40th (Ruby) Wedding Anniversary Cruise
Jamaica - Caribbean - Ocho Rios & Montego Bay
DAY 15 & 16 - 19th-20th Feb 2018 - Landed Ocho Rios & Montego Bay, Jamaica, ya Man!
It was our 40th Wedding Anniversary treat, what you might call our Ruby cruise! We now had 2 stops in Jamaica after the cruise was readjusted due to Hurricane damage to the British Virgin Islands and Dominica. One in Ocho Rios the other in Montego Bay. There was lots of concern upfront in Montego Bay especially and its parish of St James as the British Foreign Office had said it was a no go area due to 350 fatal shootings in the last year and large scale lawlessness. In Ocho Rios Keef went on the Bob Marley pilgrimage tour by a 50 year old Zion bus, no suspension, but what fun and made up for not being able to do it in 20004 due to Hurricane Ivan. Annie stayed on the boat.The bus tour went high into the mountains to stop at Nine Mile, St Ann's parish both the birth and resting place of Bob Marley where Fozzy (an old school friend of Bob's) showed us around the Bob Marley Mausoleum. We stopped at the Bumpers Reggae Lawn & Bar Stop in both directions, on the way up for a lovely beef pattie and on the way back for jerk chicken, rice & pea and what tasted like a deep fried donut for pud. There was a lot of debate about quite how many children Bob actually had CLICK HERE but there is one thing for certain as our guide kept saying "he was a Producer". The smell of hash was everywhere in the hills, Jamaican law allows 5 strands for personal use in the house daily. No wonder so many of these lovely people are spaced out *smile*. In Montego Bay, MoBay as the locals call it and sometimes the Second City, we went on the Greenwood House plantation tour which was very educational with great views and saw some of the posher houses on the way back. Greenwood house had fabulous views up the coast as far as Falmouth and the breeze on the balcony would have kept the slave masters cool. The slave restraints and sales posters were a bit of a shock to us but it was different times and now counts as part of Jamaica's heritage, thank god those days are over. Although we didnt go around it we stopped for a photo shoot outside the other big slave plantation, Rose Hall Great house, once owned by the horrid white witch Annie Palmer. Read all about her HERE. The centre of Montego Bay is a little seedy sadly, especially St James Street. PS Jamaica was no where near as frightening as made out, loved the people, such a sense of fun and a fun time. If you would like to read the detailed BLOG of the trip including the Captains log please CLICK HERE
Ocho Rios, Montego Bay (MoBay), Bob Marley tour & Greenwood Plantation
Your Guide to Ocho Rios
Blue mountains, green valleys, white water and golden sands await you on the island of Jamaica. Ocho Rios is your gateway to a vast array of experiences, from swinging through the trees, horse riding on the beaches, tubing down rivers to scenic sightseeing and, of course, the main attraction is Dunn’s River Falls. There is so much to do here; you won’t want to miss a thing!
Ocho Rios is particularly noted for its spectacular waterfalls, working plantations, beaches and beautiful tropical gardens. Ocho Rios is Spanish for eight rivers.
Lying south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, Jamaica - the name is derived from the Arawak word 'Xaymaca’ meaning the 'land of wood and water’ - is the third largest island in the Caribbean. It is also the largest English-speaking island of the region. The island is roughly 146 miles from west to east and 22 - 51 miles from north to south, with a total area of 4,411 sg. miles. The capital of this mountainous country (Blue Mountain Peak reaches 7,402 ft 12,256 m above sea level) is Kingston on the south coast. Ocho Rios is in the centre of the Island's north coast.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island during his second voyage to the New World in 1494 and he landed on the north coast at Discovery Bay, 22 miles west of Ocho Rios, on 4 May. As might have been anticipated, the local Arawaks were not pleased to
see him. Nine years later the intrepid explorer put into St Ann’s Bay near Ocho Rios when his ships were so worm-ridden and waterlogged that they were in imminent danger of sinking. And so his fourth voyage came to an unexpected end. Columbus had to wait a year, surrounded by distinctly unfriendly natives and with a crew close to mutiny, before help arrived.
The Spanish, however, were not deterred by Columbus' unhappy experiences and in 1509 Seville Nueva near St Ann’s Bay was established as Jamaica’s first town. Thirty years later it was abandoned and Spanish Town near the present capital, Kingston, was founded.
The unfortunate Arawaks, all 60,000 of them, were soon eradicated through murder, over-work and by catching European diseases from which they had no natural immunity. However, several of their words are still used in the English language - hammock, tobacco, potato and hurricane.
n 1655, the English captured Jamaica from the
Spanish after prolonged fighting. The island was turned into a huge sugar plantation and African slaves were imported. The Maroons - slaves freed when the Spanish left in haste - took to the hills behind Montego Bay and were a major problem for many years. However, in 1838, slavery was abolished and, as a conseguence, the sugar industry declined. Banana plantations were found to be more successful.
On 6 August 1962, Jamaica became an
independent country and remains a member of the Commonwealth. Modern Jamaica stil! has plantations producing such crops as bananas, sugar and coffee, but there are also other important industries, including the production of bauxite (smelted into aluminium), chemicals, cement, oil refining and plastics. Tourism ranks as the second foreign exchange earner.
Ocho Rios is the fastest growing tourist destination in Jamaica and a popular port of call for many cruise liners, especially those based in the United States.
The original Spanish name for the then very small settlement was Las Chorreras (the waterfalls), which was almost certainly a reference to the Dunn’s River Falls. By 1841, however, it was known as Ocho Rios - rather surprisingly there are not eight rivers in the area. There is little opportunity for sightseeing in the town itself, although it is a bustling place and many exclusive hotels are nearby.
Ocho Rios has a number of beautiful gardens full of brightly-coloured birds, exotic plants, including a proliferation of orchids, and steeply-plunging rivers. Each of the following gardens is off the A3, the main road leading southwards out of Ocho Rios.
Shaw Park Gardens
Set above Ocho Rios, these 35 acres of streams, waterfalls, ponds, flowers, ferns and woods provide a fine view of the town. These gardens are not, as the name might suggest in the grounds of the Shaw Park Hotel. Guided tours are available daily between 08.00 to 16.00 hrs.
Coyaba River Garden and Museum
In the same area as Shaw Park Cardens and also a taxi ride away. The word ‘coyaba' is Arawak for paradise. The museum shows the history of Jamaica starting, appropriately enough, with the Arawaks. Open daily from 08.00 to 17.00 hrs.
Situated on the southern outskirts of the town. Fern Gully is best reached by taxi or hiring a car for the day. The route, through an old river bed, winds through a lush valley of ferns and vines. It is claimed that there are more than 600 different varieties of ferns here.
Dunn’s River Falls and Park
Just 2 miles away is the most popular attraction in Jamaica, a photograph of which appears in most travel brochures featuring holidays to Jamaica. Cascading falls drop 600 ft and here is an opportunity to hold hands with the next person in a long chain gradually going to the top. It’s wet and it’s fun, and changing rooms enable you to change into a bathing costume and leave your clothes in a looker until you return (although queues can be long so it is recommended that you wear swimsuits under your clothing if climbing the falls). Make sure that you wear rubber soled shoes as the rocks are slippery. Old
tennis shoes are also useful if you opt to climb up the actual falls, alternatively climbing shoes are available for hire at the Park.
The Falls and Park open daily from 08.30 to 16.00 hrs. It is also possible to follow a path at the side of the fails and reach the top fully-dressed. Please be advised it is customary to tip the guide at the end of the climb.
Popularity unfortunately implies crowds and the falls can be busy, especially if several cruise ships are in port at the same time. There is, however, always the beach to enjoy.
For an unusual experience, try a romantic raft ride for two on the White River to the east of the town. A bamboo raft is poled by a skilful guide on a 45-minute trip through the tropical rainforest. There is even a stop for an optional dip in the cool mountain waters. Open daily 08.30 - 16.30 hrs.
The only historical site of any significance in Ocho Rios is an old fort built in 1777 and even then there is little to see. The main attractions are the shops and the craft markets.
BEYOND OCHO RIOS
The northern coastal area around Ocho Rios has much to interest visitors, although a tour, taxi or hired car is really necessary to visit most places, if you decide to hire a car, you’ll need to choose a route - maps are available from the Tourist Office - and two possibilities are suggested below, each of which could take up much of the day.
Route A - East of Ocho Rios
From Ocho Rios to the White River (Calypso River Rafting), Harmony Hail (Jamaican art and crafts), Boscobel Beach (aka James Bond beach), Oracabessa, Firefly (former home and burial place of Noel Coward), Port Maria, Brimmer Hali (plantation tour) and back to Ocho Rios. Total distance of 45 miles.
About 21 miles from Ocho Rios and just north of Port Maria, Firefly was the home of Noel Coward from 1956 until his death on 26 March 1973. Named after the luminous fireflies seen after dark, this spot was originally known as the Look-Out and was used by the buccaneer Sir Henry Morgan 300 years earlier to keep watch for pirates. The house, now owned by the Jamaican National Heritage Trust, has been restored to look as it did in the mid-1960s and visitors can see Coward’s paintings and clothes. He is buried at the bottom of the garden beneath a plain marble tomb. Open Monday - Thursday and Saturday 9.00 -17.00 hrs. Note that this attraction is normally closed on a Friday and Sunday.
A plantation offering guided tours is the Prospect Plantation which is only 4 miles from Ocho Rios. Tours take place at 10.30 hrs, 14.00 hrs and 15.30 hrs.
Route B - West of Ocho Rios
From Ocho Rios to Dunn's River Falls, St Ann’s Bay, Seville Nueva (site of the first capital and Seville Great House), Chukka Cove Adventure Tours, Runaway Bay, Discovery Bay, Green Grotto Caves (underground boat ride), Brown’s Town, Nine Mile (Bob Marley's Mausoleum), Claremont, Fern Gully and back to Ocho Rios. Total distance of 76 miles.
St Ann’s Bay
Birthplace of Marcus Garvey, one of Jamaica’s national heroes.
The first capital of Jamaica and the site of Columbus' statue. Spanish artefacts found in the area can be seen in the Seville Great House.
Attractions include the nearby Green Grotto Caves, where guided tours are available, and Columbus Park. Columbus landed here on 4 May 1494 and there is now an open-air park with exhibits of Jamaican history. Puerto Seco Beach is a good public beach with a restaurant and some watersports are usually possible.
Bob Marley’s Mausoleum
The reggae superstar lived here as a child until the family moved to Kingston. Bob Marley died on 11 May 1981 and he is buried in this isolated part of northern Jamaica, about 24 miles from Ocho Rios. Worth seeing is the black leather book containing thousands of signatures of those in the amazingly-long funeral procession. The mausoleum is open daily from 09.00 -17.00 hrs. Well known resorts such as Montego Bay (62 miles) are much further from Ocho Rios and mean that some considerable time is spent on the road rather than seeing places of particular interest. Kingston, the capital, is a slightly shorter distance, but still takes about two hours driving time.
Your Guide to Montego Bay
Montego Bay is Jamaica’s second city and has been a mecca for tourists since the 1920’s. Today visitors still flock to this bustling resort to relax on its silvery beaches, explore its lush tropical surroundings or hear ghostly tales in one of its former plantation houses.
Lying south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, Jamaica forms part of the Greater Antilles group and is the third largest island in the Caribbean. With its three counties of Cornwall in the west, Middlesex in the centre and Surrey in the east, the island covers an area about three times the size of Kent in England.
It measures 159 miles from east to west, and from twenty to fifty miles from north to south with a population of nearly 2.5 million.
Located on the south coast, Kingston, the capital, has a population of half a million and is the centre of political and artistic life. The highest point is in the Blue Mountains to the east, nearly 7,500 feet, where it is much wetter and cooler than on the 200 miles of Jamaica’s beaches. Ocho Rios, the most popular port of cal! for cruise ships, lies almost in the centre of the north coast, and Montego Bay, up in the North West corner, is a close second.
During his second voyage in 1494. Columbus anchored in Discovery Bay on the north coast and received a surprisingly hostile welcome from the Arawak farmers and fishermen. They had been here for at least five hundred years and were known as a peaceful people, but understandably they weren’t keen on invaders, having already suffered horribly from the cannibalistic tendencies of the Caribs. However, after some preliminary skirmishes they all settled down fairly happily, Columbus receiving the necessary provision in exchange for the usual glass beads and other items, comparable to tourist tat today. The Arawak words canoe, hamac and
tobacco have passed into our language, and they called this island Xaymaca, land of wood and water. Jamaica has 120 rivers and streams and enormous areas of forest today, but then it would have been even more densely forested, However, there was variety, and Columbus considered Jamaica “the fairest island that eyes have beheld... all full of valleys and fields and plains".
On his fourth voyage, he spent a year marooned in St Ann’s Bay just west of Ocho Rios. His waterlogged ships ran aground and his life was made miserable by sickness and hunger, unfriendly locals and mutinous sailors. Finally he was taken off by a ship chartered from Hispaniola. It was an ignominious end to the explorations and adventurers of the man who put this part of the world on the map.
Jamaica did not possess the gold and jewels which the Spaniards had hoped for, but the land was fertile and in 1509 they estabiished a colony on the north coast called New Seville. Fever broke out in the swampy marshes, so a few years later they moved to the south coast an established themselves in Spanish Town near present- day Kingston. In a short time, all the 60,000 Arawaks, enslaved and ill-treated by the Spaniards, had died, their demise probably hastened by the European import of strange diseases, a killer wherever they settled.
African slaves were imported to take the place of the Arawaks, but colonisation was not a roaring success in Jamaica. Moreover, since the Pope had divided all new discoveries over here between Spain and Portugal, other nations were furious at being excluded, and the
16th century saw various European nations attacking these colonies in the New World. English, and then British forces made several raids on Jamaica, and at last an ili-eguipped expeditionary force, sent out by Cromwell, attacked Jamaica as an afterthought. The Spaniards put up a stout resistance in the way of guerilla warfare for five years, but finally sailed away from Runaway Bay and left the British in undisputed possession, confirmed by the treaty of Madrid.
During the 18th Century, Jamaica was the world’s largest producer of sugar, but when slavery was abolished and the apprenticeship system folded up as well, the freed slaves had had enough of work and the industry declined. The fortunes of the island were at a low ebb but were retrieved by Admiral Rodnay in the Battle of the Saints, and from then on the island remained securely in British hands.
There was sporadic trouble from the Maroons, slaves left by the Spaniards. They had taken to the forested hills in what is known as Cockpit Country behind Montego Bay, and they harassed the white settlers until the threat of bloodhounds imported from Cuba brought about their final surrender.
Bananas bolstered the sugar trade during the first half of this century, but industrial unrest just before the Second World War set in train the movement towards independence. This passed through various stages until full independence within the Commonwealth was achieved in 1962, after Jamaica had been a British colony for more than 300 years. Now, although life is not always peaceful and was terribly disrupted by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. at least the Jamaicans have their own land to themselves.
But who are the Jamaicans? “Out of Many, One People” is the national motto, and the ethnic mix of European, East Indian, African, Chinese and Arabic peoples has turned out to be surprisingly harmonious.
Jamaica is the world’s third largest producer of bauxite, the raw material which is smelted into aluminium. It also produces, sandstone and limestone, marble and alabaster as well as sugar cane, bananas, pimentos, coffee, cocoa, tobacco and rum. Tourism ranks as the second foreign exchange earner.
From December to April, the most popular time to visit the island, the temperature ranges between 75° and 85° F (24° - 30°C). Rainfall averages nearly eighty inches annually. Late spring and autumn are the wettest periods and the hurricane season is late summer. But there’s always plenty of sunshine.
Over a thousand species of tree grow on the island, There are more than 600 varieties of fern and 200 species of orchid, 73 of which are unique to Jamaica. Botanists have recorded almost 3,000 varieties of flowering plant.
Wild animals are practically non-existent: there are few snakes - and they are harmless - while crocodiles live only in a few rivers and swamps on the south side of the island. Bats and lizards are common, wild boar still exist in the mountains, and mongooses cause little trouble except to chickens. Birds are particularly varied and colourful.
BEYOND MONTEGO BAY
Ocho Rios (67 miles east)
Apart from the little town of Ocho Rios, the name also refers to the area between Annotto Bay in the east and Discovery Bay in the west, a sixty mile strip of splendid beaches and elegant resorts. This is a watery area, the name either derives from the Spanish for ‘eight rivers’ though there aren’t quite as many, or it may be a corruption of ‘las chorreras’ as referring to waterspouts and falls, particularly Dunn’s river falls clearly visible from the sea.
Just inland is Fern Gully, an old riverbed, until an earthquake drove the river underground. Now it’s a twisting road bordered by hardwoods, liana and masses of ferns, a tropical version of many an English country lane. Above Ocho Rios with a fine view down to the town are the Shaw Park Gardens, 34 acres of streams, ponds, flowers, ferns and trees.
Dunn’s River Falls (65 miles east)
The most famous beauty spot on the north coast is undoubtedly this waterfall which cascades 600 feet through pools over limestone terraces to the Caribbean. There are guides available to help the more active individuals to climb up. Naturally the climb should be done in bathing gear, so there are lockers
on the beach for your clothes, and a booth to buy your ticket to ascend. The not-so-active can walk up and down a path at the side, free and fully clothed.
Rose Hall (5 miles east)
This is an 18th Century plantation estate, which now has been restored to its former glory by an American millionaire. The interior including the furnishings and staircase are magnificent and well worth a visit. The estate is steeped in history and legends.
Complementing what you see is what you hear.
The story of Annie Palmer, who was known as a White Witch because of her marital and extramarital adventures. She is supposed to have poisoned, stabbed and strangled her three husbands, in that order, and the ladies who show visitors round delight in telling you in which bedroom which husband was done in and by what method. Meanwhile the insatiable Annie enjoyed a succession of slave lovers until a person or persons unknown decided that enough was enough and murdered her at the age of twenty nine.
Martha Brae (23 miles east)
The tourist attraction of this river is the 90 minute raft ride. A bamboo raft made for two is poled gently
downstream by a professional raft captain, and the tranquillity of the journey is enhanced by the dense tropical vegetation on both banks. This is one of the unusual pleasures to be enjoyed in Jamaica. The river is named after a strange Arawak Indian girl who was captured by Spanish soldiers and tortured to reveal the location of a secret gold mine. She finally promised to take them there but on reaching the river she called up her supernatural powers and changed its course, drowning the soldiers and herself.
Luminous Lagoon (16 miles east)
At Rock, just beyond Falmouth is the unique Luminous Lagoon, one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. If you visit the Lagoon after dark, the luminosity is quite fantastic, particularly if the water is agitated. Even the fish create streaks of light as they swim.
Negril (50 miles west)
Lying on the western tip of the island, Negril boasts an unbroken seven-mile stretch of pure white sand, laced off shore by coral reefs which make the water appear every conceivable shade of blue and green - a perfect West Indian fairytale beach. Negril caters for every conceivable character and depth of purse.