Thursday, November 1, 2012

Travel Writing: Summertime in Jamaica

It was finally August. Sensual, skimpy, sun-seeking, summer-loving month of August. Amidst birthdays, cookouts and grilled food, pool parties, exams, one of the highlights fit for publicity would be travelling to Jamaica. That's right, Jamo! My friend Olayinka Gbadebo (nee Kamson) was getting married and the destination was Montego Bay. The wedding date was fixed quite early, early enough to give ample time to prepare for the trip and so my friends and I got to planning. After much anticipation, preparation and even body workouts, months turned into weeks, days and in no time the weekend finally arrived.

Landing in MBJ was oddly familiar. On arrival, the insides of the Sangster International Airport gave every Nigerian in my crew a reason to glance at the next person. There was this home away from home look and feel, like one of the domestic airports in Enugu. Few automated systems, no moving walkways, halls not properly lit, security men standing by to search travelers' bags while chipping in the 'anything for the family' line. Surely, I had been in a place like this before a tad too many times even though this was my first trip to Jamaica. However, it was still amusing when the cute border control officer flirted while filling and stamping my immigration card and passport, intentionally delaying me at his kiosk, worrying my friends. LOL! Hey, come to think of it, that's happened once at Heathrow, and some months ago in Atlanta as well. There were the caddies loitering around the exit promising to make good fare deals to passengers and kiosk owners selling the 'original' Jamaican patties. Yum! What a welcome treat. We found our mini bus in no time and soon made our way to our hotel in Rose Hall.

The Ritz Carlton resort was a breath-taking beauty on a massive piece of property. Picturesque views of pristine beaches and palm trees, smooth Calypso tunes streaming from crooning organists strumming away in close corners, this might very well be the stuff paradise is made of. I loved every minute there and never wanted to have to leave. While I had recommendations for a number of things to do in the city, my restless wander-lusting soul for some reason grew calm in Montego Bay I was content with photographing, road trips, market visits and no real adventures so to speak. The day my team decided to go sailing, the professional sailor on deck advised that there was not wind enough to sail out and we had to wait. We got tired of waiting indefinitely, flagged a cab off the property (a tour bus, actually) and toured into the city. The driver, a young chap called Leighton, took the time to show us around, point out some places of interest while he shared the country's social history with us. We spent a healthy part of the day shopping and haggling, eating and jamming on Montego Bay's Gloucester Avenue, also known as the Hip Strip. By evening, we stopped at the Pelican for a hearty dinner of yellow rice, peas and jerk chicken. 
There was a place called 'Robbie's Kitchen' within the Half-Moon resort, a five minute walking distance from the Ritz Carlton, where we were treated to Jamaican blue crab cakes, nice mocktails and a most delicious fish special called Escovitch. Say after me, 'Escovitch."

Night fell and we went clubbing at the Margueritaville - a nightclub and restaurant with a tunnel-like sliding board that is said to fling brave souls into the Caribbean. PierOne was also another super vibrant club where the late-night energy was unbelievably superlative. I'm not big on reggae as a genre, save a few like the didactic treasure in Peter Tosh and the occasional Bob Marley, and so the Caribbean energy in the room practically drowned me on my first night out. I stepped out for some fresh air and conversation while the rest of the group partied till it was time to leave. We stopped for some delicious openly roasted jerk chicken on our way out of the club premises. You can be sure that when the following night came, I chose a goodnight's rest in bed while the others partied.

As our stay drew to an end, another highlight would be my hellish episode of dysmenorrhea. I had taken an afternoon walk to the Half-Moon resort with a friend to get some food and groceries. One moment I was walking and chitchatting, the next I was sprawling on a couch in a small town clinic, screaming and clutching at my stomach while a male nurse brewed me a cup of green tea at my request. He had pity written all over his face and asked me if I would like to see a doctor. "Just a cup of green tea please," I said through my teeth, "No doctors please." I popped a caplet of Aleve, sipped my tea and screamed till I slept off in the clinic at the slightest relief. *Sigh*

All in all, the trip was a great one, beautiful however short. The prices were pretty high, the people were very friendly, and the accent of the indigenes was so melodiously pleasant to my ears. I braved all and went swimming in my bikini, which before then, I had only worn in our swimming pool when I knew noone was watching. Thanks to Kanye's workout plan ... Finish up those lyrics for me. LOL! And best of all, Yinka's wedding was a huge success. By the following weekend, I was off to Orlando, Florida for another friend, Kunbi Odubogun's (nee Sijuwade) wedding. Excellent blog material for another post. Conjugal bliss to the couples. xo.