Geek Cruise - Linux Lunacy 2 - Day 5 - Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Thursday was another tourism day. We landed at Ocho Rios in Jamaica. Jamaica looked really pretty from the Maasdam. Look at the photo - lush and green with rich people's houses and hotels peeping through the foliage.

[Our first view of Jamaica]

The other geeks were mostly doing their own thing today. There was a Linux User Group meeting with the Jamaican Linux Users Meeting, and then they went to Dunn River Falls and climbed the falls. I didn't go with them. I opted for the safely herded and protected shore excursions provided by the ship at great expense. So they all left the ship early.

Anne and I headed off for our shore excursion. There was a long walkway from the ship to the entry point to Jamaica. Near the entrance was this big billboard that showed multiple ads. I had to wait to get the Internet Jungle ad photographed. Look at colour of that lawn! The last time I saw grass that green was back in Sydney earlier this year.

[Our entry point to Jamaica,
with advertising]

When we got the gate, I looked back at the Maasdam, our little home away from home.

[The Maasdam at Jamaica]

Our shore excursion was a visit to a working plantation, a little bit of shopping, and then a visit to the Dunn River Falls. Our bus was a little bus, holding about 12 people and we just happened to get front row seats. Our driver was safe, and our guide was knowledgeable. The bus drove through Ocho Rios, and headed out along the coast. On the way out, we passed many hotels that had risen and fallen, including a Playboy Resort. At one stage we stopped to let a man with no legs drag himself across the street. Everyone pretended he didn't exist.

We drove along the coast and our guide pointed out Noel Coward's home on the hill called Firefly. It used to be called Look Out by Henry Morgan (pirate captain), but Coward found it and bought it and made it his home. He died there and was buried there. We didn't get to have a look at it, but we did see it in the distance.

We hit this little village and turned inland at the clock for the plantation.

[Time to turn inland for the
  plantation]

The plantation was a working plantation. It had pineapples, bananas, plantains, coconuts, cacao beans and tourism. The bus dropped us at the plantation and we climbed aboard little trailers pulled by little tractors.

[The Puffing Billy trailer tour
of the plantation]

We had a guide and his companion. Our guide knew the plantation and the history. He drove the little tractor. When he stopped, he would lecture us and his companion would grab fruit and cut trees and climb trees and do all the hard work.

[Our driver and guide, and his
companion]

Along the way, we stopped on a ridge and we saw the blue mountains of Jamaica where Jamaican Blue coffee is grown.

[Blue mountains of Jamaica]

So we toured the plantation and looked at the produce. Saw the pineapple crop. Heard about the destruction of the Jamaican coconut plants by a tree disease brought from Miami, and how they had to replace the plants with a Malaysian species. Saw the banana fibre and were given a very convincing demo of the strength and sheerness of it. Had a cacao fruit passed around. Inside, it looks like a custard apple with a big seed encased in individual dollops of pulp. Our guide suggested we should pull out a pulpy seed and try it. He suggested we eat the pulp and suck on the suck but don't bite on the seed. The pulp was like custard apple, but not as sweet. The seed tasted of nothing when sucked, so I bit it open and tried that but it didn't taste of anything much. I didn't die either. Inside the seed is a purple colour. [Cacao beans - source of
  chocolate]

After touring the plantation, we got back to the Big House. Anne and I had a look through the big house. This is a view from the front verandah, overlooking the plantation. I couldn't get over how lush and green everything was. Reminded me of home.

[View from the verandah of the
Big House]

This sign explains the Big House and the plantation. [Sign about the Big
  House]

One thing that amazed me inside the house was the medieval armour. There were suits of armour, and this mounted on an armed horse. The armour must have been brought over as a memento of the Old Country. It would be too ghastly hot to wear it in Jamaica. [Suit of armour in the Big
  House]

So we finished our look-see of the Big House and headed to the little market area. Bought a Red Stripe to guzzle against the heat, and bought some coffee. Time to head back, so we all piled in the bus again and headed back. We took a different inland route this time, over some really rough roads. Saw lots of little shacks, and tiny three house villages, and heaps of school kids in school uniforms. School uniforms are a great idea. After a few hair-raising ups and downs through creeks, we hit the coastal road again and headed back to Ocho Rios. Time for the shopping.

[The Taj Mahal, Jamaican
style]

Indian traders had built this little enclave in Ocho Rios. It was gated to keep the riff-raff out and the tourist trapped so they could be plundered. They called it the Taj Mahal. The shops were all stocked with Indian traders, and some very aggressively trained Jamaicans. The hard sell approach was a little unpleasant. We bought some more coffee, and a little rum, some T-shirts and a coffee mug, and I bought a few reggae cds. I was glad when it was time to leave.

Our last stop was the Dunn River Falls. The bus drove us to the entrance, and we were advised to leave our gear in the bus. I didn't quite know what to expect, but on seeing people leaving, I started dumping the contents of my pockets into my backpack so I could leave things behind. I found a plastic bag and wrapped my wallet in that. The people coming out were soaked, as if they had been ducked. We found that they had.

First step was to remove our shoes and put on little rubber slippers that we rented. Then we took the steps all the way to the bottom to the beach. Our guide told us what to expect and told us to hold hands and off we went. We climbed up. The water was cold, but not icy. Cold enough to make us gasp when we plunged in waist deep. We climbed up, holding hands, followed by a photographer and a video filmer. Halfway up, we paused for breath and we were ducked, one by one. All the way under. I was completely soaked, my clothes were sodden. We climbed the rest of the way up and caught our breath again. This was where we left our guide, so out came the wallets to give him his due. Then we staggered back to the shoe rental and gave back our rubber slippers. Mine were torn.

I was exhausted. I was sodden. But look at my face in the photo. I was absolutely alive. I was exhilarated. It was so much fun. As you can see, I was inappropriately dressed. Look at those rocks! We climbed them. Look at that water! We battled through that. It was FUN. Several people have asked what I was looking at. I was watching someone who had just fallen in.

[We did climb Dunn River Falls]

If you ever go this way, beware. Take a sealable plastic bag for your wallet. Carry nothing else. You are going to get submerged. You are going to be soaking wet. Carry a towel. Bring a change of clothes. It was strenuous and exhausting, but it was exhilarating.

After that climb, the rest of the day was an anti-climax. Anne and I went and picked up that photo. The woman selling the photos asked us for a tip. I was in a great mood from the climb, so I did. Good thing too. We were going to walk through the trader market back to the bus. The photo woman assigned us a guide. The guide shooed the predators away and kept us safe. The only thing I wanted was more of the rum, but they didn't have it. By now we were late for the bus, so we didn't bother with buying anything and we headed for the gate, Our minder went with us and fended off the vendors and their tricks. We escaped. Others hadn't escaped so easily and had been subject to the hard-sell approach and had bought hand carved rubbish and all sorts of junk at inflated prices. I'm pleased that I tipped the photo woman and kept us safe.

We squelched back into the bus. There were a few stragglers we had to wait for. The video filmer was selling videos of the whole climb. He already had them copied and was looking for $30 each. He had one left and was trying to flog it off. I was too tired to do anything, but in retrospect, I should have offered him $10 and seen if he would have taken it. But I was knackered.

We drove back and our guide sang a few songs for us. Shame and Scandal In The Family. The Banana Boat Song. She sang the same versions that we already knew, not some original folk versions with filthy lyrics which is what I hoped she would have sung. She talked about the patois that they spoke and gave examples of it, and entertained us quietly on the way back to the ship. Left the bus, tipping time again, and we headed back inside. Stopped at the duty free and bought some more of the Jamaican overproof 151 rum. Dang. It was half the price here compared to the Taj Mahal. Luckily, I was only buying a couple of small flasks worth $5 at Taj Mahal, and $2.50 at duty free, so I didn't get aggrieved about it. On board ship, I had a small taste of the rum. Dang. I had a sip, no not even a sip, just wet my tongue a fraction, and my tongue went numb and my speech stumbled and my mind clouded. It tastes like medicinal alcohol, and packs one hell of a punch. Best served with strong tasting mixers.

So that was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We had a marvelous day. The Dunn River Falls was great. Next time I come this way, I will do the climb again, on my own, without a guide, without holding hands with a bunch of strangers, and properly attired. I'll be back.

And then it was back to life on board ship. First step - get out of the wet clothes. Second step - late lunch. We had two Geek Events left that day. First was the group photo on the bow of the ship. We headed up and hung around waiting. It was getting towards evening, and we sat and looked at Jamaica and quietly watched the island, and chatted to the other geeks.

[Waiting for the group photo on
the bow]

Here we are looking back up at the bridge.

[Looking up at the bridge of the
Maasdam]

While we waited, I took a photo of this bauxite terminal. It was no longer in use, but it was the bauxite factory used in the James Bond film Doctor No, back in the days when James Bond films had some credibility and had some relation to Ian Fleming's books.

[Bauxite factory used in Doctor
No]

And finally, most geeks had arrived, the photographer was ready, and the group photo was taken. A series of photos were taken, with more geeks frantically joining the group between each shot. This is the final version available from the ship's photographer.

[Geeks On The Bow]

After the photos, we hung around for a while and watched everyone chit-chatting. I took photos of some of the geeks:

[Geeks on the bow]

and they took photos of us:

[Us geeks on the bow]

Some people rushed away to the Margaritaville Sailaway Party, but we stayed and watched the Maasdam sail away. Then I headed off to the last Geek Session for the day - a Question and Answer with all the speakers. Several of the speakers were late, needing Margaritas before getting up on stage and facing the crowd. It was a lively session and we heard many opinions. Linus was in good form again.

[Some of the speakers doing the
Question and Answer session]

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