We arrived in Ocho Rios (or “Ochi,” as it is known to the cognoscenti) about 5. Evelyn, Sherwin, and Gramma (Rita) had already arrived and checked in, and Evelyn was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Isaiah and Ray, who had been held up with formalities concerned with getting a visa for Ray. When they finally turned up much later than expected, it turned out that Isaiah, confused by a new roundabout, had missed the turn from the A2 onto the A1. Ray, exhausted by his ordeal at the U.S. embassy, had dropped off to sleep, and when he woke up, he found they were halfway to Mandeville!
Meanwhile, we checked into the Hibiscus Lodge Hotel, another Damdar family favorite. There is not a beach as such, but steps lead down from the pool area to a sand-covered deck from which more steps descend into the waters of the Caribbean. Our room overlooked the pool and had a view of the sea. Although it is close to the center of downtown Ochi, the hotel’s encircling wall and lush gardens ordinarily give it a secluded feeling—or so we were told. When we were there, the Amnesia Lounge (“An experience you won’t forget”) half a block away was deafening the entire neighborhood with loudly broadcast live performances, augmented by a band on the hotel grounds for a wedding rehearsal party.
While we awaited the arrival of the rest of our party, Barney had a pot of tea in the room, and I walked into town with Fionn, Virginia, and Sherwin to check out souvenir stores. I bought several items, all of which I’ve ended up keeping even though they were originally intended (nonspecifically) as gifts. One was a “Jamaica No Problem” denim hat; I’d accidentally left my straw sun hat at home and had been intending to replace it when I got to Jamaica. At this point I no longer needed a hat for the beach, but I’d seen this type of hat in the gift shop at the Bob Marley Museum and coveted it there, and here the price was right ($10). In another shop I bought three T-shirts, all with beautiful embroidery. A black one was $9, and two white ones were $7.50 each. These seemed like too good a deal to pass up!
While we were out, we stopped at a bakery, where the perennially famished Fionn treated us to baked goods. Virginia got a plaintain tart, and I got a gizzada, and we shared them half and half (both were delicious!). When we returned to the hotel, Isaiah and Ray had arrived. We gave the Damdars the gift we’d brought (more B&B Pecans), and then it was time to find supper. Although Virginia had warned us that Isaiah would want to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken (one of the first U.S. fast food stores to hit Jamaica, a favorite with Jamaicans, often called just “Kentucky”), we ended up at a Mother’s patty stand. It was thronged with tourists (although those who notice such things said there was not a cruise ship in port, which would have exacerbated the situation), and the efficiency of the service was in startling contrast to our experience in the Mother’s in Kingston. Many of the requested items were unavailable (big surprise!), so orders had to be revised several times, and we all ended up more or less disgruntled. I tried the new “Full House” patty, which includes lettuce and tomato along with the beef and cheese filling—an interesting variation.
By the time we got back to the hotel about 9, we were ready to hit the sack. Closing our windows against the din, we ran the AC until the room was cool enough to be pleasant with just the ceiling fan, and after watching TV for a while, we called it a night.
Today was the day we were going to Dunn’s River Falls, and we’d hoped to get an early start. We thought if we got away early enough, we might have time to come back to the hotel to shower and change before checking out, so we’d agreed to meet for breakfast at 7. Evelyn and Rita were up and out early to swim in the pool, and I got up at 5:40 and enjoyed the cool of the early morning reading on our verandah. All the older adults were ready for breakfast by 7, but there was no sign of life from Virginia and Fionn or from the room Matthew, Sherwin, and Ray were sharing. The boys rolled out quickly when summoned, but we had trouble raising the honeymooners.
We decided to go ahead and start breakfast without Fionn and Virginia, and they joined us later. We had a huge complimentary breakfast (I had an omelet that was really more than I wanted, especially with all the fruit and bread that accompanied it) in the open-air dining room overlooking the sea. By the time we’d finished eating and gotten changed for Dunn’s River Falls, it was obvious that we would have to pack up and check out, so we did.
Dunn’s River Falls was just a few minutes away, and we arrived there in mid- to late morning. From the photos I’d seen on postcards and Virginia’s description I had a pretty good idea what to expect, and I was not disappointed. We were prepared for the tour groups going up in a “human chain.” It makes a great picture, but it’s hard to see the point (except to keep the group together) since if one climber slips, he takes the rest of the group down with him. Fionn and Virginia had reserved most of their scorn for these daisy chains, but they’d also derided the sissies who take the easy way out by climbing up the side of the falls, where there are fairly easy steps, rather than straight up the middle of the rushing water. Perhaps we were sissies, but Barney and I followed Evelyn along a moderately safe (but still exciting) route. We did chance the middle a few times, and we enjoyed the Jacuzzi effect of the pools that break up the climb at intervals.
Virginia and Fionn had once again lagged behind, and they turned up at one of the landing stages (there are steps at intervals for getting out if you’ve had enough), Fionn shooting many photos of us that we’ll no doubt have to pay huge amounts to get him to destroy! After we had made it to the top of the falls, Barney went back down to redo part of it so that I could take some pictures of him. He then borrowed my camera to take some pictures himself from the center of the falls (my heart was in my mouth the whole time he had my camera out in that rushing water, especially every time his foot slipped on one of the slimy rocks).
When everyone had had enough, we returned to the dressing rooms to change out of our wet swimsuits into dry clothes. It was then that I made a fatal error, opting to investigate the village of “craft” vendors at the exit. I could say that I was supporting local industry or rewarding salesmanship or whatever, but the fact is that I was just overwhelmed by the con artists and badgered into buying things I have no earthly use for! I didn’t really do so badly, though I could have bought all the items cheaper in Kingston. I ended up paying $15 for a pair of turned ironwood (lignum vitae) candlesticks (originally offered at $20 apiece) and $5 for a chestnut “Yo-Yo” and a chestnut-and-coconut combination Yo-Yo and rattle. I had no idea whom I was buying these for, and like the hat and the T-shirts, they have ended up being mine.
Our party got separated, and time was wasted getting together again (as each person decided not to wait for the others and came outside the gate, to find the rest of us waiting). We went back into Ocho Rios for lunch (the elders) and souvenir shopping (the young people). We elders went to a Burger King, where once again we experienced the phenomenon of Jamaican “fast food.” Like the patty shop the night before, the store was very crowded, mostly with tourists, obviously from the U.S.—young, white high school or college students, the same sort of group—perhaps one of the same groups—we’d seen at Dunn’s River. We speculated that perhaps they’d been to Jamaica on some sort of church mission trip, and a visit to Dunn’s River Falls had been their reward at the end of a week of work. Most of the girls had had their hair braided. This seems to be a very popular thing to do. Although there was a hair braiding booth at the falls, it was closed, and the first time I saw a white girl with her hair corn-rowed and beaded, I thought it an anomaly. Then I saw dozens more. It’s actually pretty practical for a beach vacation, as braided hair stays neat and nice-looking whether wet or dry.