we intended to explore a little on our own, bent over backwards to ensure our stay was better than expected.  Take the Avis car Hire people.  Big smiles and thorough service with advice and time to converse with us while upgrading our modest rental to a more rugged 4×4 so that we would not feel any discomfort on their inland roads.  Which were, as they warned, in a patchy state of repair!  With almost every afternoon in summer seeing short but torrential downpours and the island covered in steep mountains, it was not surprising.  However, in contrast, the coastal road, was mainly a four lane, well-maintained highway with clear sign-posts and very easy to navigate.

In fact, all the Jamaicans employed in the service industries seemed to us to be highly motivated, friendly, hard-working people and toWood carvers enjoy their employment.  Remarkable to us too was the healthy condition of the population.  The fit and strong Jamaican athlete appears not to be the exception but instead it seems that most of the people we saw must spend a considerable amount of time working out!  We hardly saw a fat Jamaican or a very skinny one and this despite the great disparity between rich and poor as one so often finds in a third world country.

The island is a lush and fertile land with soft white sand beaches in coves with natural harbors, hills that climb quickly to misty mountains, an abundance of fresh water springs and streams  and a climate that encourages any number of tropical fruits and crops, all surrounded by changing hues of aqua blue Caribbean.  The sea provides another bountiful harvest, and all this is gleefully offered to the visitor providing Jamaica with one of their most profitable sources of income, that of tourism.

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