Day 4: I seis the rios, I siete the rios, I ocho the rios.

The Jamaican wilderness is truly one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. There’s no rhyme or reason to how the plant life organizes itself or even manages to grow in such a high density. Approaching the island, you see endless mountains of trees. It looks as if there is no land, just leaves. An even bigger eye opener, however, were the residential sections of Ocho Rios. Most of the houses are covered by corrugated tin roofs so flimsy you’d think any light breeze could blow them down.

The streets are littered with shacks housing small “businesses”. None are bigger than a Mister Softee truck and all could be mistaken as abandoned if there wasn’t for the store keeper sweating profusely as he waits for someone to keep him company. There are also tons of people lining the streets, waiting for public transportation. The buses are privately owned and unscheduled. Those folks could be waiting a while. There are plenty of cars (all of which drive on the wrong side of the road) but when the gas price hits $3 US per gallon I’d probably wait for the bus as well.

My first stop was the Brimmer Hall plantation. One of the last working plantations in Ocho Rios, Brimmer Hall is 5000 acres of bananas, coconuts, sugarcane, and pineapple. All tour guides are legit plantation workers so I imagine they know what they’re talking about. The make $5 US per day for an eight hour day. I imagine they make most of their money on the tips tourists give them. We were shown a variety of fruits and other plant life native to the plantation. The most interesting plant is the Ackee plant. A medium sized red fruit, the ackee opens at the seams when ripe. A yellow flesh holding the black seed is revealed and can be cooked. The fascinating thing about the ackee plant is that it cannot be eaten before it opens itself naturally. If you do consume the unripe ackee fruit, toxic amino acids will cause “Jamaican Vomiting Sickness” which has a tendency to be fatal. Needless to say, I did not try any ackee with saltfish, the Jamaican national dish.

The next stop was the shopping center. Mostly touristy crap. Some nice jewelry and the clerks were much less aggressive than in Haiti. I was talked into sampling some White Lightning rum. I was told it was strong stuff and I shouldn’t drink too much, especially since I was climbing the falls in an hour. I was also warned that the potency of the rum will creep up on you so I might not feel it now but I will when I get to the falls. So I played it safe and only tried half a shot. When the initial flames in my throat cooled off I decided to look around the store. I took one step and almost hit the floor. It turns out that White Lightning is the Jamaican equivalent of Everclear. Fortunately, my head cleared up quickly. I resisted the urge to buy a bottle. I have no use for that stuff, although it would be a lot of fun at parties.

I tried to do some more anniversary shopping but I was limited by a strict “No t-shirt, no hat, no ugly jewelry” rule. I guess you can only get someone so many t-shirts before they institue these rules. My options have been narrowed to ashtrays, rums, or jerk sauces. I don’t think she’ll appreciate any of those things so I bought rum and jerk sauces for myself. The ash trays were really tacky.

The next stop was the Dunn’s River falls. A beautiful waterfall that is level enough to climb. They told us it would be an easy climb. They lied. My mom only made it half way before her knees started to give out on every rock. I was surprised she even made it that far. The bottom of the falls is pretty steep and the rocks are very uneven and extremely slippery. I made the rest of the climb relatively easily. I don’t know if the climb was actually easier or if it was because my mom wasn’t pulling me off every foothold I found.

On our way back to the boat, we are told that Tropical Storm Lily is hot on our tails. That’s sounds like fun. We avoid a hurricane only to get creamed by a tropical storm. I got killed in the casino. I didn’t lose much but I lost it quickly.

Tonight was the gala buffet. I pigged out. I’m sure you’re all surprised. It was not as impressive as other gala buffets I’ve attended but the sheer amount of food is insane. An announcer told us that we ate 50,000 pounds of beef on Filet Mignon night. That’s happy news to hear after leaving a place where the laborers make 5 bucks a day.

Tomorrow I have a personal training session. I’d say, “Woe is me” but I brought it upon myself

Keep going. You've got one left

Day 1: It rained on my Paradise
Day 2: Ernest Goes to Sea
Day 3: Labadee, Labada, Life Goes On, Bra!
Day 5: The Voyage Home