Something about watching the elite Jamaica sprinters slaying the competition at the Olympic Games gets me feeling nostalgic of my running days in Jamaica circa the 1980’s and 1990’s. During my annual 2-week stint in this beautiful tropical isle, I routinely ran 4-15 miles a day in the stifling tropical heat. No, I wasn’t a sprinter by any stretch of the imagination, but I always enjoyed running full bore during the last 100 meters of my workouts. Jamaicans are a very lively bunch, and there were always a few who would make passing comments to me about my running form (or lack of), and ‘the working gals’ always made a point to proposition me while I ran away from them - “Boonjie, boonjie” they would call out, to which I retorted “Ok, sweetie, Soon come.”
To be honest with you, I always felt more comfortable in the mountains or in the rural countryside of Western Jamaica, far away from the tourist traps of the north coast - Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril. There was far too much hustle and bustle in ‘MoBay’ and ‘Ochy’, with the emphasis on hustle. Montego Bay was sort of honky tonk and unkempt (dirty) but a fun place nevertheless and Ocho Rios was a little bit too manicured and fabricated for my taste.
On the other hand, Negril was very laid back and the 4 1/2 mile stretch of powdery white sand beach was absolutely heavenly - it had a very wild, untamed but relaxing ambiance. Of course, there was more to Negril than the beach and its pervasive “anything goes” vibe - there was lots of live reggae music at venues such as Kaiser and De Bus and some of Jamaica’s finest singers and bands routinely passed through the area - Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Yellowman, Freddy McGregor, Ini Kamoze, Mighty Diamonds, Judy Mowatt to name a few – especially after the end of Reggae Sunsplash in Montego Bay. Then again, the hedonism shtick was a little bit too superficial and the Rastaman Vibration was mostly a put on - not the genuine article.
Negril was the alternative lifestyle resort during its heyday. Due to Negril’s increased popularity during the last 12 years or so (many new all inclusive resorts have sprouted up), it has become more mainstream. Personally, I prefer the South Coast to Negril – it is considerably less developed, there are far less tourists and it is more genuine and real. In my opinion, Negril is kind of a mirage.
To me the real beauty of Jamaica is in the hinterland - the people are very open, genuine and friendly, and the countryside scenes are enormously beautiful. Keep in mind, that I have not been to Jamaica since Spring 1995 – now that’s a long time ago and I’m sure lots of things have changed.
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More on the South Coast in my next post.
In the meantime - Big Up, Lightning Bolt, you faster nuh raas. Yam power!