Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bus ride and Negril reflections

“Whom shall we fear?”
by Jean Lowrie-Chin (from Observer column - Mon 5 March 2012)

My husband had offered to drive me to Negril, but I decided to go solo as us ‘girls’ had not caught up for a while. I was a bit nervous as I mounted the steps of the South Coast Express, recommended by PR colleague Dave Rodney. I had never travelled this far on a bus by myself, but it turned out to be a comfortable ride with clean rest stops. My friend Christine Craig, who had read from her brilliant poetry collection ‘All Things Bright’ at the Talking Trees Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, joined me in Santa Cruz.

We passed through Belmont where there were several buses parked near the Peter Tosh Mausoleum. Scores of visitors were taking photographs of the vivid beach scene, and making their way to the memorial site of this poignant Jamaican. Tosh’s voice vibrated through my consciousness: “Jah is my keeper – so whom shall I fear?”

Now a resident of Florida where our bad news dominates while good news skulks in the scroll-downs, Christine seemed a little concerned that we didn’t know which taxi would be taking us from bus to hotel. As we alighted, there was the gallant Leroy with his small JUTA van. Once we established that we were fellow ‘Westmorelites’, we chatted away like long lost cousins and so we had a trusted driver for the evening.

We had decided to visit Rick’s Café at Negril’s West End, to see its famous sunset. Even in the rain, the atmosphere was magical as buses converged and the bars became thick with Appleton-loving tourists. Though partly hidden by the clouds, the sunset brightened the sky and we were happy to tick off this ‘bucket list’imperative.

Christine was overcome by the beauty of Negril’s seven-mile beach, which she had not visited for over 20 years. Lots of tourists were enjoying themselves and a restaurant owner told us it was her best season since she had set up four years ago. The next morning, I boarded a Vacation Tours bus and headed to Montego Bay to catch a flight. Mr Garrick the driver gave us accurate Jamaican history highlights. The proud Hanoverian showed us the extensive development taking place in his hometown, Orange Bay.

However, we found our enthusiasm for Jamaica surpassed by the tourists on the bus! The Canadian said he had postponed his return three times and was now reluctantly making his way home after “five wonderful weeks”. He visits several times a year and in three years planned on making Jamaica his retirement home. The young couple from New York echoed his sentiments and said they planned to invest in Negril property, because it was their “favourite place in the world”.

Lifted by their optimism, I recalled my earlier jitters on travelling solo on a Jamaican bus, and mentally rewrote Tosh’s words: “Jamaica is a great nation: whom shall we fear?”

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