Welcome

Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Finding places on Jamaica's south coast

Many places in a country go undiscovered by most people. One of Jamaica's best kept secrets is its south coast, especially the area between the parishes Clarendon and Manchester (which reputedly got some coastline from the parish of St. Elizabeth so that every parish had some seaside).

It is extraordinary to travel along a road for an hour by car and meet only one other vehicle. That was the case between Milk River--where there are fantastic mineral baths with reputedly the world's most radioactive water, and supposed wonderful healing powers (see link for more on its origins)--and Alligator Pond. The road from the highway to Milk River is rough after much damage by mining truck. From Milk River to Alligator Pond the road is not bad but with occasional bare and rough patches. It hugs the coastline but this is not visible most of the time; instead one sees the high rising coral and rock hills to the north with john crows (vultures circling high above) and can cave openings. It's lined with cacti and thatch palms. The housing is sparse and apparently very basic. It is a land populated by fishing people and rastas. Popular folk lore has it that it is also full of "duppies" (ghosts and spirits); as you pass what seems like acres of uninhabitated land, with occasional cave mouths on the roadside, you can sense the fear people have when passing this area at night. Then you reach Alligator Pond, which has much more going on but not that much except one rare gem. A fish and seafood restaurant called "Little Ochie" has built a reputation for simplicity and excellent cooking. You choose your fish (parrot, goat, snapper, doctor, etc) or seafood (lobster; conch, crab, etc). You decide how you want it cooked (steamed, roast, jerk, etc) and drink fish team while waiting for it to arrive with "bammy" (cassava bread)and/or roasted breadfruit. Little Ochie's cluster of thatched huts on the beach really comes alive at night and the weekends, but the food is also available during the daytime.

The chefs love their work but they also know how to play in their downtime (as you can see from the video below).

This little area of southern Jamaica defies easy description. Most tourists never get anywhere near it. The bauxite and alumina business has meant that the area has had a lot of cash flowing through it. Fishing gives a good livelihood. Agriculture has been generally very productive. The relative economic success shows up in a very high number of bars and shops on the way north from Alligator Pond back into the parish of St. Elizabeth. I may exaggerate but it seemed like one bar every 400 metres. The land once owned by my maternal grandparents (near Myersville) is now part of the Alpart alumina complex. I never visit the industrial complex, but lament every time I pass its entrance.

video

There is nothing remotely glitzy about this south coast area (in marked contrast to the famed north coast), and that may be its saving grace. Life is generally slow to backward and distinctly rural, but that is a plus. Few properties have been barricaded by grills, even shops and bars. Foreign visitors who get this far are intrepid. As my father says, "You na ha' no reason fi drive yah so." So if you end up in this area you are either lost or you have found its secrets. If the latter only whisper about it to your friends.



1 comment:

BarbadosInFocus / PictureInFocus said...

This is a wonderful post. Your journey is like finding new gold. Enjoy, my friend…enjoy.