Jenny’s Favourite Cakes
Jenny’s is a small and unpretentious-looking café on the West End Road, about a mile from town. Chris had read in the Rough Guide that as well as the usual café offerings (coffee, cold drinks, light meals), Jenny also sold ganja cakes, and he determined to try one. So after a sandwich lunch here one day, he asked for a cake to take away. It cost US$10 and looked much like a brownie. I’d assumed that this would be a relatively “safe” way to try the infamous local product – make the tourists pay over the odds for what is basically a cake with a few bits of herb in it. How wrong could I be!
Having enjoyed most of the cake with his afternoon coffee (I ate just a couple of mouthfuls) Chris was unable to go out that evening because the effects lasted around seven hours. His best efforts at describing the sensation included “everything seemed shifted” and all his senses were heightened.
Despite the disconcerting sensations, he was glad he’d had the experience. I however was not too pleased at missing our planned evening out and going without dinner – especially when I read the guide-book for myself and spotted the advice he had missed: “Jamaican ganja packs a mightier punch than anything you’ve probably experienced before, so don’t plan on doing much if you decide to partake.”
As part of this warning I should also point out that despite the casual acceptance of this ganja culture by many locals (and tourists), it is illegal in Jamaica, although there are indications that it may be legalised in the future. So if like Chris you decide you’d like to sample it, do so with discretion - and time it so that it doesn’t interfere with any other plans you may have for the day!
JAMAICA NO PROBLEM
the main problem in negril is the drug traffic. if you are not interested in drugs, just say "no, thanks". ganja (marihuana) and cocaine are offered on the beach. but these are illegal drugs in jamaica, and penalties are severe. refrain from smoking ganja on the beach, because undercover narcotic police patrol the beach.
although negril is one of the safest destinations in jamaica, thefts are not uncommon. you should take care on the beach, especially in public areas. some of the more upscale hotels have security guards who will take care of your belongings. if you are staying in a cheap property, leave your money and documents in a safe box and never open the door to strangers. at night take a private taxi, and avoid walking on the road.
i was told one of the main problems in negril was the harassment. i expected to be harassed all the time, but this is not what i found. only from time to time a local seller tried to sell me his goods. a "no, thank you" was always enough to get rid of them. people in jamaica are very nice, and local sellers are not an exception. police jeeps patrol the beach 24 hours a day taking care of tourists. i visited several beaches in jamaica, and this is one of the safest ones i found.
Tipsy on the Cliffs
I noticed a few people sitting on the wall at Ricks Cafe. Is this the Danger part? A little? If you see how much the people drink here you can see why they have an ambulance leave at least once a night here from people falling and hitting the rocks from diving off the cliffs here.
- Sailing and Boating
- Diving and Snorkeling
Rough Seas for swimming at the Cliffs
Some months are more so than others, but sometimes the water at the cliffs' edge can be pretty rough. Getting into the water is no big deal---you just dive in, but most cliffside resorts have metal ladders that you use to get out and back on land, and when the water is rough, it can be hard to time your exit with the waves. You don't want to smash up against the ladder! Those days, I suggest taking a cab down to the beach or just laze around on the cliffs. Some resorts, such as Xtabi, have easier access to the ocean with low lying platforms close to the waters edge where it is easier to get out, so check them out as well---no-one minds if you swim there---just get a beer or coke while you are there.
- Water Sports
- Diving and Snorkeling
I recommend finding out what color tags are the approved by Jamaica tags for cab drivers. I am sorry that I can not recall what color they are. If you go with a non approved driver you are running the risk of being taken somewhere you do not want to go and being expected to pay a hefty sum for it. Also, make sure you have setteled upon a cab fee BEFORE you get in the cab.
All inclusive doesn't mean what it sounds like
Most resorts in this area say that they are all-inclusive- you pay one price, usually a steep one, and then pay nothing the rest of the trip. Not quite. Aside from tipping those whose transport you from the airport to the resort (its supposed to be complimentary but drivers and porters stick their hands out and ask for $$), the resort also offers tours for an extra price and activities such as diving and boat rides offered by the resort are also available for- you guessed it- an additional charge. And last, but not least, there is a departure fee which must be paid at the airport. Its nice to know this before embarking on vacation- which we did not.
Like most of the downtowns in Jamaica it isn't a very save place. Many 'rude boyz' will aproach you tring to sell you something, from earings to ganja, anything could be ofered in Negril.
Don't go alone, specially at night and it's better not to stop to talk to them if you aren't really interested.
If you have to talk to them look them to the eyes and don't show that you are afraid or you are lost.
DOUBLE CHECK EVERYTHING!
A man from the car rental came to the hotel after we had been waiting for him for an hour or so. I can't understand that filling one form could take such a long time! First he wrote that our rental would begin at 6.00 p.m. that evening and refused to understand when we said that we wanted it to begin at 9.00 a.m. next morning. Finally he changed it to begin at 9.00 on the following morning and end at 6.00 p.m. on Tuesday. We asked if it was ok that we'd return the car at 6.00 p.m. on Tuesday not at 9.00 a.m. and he said that it was ok. We asked twice and both times he said that it was ok. We signed and had to pay the deposit of USD 1100. By mistake he gave us all parts of the credit card form, so if we had crakced the car they wouldn't have got a penny from us!
On Tuesday we hadn't been too long in our room, when the phone rang. It was from the car rental. It was an angry woman who shouted at Vesa that we should have returned the car at 9.00 a.m. and that we should now pay them USD 60 extra. Vesa said that we wouldn't do anything the kind, because we had asked twice if it was really ok that we could keep the car until 6.00 p.m. on Tuesday and the man said it was ok. The lady said that the man denies saying anything like that. She admitted that they had made a mistake, but still she said that we had to pay more! My sister's partner said that we wouldn't. She said that they'd come with a policeman and Vesa said that it was ok. She hang up. About half an hour later she phoned again and said that the man had admitted that he indeed had promised us the car until 6.00 that afternoon and said that they'd come and fetch the car! No apologies or anything. We were happy anyway, because we knew that we were correct.
- Budget Travel
- Hiking and Walking
There thousands of mosquitoes in Negril, specially when it gets dark. Use shocks, long sleve T-shirts, long pant and insect repelent at nights if you don't want to suffer!! Belive me, I had more 50 mosquito bits at the same time! It was horrible, specially in the morning when I use to wake up!!
At the airport on the way home, we ran into a guy that was actually kidnapped. He had a friend arrange a ride from the airport, only to find out that the driver "owed" somebody. He was taken into the mountains, robbed of $500+, and most of his belongings. They told him he would meet Bob Marley before the end of the week! He had been hiding for 10 days when we met him and was still SCARED TO DEATH that he wouldnt get out of the country. Does the phrase "third world country" come to mind? Be very very careful.
- Road Trip
Don't Drink the Water.
I would advise you not to drink the water as a percaution. It might not agree with your digestive tract. Also this is an all-inclusive resort but bottled water is not included. You can buy them in the gift shop for aruond $2/liter. We took a collapsible cooler and put some in there when we went to the beach.
The previous poster, chaves4, echoes my experience in Jamaica. I visited Negril about 10 years ago and it sounds like that it has not changed. The country is beautiful and scenic, but many people are poor and desperate. I can only warn travelers of the Obeah practitioners in the country. Obeah is the practice of harnessing supernatural forces and spirits for one’s own personal use. It is an ancient African folk magic, sorcery, and religious practice derived from West Africa.
During the busy season, locals by the hundreds come to Negril beaches to solicit tourists to buy merchandise, drugs, and yes, magic. Obeah practioners are desperate for money. They roam the beaches looking for vulnerable tourists with problems that they would like to “solve” be it personal, business, health or family. Like fortunetellers, Obeah salesmen give tourists insights into their problems. But these people are after one thing-money. There is an entire network of these salespeople who work behind the scenes with the Obeahmen, the actual priests who are performing the rites. It is a dark underground network that few people know about.
This practice is common in the Caribbean and is called Shango in Trinidad, Santeria in Cuba, Vodun or Voodoo in Haiti, Ju-Ju in the Bahamas, and Obeah in Jamaica. While the religious practice originated in West Africa, it was transplanted into the New World by slaves who had been brought to the Caribbean as tool to fight the Whites. So powerful was the religion that it was a force in the slave revolts of the 18th and 19th century. The religion has been concretized with Christianity in modern times. The religion predates the slave trade and was used by the Ashanti of West Africa to enslave captured people of neighboring tribes.
The first thing that the practitioners seek out is to find out whether a tourist has money or comes from a rich family (a potential heir/heiress). They will sound very innocent and will ask the tourist for his/her name. Tourists should be very wary about giving the spelling of their name. When a tourist gives his/her name, it is akin to giving his soul and identity away to the Obeahman. In fact, it is taboo in Jamaica for locals to give their true first and last name to anyone. With the name alone, the Obeahman can start his witchcraft of mind control. The Obeahmmen can conjure both good and evil omens and give the tourist a sense that he/she is on a dream quest. The Obeahmen control their hosts by catering to people’s secret desires and dreams. People are led to pursue foolish dreams. The mind control can go on for years. The catch is that the person who is caught up on the dreamscape has to keep paying the salesman and his/her Obeahman to keep that dream going. It is like getting hooked on psychological cocaine. Before long the host becomes a slave and can be led to financial ruin.
Little did I realize years ago from my trip to the island that a chance encounter by a local on the beach could change my life. The woman found me sitting on the beach alone and asked for the spelling of my name. From that question, she mysteriously “divine” through her Obeahman to figure out my problems at work and home. Two months after visiting Jamaica, I mysteriously lost my job. After the humiliating loss, I was forced to move to another town. One day I received a call from the Jamaican woman from my new place. She knew what had happened and offered to “help” me get another job. Little did I suspect then that she was the person who had caused me to lose my job in the first place. From then on it was as if my life and the local’s life have intertwined in a creepy way. My work life has never been the same. For the last ten years, I have been forced to help financially support this woman and her family through the cyclicality of the tourist season in Jamaica. She has taken me from job to job, vocation to vocation, summer to summer, “dream” to “dream.” She has fooled me into thinking that she cannot work. She lives off of her Obeah practice. By controlling my ability to work, she controls me. She has cut me off from friends and family. If I were to refuse to pay her an allowance for one month, she can cause catastrophic problems at work. This may sound fantastical and imaginary. But it is real. Bad luck or whatever, this is a form of spiritual slavery.
Tourists who come to Jamaica are unaware of the stark poverty on the island. Locals who know how to make arts and crafts sell merchandise to tourists. Others become vendors. Unbeknownst to many are some who rely on Obeahmen for survival. The cult of Obeah is strong in Jamaica. I was clueless what this was all about, thinking it might be something like a form fortune telling. Obeah is a form of spiritual possession and mental control. It robs you of your identity as it robs you of your name. A good article of the problem of Obeah was written by a local writer in 2005, which I found out after visiting Jamaica and returning to the United States: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20040619/%28spirit%29/%28spirit%292.html
Tourists should be aware that the practice of Obeah is illegal in Jamaica.
More information about Obeah can be found at Wiki. A network of Obeah practionioners is out to profit from naïve tourists. No information about this is mentioned in the travel books. Like the slave revolts of the 18th and 19th century, these people are out to get even with whites, tourists, or whomever has money.
Tourists beware. Jamaica is a beautiful country but a poor one. The desperation is pronounced and tourists need to aware of the dangers. Inexperienced travelers would be advised to keep Jamaica off their places to visit.
Great Negril trip
We spent a week in Negril. We chose that to get away from the gringo of Montego. Stayed in a quiet breakfast-paid resort, offseason, last week in April. The locals are relentless, but each encounter can be ended with a reprimand from the male in the travelers' group. They don't seem to take 'no' from females very well. I, (the male) traveled with three attractive women, one 40, two late teens, and they of course attracted a lot of attention, but not more than when we travel in even Portland or Denver.
We had a 'driver' assigned to us for the week, and asked about the incessant car horns, which we are very un-used to, coming from rural Oregon. He honked at parked cars, walkers that he thought might step into the road at an unwise time, or just going around a sharp corner. The 'cab drivers' did get annoying, but after about three days we simply learned to ignore them.
I kept careful (but not hovering) track of the females, and found that they often enjoyed talking to Jamaicans, who ubiquitously think of themselves as irresistable male examples. But my girls had a code word they said when they got uncomfortable, at which point I intervened, and was never ever challenged. I never felt threatened, and am satisfied that the locals can be handled with firm speech. When that fails, simply flip them off and stop listening, exactly as you might do to a rude person stateside. Worked for us literally dozens of times. Don't let the few locals spoil the wonderful place for you.
We tried to stay away from the white tourist places, and went down the dark streets. They seem scary, and if they were in Portland or Denver or Boston, I would not feel comfortable even with armed escort. But I think it's just because they are so poor, and we only see that in US in the ghettos where it really IS unsafe for whitefolk.
We think the vendors in Jamaica are much less of a hassle than those of Cozumel, Los Cabos, southern/central Chile, or Fiji (at least on Viti Levu, not the rest of Fiji). All the locals at each seem to think Gringos have money (relatively speaking, even poor gringo travelers are wealthy) and will part with it if they are troubled enough. JUST WALK AWAY and you'll be just fine.
I don't think my three women would find life so easy if not accompanied by a capable male, tho and would recommend against women traveling, even in a group.
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Jamaica is a poor country which depends largely on tourism. For this reason, many locals frequent the resort areas and attempt to get money from tourists. Many offer to braid your hair or sell local crafts, which is fine, but others will offer to sell drugs to tourists.
women traveling alone
be careful, even within the resort area. My girlfriend and I selected a resort because we were two single women travelling alone and felt we would be safer that way. However, many resorts are open to locals in the evening, which were were not told beforehand. This lead to problems for us as we were followed back to our room. If you're a woman traveling alone or with a girlfriend, make sure to ask about the resorts policies and security
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