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A couple of days ago, I wrote a post that was mainly pictures of a road trip from Kingston to Ocho Rios. I mentioned, in passing, that stories were in that journey, as there are in all aspects of life, and that I may go to tell them. Well, my mind is ready to tell some of them.

You can travel to the north coast from Kingston by several routes. Many people prefer to take the ‘faster’ route, via Spanish Town, Linstead, Ewarton, Mount Rosser, Moneague, and Fern Gully. It’s a nice route, especially passing through the ferns, but I sometimes dislike passing Mount Rosser and the possible delays of getting stuck behind a heavy truck or several. So, I asked the man who was due to drive us in his minivan to take us through St. Mary, via Junction: that route also involves a big hill, but I like it for being picturesque and going through a part of the country where one can see a major industry in action. We pass near to the banana growing areas owned by Jamaica Producers, and can see and smell their ‘St. Mary’s’ brand processing plant for banana and plantain chips.

That route also takes us near to the Richmond-Highgate area of St. Mary, where my father was born and raised. I used that sentimental reason to persuade the driver to head north that way; we would come back on the other route. My father had his 85th birthday on Monday–about which I also wrote this week–and, by happy accident, taking a trip to catch up with some US visitors gave us a chance to take him out. He’s a stroke survivor and largely confined to a bed because he cannot walk, but he gets to sit up in a wheel chair and moves around in that. As we prepared for our trip, I wondered aloud if he would have another chance to pass through this area. It was not a morbid thought, just a conscious awareness of something real. So, off we went.

I’d asked that my daughter be excused school for the afternoon, so she was in the van with us, and we were six in total, including the driver. My father’s nurses are both women from Manchester, near Mandeville. The driver, whom we’d only met through another acquaintance, was also from Mandeville. Happy coincidence? He was a careful driver and did not race, thus allowing me to try to point out some interesting things to all the ladies. We’d taken a trip to Robin’s Bay a few months back, so the route was not totally new to my daughter, but we tried to embellish it with stories about where my dad grew up. We asked him along the way if he remembered certain places. The parish is normally very lush, and so it seemed, but the rivers looked near bone dry–stark contrast to the reports of flash flooding in the northern part of the parish some months ago.


My father, with his yams, in his 50s, during the late-’80s, Mandeville

My dad seemed to enjoy the recollections.

We made it to the new bridge toward Richmond-Highgate and pointed this out–we wanted to call my aunt to tell her we were passing nearby, but thought she’d complain too much that we were not stopping.

Taxi passengers taking a break

Taxi passengers taking a break

Instead, we will plan to visit her soon.

Bridges are part of Jamaica’s landscape and also part of its tragic development. Some are constantly being washed away in heavy rains. Some take years to be built or rebuilt and communities suffered for years because of that. They are also lively places to help economic and social activity, connecting areas and stopping some places and people being isolated in areas that would otherwise be near-impassable.

We enjoyed passing the papaya plantations after the turn off to Robin’s Bay: “I loooove papayas,” came a squeaky voice from the back. We passed Port Maria and were caught briefly in the hustle of the town centre as people waited for taxis and meandered around the streets. It gave me the chance to take a few pictures of normal life. We then hit the coast. The air suddenly changed as sea breeze hit us. We also gasped a little as the landscape changed abruptly, from lush tree-lined views to sea and islands and sand and the mountains to our back and sides.

We had made good time and as we passed through Oracabessa and Boscobel aerodrome, we joked about how easy it would have been to fly up in our non-existent corporate jet.

Coastal view in northern St. Mary

Coastal view in northern St. Mary

Then, we were in Ocho Rios. We went straight to the condominium development where our friends were staying and found them immediately–the children were in the pool, while the mothers were in Mothers getting patty and jerk chicken lunches. Great timing. We unpacked ourselves and my daughter was with her former classmates in minutes.


My father, now in his mid-80s, by the pool

My dad and his chair were parked in the cool lobby, and we all stretched ourselves.

We spent the afternoon just enjoying a change of scene.

Roadside 'shop' in St. Mary

Roadside ‘shop’ in St. Mary

My dad moved to the poolside and then was set up in a lounge chair–the real jet setter. We ate our lunches. I took a good nap, because I’d played a round of golf from dawn that morning and now I was feeling a little tired. We talked and joked and just hung out. We’d made good time, about two hours. We planned to stay about four hours, so I had in my mind a departure around 6pm. That would give the driver a good rest and we could make some headway before dark.

When it came time to leave, the girls were all hugs and kisses. So, too, was I with their parents; we’d known each other a few years as our children had started elementary school together. They had loved their few days in Jamaica, and couldn’t eat enough local food to be satisfied. They’d stopped at Faith’s Pen on their way to Ochie, and eaten everything available, and had plans to do so on their way back to Kingston on Thursday. Go, Jamaica!

We hit the road near 6:15 and were passing Fern Gully just as the light was going. We made good time, with a short stop at Bog Walk for fruit and jelly coconuts–another of my daughter’s loves.

Bog Walk fruit stall at night time

Bog Walk fruit stall at night time

The driver had put on ’80s music and we were all singing and jiving in the van like a bunch of teenagers. I wondered if he understood the significance of the ’80s (which had also been the theme for my daughter’s school spirit day). My father was shouting “Music, driver, music!” We were home just after 8pm. All were tired, and all were very contented. The driver had to do the trip again the next day to bring back the visitors for their flight back to the cold of Washington DC. We’d had a good day.