Welcome to Jamaica!
Surprising English style living at the Caribbean pace ...
We anchored in Port Royal after attempting to get close to the city but finding the inner bay dedicated to production shipping and tourist excursion boats. On the opposite side, there "the royal marina" which we discovered much later having gone to the ancient landing site Port Royal where an old fort in ruins is still reminding all of the raging wars in the Caribbeans during the 17th-18th centuries.
Where we are at anchor, near a small village, we are now after 3 days "part of the scene". It cost me a pack of beer for the young guys at the entrance of the academy nearby who look over the parking lot and I'll have to "pay" the 60+++ years old keeper who sleeps on the premisses and says he keeps an eye on the boat. This is part of "sponsoring the country". I prefer that to the regular begging for money we get otherwise here ... which was rare in most of the Caribbean islands.
We like the spot since it is within eye site of the police and coast guard office and in front of a major hotel (rooms $120/night!).
US travel warnings say this is "not recommended or advised" to be anywhere but in the hotel resort complexes which are highly guarded. We go downtown, visit small villages, go through slums and generally see a very poor country with a dense population with most of the locals smiling at us and helping us when we get "lost".
The south is "local" and aside from Spanish town which has interesting relics of the Spanish occupation and English occupation, not much to see except here and there a small coast village. But this is the authentic Jamaica. The center is highly densely wooded and farmed whenever there is flat space. A real rain forest with roads that follow the sides of the mountains looking over very, yes very steep drops (Françoise is at times "concerned"). About the roads, there are huge pot holes and we drive at times at foot pace to cross over areas where 4 wheel drives only should go. But everyone races through the good asphalt, drive like zombies, take incredible risks (with accidents observed!) and make driving generally a high stress activity. Despite this we have gone on most of the good roads throughout the country.
Wonderful bays on the ocean, rich botanical garden, interesting local crafts if you seek them (baskets, carvings, crochet items and clothing dyed with flamboyant local colours).
I was filling out my papers with the customs officials in a hotel and smelling someone smoking "ganja", so I said "it smells like something burning", the Customs guard replied "oh they must be deodorising the area" ... you can smell people smoking on most street corners here, so no wonder the local "take it easy" attitude. We met many Zoroastrian followers, really an adapted version initiated by Bob Marley, and find them generally quite peaceful and able to have real contacts.
Otherwise, somewhat disappointed by the "invasion" of the north coast by the big hotel chains who build whole communities so that people with package deals remain segregated from the local community. This is also why locals see tourists as generally just pocket books to exploit rather than real people with whom to exchange. Once they identify that you are not "one of them", then suddenly the smiles become warmer and a real exchange is possible.
Of course we visited the Bob Marley house which has been named "museum" but really is the house where Bob Marley lived his credo and recorded his music (in the town studio they discriminated against him and would not let them work at night!). So he built his own studio in his house with a 36 channel consol and remarkable acoustics. We only made pictures outside since it's not allowed inside, but inside is really only memorabilia with his awards and some good pictures. The guide was really good in talking us through the place and communicating the spirit, via the music, of Bob Marley.
So this is my taking up of my "diatribe" which I hope is of interest. I'll try including pictures soon, see also on Facebook what Françoise posts ... when she can. you'll get more regular info as this year folds out. We may be out of touch until we reach Cancun.
Oh yes! to enter Puerto Rico, Françoise entering by boat would have needed to pay $585! So by having her fly to Miami, she'll use her ESTA pass which is still valid since our trip to California last year, and then she'll apply once back in France for a Tourist Visa which is then valid 10 yrs!
This is a perfect example of historically valid systems become totally inappropriate when technology or relational habits change the system!j Thank goodness, we met intelligent Coast Guard personnel who admitting the stupidity of the regulations were able to "work the system" so that she legally could stay a few days and spend the New Year in Puerto Rico (which we really enjoyed!).
Over and out for today, next connection now!