Monday, December 24, 2007

Jamaica - part 2

The bus finally broke free of the traffic and we sped through a greener, more rural stretch of coastline. Then general feel of the flora and climate was consistent with eastern US summers: lush greenery everywhere, probably largely invasive with Kudzu-like vines covering everything. All in all the country has very rough edges, the roughest perhaps being the roads. The road to Negril is a "major" highway, but is nevertheless quite bumpy and narrow. Motorists drive on the left, like the UK, but are constantly passing each other at high speeds, barely missing pedestrians and bicyclists along the edge, constantly beeping, and frequently heading directly at each other at high speeds. This is simply the Jamaican way of life, the bus driver explained to his freaked out US passengers, and it soon became clear to me that as long as experienced Jamaicans were behind the wheels, no one was likely to get hurt.

The driver was very friendly, providing whatever information the passengers cared to hear. When no one spoke, he tended to talk on his cell phone. I asked if certain stone structures were old sugar mills, and he explained that they were fortifications built by the English built them centuries ago to keep the Spanish and others from invading the island. He added that more recently a different kind of Spanish invasion was taking place, their hoteliers building massive resorts throughout the island, one under-construction behemoth of which we passed.

It began raining. The skies turned gray, and the azure sea also turned gray. Before long the rain stopped. The road wound through a handful of ramshackle villages, each with its own miniature traffic jam. The city of Lucea stood out as relatively picturesque and historic.

Finally the driver pulled over into a rest area/snack bar/souvenir shop. No sooner had everyone left the bus than one of the heaviest rains I've ever seen began pummeling the corrugated metal roof. I asked the driver if this was some kind of tropical storm, and he laughed. "No mon. No storm. This is tropical weather. The rain it cools things off". And just as suddenly the rain stopped and the sun came out. The driver was right -- these passing clouds of heavy rain are typical of the region, and they are a blessing as they cool the air and keep the dust down.


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