69. Montego Bay
Our bus trip to Montego Bay was much more comfortable than our first bus ride in Jamaica, mostly because we paid for an extra seat for our bags. It's always nice when you don't lose feeling in your legs for lengthy periods of time.
We used Airbnb to find accommodation in Montego Bay, as hostels didn't exist and we weren't forking out large wads of cash for a resort. The house we were staying in was two kilometres from the centre (i.e. suburbia), up a long, winding hill. Once the effects of heat and our hefty backpacks were added, it didn't make for an easy trip. When we thought we had finally arrived we couldn't find a sign on the house or anyone at home, so we were a little lost as to what to do. All we wanted was to dump our bags and change out of our sweaty clothes. Luckily a neighbour came out to assist, and managed to contact the owners for us.
Once we had freshened up we made the long walk back into town. Other than one slightly nicer street in the middle of the tiny city, there wasn't much to see. The food options were definitely an improvement though. We came across a vegetarian restaurant, where Danny managed to eat a veggie burger without too many comparisons to his usual meat-filled ones, and I chowed down a delicious quinoa salad with plantain and cashew cheese. When we discovered that a poetry reading was about to commence we quickly paid our bill and left, hoping we didn't offend anyone. I may eat vegetarian but I'm not that hippy.
The one well-maintained street in the downtown area.
Next was a walk down "hip strip", a road along the water containing resorts, restaurants and tourists. Again beaches were not free (about $7 to enter), so we avoided those and instead perused the souvenir shops. As artificial as the area was, we did feel a little more safe and relaxed walking this street than those around downtown. Comfort in familiarity, right?
After picking up ingredients for dinner from mini-marts and street stalls, we caught a route taxi back to the house (it was far too hot to walk that hill again). We spent the afternoon chilling on the couch, watching English-speaking TV shows and movies. I hadn't missed TV at all but once it became available, I was sucked right in. Sometimes it was too easy to slip back into lazy mode. So lazy that I didn't even pretend to help Danny cook dinner.
The next day we went diving, booking the trip over the phone. We had heard about a popular reef and cave nearby, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The cave was shaped like an upright 'L' - starting at the top, we swam directly down the long arm before making a 90 degree turn to swim out parallel to the sea floor. It was fantastic. There weren't a lot of fish but there were many crabs climbing up and down the amazing coral wall. And not just ordinary little nippers; these crabs were so big they would have covered my entire head. Around the cave were plenty of pufferfish and lionfish, some trapped in cages set up to reduce the impact these animals were having on the habitat. It was a depressing sight, one I wished I could erase from my memory.
The invasive but beautiful lionfish.
Exiting the cave.
After the dive was complete we were permitted to swim on the beach for free, which we gladly took advantage of. It was pretty much the perfect beach; I could see why people paid for it. I laid on the sand for about an hour, before the heat of the day started getting to me. It was probably the only thing that could have made me move.
Benefits of a paid beach: few people.
For me, a big reason for staying in Montego Bay was to visit Glistening Waters. At night, you can take a boat ride out across a lagoon full of bioluminescent organisms that emit a blue light when disturbed. You can also swim in the glowing water. There was no way I was leaving without seeing something that sounded this cool.
The owner of the house we were staying in said he could organise private transport for us to and from the site. This transport ended up being his father and a friend of his, looking to make some quick cash. They were very chatty, happily discussing cricket with Danny and pointing out the sights (limited to hotels and Usain Bolt's school). Resorts lined the main road, one of which covered 400 acres (apparently), complete with its own golf course and equestrian centre. Definitely not at the top of my "places to stay" list.
On arriving at Glistening Waters we were given a free rum punch that was surprisingly strong (I wasn't complaining), then asked to board the boat for our trip out on the lagoon. I really think they should have reversed the order of those two events. It was incredible, watching the water light up electric blue as the boat sped through. Even though the visual effect looked slightly radioactive, we didn't hesitate to jump in for a swim. The muddy bottom was gross so we made sure to keep swimming without stopping, watching our bodies create light as we went. I was captivated - it was as though we possessed superhuman powers. Although it was reminiscent of our night dive in Nicaragua, it felt like a completely different experience. Absolutely awesome, highly recommend it.
My hand skimming the water.
No artificial lights here, just people swimming in the lagoon.
I ran on our last morning. Being out in the hills, it was a challenge for my untrained legs and cardiovascular system. I was determined to regain some of my running fitness before heading back home, so I pushed myself until I thought I would die from dehydration or heat exhaustion. Neither eventuated.