Our first visitors in Jamaica have arrived! On Wednesday, we drove up to Ocho Rios and Der dropped the kids and I off at our villa while he drove to Montego Bay to pick up Ian, Rhonda, Brody and Hannah. He was gone for several hours (the drive there and back and waiting for them to get through all the airport stuff) and the kids were dying while waiting. They were so anxious for RIBH to arrive! I tried to keep them occupied and they did pretty well until about 5:00 - then they just kept asking, "Where are they?" Too cute! It was a very happy moment when they drove up and the kids got to see their cousins and auntie and uncle again. :D
We stayed at Lansdowne, a private villa in the hills near Ocho Rios. It is beautiful! The house is fabulous, the grounds are gorgeous and it's away from the hustle and bustle of the town. We met Arlene, the housekeeper who took care of us during our stay. She's so sweet and friendly and she helped us out with whatever we needed. It's totally kid friendly too - they have toys and games for the kids, both indoor and outdoor, and the kids love to run around outside.
The next morning, we did some running around - exchanging money, groceries, that kind of thing. The kids had fun playing at the villa and hanging out together until we went into town and went to the craft market. We wanted to go there because we'd read that there were good things to pick up. It felt like pure insanity there - loud music, tons of vendors trying to get you in their shops and one stall after another. We've been to many markets in Asia and we're used to getting called in and being approached. However, there was something different here. The vendors were much more aggressive and persistent; they wouldn't leave you alone and seemed ticked off when you didn't go in. And it seemed like there was a lot of the same thing from stall to stall. We did manage to find some cool things - a steel drum, some wooden carvings, a Rasta hat for Der, a basket.
After our shopping extravaganza, we went to the Dunn's River Falls in the afternoon. They are beautiful cascading waterfalls that you can climb up. We went near the end of the day so there would be fewer people. The river water was chilly but not too bad (we're so used to warm water now). I (Dana) stayed on the beach at the bottom with Aidan while everyone else made the climb. They loved it - how can you not love climbing up a waterfall?! Kirsi went too and did great; she needed help in a few areas but she did most of it on her own and had lots of fun. Aidan and I built sand castles and dug in the sand while they were climbing. It was fairly busy when we got there but things cleared out. Unfortunately, they cleared us out of the ocean at 4:30 and the falls at 5:00, earlier than when they told us at the gate. But we'd had enough time there that it was OK. They all came back and Brody and Hannah wanted to climb again so I went with them. It was neat but I was always thinking about what would happen if I slipped on the wet rocks. I went half way up and was happy to be done there. I'm definitely not an adventure seeker. :)
After the falls, we needed to eat so we ended up stopping at Captain's Grill and Bakery. Oh my, was it busy...and slow! We waited forever to get the food - their system was a bit strange but eventually it worked. When we went back to the villa, Arlene said that it just opened so that's why it was so busy - it's a novelty.
On New Year's Eve Day, we went to Frenchman's Cove. It was quite a drive from Ochi to Portland but it was totally worth it. We left early and spent the whole day. It was so wonderful there - the kids had a fabulous time in the river and jumping through the waves in the sea. Lunch was good, though very slow to come. We ordered at 12:00 and ate at 2:30. Yeah, can't be starving there. :)
We started off New Year's Day at the Green Grotto Caves, just past Runaway Bay. They were really cool to see, though we had to dodge getting hit by bat pee and poop. I got hit - a lovely souvenir from the caves. Rhonda was doing great until they spotted a snake near the stairs. We actually came across three different snakes so she made sure to hurry past them. The kids really liked seeing the snakes and the bats, they thought they were cool. There was a lot of history at the caves. They were called Runaway Caves because that was where the Spanish leader hid out when he was fleeing the island after the British takeover. There are so many nooks and crannies and tunnels in there that it's not surprising that he was able to hide out and then escape from there. They also hid rum in the caves and in WWII, they hid ammunition there. One part of the first cave used to be a night club. They had some benches and spots to sit down, a stage was there and they even had a circle for crab races carved out of the stone floor. Can you imagine the acoustics in that place? Wow!
There were a few caves in the area and one of them served for a meeting place and burial grounds for Aboriginal chiefs. There was no specific place where they were buried but there have been archaeological finds in the area that show that the chiefs were buried there (along with their favourite wife who was buried alive with them). Lucky wives, eh?
It was a really neat tour and I'm glad we did it, though I must say that I could have done without the bats. But I was prepared for those critters going into it and at least none swooped down at me. I'd much rather get pooped on than swooped at.
After visiting the caves, we went to a beach just down the road. There's a restaurant called Flavours that is right along the sea and there's a pretty beach in front of it. We thought it would be a good place to enjoy some sand and sun. We ordered our food and drinks - Rhonda and I enjoyed a strawberry daquiri - and then went down to the beach. The water here (near Runaway Bay) was warmer than at Frenchman's Cove - so that was nice. There were lots of locals out and about as it is a public beach. Unfortunately, there were also some of the people who had enjoyed the New Year's Eve party just down the road that were still up. When we got back from the beach, there was a dude sitting at the table with Der, Ian and Brody who was grinding up a bud and rolling a joint. Nice. That totally freaked Brody and Hannah out. Thankfully the restaurant owner came with our food and told the guy to get away. He spoke in Patois but I did understand, "Don't be smokin' the ganja here, in front of the kids!" Then a couple other guys started talking to us. At first I didn't know what they wanted with us, but after one of the guys passed a bunch of buds to the other one, I figured it out pretty quickly. Thankfully, they left on their own once our food came. But that was enough for us to decide to find another beach.
So, after we finished eating, we went back to Ochi and went to a beach near the White River, which was recommended to us
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