Jamaica - Millenium trip

You'll have to excuse the fact that this is just one long page and that the number of photos are minimal. I always intended to make this in to a nicer web page, but never had the time. Now that I am in the midst of planning my big trip, I don't have the time, but would like to post this up. I may add to it and re-format it if time permits. Enjoy.

Here was a trip born out an idea that was about 2 years in the making. In 1998 my friend Brian and I decided that the millennium was too close and we needed to start making plans now if it was to be the greatest party ever. We had both just started jobs making more money than we should have been at our age and needed to find ways to blow it. In retrospect, the millennium trip was one of the greatest ever. We had toyed with the idea of going on a cruise ship, or taking a trip to Europe, even toyed with the idea of renting a private island. In the end we assembled a group of 26 of our best friends, rented the largest villa we could find on the island of Jamaica and headed out December 26th, 1999 for the time of our lives, ringing in the new millennium.

By the time we had figured out what we were going to do and started planning it, we were putting down deposits on all sorts of stuff. We only had about 16 or 18 people confirmed when the plan was born and knew weíd get more as time went on. So Brian and I were left bucking up for the rest of the deposits. I paid for 2 people, one for me and one for my girlfriend of one year. Things changed and we went separate ways before the millennium, and I was left with an extra ticket. I wasnít really worried about it, I figured I could just take whomever I was dating at the time. I ended up dating a surgeon who worked crazy hours in the operating room and she knew that taking 2 weeks off was flat out impossible. That left me with an extra ticket, plane and room. I called up one of my best friends; a girl named Amanda from London and asked her if she wanted to come. It was a little awkward. She had a boyfriend, I had a girlfriend. I needed someone I could a) take as a friend, b) someone who I knew would get along with all of my friends and c) someone who would party like me and not crash out at 2am like a lot of my friends had the tendency to do. She was the perfect person and she agreed to the idea.

I knew this was going to be a crazy trip right from the plane ride. There were more people than I knew on the little flight than I didnít know. When we arrived at the airport, there is a bit of a strange customs booth that you have to go through. The people arenít that friendly. They treat you very suspiciously. I guess thatís understandable seeing the availability of drugs on the island. It would probably be an ideal spot for someone to come in, buy drugs, and take them out to sell them. This was evident the moment we walked off the plane and people were there offering us drugs. Pot mostly, but everything was available. As far as I know itís all legal there and if itís not and there are laws against it those laws are ignored and itís tolerated.

We arrived at the Villa and it was even more impressive than the brochures led on. There were 11 bedrooms, and the rest of the house was grandiose. There was a large game room with a pool table and a large bar. There was a veranda that stretched all along the second floor in the back overlooking the half-olympic sized pool and a patio that stretched all along the bottom floor. There was a pool-mans quarters in the back, which was sort of in the same structure as a small kitchen, which would serve as a bar for us getting hammered about every other night.

As could be imagined, there was a massive rush in to the house as 22 of us went to go pick which of the 11 bedrooms we wanted (the other 4 people rented a smaller villa up the street). After the room picking, we were given a brief introduction to the house staff, which consisted of 1 manager, 4 cooks, 1 pool person, and a gardener named Sammy. I donít know if Sammy really ever gardened anything, not that the house looked bad, but he just wasnít prone to work. Sammy would provide us hours and hours of entertainment in the coming days because he was such a trip. In contrast, our pool guy, Bigga, was rather hard working and also one of the coolest people you might ever want to meet. He lived in the little house out by the pool. It was his love shack. He had a girlfriend named Sharon, but from time to time, weíd see other women coming out, followed by Bigga. Weíd see him and look quizzically, and heíd throw us this knowing smile. He would also go out and buy us cases upon cases of beer and keep his fridge stocked, and let us clear him out, and only charge us what it cost him. He was also always around to talk to about Jamaica and the way life was around there.

Shortly after orientation, one of the guys in the house asked about buying some pot. It wasnít any trouble at all and within minutes, they had acquired a large amount. For the record, I donít like smoking pot. Iíve tried it, and Iím not real fond of it. I went to college, I was in a fraternity, yeah, itís kind of hard to avoid. I could count on my hands the number of times Iíve tried it, and this was one of those times. Like clockwork I started getting disorientated in a rather scary way, got very nervous, and snuck off to my room to be alone. Once I was in there, I threw up several times, and then finally passed out. I emerged from the room several hours later to find everyone still out by the pool having a great time. Until that point, no one noticed I was gone. All of a sudden, people realized they hadnít seen me in 5 hours. When I told them where I was and why, I was met by a large round of cheers for being the first "casualty" of the trip. That was the last time I smoked on that trip. As far as I can remember, that may even be the last time Iíve smoked period.

For the next couple hours, we all continued to drink Red Stripe beer out of Biggas fridge, and swim by the pool. As predicted, Manda was a hit with everyone. I think by the end of the first day, just about everyone of my friends came up and told me how much they liked her, and how glad they were that she was along. She truly was one of aspects that made the trip great for everyone.

When dinner time came, we were called to the table. One big long table that held all 22 of us. Preparing a meal for 22 people is no easy task, but these ladies not only pulled it off, but it was one of the most awesome meals Iíd had since Iíd eaten at my momís house. They would make huge meals of jerk chicken, potatoes, veggies, roll, and all sorts of good stuff. It was truly delicious. At the end of the meal, weíd all help out the staff by clearing the table. Then weíd retire back to the pool and sit out there until we were too drunk to drink any more, or too bit up by mosquitoes to stay outside.

Iíd recommend staying in a Villa over a resort to anyone traveling to Jamaica. Over the course of the 14 days I spent there, I was able to get to know each of the people working there personally, which added so much to the trip. It was like making good friends with the locals. We were also able to live as a little community of friends, rather than a collection of rooms. We had our own pool, which we could jump in at any time, without worrying about disturbing other guests, as we were the only guests. We could also get as drunk and rowdy as we liked, again without worrying about bothering other guests.

The next day was rather uneventful during the day. We just all sort of settled, and had our bus driver take us to make runs to the money machine to get local currency, and tried to put together some plans of what to do that night. Our bus driver had to be, hands down, the coolest person that I met in Jamaica, and I would have to say that the majority of the people that I went down with would have to agree. His name was David, but it we always pronounced it as if we were Arnold Schwartzenager, like "Dah-veed". David was not only willing to drive us anywhere, we was sincerely happy to. And not only was he fearless about driving in, through, or under anything, that man could drive a mean bus!! He would take this 25 foot bus and drive it down alleyways that I couldnít fit a motorcycle down. I think the greatest thing about David was that he was as interested in us as we were in him. He got to know each and everyone of us by name, and I, along with everyone else, felt like we were his favorite person Ė the one he knew the best. He also made fun of us by giving us each "island names" for each of our idiosyncrasies, which made him instantly accepted, especially when he nicknamed our friend Hank as "human jackass".

A few of us went to lunch at a little brewery that David recommended. The food was pretty good, but I could have just as easily eaten lunch at home. It was rather empty in the restaurant as it was actually Boxing Day, a holiday which no one in America is really aware of. Nearby we saw a place called Jimmy Buffets Margaritaville bar. There are a few of these Margaritavilles around the world, all in tropical locations. When we got back to the house, we told everyone else about Margartaville, and we all decided weíd head there. One the way there though, we passed a place that had a sign that advertised "Live Music Ė 7 Nights a Week". Once we got to Margaritaville, we found it wasnít all that we thought it would be. There was a DJ playing music that we werenít all that into, and no one from our group was much in to dancing. The majority of our crowd decided to head home after just a few drinks and hang out by the pool. My good friend Adam and I, along with Amanda decided to walk to the place that had the live music. We asked the others if they wanted to join, but they declined. I think it was all for the better, as Adam and Amanda were more on my wavelength, whereas a lot of the others were looking more for relaxation, I think. It seemed the rest of our group were there more for a tropical vacation, when we were more of the adventure seekers, more after finding locals and getting in to the culture. Donít get me wrong, everyone in my group was in to the culture and experienced it in their own way, but Adam and Amanda and I just had a different way of doing it. We walked in to the bar, which was named PJs, to find that we were almost the only white people in there. I had a bit of a flashback to a similar scene in Animal House. We werenít the only white people, but without a doubt, we were the only tourists, and stuck out as such. We still didnít mind. We ordered a few drinks and started talking with the locals. The first people we met were a guy by the name of Garnett, and his friend Cindy. Garnett was a local, and Cindy was the only other caucasian in the bar besides the 3 of us. She had moved to Jamaica about 10 years ago, to get away from it all. She was about 40. They introduced us to a guy by the name of Easy Life. It seemed a few people in Jamaica had taken to renaming themselves with island names. When you ask them what their real name is, they repeat their original answer with a confused look, as if they had just answered you with John Smith, just as Easy Life did to me when I asked him what his real name was.

We hung out with these people for quite a while. Easy Life sold pot and was quite disappointed that he happened upon the only 3 people on the island who didnít smoke. I told him that some of the people that I came with would probably be interested in buying some, and I told him that I would bring them back the next night. I was in Jamaica one day and I was trying to act like some sort of pimp.

Later that night, we were all sitting at the bar talking to some of the locals that we had met. I was talking with a guy named Western Cliff. He was probably the most Rastafarian guy I met on my whole trip. He was old at about 60 years of age, and had long gray dirty dreadlocks and clothes and jewelry that looked just as dirty. His face had a weather-beaten look, which gave him a look of some sort of a deeper wisdom. Thatís the only way I can describe it. Sort of the look that youíd expect to find on the face of a mystical shaman sitting on the top of a mountain. I canít recall what all we talked about, but it was a great conversation, mostly about the meaning of life. At one point, he pulled out a joint, lit it, smoked it, and then cupped his hand towards me, offering me to smoke off of it while it was still in his hand. Although I had just been sick yesterday, and sworn that I would never do that ever again, I was in a dilemma. It would have seemed almost rude at the time to refuse, added to which, here was a man who had almost a mystical aura surrounding him offering for me to smoke out of his dry weathered hands. I had to, and to this day, it is one of those magical moments I donít think I will ever forget. It was just kind of surreal, and any attempt to describe it would not do it justice. I took caution to take such a small amount that it had nearly no effect on me at all. He offered a second time, but I felt comfortable declining as Iíd already accepted once before.

PJís was a pretty cool place. The live music was a pretty decent Rasta band, and there were a few people, maybe 10, dancing. We joined them a couple of times. They also had a roller rink, which was interesting to see at a bar. For US$1, you could rent skates for as long as you liked. They were all old and ratty, but all the same, it was rather unusual that they had them in my size, which is 13. We skated around for a bit, and Manda was a hit with all the local children who were drawn to playing with her.

We hung out with Garnett, Cindy, Easy Life and Western Cliff for the rest of the night, and headed home once the bar closed. We got home and everyone was already in bed.

  DAY 2  

The next day was one of those lazy days. We had a grandiose breakfast cooked by our wonderful staff, and then proceeded to hang out by the pool. I started getting restless about 11am, and decided to go for a run. It was the perfect weather for it. A lot of people cant understand why I run while on vacation. Its simple. Vacation is a time for doing all the things you love to do, but cant do back home with the time consumption of jobs and chores. I love to run, but find it so hard to find the time in my daily life. When I go on vacation, I love to run. Itís also a super great way to explore. You can find so many things you would normally drive by and never notice, regardless of whether you are in a crowded city or on a tropical island.

After I got back, a large number of us decided to head to a beach called Rose Hall beach. Rose Hall is a private beach, meaning that you have to pay to go on it. They also have a nice bar, and a lot of water toys you can use, such as windsurfers and kayaks. Manda and I tried the windsurfers, a bit unsuccessfully, and then settled on doing a little kayaking. Once that wore off, we lied around on the beach, just getting in our relaxation quota.

That night, Adam, Manda and I convinced everyone to head to PJís, and to our surprise, everyone went. So, off to PJís we go, where last night the whole crowd totaled about 30 people, and we walk in with a busload of 22. Garnett was very happy- as promised, I had brought him everyone. There was really good music and a pretty chill crowd. PJís wasnít for everyone, and Iíd say that half of our group went back after an hour or so, and the rest of us stayed pretty much until close.

  DAY 3  

I started the next day with a run before anyone else in the house woke up. As far as I could tell, the rest of the island hadnít woken up yet either. You have to get used to the fact that the rest of the island is on island time. This would become clear throughout the day.

We had scheduled scuba classes for 8 of us to get our certification. Our lesson started at what the rest of the world would call 10am. In Jamaica this is what is referred to as "soon come". We got there at 10am, and were surprised when our instructor had not shown up by 10:15. You can imagine our surprise when he wasnít there by 2pm, and the rest of the staff was surprised that we were angry. In Jamaica, thatís just the way things work. Weíre always so obsessed with time, and in this case, rightfully so. These people live here, but we are paying for our 14 days here, and spending half of one of those days waiting for someone is rather upsetting. Well, we got in one dive for the day although we were supposed to have 2, and then headed back home.

That night, we went out to a place called Pier 1, for a fashion show and a party. We werenít sure what to expect, but I donít think anyone expected what we saw. The "fashion show" was a few ladies modeling lingerie, and doing semi-choreographed dance moves with guys who looked like wanna-be Chippendales. It was rather amusing, but there were probably 100-150 people watching the show. This particular night, we brought along Sammy, the gardener. Sammy was drunker than the rest of us combined. It was very amusing. Sammy thought that as there were people dancing on the stage, that the stage was the dance floor, so he got up there and started dancing as well. Sammy doesnít look like a Chippendale, nor does he have a lingerie type figure, so yes, this 50 year old gardener looked a bit out of place dancing on the stage, flicking his lighter to the beat, while people are trying to put on a show. The announcer came over the mic and asked someone to remove him from the stage. A few of us (the only caucasians in the bar) went up to grab him and the announcer said "Oh man, the bus driver is drunker than the rest of his passengers", assuming that he must have been our driver. We let him know that this man was simply our gardener. He looked very confused that a group of tourists would bring their gardener to a bar with them, but this was Sammy, we insisted he come with us.

The Pier 1 bar had a long dock that you could walk down, which I took advantage of. When I reached the end, a native guy about my age came up to me trying to sell me something as many people in Jamaica do. Although I said no, I did end up talking to him for about 30-40 minutes on the whole idea of Rastafarianism, of which he practiced fully. Rastafarianism isnít just a religion, as it is a way of life, speaking out against inequality and injustice of all forms. They use the bible for guidance, but keep their own ideals. It was an absolutely fascinating conversation.

We left Pier 1, in search of something a bit more to our liking. I could have been content with just driving around, as we were all getting pretty rowdy and having a really great time on the bus Ė like a little roving party of our own. We headed to a club that was next to Margaritaville that we had seen the other night. It was at the top of a large building and had a strobe light in it. From street level it looked pretty happeniní. We sent a scout up to check it out who said it was dead, so instead half the group went to PJís, the other half to Margaritaville. PJís was empty, so the few of us there went to Margaritaville anyway. There were a few of us that were in the mood to dance this time, so we stayed and danced until 3am, even getting up on stage and dancing with our shirts off. We got back to the house about 3am, and continued our binge in to the early hours of the morning by poolside.

  DAY 4  

The next day, our scuba teacher was on time, perhaps because we let him know how upset we were about his being late the first day. We got in our two dives for the day, and headed back to go to Rose Hall with the group again. This time, I took to the bar with Adam, to start a little contest to see how long we could sit on the bar stools without leaving. I think we lasted about 4 hours, until we were ready to leave. Drinks werenít that expensive, so we just kept drinking. And we never moved. We got to know our bartender, and had a real good buzz by the time we left.

We got back early enough were I could still go for a run. From our neighborhood, the best place to run was upwards, to the top of the hills, which gave an even greater view. I made it up as high as the roads would take me, which I estimated was about 2.5 miles and dead-ended in a construction area where they were building houses. From there, I could see there were some trails that headed up to the top of the mountain. I decided 5 miles was enough for the day, so I turned around to go home, but decided to check out these half-built houses first. There was someone sleeping in one of the construction shacks, who claimed that he was with the building team. He introduced himself as Busy, and although it was him name, I would say he was anything but busy. He told me the plots of land went for $65,000 and were bought mostly by Americans looking to build mansions on them. These were huge plots, with some of the most breathtaking views, and they were only $65,000. I asked Busy if he knew which trails would get me to the top of the mountain and he said he did. I told him I would come back tomorrow and he could give me directions. He agreed.

I headed back to the house, and ended up back poolside with Adam. There wasnít really anyone else around, and it was good to get in some quality time with him. We talked for a long time about life in general, as we often do.

That night we decided to go out, not so much in search of a party, but in search of finding where the best spot to spend New Years Eve would be. It was the 30th, and this would be the last chance we would have to find a good bar or a club to ring in the New Year at. We headed for Dead End beach, aptly named as it was at the end of a dead end street. This was also the "strip" to cruise if you had a cool car, which in Jamaica was just about anything that still runs. This was quite odd, as there was almost no where to turn around at the end of the street, and it was just a cluster-jam of cars. Dead End Beach comprised of about 3-4 bars on one side of the street, and the beach on the other. It really isnít the place for tourists. If Jamaica had any version of a "Gangsta" this is where they hung out. There were some very shady people, a few of whom approached us offering drugs. When we declined, they offered to give us a better look at what they were selling, but we had to go in to a dark alley way to look at it, because taking it out in public was too risky. That seemed a little odd, seeing as how people have been waiving illegal drugs at us in broad daylight since we arrived. We obviously declined, but the sinking realization that we were being considered targets was making us uncomfortable. The fact that we had brought ladies along who were being sized up left and right was enough to make us call David to come get us after about 2 drinks. David drove right in to the worlds worst traffic jam, and picked us up, and then drove out in reverse. To this day, I have no idea how he was able to navigate that. There was less than an inch on either side of the bus, and thatís not an exaggeration. I was looking out the window telling him, "Youíre about to hit this car. No, youíre hitting it now. Youíre touching it. Youíre touching the car next to us.". David told me he wasnít and kept driving. Sure enough, not a scratch.

  DAY 5  

This was it Ė New Years Eve. 2 years in the planning and it was here. We basically hung around the house for the majority of the day, watching the news coverage of each country celebrating the new years (we had satellite TV). Manda called George and talked to her, and I called Anne and wished her a happy new year.

The 4 people that were staying in the other house had found out that the Jamaica Yacht Club was having a big party that night and that if we wanted to go we could, but it would be expensive, to the tune of $160 per person. Although most of us were against the idea of paying so much, it seemed an appropriate way to ring in the new years. On top of that, it meant that we could enjoy ourselves without people trying to sell us something every 10 minutes, which had actually become a little aggravating at times.

When we got to the yacht club, it turned out that it was a black tie affair, and we were all dressed in party clothes. They didnít want to let us in, but when 26 people waive $4000 in front of you, you can be made to change your tune. And what a great time it was. We all had the most incredible time, and I couldnít think of a better group of people to ring in the new years with. We all got pretty drunk, and right before we were about to leave a few of us took it upon ourselves to go for a swim in the small wade pool that was in the center of the party area. They had toy boats and floating flowers in there, and I donít think they took kindly to our swimming in it.

While at the party, I met two people from New Zealand, named Elke and Aidan, who were sailing around the world. They had been going for 3 years, and had about 3 years left to go. They recently blew out an engine in their boat, and stopped in Jamaica trying to earn money for a new one. I emailed them in July of 2001, and they were doing well, staying in New England, USA, again trying to earn money to continue sailing around the world.

I also met a girl named Tiffany, who Adam and I dubbed a "Trustafarian" as she seemed to be a trust-fund kid. She lived in Jamaica on her parentsí estate and traveled the world on their money. She agreed to show me around to a few other spots in Jamaica as she had a car. Although we talked on the phone a couple times, we never got to meet up.

Our group all left the party about 3am. There were a bunch of us that made a pact to stay up until the sun rose, so that we could see the very first sunrise of the new millennium. That idea seemed to go out the window for most people about 3:15am. There were only 4 Ĺ of us awake watching the sun come up. My friends Eric and Michelle, Amanda and I, and lastly, Hank was half awake. Well, he wasnít really awake, but if you shoved him really hard, heíd open his eyes for a second and claim to be awake. Even though it was sort of pathetic, it was a very valiant effort, and more of an effort than anyone else who made the pact.

  DAY 6  

The next day was more of a recovery day, with the exception of the fact that the 8 of us who took our Scuba class passed our final exam and became PADI certified divers. This meant we could go diving any other time. Although we would need a guide, we didnít need an instructor, and we could go to enjoy ourselves, not just do drills.

  DAY 7  

We all decided it would be a good idea to see more of the island than just Montego Bay, so we decided to take a trip to Negril. It was about a 2 hour ride. The ride itself was rather interesting. All the roads in Jamaica are only 2 lane roads, so any passing is done at your own risk. Apparently, these are risks that people are willing to take. It wasnít uncommon for people to pass us coming over a hill, or around a blind curve. No one seemed to be scared of doing this, especially the Lada drivers. The Lada is a boxy looking Russian car that somehow has made its way to Jamaica in force. About 1 in every 10 cars is a Lada. Because there are so many, when one gets in a wreck, you just pull the parts off another one, and piece them together. So most Ladas on the island are multi-colored, because most people donít repaint their cars after fixing them. Single or Multi colored, the Lada is the car of the Jamaican daredevil. Each one of the drivers, a bit crazier than the next. David said that Lada stood for Life And Death Association in Jamaica. In the short 2 weeks that we were on the island, we saw the remnants of 3 really bad wrecks that had happened while we were there Ė each involving a Lada. These guys would pass where there is no room, and do it at 100+ mph, in a car that probably shouldnít be going over 60.

Regardless of the Lada drivers, we made it to Negril safely, and headed for the Margaritaville there. It was a pretty fun place, but Adam wanted to go find an old friend of his named Boon Boon, with whom he had stayed with a couple years ago, so Manda and I went with. We ended up walking around for a couple of hours, and after we didnít find him, we stopped to grab a bite to eat at a restaurant with tables on the beach. There appeared to be 6 people staying in the house next to the restaurant, 4 very good looking ladies and 2 guys. Apparently the 4 ladies took delight in running in to the beach completely buck naked while the 2 men photographed them. They were probably there from some menís magazine or something, but all the same it made for a very interesting lunch as they played in the surf for about 20 minutes or so.

We as the afternoon passed we decided to all head to Ricks Cafť, which is known for some of the best sunsets in the world. There was a catamaran that went over there for $40US, which included all you could drink. I tried to round up willing participants, but no one from the group wanted to go, so I just took the bus over with everyone else.

Ricks Cafť is known for its sunsets, as well as for its large cliff dive. They have 2 cliff platforms you can dive from. One is 30 feet, the other is 60 feet. The 60 footer doesnít look that bad, until you get up on the top of it. I wanted to jump, as I knew that I would never let myself live it down if I didnít. Jumping off the first time is a bit scary, but once you do it, its fine. There is usually a line of about 6 people waiting to jump. Inevitably some dude who thinks heís hot shit will get up there, only to hype up his jump as the most dangerous stunt ever performed, calling attention to his bravery. This one guy did this for about 3-4 minutes, but he wasnít jumping. He kept running to the edge, then stopping to compose himself, and walk back for another run-up, as if this was Evil Knievel making final calculations for jumping a world-record number of busses. All the while, his little posse of power dudes and pubescent teen girls are oohíing and ahhíing as he "nearly makes the jump". It was pissing me off. Finally, I walked up, asked him to step down, and casually jumped off. I like making stud-muffin-wannabes look silly like that. No one is really doing anything more dangerous than everyone else jumping off- so get over yourself.

  DAY 8 (MONDAY)  

As half of our group couldnít stay that long because of vacation restrictions, they were going to be leaving on Wednesday. We decided that a small group of us would have nice dinner at a nice restaurant before they left. We chose Margurites, which is right next to Margaritaville. It is probably the nicest restaurant on the island. I decided to wear the sarong that I bought the other day, with a nice shirt. The meal was great, and afterwards, we went over to Margaritaville to join the rest of our crowd. I think sarongs are considered beach wear, as I was getting some strange looks for wearing one, which as most people know, probably encourages me more than discourages me. I met two girls from Ohio who were oceanography majors in Jamaica to study, and leaving the next day. I talked to them for about 30 minutes, and one of them pointed out a guy they were talking to earlier who they werenít too fond of. I replied by saying that he seemed like an asshole, and not the kind of guy that would be cool enough to wear a skirt to a bar. They both looked down and laughed, as they hadnít noticed it to that point.

  DAY 9  

For the last day of our entire group being together, we went to Ocho Rios, mostly to visit Dunnís River Falls. The Dunn's River cascades over a number of rocks on its way from the mountains to the sea. There are stepping stones on the falls which allow easy access up and down their 600 feet, while being sprayed by all the water rushing past you. It was a good way to spend the day. Later we went to a market, which disappointingly was exactly like every market we had been to before. Each one of them sells the same stuff, they have the same starting price, and you can bargain them to the same price. Every time we would walk in to a market, we would be accosted by these people who would literally pull us in to their store and ask us what we wanted to buy. It got to the point where you didnít even feel like walking around the markets, as it got so tiring saying "no" so often. Sometimes, vendors came to our house and tried to sell items. One guy came with very intricately carved walking canes, that looked very skillfully made with the face of a Rasta on them. He offered them to us, and someone in our group said "Iíd buy one if the guy was smoking a pipe" more or less as joke. The man returned the next day with an identical cane, with the guy smoking a pipe, which he had carved on the request. It was amazing, and we bought that one.

Later that night, we went to an Irish Pub at a hotel called half-moon bay. Most of the people had gone there to watch a big game that was on, but as Iím not a huge sports fan, I drank instead, and walked around the area. Manda and I stumbled upon a life-size chess board, with pawns that were 3 feet tall, and back-row pieces that were 4 feet tall. Its harder to play a game of chess, when youíre actually part of the board.

  DAY 10  

I decided to go back running up in the hills again today. I ran my 2.5 miles to where Busy would be. He was there, and as usual, he wasnít busy. I told him I had come back, and was now ready for the directions on which trails to take to the top of the mountains. I didnít bring a pen or paper to right it down, as I had hoped it would be easy enough to remember. Well, it was. Busy pointed upwards to the hills and said "Go that way". Thatís it?? Thatís your directions??? Well, as it turned out there werenít too many trails, and they all seemed to lead to the same place, so it was ok. Once I got to the top of the hills, there was a school there that had mostly elementary aged school kids in it, in a place where youíd never expect to find a school. As I ran by their school, I think they were more surprised to see me than I was to see them. I then continued to run in to a neighborhood that looked not only impoverished, but rather angry. I was getting looks from locals that were extremely discomforting. I donít mind getting looks when youíre out of place, but these were no doubt unfriendly looks. So as inconspicuously as possible, I did a 180, and headed back. Once I passed the school, there were farms and more hills in the other direction. I still got strange looks, but they were more of curiosity. So I kept running in to the hills, past a lot of farms and a lot of houses. You really get a feel for the way people live when you run in to a remote area. Houses were made of whatever they could find. Mostly old pieces of plywood, or corrugated metal. All of it nailed or lashed together in some way to make a dwelling. The farmers were using the most antiquated tools, if they were using any at all. It really drives home how we have such a skewed view of life here in the US. These people couldnít fathom living our lifestyle, and we couldnít fathom living theirs.

All in all, Iíd say I ran about 13 miles. Iím a pretty good judge of distance when Iím running. I can estimate any run I do to within +/- 5%.

That night we went back to Margaritaville. This time I wore shorts simply for the fact that I wanted to ride the slide. Margaritaville has a huge 100ft water slide which they open about 11pm, which goes from the balcony on the 3rd floor, right down in to the ocean When I was there a few nights ago, I saw people going down, but couldnít do it in the sarong. Tonight, I was prepared.

I ended up meeting a whole bunch of people that night, one of whom was named Tina, and she lived very near us in Northern Virginia. I talked her in to going down the slide with us, which she reluctantly did. She was afraid to go, but said she would if someone would go with her. By that, I assumed she meant someone would wait down at the bottom for her after they went. Well, she had a different idea. There was a bouncer at the top of the slide making sure that the person who just went was out of harms way before the next person went. Somehow when I jumped in, Tina jumped in behind me and as I was going down, I could feel her feet on my shoulders. This was bad. We were racing along like a bullet, and as soon as we hit the water, she was going to come crashing in to me. I was actually rather scared. WE hit the water uneventfully, I breathed a sigh of relief, and we swam over to the large trampolines in the water. By this time, there were a whole bunch of people that I knew and that I met on there, and we would take turns playing and running back up to slide. In order to get back up the slide, you had to run up from the basement, through the dance floor, up the stairs, through the upper bar area, and then up to the tube Ė all while dripping wet! Cool.

Later that night, there was a wet t-shirt contest, which pretty much just turned in to a no t-shirt contest. After the contest, I ended up talking with one of the girls, whose name was Julia and she was from Toronto. She was an exotic dancer, which gave her a bit of an advantage over the contestants. In any case, we ended up dancing and meeting all of her friends for the rest of the night. When the bar closed and none of us felt like calling it at night, I suggested that we all go back to the villa. People are pretty receptive to the idea of going back to your place when youíve got a mansion of a villa. So it was me, Julia, two of her friends, and this guy named Errol, who they had met earlier. Errol was pretty cool. He lived in Montego Bay, and best of all, he had a car. He not only drove us to the villa, but offered to take everyone home the next day, even though it was about 1.5 hours away.

  DAY 11  

I agreed to go with Errol to take everyone back to their hotel, so that he didnít have to drive the 1.5 hours back home alone. It was also a cool way to see other areas that we hadnít been to with David.

  DAY 12  

We decided to make another trip back to Negril for the day. The day didnít consist of much that was different than the time before. A lot of drinking at Margaritaville, followed by going to Ricks and doing some cliff jumping. I tried to talk people in to going on the catamaran ride again, and again no takers. I decided to go it solo anyway, and I was glad that I did. I met a few cool people, as well as having tons of free drinks and free food. They also had scuba masks so that we could do "free dives" (diving without tanks). It was also a nice change to see everything from the sea side view, rather than the road side view. As I mentioned earlier, for your $40 ride, its all you can drink, which I had to take advantage of. Well, when we made it to Ricks, the boat stops, but its too shallow to dock, so they turn around and go back, whereas I wanted to go to Ricks. Well, I basically had a 5-7 minute swim to get to Ricks, all after a short session of power drinking. Yikes.

  DAY 13  

A group of us decided to head to doctors cave beach to lay out, and do some snorkeling. Manda and I decided to go snorkeling together at one point, after I had told her about the very colorful fish that were out in the reef. They were truly amazing. But the most amazing thing, was that when we went out, there was one small yellow and silver fish that seemed to follow us. I donít know if he thought we were a school of fish, or what, but he was right near my hip, about 3-4 inches from me. He followed us for a few minutes, and then found a more comfortable spot in the top of Mandas bathing suit, right in her cleavage. There he stayed and swam with us for about 20 minutes. Sometimes we thought he was gone, but moments later heíd be back. It was truly the most bizarre thing. The rest of the fish and coral reefs were incredible to behold as well.

  DAY 14  

On our last full day, we decided that weíd take advantage of our new status as certified divers and go on a pleasure dive. We signed up to go on a dive 50 feet down but ended up going about 70 feet down. Theres something cool about being that far underwater. We swam around coral reefs, around the most magnificent aquatic life. Its weird to think that this world is here all the time and most people never know its even there as its just a few feet below the surface of the water.

  LEAVING   

As we were leaving Jamaica, I had decided to take with me one denomination of every bill they had, which in US currency is about $12 worth. Well, when we got to the airport we needed $500 Jamaican dollars as "departure tax". What a silly idea. They charge you money to leave. Well, that took all of my money. Almost to the cent, but we made the plane with almost minutes to spare.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip. Iíd highly recommend staying in a villa, especially if youíre going with a large group. It lends so much to the experience.