To celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on December 12, my wife Manju and I decided to make a trip to sunny and warm Jamaica. One of my friends, who is also a yoga teacher, and has lived in Jamaica for over 20 years, was a great help in guiding us where we should go. More importantly she also arranged for us a very reliable and helpful driver, Sydney Francis, to drive us from the Kingston airport to our hotel and back.
Our original plan was to go to a mountain area and we had made reservations at the Starlight Chalet in the Blue Mountain. This place was about 25 miles from the Kingston airport. However, due to very bad road conditions, it took us close to three hours to get there. Once we got to the hotel, we found out that we were going to be the only two guests in the hotel. Moreover, due to heavy rains in the past few days, the roads were not only bad but also muddy. So we would not have been able to go out of the hotel at all. The prospect of having to look at the mountain and at each other all day long for six days was truly frightening. So we decided to turn right back and go back to Kingston and then decide on our next steps.
I must hurry to add that the view of the mountain and the valley from the hotel was absolutely gorgeous. Under slightly better condition of the roads etc and availability of a local transport, we would have loved to stay there. The view during the drive to and from the hotel was truly breathtaking at times. Even though we didn’t get to stay there we at least got to experience the beauty of the Jamaican mountains.
On our way back to Kingston, we tried to find a suitable hotel to spend the night there. This is where our driver, Sydney came in to be really of great help. He happened to have the keys to a guest house used by the company that he worked for to accommodate out of town guests. So we were able to spend the night in that nice apartment (without any rent!).
When we woke up in the morning and looked out in the courtyard of the guest house, we noticed a man sitting under a mango tree eating freshly plucked mangoes. As both Manju and I are fond of mangoes we walked over and found the tree laden with ripe mangoes. These were the mangoes which you don’t cut with a knife but you have to squeeze them and then sip the juice out. We were able to fill a whole bag and carry it with us so we could enjoy those mangoes for the rest of our stay in Jamaica.
Since Kingston is not a vacation town, on Sydney’s recommendation, we decided to go to the resort town of Ocho Rios which was about a 2.5 hour drive. This was another beautiful ride. On the way we went through another small mountain, the Rosser mountain. Much of the way we drove along a small but very pretty river. We also stopped over to taste some local tropical delicacies – fresh coconut water, jackfruit, another fruit (I forget the Jamaican word for it) that we call "chiku" in Hindi. In India, the jackfruit is cooked and eaten like a vegetable. However, this time I ate a ripe jackfruit as a fruit and it was delicious!
We had made reservations at the Hibiscus Lodge Hotel which was situated right next to the ocean and stayed there for the next five days. The Hibiscus was a nice hotel, very clean and beautifully maintained. The lawns, the gardens, the whole landscape in the hotel compound was tastefully decorated. The room was facing the ocean and was clean and comfortable. On the first day we ran into problem with the hot water as one of their hot water heaters was not working. The hotel staff was cooperative and shifted us to a different room for one night and then back to the original room when the heater was fixed.
Ocho Rios is a sea resort area. So all the activities there were related to water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, water rafting, bobsled etc. Both Manju and I are not fond of water sports so we decided to just sit back and relax. We did, however, try one water adventure there which was to go visit the Dunns River Falls. This turned out to be truly a unique experience. For one thing, we went there without knowing what to expect and without any needed preparation. When we reached there we found everyone in their swim suits whereas we were both in our shirt and jeans. We looked like we had come there from a different planet. In any case we decided to go through the climb up the fall even though we had no idea what it was going to be like. This was a journey from the beach level all the way up to the top of the fall. The trip is organized in groups of about 20 each and each group is assigned a guide. Our guide made us hold each others’ hands while we would climb the rocky, sometimes slippery, path up the river. We had to roll up our jeans up to thigh high and just hoped for the best. Before entering the water we were warned that we should not carry anything in our pockets. But again, not realizing the intensity of the water flow and the arduous nature of the climb, I decided to keep my wallet and my phone in my pocket. Bad idea! When we finished the climb, I found that my wallet was soaking wet with all the dollar bills and all the cards completely wet. My phone was also filled with water and later found to be absolutely dead!
One of the guides captured a video of the adventure which we bought as memories from the trip.
Except for this adventurous outing to the falls, for the rest of the time, we just rested, read books and listened to music. It was really nice to sit outside in the balcony and watch the ocean waves, the clouds, the birds and bask in the total serenity of the atmosphere. I practiced my daily yoga routine also out on the balcony with cool breeze blowing and the daylight just beginning to break. I read the book "The New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle on my ipad. This book is a take-off from his earlier book "The Power of Now" which I had thoroughly enjoyed previously. I am still not done reading The New Earth but based on what I have read so far, I think that The Power of Now had a much more profound impact on me. More about these books later…
Another "memorable" event that happened was that when the driver dropped us off in Ocho Rios, I dropped my camera in his car. So for the duration of our stay in Ocho Rios, we didn’t have our regular camera with us. We took some pictures with our phone but unfortunately it also became dead after our trip to the falls. So, whereas we were hoping to get a lot of pictures, we wound up getting just a few pictures on the first and last day of our trip.
Overall, this anniversary trip was thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable and we are back with fond and sweet memories of the experience.
I would love to hear about your own vacation trips or other activities during this holiday season.