En route to the Black River we drove past some colourfully painted gates and asked Errol our driver what they were. He replied that this was the entrance to Peter Tosh’s Mausoleum. He wasn’t sure if it was open to the public but proposed that we check it out on our way back, which we duly did. This was a great call, as I really liked this peaceful spot which seems to epitomise what Jamaica is all about.
We were the only visitors. We paid our fee of US$5.00 (not sure if this is an official charge or the guy just made up a number!) and were shown into the stone mausoleum with Tosh’s tomb at its centre. This was similar to Bob Marley’s mausoleum which we had visited at Nine Mile, though unlike Marley’s, here we were allowed to take photos.
Our guide then took us for a short walk in the surrounding garden, where he indicated the various plants growing there – herbs such as basil and mint, pimento, and yes, cannabis. He pointed out the house where Tosh had been born and his mother still lives, but explained that although she sometimes welcomed guests, at that time of day (late afternoon) she would be resting.
The overall atmosphere here was very laid-back and peaceful, with the twin Jamaican influences of reggae and ganja very strong. Several local rastas were gathered outside the tomb watching a video of a concert given by one of Tosh’s sons, Andrew, and they were happy to tell us a bit about the music (as well as, inevitably, attempting to sell us a “smoke”).
Directions: The Mausoleum is in the small community of Belmont in the south west of the island – look for the white gates on the opposite side of the main road to the sea.
Peter Tosh is perhaps not as famous as Bob Marley, so for those who’ve not come across him, here’s some background info:
He was the guitarist in the original Wailers, a reggae musician and a trailblazer for the Rastafari movement. Like Marley he grew up in the infamous Trenchtown area of Kingston. After an illustrious career with the Wailers and as a solo musician, he was murdered at his home. Though robbery was officially said to be the motivation behind Tosh's death, many believe that there were ulterior motives to the killing, perhaps linked to his passionate crusade for the legalisation of cannabis. He was also a strong campaigner against South African apartheid. Check out The Talking Drum website to hear some of his music.
At the far end of Negril’s West End Road, where I suspect many tourists never venture, is the lighthouse. Built 1894, it is still in use today to guide shipping around this rocky coastline. It stands 66 feet tall (with the light 100 feet above sea level) and is nowadays powered by solar energy.
The lighthouse is set in a small grassy area with good views of the sea. Nearby are several old buildings, one of which at least is still inhabited by the lighthouse keeper and his family (and several noisy dogs!) We gathered that if you would like to climb the tower you need only ask him, assuming he’s around when you visit, and there’s no official fee for this, though of course a tip would be appreciated, if not expected. We were quite hot from our walk, however, so decided against the climb in favour of spending some time taking a few photos, relaxing in the shade of the trees and examining the rocks for coral remains.
As you travel the back roads and thru the curves and over the hills and construction you will finually arrive at the Falls. It has a lot less people than Dunns Falls. No people bothering you to buy things. When you first arrive you will ride a bus pulled by tractor back to the falls thru a field with cows in it, then thru the jungle. You will go thru a few gates so don't get jumpy. We watched a ffew people swing from a rope for a $1 into the water. You can too ! It's very quite and more like a picnic area. The trees hold many air plants. It is very beautiful. If your lucky there will be someone there to tell you what the plants are. We brought some snacks & drink of our own. There are nice restrooms to change. A shelter house and a fella was there selling beer and other drinks. There was a gift shop at the very beginning but not at the falls.
Bamboo grows wild all over Jamaica, though not with the proliferation it once did. Near the Black River, between Middle Quarters and Lacovia, is a 2.5 mile stretch of the main A2 road known as Bamboo Avenue. This was planted by the owners of Holland Estate in the early 20th century to shade its sugarcane workers as they travelled between the plantation and home. Here the bamboo grows uninterrupted for several miles on both sides of the road, and for most of its length forms a pretty arch above your head as you drive through.
Previously the arch was unbroken, but the devastation caused by Hurricane Gilbert uprooted some of the bamboo and it is yet to grow back fully – although at the speed this plant grows, that shouldn’t take too long! There are a number of places along the road where you can pull over to buy a cold drink and take photos. I had to stand in the middle of the road to get this shot, so make sure you have someone with you who can watch out for traffic if you want to do the same!
Located in the mountains of Westmoreland, about an hour from Negril is Mayfield Falls. A short, scenic hike takes you to the falls where you find the river of mineral water, known for its healing properties. Mayfield Falls has 21 pools of jacuzzi-like water, underwater caves and cliff diving. There's a bar on the property if you need some rum punch to quench your thirst. Lunch is available, but call first to make sure the restaurant is open during the off-season. The trip is about 3-4 hours including your drive from Negril. Mayfield costs $15 in addition to your taxi drive, which can be expensive.
Bring water shoes if you have them. If not, you can rent some shoes for about $3 US. Also bring a towel, camera, sunscreen and sunglasses.
Mayfield Falls is fairly remote, about 9 hair-raising, spectacular miles north of Savanna-La-Mar (which is about 30 minutes east of Negril). As you approach the falls, you'll find two competing outfits eager to guide you. We skipped the first one and tried the "original" tour, about 100 yards further up the road.
Once you walk down a formidible hill, you pay your $15 admission and order lunch (if you choose) which will be ready when you return from your climb. In the "village" you'll find a well-stocked bar and a lethargic group of locals who will sell you food, souveniers and trinkets. Wet-shoe and locker rental is available and recommended. Your guide will carry all your can't-leave-behinds in a "waterproof" bag. (Put your wallet, cigs, passport, rolling papers, etc. in the zip-lock baggie you brought with you for extra moisture protection!)
The climb looks easy. Most of the time it is. Some of the time you will be climbing up slick boulders, against a strong current. And suddenly it flattens out into a stunningly beautiful pool. On the way, you'll be able to enjoy a natural jacuzzi, slide down a rock, and swim through a cave! Only about a half-mile upstream (feels like more) you come to the eponymous waterfall. As my last girlfriend said, "I've seen bigger." But reward yourself with a dip under the falls before your trek (by trail) back to the village. You can get back into dry clothes in the changing rooms (free!), tour the village, and grab a bite and a Red Stripe.
Our eyes popped out when we ran into a couple we knew from our resort in Negril. They'd come over 30 miles and up the mountain on motor-bikes! I'd strongly suggest hiring a taxi or mini-bus instead. Organized tours are available, as always, at your hotel. Plan on half-a-day for this trip. Wear swim-shoes and bathing suit. Bring sun-screen & bug spray. Dry clothes for the long ride back are suggested.
From what I hear is that most people who come to visit Jamaica miss Bluefields which makes this a wonderful place to visit. The beaches are beautiful here without all the hasseling we might encounter on the beaches of Negril. There is also the Peter Tosh Museum. If you are into Reggae and you love Bob Marley and the Wailers you might want to visit this place.
For more info visit my Bluefields page where I have put up more pictures and info.
Our personal driver (OZ) has small fee compared to others and took us on tours and told us a lot of history. He has a nice clean van and has always lived in Ja. You must see the veiws fm the mountains. See a waterfall or the coffee feilds! You can uderstand his langage if you know what I mean.Just have the hotel to call him and talk to him he will come pick you up .(876-359-4184) The negril pirate on this site is who hooked us up with OZ so you can e-mail him to get a message to OZ.
My friend Tony Vassel takes visitors to all sorts of day trips from Negril, and my son and I went to Y's Falls with him for about $50 for the trip. You enter a kind of a park-like area and walk through the jungle until you get to the small river that flows from the falls. You walk up the path marvelling at the birds, the trees and the sparkling water next to you, jumping in if you want at certain places for a cooling off, until you get to the many falls coming down the mountain. Our guide, Rasta Tom, showed us all kinds of local flora and fauna, including something I had never seen a soap tree, where you can pull off a couple of leaves and with a little water and a little rubbing, a lather emerges which you can wash with! He picked fresh mangoes for us off the trees and pointed out other Jamaican bushes and trees by name. Please give these guides a tip, as they depend on tourists for their livelhood, and are very knowledgeable and friendly.
The drive to the falls takes about an hour from Negril.
There is a place called the Roaring River, which is a 1/2 hour trip from Negril. (Actually, it's just NE of Savannah La Mar) It is a beautiful place to see. The mountain mineral springs are a fabulous place to swim and according to locals, cure what ails you. When you get there are guides waiting to take you on tours of the springs and caves. Ask for Alvin. He was a very good guide and was very helpfull!!!
During the tour you learn about the caves and you get to swim in 2 seperate mineral springs. At the end of the tour, your guide may play music for you in the music room, a place they say Bob Marley used to sit and write music sometimes.
If you want to see the parts of Jamaica that the government there would rather you didn't, step outside the resort. A man on a motorcycle will stop and ask if you want something. Tell him you want a motorcylce tour of the mountains. The man is probably a young man by the name of Stephen. He will take you to Elvis'. A scooter and motorcyle rental shack on Norman Manley Blvd. Rent a Motorcycle, 175cc dual purpose bike, about $40 per ride per day. Then follow Stephen as you wind through the country side. He will stop and the local watering holes, not the tourist traps. You will refresh on Ting or Malta or Red Stripe at a very low price and you will continue on to Roaring River. There, he will show you were Bob Marley used to sit in the headwaters of an Artisian well, smoke Ganja, and write music. Then he will take you to Steve or one of the other many mountain guides who will take you on a three mile hike to explore the local flora and people. You will see how every day Jamaicans live, taste what they eat (the Ahky looks and tastes like scrambled eggs, but it is a fruit), drink what they drink, smoke what they smoke and see some of the most beautiful countryside I have every laid eyes on. Ask for the special tour of Blue Hole Garden. It is owned by a Rastafarian, and he will charge you a dollar to see it. It is so worth the time. All total we gave Stephen and Steve $200US and I would have paid twice that if I had known how beautiful the country and the people were.
After everyone closes in Negril, there is a place that has not closed in 13 years. Even during the Hurricanes, Gas Stove and generator feeds people, gives lights and music, and lets you charge your cell phone. Pull the shutters down and batten all hatches. And if the lines are not down, high speed inter net!
It is a Music Bar. With Live Internet broadcasts that all are welcome to join, here or at home. Mi Yard supports all local artists and any that are visiting Jamaica. Every Tuesday night the Dj's play all kinds of music, and Delroy, the owner does interviews with guests and artists, and it goes on until the black of the night sky slowly turns to blue.
It is also a unique eatery. With plantain, green bananas, fritters, fry fish, breadsticks, bread fruit and fried chicken served 24/7, always fresh. And if you do not mind waiting abit, you can order a full meal, cooked to order.
A small internet cafe. Get online 24/7 with an affordable rate. $100 J for 30 minutes. Phone cards are available.
Dance all night!
And when the sun finally wake the rooster, enjoy Blue Mountain perk coffee, freshly ground.
There are 4 rooms for rent, and two cottages, with a small beach right across the street. The last sandy beach heading West towards the Light house and Rick's.
Don't go in the crowded tourists boats...
Ask a fisherman to guide u through this beautiful landscape he knows very well.He'll do it for the same price but in a local color...
Don't miss the corn soup u can find in the street: a bycicling man is selling it:spicy, hot and whaou, great. Really worth it.
On the way back, ask your taxi driver to stop on the roadside, near the ladies fruits sometimes they also sell something unique u can only find here in this part of Jamaica: peppered shrimps. These are tiny shrimps coming from the black river, sold simply boiled and tasted like smoked. Unique and de-li-ci-ous.
Most miss out on the Jamaican Jerk chicken and end up getting some high priced meal from a restaurant, when all they need to do is a pay a couple bucks over at the local eatery...where all the Jamaicans are at. Ask someone where the best jerk is...probably not on the water front..but on the main road.
The most uncommon experience in Jamaica was the climbing of a waterfall in Ocho Rios. Almost 200 meters long, this escorted and well protected adventure is a base to several deals, many of them using pictures or film to collect a few more dollars. It's cool and fun, however.