COLUMN: Dave Leaderhouse — March 1, 2014

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Dave Leaderhouse
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Jamaican Me Crazy!

That is the name of a bar in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and after spending a week on that island Jamaica does everything but make you crazy.

What an absolutely beautiful country!

My wife and I escaped the bitter cold for seven days -- only to return to the most brutal stretch of the winter -- and I can honestly say Jamaica far exceeded any expectations I might have had.

In all honesty I was somewhat apprehensive before I left as I heard that it is a rough country with a lot of crime, but from what I saw it is nothing short of breathtaking.

The people were beautiful and friendly -- yeah you had those who wanted your money and tried to unload some ugly souvenirs on you -- but I have never met such happy people who would do anything for you.

Maybe it was the smoke in the air or something (now that I think about it I was always hungry), but they are hard workers, friendly and helpful. And, extremely proud!

They should be proud too as this country has only been on it’s own for 50 years as they broke from British rule in 1962. It has some of the most magnificent views you will ever see and if you are a fan of reggae music then this is your place to be.

Bob Marley is a legend in this country and it is hard to believe it is 33 years since he passed away to cancer. Everywhere you go Marley’s photo is seen and his music is a constant at almost every turn. More than 100,000 people attended his funeral in Kingston in 1981 and his popularity has only grown in the subsequent years since his death.

A tour guide said to us that although it is illegal to smoke marijuana in Jamaica (that is actually quite funny just in itself), it is more than legal at Marley’s grave site as it is promoted to enjoy the experience. We never made it to the site, but we regularly were given opportunities to indulge and 30 years ago I would likely have been all over that (man am I getting old).

What we did do was enjoy a catamaran ride from the Cool Runnings dock over to Dunn’s River Falls where you actually climb a waterfall. Hundreds of tourists do this each day and while I wasn’t prepared for the traffic it was something I will remember for a long time.

Then we headed to Mystic Mountain and did some zip lining and rode a bobsled on a track through the jungle. Tell me that isn’t the coolest thing going!

Finally, we hopped on a bus and rode from Ocho Rios to Negril to experience the sunset on the west coast. It was a long day, but very enjoyable as we saw the dirt track that Usain Bolt ran on while going to school and then saw the houses that celebrities such as Bill Cosby, Ralph Lauren, Sophia Loren, Sylvester Stallone and Johnny Cash have or once had. We also saw where Mick Jagger once hung his hat, but he has since gotten rid of that and I can see why as it is right beside Dunn’s River Falls.

Negril was nice, but I think I enjoyed Ocho Rios more as it is far more central to everything. In Negril the beaches seemed to be a lot smaller, but the sunset was breathtaking. While at Rick’s Bar and Grill we also got to watch a number of people jump from the cliffs into the Caribbean Sea. It was open to everyone, but that was way out of my comfort zone.

The rest of the time was enjoying the sun, watching the people, swimming and reading. Exactly what a holiday was supposed to be like.

As funny as this sounds some of my best memories will be watching Olympic hockey with about 1,000 Canadians. For the women’s final I was in the hotel lobby just taking a break from the sun when the gold-medal game came on so I took up a seat and watched it in the lounge with a rum or two.

At first there were just a handful of fans, but as the game went on, and then became more intense, hundreds of people piled in to watch the ending. That final 10 minutes of the third period and the seven or so minutes of overtime is about as excited as I have been watching a game. Way to go Canada!

The next day I thought I would do the same thing for the men’s semifinal game against the United States, but they pre-empted the game for a cricket match. Seriously! So, about five busloads of Canadians headed to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. What a great place to watch a game. The ocean was right by our seats and the best part -- aside from Canada winning -- was when the game was over the DJ at the facility played Stompin Tom Connors’s Hockey Song for us and then followed that up with our national anthem. Man, do they know how to play to the crowd.

The men’s hockey final was back on the television in the hotel lobby so I sat with the largest group yet watching that game and when it was over there was just so much Canadian pride it was heartwarming.

Jamaica was better than I expected it to be and a place I will definitely return to some day. So many things stand out in my mind, but the people were right up there and that just makes me smile thinking about them.

 

Dave Leaderhouse is a reporter with the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

Organizations: Jamaican Me Crazy, Prince Albert Daily Herald

Geographic location: Jamaica, Ocho Rios, River Falls Kingston Mystic Mountain Canada Caribbean Sea United States

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