Jamaica is a Delightful Place for a Winter Getaway

Local men playing dominos while smoking spliffs at the Pelican Bar, about a quarter mile off the south coast of Jamaica in St. Elizabeth.

Tomorrow at the bright hour of 7 am, I’ll be on the phone with my pals at WHYN-AM 560, the talk radio powerhouse out of Springfield where I often share stories of recent travels.  Brad and Bo are a lot of fun, always lots of laughs and I always manage to come up with some good points about a place and they always seem a bit bemused at the places I choose to travel.

This time, though it will be about a more familiar place. I’ll speak to them and their big morning drive audience about my trip to Jamaica in December.   This large island (145 x 80 miles) was quite a surprise to me, for a bunch of reasons.

Ackee and Saltfish, the national breakfast of Jamaica. Yum!

For some reason I had always had a sort of hesitation about the place, as if the crime that I heard about in Trench town would impact me, a traveler. Actually, the island does have one of the highest murder rates in the world. Sadly like in many societies, it’s usually in the big cities with bad guys killing other bad guys. Yet all over it felt safe, and the people were uniformly friendly despite this sobering statistic.

The only exception to the universal smiles were a few guys who worked in a jerk chicken joint in Montego Bay, but I think they just get sick of the crowds watching them cook waiting for their lunch.

It’s a big island, bigger than I thought, so there are miles of sweeping open fields with beautiful large trees spreading shade, and lots of goats and cattle munching plenty of sweet grass underneath them.  As we drove the entire distance from Montego Bay in the north to St Elizabeth in the South, we passed by tiny 10 foot wide bars, and a myriad of churches.

The countryside of St Elizabeth parish on the South coast.

We were told there are more churches and bars here than anywhere else on earth.   Another thing that surprised me is that there are really no more great young reggae musicians playing music there. Today, the youth gravitate to Dancehall music, and the Bob Marley tunes you hear are from 40 years ago…and played in many places for tourists.

At Jake’s Hotel where we stayed in St. Elizabeth, when they want to get a great reggae DJ, they fly them down from New York. Apparently it’s Europe and the states were reggae still thrives, live, and not much any more in the land where it started.