One Day in Jamaica

We were shooting at a fancypants hotel/pseudo resort in Montego Bay and had but just one day to ourselves. Could we have spent that day on the beach at pseudo resort drinking $7 Red Stripes? Yes we could have. But in my heart of hearts I would feel like a lying sack of shit telling people I was just in Jamaica if the only place we experienced was a hotel. A hotel that could be any where with a beach, it just happens to be in Jamaica. 

When Robert originally asked me to join him on this job I looked at my collection of bookmarks (which is my life’s work and will probably be donated to the Smithsonian after I die) and I had only one in Jamaica: Floyd’s Pelican Bar– a bar made of driftwood out in the ocean. Was he down to go? Oh yes he was.

Getting to Pelican Bar from Montego Bay (or from any other side of the island) is a trek. You need to drive all the way over there to then catch a boat. And we’re not talking about “Just hop on the 10 freeway and drive through LA” …there aren’t freeways in Jamaica. You’re driving on small roads through little towns, waiting for a herd of goats to cross the street, driving around waist deep puddles and sometimes cruising through straight up jungle. 

The 45-50 mile (depending on which road you take from Montego Bay) ride will probably take 90 minutes to 2 hours each direction. This wasn’t something I wanted to do (and drag someone else along) on our One Day in Jamaica if it wasn’t going to be good. 

The photos I had seen and the little I had read led me to believe that it had the potential to be pretty great. What I had read online regarding the crowd at Pelican Bay was completely true: sure, it is only tourists, but it’s not crowded with tourists (which makes a huge difference). For what it’s worth we went on a Monday so maybe it is busier on the weekends? 

Here we go… 

Through the concierge at our hotel we hired a driver to take us (which is the most privileged thing I’ve ever said in my life and it makes my entire body cringe). He was super nice and talkative. He first took us to Hopewell where we got coffee and hit up an ATM to get Jamaican dollars. The exchange rate (about $125 Jamaican to $1 USA) makes you feel like a baller for about two seconds right after you get your stacks of $500 bills… which are each worth like $4.  

Then we drove. And drove. I learned all about the dating scene for a young man in Hopewell and about the Jamaican equivalent of Tinder. I enjoyed reading their thoughtful traffic signs: “Speed kills- don’t be in a hurry to eternity.” 

Once we hit Black River (the last major town before you drive along the coast of Parrottee Bay) I showed our driver the wonders of Google Maps (he was an Apple Maps user and also a bit lost… the two might be related— heyo!). I directed him to Basil’s where we caught a boat, and as I was grabbing my bag to exit the car he asked me to be his girlfriend… “Uhhhh…” 

I’ve read there are many places along the coast here where you can easily catch a boat. But this isn’t something you call ahead for a reservation, you just show up with cash. Ours cost $20/person round trip. 

Okay, a little history lesson on Pelican Bar… it was completed in 2001 by Floyd Forbes. It once was a place for him & his fellow fisherman friends to enjoy a beer and grab lunch without having to go all the way back to shore. Until 2004 when a hurricane knocked it down (though some will tell you the bar burned down). It was rebuilt with wood donated from local businesses and now it’s a photo haven for tourists. The branches and boards that make up the entire structure & seating area are carved with visitors names & initials. And you’re welcome to leave yours (with the help of a bartender’s carving skills).  

The second we stepped off Devin’s boat and onto the dock a man asked us if we’d be having lunch there. Hell yes. We ordered a Red Stripe and watched him descale the striper he just caught. After a few more Red Stripes we were served a plate of coconut rice, grilled striper and “curry” sauce. It was the best meal of the trip. Granted you’re paying tourist prices as the meal was $15/person, but it was still cheaper than any of our meals at the hotel. If you’re someone who is hesitant to eat a whole fish… well, then you probably have no business spending an afternoon in hut out in the ocean to begin with… 

I swam & snorkeled (with a ton of cute clear small jellies). We snapped photos and Phhhotos.  

As the afternoon came to a close, our boat picked us up. On the ride back, with a cup of rum & Ting in hand we watched the sky turn pink. The on/off overcast clouds we experienced during the afternoon, made for a dramatic show during sunset. It may have been the roadie talking, but it was a magical sight to see. Not any less magical than the dog who sat next to me on the beach while we watched the last drips of orange light disappear over the horizon. A few photos of kittens & goats at Basil’s and then we began the drive back to Resortville USA. Or so I thought. 

We couldn’t have gone more than 30 minutes when driving through the dark of the early night I saw a roadside bar and had a wonderful feeling about it. I know that sounds like some really hippy alcoholic shit, but I’m not quite sure how else to feel about it. It simply called to me.  

And my intuition was right! It was a tiny 2 room bar with 1 bartender and a few patrons. Everyone was incredibly sweet to us. We wanted whatever the regulars were having. I am so sick of hearing the overuse of “local”. Local ingredients, traveling like a local, locally sourced horse shit. But when I travel to unfamiliar nooks of the world, I want to experience things how they are done there. I don’t want a fucking Mai Tai in Jamaica. 

Robert was served an Aperol & white rum. Apparently the guys in Jamaica really love their Aperol after dinner. I don’t think he loved it… 

I had a simple drink the bartender thought I’d enjoy- oh dear god I did. White rum and… some kind of orange juice? Orange and coconut maybe? Lulo and orange? I can’t recall. And in that moment it was so good, so distinct– how could I possibly ever forget? Well, I did. But it was delicious! And every time I spritz down my airplane head/arm rests, window, and tray table like a crazy germaphobe with my Jessica Alba hand sanitizing spray, the fragrance transports me right back to a stool inside that tiny little bar on the side of the road somewhere in St. Elizabeth Parish.  

I think I could have floated all the way back to our hotel from the buzz I got off the atmosphere in the bar (the rum helped, too). We were driven back to Montego Bay, with a quick stop for dinner with our driver. If we wanted to try jerk chicken & goat curry, we would need to do that before crossing the gated threshold of our hotel.  

Until next time, take care Jamaica.

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