We left Erna’s for the coast. Our first beach was small and vacant save for a lifeguard raking trash from the sand and rocks and a man cutting grass up the hillside. We swam in the warm aquamarine water and dried off on the beach. I watched a white crab emerge from its hole and start a dance toward the water and back, quick to retreat at any sign or glance from me.
Heading along the North Coast we encountered a police check-point where they ordered us from the car and searched it. I remained surprisingly calm as I stood on the side of the road and Kei opened the trunk—I’ve never been that close to a machine gun so casually slung over a shoulder. They let us go, clearly frustrated that they couldn’t find any contraband (namely ganja—white man traveling with a black man who has dreads) and not because they would have prosecuted us, but because of the monetary bribe they could have extorted from us.
We were going to stop by a waterfall on the way to Ocho Rios, but rain struck and stayed all the way in and we wound up at Island Village, an Epcot Center like tourist attraction for Americans and Europeans who come off the cruise ships. It was the first concentration of white folk I saw since coming to the island and I was immediately revolted by them and the whole culture of tourism which just seemed so demeaning to both tourist and local. The locals hustling and offering taxi services, crafts, weed—the tourists maneuvering around these somewhat aggressive peddlers. It got us talking about Jamaica Kincaid’s book-length essay A Small Place and her wonderfully bitter and humorous attack on tourism on her home island of Antigua.
Here’s a shot from their coffee shop deck/porch (my first-world need for an iced coffee brought us here):
A shot of Kei:
And a shot of me:
And a very close-up shot of me:
We walked through town a bit and went to have a jerk lunch (my first taste of jerk chicken and pork), visiting the falls at the ruins next door which were quite swollen from all the rain.
Hoping for sun the next day, we decided to find a place to stay and after a few attempts (I made Kei go alone to inquire the last time, convinced it had something to do with my presence; it worked), we got a room at Turtle Towers (there are four, which I named after the TMNT). They have turtles in a trough at the front office:
The rain stayed all evening, so we saw the one movie at the theatre in Island Village (the unfortunate, full-of-missed-opportunities Shrek 3) and then walked through town to have some yummy Indian food where we saw a lovely white lesbian couple that made me worry if they would be heckled on their way back to their hotel or cruise ship or wherever they were staying.
We woke to sun, and walked to the beach which was shut off from the public by a high fence and barbed wire. Unless you’re off the cruise ship or have a key from one of the water front hotels, they don’t let you on the beach, which fueled my distaste for the tourism industry and the necessary evil it plays for the economies of island nations. After the beach, we hit the pool where for the first time in many summers I thought I’d work on a tan.
A canal that led to the ocean was muddy from the rain, but miraculously clear that morning:
Another shot from Island Village of a cruise ship docked in the distance:
Up next: lots of waterfalls.