Monday, 24 September 2012

Portland, St. Thomas and the Reggae Boyz

So lately I have been having too much fun to blog.  That and intermittent internet. Okay, excuses, excuses. Here is some of what has been going on and lots of pictorial evidence.

Two weekends ago Captain Phil and I went down to Kingston and watched the Reggae Boyz, Jamaica's football (soccer, as we'd say at home) team beat the American team for the first time ever on home turf. It was the loudest experience of my life as many people there, including the guy three seats down, had tiny little horns that weren't quite vuvuzelas, but equally noisy.

I was wearing a purple t-shirt as I had no shirts in team colours.  Boy, did I stand out because the crowd was dressed to support!

The Americans scored a goal within the first 15 seconds of play, but Jamaica eventually won 2-1.

Audrey and Aziz - notice their jackets!

The win was a big deal for Jamaica.
The next day, Captain Phil and I got in our trusty rental car and began our tour of the east coast of Jamaica, the parishes of St. Thomas (south-east) and Portland (north-east).

----Warning: some viewers may find the number of tropical beach pictures that follow overwhelming.-----

Typical fishing boats.  No, I did not steal this picture from the Lonely Planet website; it really looks like this.

We followed the sidewalk around and down to "Golden Sands" beach.

The sidewalk went past this house - truely made from bits of the sea.  It reminded me of "Borrowed Black", a character in a Newfoundland story who borrows bits from the Labrador Sea to make his house.
Beach number 1, Golden Sands.  There was no swimming yet, only wading.  We were followed by three little girls who were just curious. Other than that, the beach was empty.

The journey continued, with a stop for coconut water from the side of the road.

The highlight of the trip was definitely going to the Morant Point Lighthouse, which is on the easternmost tip of land in Jamaica.  It was a bit tricky to get there, with lots of stopping to ask the locals if we were going the right way.
We had to drive through a sugar cane plantation to get there.  For the most part, we couldn't see over the cane to tell if we were going in the right direction.

I was a little bit afraid that we'd never get out of the field and they'd find us at harvest time, skeletons in the rental car.

Fortunately, there was the occasional helpful sign.

And we made it!

The lighthouse was shipped in huge round sections of iron all the way from the UK and assembled in place. The inside was wooden and VERY rickety!

We ate our fried chicken lunch on the rocks in the shade.
An interesting find while we were waiting for the lighthouse keeper to meet us for a tour.
We got to climb to the top - I was a bit skeptical about this, not being fond of heights or crumbling staircases.

The lighthouse is all automatic now, and run by solar energy. The keeper only comes out to do regular maintenance.

The view from the top was worth it.  Even if I couldn't really move and had to stay pressed against the wall.
We also went swimming at a beautiful deserted beach not too far from the lighthouse.  The sand was full of patterns from crabs and birds that had run over it.

We then drove up the east coast to Port Antonio, where we spent the night.

Port Antonio harbour

The view from our hotel room balcony.
The next day, taking full advantage of our rental car, we drove along the Rio Bueno River up into the highlands between the north side of the Blue Mountains and the John Crow Mountains.  The roads were very, Very, VERY bad.

I could have walked faster.  We should have rented a donkey instead of a car - it would have been more useful!

It was, however, very beautiful.  And I had lots of time to look, even if Captain Phil didn't, as he was trying to keep the car on the excuse for a road.

Where we were finally undone.  We decided this had been enough adventure and we turned around and stopped for a refreshing drink and chat with the locals.

The Rio Bueno River that we had been following.

The rest of the day was spent meandering back to Kingston, stopping at as many beaches as we possibly could.  We swam at Frenchman's Cove, saw the Blue Hole (where Brook Shields came into tropical bathing stardom), and put our toes in the sand at Winnefred Beach, Long Beach, and a couple that didn't have any names (or at least, no signs).

Winnefred Beach, a public beach just outside Port Antonio.  It had a local vibe, with music playing, young men kicking a ball around, old rastas offering crafts and other "relaxation" substances, woman in cook shops serving fried chicken and steamed fish, and young kids doing cartwheels and back flips on the beach.  I tried to capture the last one with the camera, but was always a few seconds too slow!

Long Beach, further down the east coast.  There was a significant undertow here, so not good for swimming, but the waves were beautiful to watch.

A pretty little cove along the way. 
It was an excellent weekend of exploration.  We returned to Kingston a bit sunburned, and with a very dusty (but not damaged) car.  I now understand why everyone says that the eastern part of Jamaica is so beautiful, but as an official Montegonian, I still say west is best!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

In which I am a domestic goddess...

Okay, okay, I am not exactly queen of hearth and home.  But this past week, I washed the floors, hosted two sets of guests (which entailed a lot of laundry, but great company) and made a pie!

As I may have mentioned before, there are a number of fruit bearing trees in the Racquet Club where I live, including orange, ackee, soursop, avocado (known locally as pear), guinep, and limes.  I’ve been collecting limes for using in drinks, water, and salads for a while now, but last week I thought I would try to make a key lime pie.  

Now, using recipe “Key Lime Pie VI” from, there were only 4 ingredients, so I thought pie making was going to be easy. I went out to the tree to pick some limes...

If you look into the bottom of the pool, you can see limes sitting there now.  They fall off the tree and roll in the pool.  So far, it still has a chlorine flavour.

See the lime in the centre of this picture?  Ah ha!  Harder then you'd think, no?  Plus, lime trees have pokey thorns, which you can't see at all in this picture.

Entitled "limes", will sell for millions of dollars (ha!)
Trying to zest something smaller than a golf ball is harder than it looks.  I zested about 20 of them, then used my handy dandy lime juicer to squeeze 3/4 cup juice until - AAAAARRRGGGG - I knocked the lime juice cup over and spilled lime juice all down the counter and onto the floor and all over me.  The only saving grace was that it smelled really good when I was cleaning it up, but my shoes stuck to the floor almost immediately. 

Back to the tree to pick some more limes.  THIS time, put the measuring cup well out of the way so I won't knock it over...

Scene of the crime pre-incident - 35 limes in total for this pie.

The other two ingredients are sour cream and a lot of condensed milk.  Apparently, the first key lime pie recipes are from the 1930s in the Florida Keys, which at that time were not connected by road to the mainland. So they had to use condensed milk, because they couldn't get any fresh. I still have half a can left and I've been using it the way Jamaicans do - a good helping in my cup of coffee.  Add some ice cubes and you have a fancy drink worthy of Starbucks.  (Can't have very many of these, though - I start running in small, tight circles, faster and faster.)

Pie went in the oven for 10 minutes then into the fridge for a couple of hours.  It appeared to pass quality control.

L-R, Ivy, Brianna and Captain Phil
Ivy and Brianna are also Cuso volunteers who came up from Kingston to visit for the weekend.  They only suffered minor sunburn on the beach, no pie-induced food poisoning.

In other domestic news, I knit a sting ray! Okay, the official title is a "shawlette," but it looks an awful lot like a sting ray to me.  It is going to Erika in celebration of a birthday and a move to a place that is in need of some tropical cheer.

Every once in a while I see a sting ray leaping out of the water when I am on the boat.  They are usually grey, not blue, but the shape is very similar, although without the lace patterns.

Finally, the winner of the karmic balancing socks is Karla Everett.  Thanks again to Karla and to everyone else who donated to Cuso on my behalf.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some knitting to do...