I land in Montego Bay with some of my oldest and dearest friends. Thanks to pre-planning, the van is waiting for us and we are swept into tropical sunshine and a quick ride past hills, construction, sea and sky. All of us are well traveled and have been to Jamaica countless times before. So we aren’t so inclined to do the tourist thing. We’re here to hang out and catch up with our friends. It’s been years since I’ve been here, but Jamaica is one of those destinations that seems to have it all: weather, a culture all it’s own with music and food. Where else are you going to hear real Reggae and eat Jerk or salt fish and akee? Sure there are home based facsimiles but the real thing? No, you come to Jamaica… Red Stripe, Rum, fruit, fish, sea and sun. It’s all here. When Columbus landed the Arawak Indians living here called this place Ximaca-Land of Wood and Water. And that’s here too, lush and succulent bougainvillea flowers everywhere of every color…and the sea… turquoise, lapis and cobalt. The pallet here is so intense and varied; even if you aren’t of an artistic nature you can’t ignore it.
After a short ride we arrive at a hidden driveway, make several circular turns, a climb up steep hills and around a garden like park and into a small entry between the brush and we’re here… our home for the next week. I find myself in a place that hosts Ralph Lauren and the Geico Gecko…and there are plenty geckos at Roundhill. What a place. I’m celebrating my luck at having friends who know of this place; to the blessing to have been invited on this trip and sharing all of this with close friends at a wonderful villa with a staff to help us be as comfortable as possible. What a lovely place this house is on 3.5 acres, 4 bedroom suites decorated in a mix of Jamaica chic and old world charm. Heavy, four-poster beds with beautiful white linen under ceiling fans. Each suite has it’s own bathroom and one has an outdoor shower over-looking the sea. Interesting Jamaican art, good sound system and TV’s on a three tiered central living space. All rooms face the sea and are around a pool with a veranda sitting on the edge of a hill falling gently to the sea. Eight of us including a 90+-year-old mother are sharing the villa and sea front private space. I can’t believe how beautiful and peaceful this place is and we have it for a week.
We unpack or at least dump our luggage in our rooms, and meet at the pool where the houses’ attendants have prepared rum punch for us and we settle in after the flight and rejoice in the world we have found ourselves…I head for the hammock and watch the sky swing past my eyes and listen to the birds as I unwind from a most hectic year. I can hear the wind in the tops of the palms, the waves upon the sand. Living and working in a stressful big city makes you forget how peacefully nourishing some places can be.
There are a couple of egrets that visit the house at the same time each day, plucking whatever out of the grass and heading down to the sea to see what has floated close to shore. It turns out to be a perfect walking rocky beach side and we all spend some time or other meandering. The staff indulges us at the house and shops with the guys buying huge fish for dinner that would scare me if I saw them underwater.
The sun has set and we all sit for our 1st meal together. Candles are lit everywhere and the menu has been planned and a birthday cake baked. All of us thought to bring bubble wrapped bubbly. A full orange moon rises above the horizon just at the top of our table and it’s my birthday! The moon rises just in front of the villa every night and we are separated from the sea only by the distance down the hill to our beach. Nothing stands in our way, we can see straight out to sea for miles, right past the black water, twinkling stars and city lights converge and you loose sight of what is land or what is sky. I hear laughter and jokes in the candlelight …dear friends connecting…and the sound of the constant breeze and waves upon the sand mixes with our good cheer. The reflection of the moon on the sea is undulating to rhythm of the great Brazilian music playing. Dinner is wonderful, fresh and the chocolate frosting runs like lava over the sides of the cake. No dieting this week. We stay up as long as possible and one by one file off to our first night of restful, undisturbed sleep. The silence is intoxicating and hypnotic. Relaxation is on the agenda for this week.
Up before dawn. I hear chirping out my bedroom window, a bird calls and the waves though distant are audible in the silence, restful like the rocking of a mom’s arms. The lights in town are twinkling across the bay. The sun will peak out from over the hills soon introducing another day here in paradise. A city seems to appear from the mist. The blue sky matches the sea and suddenly the sun burns into full view, so strong, so alive, and nurturing in its brilliance. Stars seem to fall to earth as the rising sun lights up the sky. When the sun finally clears of the horizon, its white-hot light hurts my eyes. And it is full-on day.
Two small boats appear on the water laying nets. Catching the big fish from early morning seas for meals that day, the nets flair out like blankets landing silently on the surface and slowly sinking. Boats move off tightening the nets, trolling until they are full. So very familiar to the ones I see in Ghana in and out of Cape Coast.
I’m just realizing that I’m experiencing a beautiful break of day in the same spot that I witnessed the orange moon rising all in the same place. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a geographical equivalent.
I hear propellers overhead and a red and white helicopter drops someone off at the helio-pad just behind the trees on the property next to ours. I hear the propellers slow to a stop and moments later I hear the roar of a high speed motorcycle speeding off. My imagination soared for days with wonder…until I understand that folks who have it like that live here where I am.
Breakfast of fish, eggs, fresh fruit and biscuits are served under the gazebo by the pool and we all are rested and happy to be here. We begin discussing our plans for the day. Hey, I’m staying right here, I don’t need to scurry about anywhere. This is just fine for me. We all agree to hanging out for the day. Some of us read, take pictures or swim. Others make arrangements to have hair braided or find their way to the spa…and my hosts plan meals with the staff. The guys do go exploring on the golf cart assigned to us and they come back with bits of info about where what is down at the hotel.
An energetic walk up two steep hills (a real workout in itself) of beauty finds us at The Roundhill Hotel. Here we have access to a fabulous spa. We walk along the sea for about a mile past the white umbrella’d patios, an English Tea Room and a wonderful library with current international magazines and leather bound books set in a wood paneled room with deep comfy chairs and fresh flowers.
A sharp strong ginger beer for mid afternoon refresher and a 4PM English High Tea with complimentary Finger Sandwiches down by the sea are on the agenda. Reggae music in Reggae land and by 6 we’ve also had Rum Punch and are listening to the band as the moon rises. We meet some surprisingly laid back folks with names you might know and dance until late on some nights, never having left the High Tea Hour.
Days later, I find myself still sitting by the sea; it’s like an enrapturing hypnotic equalizer. I don’t want to take my eyes from the sea. Like the dreamer, voyager that I am, I know there’s more out there than meets the eye. I need to sit and be and I’m doing it now. Dreaming about what could be and what will be. I wander too along the sea and find shells and beautiful fan corals just washed up.
Happily there weren’t too many plastic bottles washed up. I was really surprised to find that Jamaica has no recycling policy, no one collecting all this valuable loot that vacationers toss away into the sea. Shameful, but parts of the island is very littered and all I could think of was finding a way to get this stuff collected, save the fish and sea animals and build lawn furniture of shopping backs out of the recycled junk. I wish I could do it all but I know I have to pick my battles. So maybe someday, with or without my input, plastic could become usable after it’s discarded.
We break away from the house for a jerk chicken run to Scotchies in Montego Bay. What a treat to eat from a bag under an umbrella with your best pals. After we find ourselves headed out to Negril for a day at the spa on the cliffs and pop-ins to this place or that. We end this evening on a beach with a bonfire and buffet dinner of all things Jamaican. A band plays music and the dancers encourage us all to get up and dance and we do. One of the fun things about traveling around the island are the names of places: Hopewell, Soon come, Middlesex, Tryall, Pass Time, Hide Awhile and Why Not. I could write a paragraph on each name. They bring so much to mind.
It was painful when one of us had to return home early. We sacrifice and selfishly still enjoy ourselves and applaud our luck to be the chosen one to merit this treat of a lifetime. I’m plotting on how to stay here forever
What an uplifting time away, a time to think, no TV, computer and few phone calls… no distractions from the ocean view, the clear skies and thoughts. It also reminds me that one could live without a lot of the things we take for granted and how stressful those things can be…time for a change and who better than me to make it. Paradise Can Be Found.