A Negril Travelogue
By Cameron Boyle
Day 1: 3/7/2015
Arrive MoBay 3:30pm…. 10 women ready to release (look out, Negril!)…. picked up by Ernie in a 12-person van. At outset of 1.5 hour drive to CountryCountry in Negril, of course we had to stop at the Hi-Lo grocery store for a case of Red Stripe for the ride. Reggae music at high volume. Checked into CountryCountry (CC) on 7-mile beach, freshened up, then headed to SeaStar for traditional buffet, live bands and plenty dancing. A troupe of African drummers and dancers caps off the show around 10-11pm. Mike Birdy… an extraordinary jembe drummer. Got our groove on booty dancing with MC Blaze, the Michael Jackson look-alike and the African dancers. After hours hang out at CC bar with Omar and Maurice. Here I am dancing with one of the bands at SeaStar:
Late Jamaican breakfast and hanging on beach till 3:30pm when we went to Rick’s Cafe on the West End (cliff-side). Many of us dove off the cliffs and 2 of us went on “the cave adventure” and received messages from the deep. After many rum punches and Red Stripes and about 2 hours dancing to the reggae band during a sublime sunset, we walked to Murphy’s (best food shack in Negril) for jerk chicken, lobster and shrimp. Then Ernie picked us up and took us to the Stepping High Ganja Festival (an annual beachside trade show for those in the ganja business; this was the first year it was open to the public) for a “purely cultural” experience. We met Dudley with his lei of dried blueberry ganja. Met a traditional peanut roaster. Witnessed the seriousness of the ganja judges with their microscopes. MC Blaze (the ubiquitous MC) was hosting on huge concert stage…. best two bands that night were Bushman and Nomads. Here we are below at Rick's Cafe, and below that is owner and chef of Murphy's:
Usual first half of day spent soaking up the rays and enjoying locals out front of CountryCountry. We left CC for Zimbali Organic Farm at 4pm with Zimbali’s driver Troy. Alicia (Jamaican) and her husband Mark (from Zimbabwe) are the owners of this organic farm, restaurant and guest house in the hills 40 mins. inland of Negril. We had a tour of the farm with Clifford (Alicia’s cousin) and then settled in for an amazing meal, prepared in front of us by Chris and OJ. Delicious meal replete with abundant wine. Birthday girl was awarded with a fresh bouquet of bougainvillea and a bottle of champagne. When finished with our black bean chocolate cake, we “turned it up” and danced and flirted some more with the cooks. On drive home, we got dropped off at Bourbon Beach where there was a decent Trini rasta band, but we headed next door where a dancehall dj was rockin the house. None other that MC Blaze was there puttin down the most amazing dancehall moves. Of course, we had to shadow him and learn a thing or two. Walked home 2am along the beach. Here I am with Alicia of Zimbali:
Decided Shanika was our favorite breakfast server. A bunch of us went out to the ocean trampoline in front of Margaritaville. There we experienced a divine orchestration of a gathering of sisters with whom we had a deep sharing of stories. There were 5 from our group, a woman from El Salvador and 3 seniors from UNC Chapel Hill. We copied NPR’s “moth hour”, using “what was the most transformational experience of your life thus far?”. We all learned a lot and formed new lasting friendships. Some of us then went with the college girls to Margaritaville for a booty-dancing contest. We stood on a Jamaican-flag beer-pong table, 3 at a time, and danced. We narrowed down to 3 competitors who were judged by the potency of the crowd’s clapping. And, yes, yours truly…. 50 year-old booty-shaker…… won the margarita bong which I shared with all my “college girls”. If a middle aged woman ever needed to have it affirmed the “she’s still got it”, that was the quintessential moment! Went back to CC for lobster salad…. lobster that we specially ordered caught from the sea that day. At 5:45pm Ernie took us all to Pushcart (restaurant of Rock House…. best 5-star hotel on the cliffs). We watched sunset, had rum punch and decided Croy was our fave bartender. Best thing about this place is ambience and the mento band that starts up around 8pm most nights. That’s the first Jamaican music…. even before calypso. After we filled our bellies with conch and rum and danced to both sets of mento, we went back to CC for a starlit ritual by the water. 6 of the 10 of us had to leave the next morning. Here I am with my co-winners of the dance contest, giving an encore performance:
The four remaining women transferred to The Palms….just a bit east on the beach. Lots of swimming and running on the beach. Went to 3 Dives for jerk chicken dinner and then walked to Rock House for the Chronixx concert (most popular reggae band in Jamaica right now):
Usual beach fun. Went to On The Rocks for dinner…. very good shrimp and pumpkin rice. Then we headed to ladies night at The Jungle (best nightclub in the world). We spoke with a dive master and a captain who took us diving, snorkeling and for an island cookout the next day.
Captain Raymond picked us up 8:30am on his Suzie Cruise boat. (You can contract him in front of Travelers Resort on the western end of 7-mile beach.) Right away we popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate my 50th. By 9:30am we graduated to rum punch. Some went scuba diving and some got dropped off at small island for traditional Jamaican cookout (lobster, chicken, rice, vegetables, peas, tiger fish, breadfruit)….. very rustic and authentic. Men cooking for women….. a beautiful thing (see photo at top of page)! We swam, danced and did a bit of capoeira while they were cooking. MC Blaze showed up with his boat and a gaggle of German tourists. Left island 3pm for snorkeling, back to The Palms at 4. Went to Murphy’s again for dinner…. more lobster! Afterwards went to Bourbon Beach for Ladies’ Night. MC Blaze was mc-ing and Dive-master Kurt showed up to dance with us.
Last day, so we sunbathed and swam a little, then headed out to buy souvenirs including a traditional basket made of bamboo and telephone wire. We met two Rasta cousins on the beach who did impromptu rasta-raps for us and made us some belly beads and necklaces. Back to Seastar one last time for dinner and dancing, then turned in for next morning departure.
Sistahs (and Brothas), if you want to celebrate a rite-of-passage in paradise amongst a people who will unconditionally affirm and celebrate your age and beauty, I highly recommend Negril (anywhere in Jamaica for that matter). I came back fully rejuvenated and excited about my next half-century of life. Bless up! One Love!