Sunday, April 26, 2009

Land of Ancient Sculpture

I was back in time from the Caribbean for Easter and then for the glorious table of Greek Easter, then, off again.

It was great fun, to be climbing up the big red Bell Rock! Just a few paces off of the main path and you could play on the rocks all you wanted. The ascent went pretty quick, though I did pick one of the steeper routes. When I finally came to a place that gave me some reason to contemplate, I stopped and looked down. Below a small group of 10 or so people had gathered, watching me and more than one taking pictures of me with their little cameras. Most adventurous people could easily make this climb, though, both the audience and intimidating route above gave me the first pangs of vertigo.

So, here I've been exploring Arizona and New Mexico this past week. It's neat to go from the extreme's of Caribbean humidity to this sun-baked, wind-swept land of sculpture.

Arriving in Tucson, I made an evening drive into ranch land. The next day I did shoots of galloping horses and cacti, silouetted by the distant mountains that always seemed so near. The days were in the high 90's and the winds whipped up quite strong, but the sky remained clear for the most part.

Making my way in the direction of Scottsdale, I had a chance to stop at one of the more interesting points along the way, Picacho Peak. The 1,500 foot peak stood out pinnacle-like from the surrounding flats. I pulled in and decide I would make a little climb. I always try to travel with a reserve of water and I had a full bottle of water. Half I would down to hydrate before and I would leave the rest for my return. I had my video camera and did not plan on making too long of a journey.

The heat left this path near the peak pretty much just to me! I looked at a pass and would make my way for it. It's always nice to have a goal on a hike and this would hopefully afford me the chance to see what was in the valley beyond while also getting a full experiences of the environs. I draped my shirt on my dome and paused ever so often to enjoy the immense rocks around me. There were buzzards soaring on the thermals above. As I made my way past the cactus and creosote, two A-10 Thunderbolts flew overhead. Those are such cool aircraft! They are the slow-moving, tank-busting jets that have their engines spaced out rather far apart. They looked just like those buzzards!

With a look over into the other valley, I smiled in satisfaction and made my way back. Another drive further into the park took me to where the Spanish explorers had pushed into while we were busy fighting the British during our Revolution.

Scottsdale was clean and landmarked by Camelback mountain. The resort that I was staying at had pretty cool architecture and $25 million in Native artwork. Instead of the cheesy stuff, it was the life-sized bronzes of Apache staring into the sky or making offerings to the Four Directions, etc. It was the kind of artwork that was eerie to be alone with. So, I tried to spend time with them. They gave some great photo opps, I just wish I had more time.

For eats I went to the controversial 'Pink Taco' but found it was closed. I then opted for the Wild Fish, though it was way pricey. So, I took advantage of happy hour and had a glass of cabernet, raw angus beef that you cooked yourself over a stone, and a giant plate of the best fried calimari. All for around $15. Ha! That's quite a gastronomic victory!

Being that I lose track of where I've been if I don't make daily notes of it (I'm always moving), the exact schedule somewhat escapes me. Let's see... after Scottsdale I made my way north to Sedona, but first made a stop in Flagstaff (further north). As in many a dessert location, you find an amazing drop in temperature the further up in elevation you go. In no time you are in the land of pine trees and cool (too cold, in my opinion) breezes.

Along my journey I came upon one of the most moving moments of my life. For me it was akin to the devote Catholics that get to behold the Pope for the first time and get all screamy, or the Jews who get overcome and get all kissy with the wailing wall or the astronaut that gets to look down at earth. It was seeing an Anasazi cliff-dwellin that did it for me. Now, I kept it together and didn't kiss anything or scream for the Pope, but this culture has intrigued me for some time. I've poured over pages and pages of photos of Anasazi bones, noting the tooth decay and boney growths in their eye sockets, all symptoms of this society's great dependence upon corn. Their spinal columns show a great amount of wear from heavy labor and...we'll enough of that. They are those ancient Indians that built those cool apartment buildings way up on cliffs!

I had not the chance to ever see one of these things until now and as the clock hit 4:20pm I came across the sign to Montezuma's Castle! It closed at 5pm and I knew I could make it! I zoomed in, paid and only a few hundred feet from the visitors center, the opening of the cliff began to reveal itself and, there it was! Built around 1300CE, the structure was about 70% original and intact. A multi-level brick dwelling. To keep myself from getting to weepy I turned my head from it and bit my tongue and then turned back to behold. It was like seeing Oz but if Oz were real!

The amount of engineering genius was spectacular! They had also built it facing south so that they would be cool in the summer and heated during the winter. That they went to such an extent to build this is an indication that they may have had some pretty powerful enemies. But at the height of this civilization, they abandoned these structures for some unknown reason. Anyhoo, it is pretty cool and I strongly encourage you to stop by Anasazi ruins located throughout the southwest. Oh, and why is it named Montezuma's Castle? The Spanish though the Natives of this region to ignorant to have built such a thing and so they gave credit to the Aztec ruler.

I am so, so thankful that I was able to witness this!

The next day, I dropped down into the valley of Ponderosa pines, and eventually saw the true signature of Sedona, Red Rocks. The mountains shoot up everywhere. The downtown of Sedona is full of shops. While they are clean, well organized and match the aesthic of the mountains around them, they are nonetheless shops and surge with tourists.

With a quick stop at the tourist center, prepared by suggestions a friend have given me, let's see, Bell and Cathedral Rock and Red Rock Crossing, I spoke with a guide and was on my way.

The first was Bell Rock. At first I didn't know which was bell as there were two buttes adjacent to one another. But the big one was called Courthouse Rock. I was able to climb most the way up Bell. You had a great deal of privacy up there and could look down and appreciate the land around you. It was like climbing up on a giant's shoulder. While you felt even more insignificant you also felt you were now belonged in their ancient club. These enormous rocks were now your buddies.

The red of the rock cannot be overstated. The soil was reddish powder and the buttes gave away in sheets as your feet passed over them, making you carefully consider just where you were going. There were also plenty of cacti. Man these are unforgiving! But it's the yucca that I found the scariest. This succulent, has very sharp spines at the tip of it's triangular leaves. If you were to trip and fall on one, they would pass right through you!

The wind also picked up somewhat fierce and I made my way down, on a route that was much easier than the one I had taken up.

Cathedral Rock loomed in the distance and near you could find the river of Red Rock Crossing and people cooling themselves in the icy waters. the water felt quite out of place.

Oh yes, vortexes. Some people believe that Sedona has a higher than normal concentration of vortexes, or zones that are supposed to enhance your metaphysical abilities. Twisted trees are also supposed to be a sign of these areas, or so I've been told. I saw plenty of twisted limbs. The spiral of the wood was distinctive.

Soon, I had to make my way to New Mexico. So, out of the valley and across the night time dessert. Eventually I was in Gallup, New Mexico. The following day it was all the way into Ruidoso. First I passed the Valley of Fires which was large expanses of black lava rock, looking as though the lava had cooled only days ago.

Ruidoso was at elevation and was cool and pine-laden. Here I shot and made my way back, the 3.5 hours into Alburquerque. It was not nearly as long as the 9.5 hour route from Sedona, but pretty much gave me all the driving I wanted to do for awhile.

With thoughts of home being so near, I was unfortunately denied. My first flight departed late and as I sprinted to catch my connecting plane, I arrived before the printed time of departure, only to find they had pushed off ten minutes early. No more flights back home this evening. Tomorrow. I wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

From Ja-Mon to Cay-Mon

The cliff divers in Negril were actually quite cool. I had been delaying my visit to Rick’s, a very popular club which was full of tourists. Some of its popularity comes from the fact that it is situated on tall cliffs which some locals dive off of. Any visitor is allowed to jump off of several, lower ledges and you see many people in their swimming suits. The majority of the establishment is a bar and restaurant that comes to life especially during sun-set.

The most colorful of divers, the Tiger, goes around with a red bucket, soliciting tips and amping up the crowd. He and a few other Jamaican divers, including some children, jumped off of heights that I would say vary from 50-80 feet high, perhaps more. The highest jump was from the top of a dead tree. They would fall, flip and plunge into the cove, surrounded by spectators and boats. At the same time, amateur tourists were free to jump into the very same cove. You just had to be careful to stay out of the way of the pros stunts.

I was happy to be pushing on and I felt that this was a good place to end my visit. I had begun my shooting on Runaway Bay, on the north-central coast of Jamaica and made my way gradually to Negril, on the far, western-end of the island.

During my stay I had many opportunities to have long conversations with the locals. Often these would take place on my hours-long drives in taxis. At my final place of lodging I also had a chance to speak with the predominately European visitors. There was a particularly high concentration of Italians and Germans staying here.

Another Jamaican staple that I found particularly good was the coffee. I miss it already. Very black and rich and excellent everyone I had it!

One unpleasant thing was the burning that seemed to occur every night. Sometimes the smell was a nice woodsmoke, but more oft than naught, the smell had a chemical tinge. It infused much of my clothing for days after. Also at night is the constant ‘gleep, gleep’ sound of some frog I’ve to identify. It had an alarm quality to it. In Negril would also be throbbing reggae bass and toasting raps of performers. It would go very late, especially if it was a good show.

I didn't find the driving 'crazy' as so many people seem to say it is. Jamaicans are actually some of the most courteous drivers I have seen. It's true some pass and buzz around and make it just before another oncoming car approaches. But you'll see most drivers be patient with one another and rarely get upset. They honk their horns a lot. This is usually to warn of their approach or to say hello to one another. They were also always very punctual.

The morning after Ricks was an early drive back to the airport in Mo’Bay. I wanted to get there early for any customs hassles. Early it was. But I was able to find a phone and a customs agent came down, checked my gear and accompanied me through the airlines check-in and security and I was soon at the gate. Hurray!

Cayman was hot and sunny. My taxi driver was a Caymanian woman with a strong Scottish accent mixed with an island sound. She drove me to where I’d be staying, the East End. Different than the western part of the island and towns like Georgetown, the East End was quiet and relaxing. The coast was hit by strong winds and seemed a mix of reefs, rocks and nice sand beaches. She pointed out where a ship once carrying rice sank on the reef. They had rice for many days after. The same thing happened with one carrying prunes, she said. We passed a ‘blowhole’ where the waves pressure shot a geyser up a hole in the rocky coastline. “Scraggadey” was how she described the rocky coast.

So, for the past few days I’ve been on the East End of this flat Caribbean island. It is full of money, nice houses and just two resorts that I’ve seen so far. The lack of congestion makes it even easier to appreciate the sun, the beaches, the green water reefs teaming with life and the relaxing pace.

I’ve been able to take in some fun adventures as well! Stingray Bay is a very popular attraction. Boats sail out to a sandy reef where you jump in water four feet deep and feed a whole gang of stingrays squid. The sound of it always bothered me. It’s just not a good practice to feed most wild animals, for many reasons. It also sounds so dang touristy. But I was to find it quite fun thing!

We first stopped for a snorkel. I shot people from the deck of the catamaran. The colors were nice and the sun cooperated for the most part. Then, I too jumped in and swam to a coral reef. Taking a big breath and diving below the water is quite fun. You glide over the coral and push your goggled face as close as you can fish. The black form of a eel caught my eye. But he just lay there in the open sand, the front of his body half tucked into the reef. He didn’t move. That is until I swam down closer to investigate. Then he swam out. I really had no desire to stick around. That’s another things about feeding creatures – they associate you with food. I’ll watch from a distance! Well, the stingray was another story, entirely.

We boated over to a shallow sand bar and the anticipating stingrays came from all over. They look like a gray kite, hovering through the water. They also give me the impression of automatic vacuum cleaners, hovering over the ground until they bump into something and then move around the obstacle. People filed in the water one by one and everyone was giddy with excitement. Several girls shrieked and clung to their mother, but another little girl looked at her mother and affirmed, “I’m not going to scream like those girls!” After I shot, I too jumped in and couldn’t help but make a b-line straight for the one the guide was holding in his arms, allowing people to handle it. As I came up, the Stingray had wandering eyes and nostrils fluttering. His gray top contrasted greatly to his white belly. I was told to slide my arms extended, straight forward. The underside could not be smoother, like slick, flappy rubber. People were told that they would get seven years good luck if they kissed it and a lifetime of good luck if they French-kissed it. So, well, you know me! Licky, licky. I tickled his proboscis nice and proper-like. Poor guy! But he was getting food out of the deal and was a big ol’ bolshy fellow!

Now, I’ve been to island after beautiful Caribbean island, twice with chances to go diving and, well, it just didn’t work out. But I was set and determined to get in a dive! Especially in this diving mecca!

And you know what? It worked! I head out for a one-tanker to a place called Grouper Grotto. Though the tarpon have now taking the place of the grouper, it’s a place of coral mazes and ‘swim throughs.’ This is where the coral creates overhangs and creates occasional tunnes. The water is reknown for its clarity. It was nothing to look down sixty feet with a clear line of sight. Our guide brought us down into the walls of coral. The large silver tarpon look at you with wide eyes and slanting up chin. They are quite a narrow fish, but very long and beautifully silver and shiny. We saw a lobster stick his head out of the coral and there were yellow striped seargeant majors.

Our guide then lead us down into our first swim-through. For this, I was in the rear. Though most swim throughs allow at least some overhead sight of the surface above, this first trench began with an actual tunnel. I have to say that I found it a bit unnerving. My first thought is on what you would do if you had to evacuate in case of an emergency. There would be no room to turn around and you could only go forward. Though, the coolness of it actually overrode the fear of it. But it was nice and snug. You did not want to touch the sandy bottom and kit up silt and you had to mind that the top of the tank did not smack the coral. You float through like an astronaut, with small kicks of your flippers and the ever-so-often wave of your hand. But proper streamline is for your arms to be folded against your belly, holding in you dive computer and hoses.

We did a few more swim-throughs. As you look up, there is nothing quite like the view. Instead of floating above the Earth, you feel as though you are floating within it, looking out. The edges of the coral, formed by miniature life, are in shadow, and through this window you see life suspended in ocean blue. The rays of sunlight are slow and bring color to even these depths. Sometimes you look down one trench and see a multitude of large fish, hanging together like a mobile above a child’s bed. In fact, there is really nothing to compare it to but that. Being a child in your crib, smiling in wonder at the shapes of animals floating magically above you. I think to be a diver is often like feeling you are finally floating in your very own mobile.

But that was that. I was more than ready to end, and happy this was a one-tank dive. After all there is so much more to explore.

The dry of the desert is calling. Time to move on. Must move on. Always moving on!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Jerkin in Negril

After a few last shots of the villa I was staying in, a cab was called and I made my way out of St. Ann’s. I was a little sad to leave as I knew I was headed from a villa that was frequented by locals, in a calm district tucked in the hills, to ones that would be busy and touristy. I had also time to sit and chat with quite a few Jamaicans, learning more about the food, music, personal aspirations of the people and language of the country.

For breakfast I was prepared the Jamaician staple, Ackee and saltfish. Ackee is a fruit that grows on the trees. It pops open slightly, into thirds, exposing three black caps that cover a yellow mass inside. This mass is boiled and sauted with salted fish looking like scrambled eggs. (Ackee is poisonous if not prepared correctly). I thought it quite delicious and picking out the occasional bone made it all the more satisfying.

I had also been given insight into the language of the country, Patois. It is a mixture of English, Spanish, German and other languages and it’s what you often hear the Jamaicans speaking with one another. I’m attempting to pick some of language up, just so that I can distinguish certain elements. Most of my interaction has been with Jamaicans, so it keeps me on my toes. In asking to learn some of it I am aware of the possible connotations of sounding like, “hey black people, teach me the language you developed through 400 years of slavery so that the white man didn’t understand what you were saying. Teach this white guy that secret code.” When I’m in a cab or restaurant or passing by, a Jamaican will speak with me in English then turn to his fellow in Patois. You can see how that would make you wonder what’s going on.

Just for starters, the common greeting is “Wha-ha-um“ and when a friend is calling they pick it up and say “ha-ted” which translates to “hot head.” If something is really cool then it is “damgood” or “damn good.” Yes, they really do say “Ja-mon” as much as portrayed. And “dis” and “dat” is commonplace. Even if you can pick out a lot of these words it’s the rapid rate and their experience with the language that can leave anyone without a knowledge in the dark.

They had called a cab for me and I was now headed to Ocho Rios, a harbor town that serves the gigantic tour ships. I’ve read that you are best to avoid the town, especially when the ships are in. It just so happened a few would be.

But first the driver asked if I’d like to make stops along da way. I had agreed on a price before we made our way and I knew this would rise the more stops we made. But I also weighed this with ‘when the else will I get the chance’ so I agreed to some of the stops. Another thing is that I am often at the whim of whomever I’m with. Who knows where I could be driven? But I also know that this individual benefits by my money and any subsequent call to drive me elsewhere.

As we slowly made our way up a rough mountain road, I wondered just the heck we were going. Simultaneously, I went with the flow. We passed very poor shacks and people out on their stoops. My driver had told me about the “fire waters” in which you could light the top of the water and it was supposed to have healing powers and all of that. Sure enough, we stopped where a group of men were huddled around a shack. Out we went and I had my video camera in hand. It felt very much like National Geographic with the exception being that I had no crew! Once again, at the whims of the situation but also staying in the now, catching very unique footage and knowing that we would probably be on our way soon after.

The door of the shack opens and there are several men within, surrounding a pool of water. It must be a hot spring as I found the water warm. The men are continually hustling, pointing talking, pointing, hustling, grabbing. “Fel da wada. Heelin papatees! U kin wak tru de fier en not get bunned!”

At that, one of the gentlemen lit the top of the water with a lighter and it flamed continually. He passed his hands under the water, playing it up as amazement. “Git in de wadr! Gimee da camra. I kept the camera in hand and filmed as I stepped into the pool. With that one of the men poured the water over my legs. “Why not?’ I thought. Not many could say they did this! And if it ‘healed’ my psiorasis it would be even better! Ha.
I walked through the flames and shot as I did. They then prepared a stove over the flames and boiled water for show.

During all of this the man sold like a snake oil salesman and his accomplice acted things out in form. With a small “donation” we were on our way.

I learned later that they usually don’t take money inside as God might see that they are profiting from the secret fire. Well, I hope that didn’t jinx the flow of Earth’s gasses.

On our way down the mountain road a pregnant teen girl hailed the cab and leaned in to hustle whatever. Her language was impossible for me to follow and she had quite the lost look about her. “No school,” we asked? Almost on cue was another girl of similar age, dressed in blue school uniform, making her way down the road. Upon her face was a stern expression. Whether it was due to the girl, me, us, who knows? But I do know I’ve seen that expression several times down here. Whether it is anger, depression or just the common look, I’ve seen it quite a bit.

We made a short stop at Dunn’s River Falls, taking a view of the top. Inside were throngs of white people walking out at the top of the falls. I thought it not only looked horribly touristy but also precarious. There really wasn’t any rope and rail to keep people going over that falls.

That’s the way many things seem here. On the streets and heart of the country you see the Black Jamaicans. Peeking through a hole in the fence, into the resorts, tourist attractions and beaches, you see White people.

We finally pulled in to Ocho Rios. In the harbor you could see the bloated tourist ships. In fact, the second largest in the world was there. On the sidewalks were hustlers with necklaces in hand, hassling white tourists already wearing several necklaces previously purchased.

By now I was in need of another ATM stop. We hit one bank, waited in line, only to find they didn’t do that there. While there I saw a common Jamaican cure for congestion, sniffing rubbing alcohol. At first I thought it was ‘huffing’ but several Jamaicans have told me its common to do when they have colds. We then head to another bank. The ATM was not working, so I waited in line. I was the fourth in line and it took a full 30 minutes in that packed bank. I could have chewed my tongue off. It kept my nerves somewhat calmed that my taxi driver was in the bank. All my gear was in that car and it rakes my nerves to no end. I spoke with a Brit in the line who said it was ‘in there blood to be slow.’ I’ve heard lots of Brits say things like that. I instead liken it to bureaucracy and many a DMV and postal line I’ve been in.

I got the money and after a few stops where he dragged me in to hustle me off on other people, such as an Indian jeweler, I tackfully played it down and got the heck out. Finally, I was dropped at my place.

I secured my stuff in the room and did the obligatory footage of hell. Out into the mob! Even though I was alone and had camera in hand I blended in with any white tourist target off of the boat. At first I shot the two main shopping areas where places like Marguerittaville exist. It catered entirely to the tourist and I had to shoot this for what I did. But I must also venture into some of the outer tiers to get something real and Jamaican.

I was on a search for oxtail and curry goat, another Jamaican staple. I knew of the general area but after an unsuccessful attempt, I told a man what I was looking for and he knew right away where to go. Of course he did! This was another hustle and a mistake on my part. He took me winding down roads but signaled that it was close and I knew that it was. But I also know that I would lose this guy only by paying him off. Which I did. But inside I ordered the curried goat. I was a little unsure what was going on when I only received some broth. “Is this it,” I wondered? In fact, after slowly eating the broth, I got up to pay. I’m glad I didn’t quite leave, as the plate came. It was some slaw-like salad, peas and rice, shell-like noodles and little goat chunks on the bone covered in dark curry sauce. Very good. A gentleman saw my camera and sat with me. Of course I was skeptical, but he looked clean-cut, claimed to be a videographer, and by his knowledge-base, I could tell he was a fellow.

After a convo I departed and head back to the hub. First stopping in a fenced in art market full of stalls of carved wood and t-shirts, it was time to hide in my room.

After shoots I made a call to my first taxi driver and we took the 3 hour drive to Negril. The landscape changed and it was nice to remove myself from the congested Ocho. Not that other parts of the island are not congested! The roads are generally packed when you near towns, but the open stretches offer you a chance to look across some sugar cane fields, out at the ocean to one side or to the small houses tucked in the hillish mountains. You also see little huts marked "Beer Joints." Get it? Beer, joints!

Much of Negril was made popular in the 60’s by hippies who pitched their tents on the sand. The area that I came to was the 7 mile beach area. Many hotels/resorts/clubs sit along these white sands. I’ve heard about the beauty of this area but have come to see it as follows.

Each property extends about 400m from the road to the beach. The lodgins are far enough from the road to allow for quiet and then their restaurant and bar areas run next to the beach. The beach is only about 10 feet in width before it touches the water. The water is very clear and all looks as the Caribbean picture people are expecting.

There are certain variables. Some places are policed very nicely. There is a security guard or two that stands out in the sand, with black pants, hat and white shirt. They seem to stand there all day and intimidate the hustlers from hassling you. Then, there are places where the security sits under a tree. Here you’ll be hassled much more. Even when you have your eyes close or purposely focus away from them, you hear a “hey mon?” Hey mon? Hey mon?” This usually grows louder as they come right up to you. It’s always hustling something, depending who you are.

Some places have a chill and relaxed atmosphere, while others like to play up the 'party' feel. It is not as extreme as in Ocho though, where big party boats of college kids swing by and you hear the only Black Jamaican aboard announcing "if ye ah havin fun parteein en Jamaica eveebuddi say 'Ja Mon,' to a chorus of 'Ja Mons' hoots and hollers. At night in Ocho you will also hear the same Reggae and Ska tunes played over and over and over, ad nauseum. But even one of the chill places I was staying had their own 'Fire King!'

The ganja offers are ceaseless and they offer many different varieties. While it is illegal here, even the tour books will say to just not smoke it in public or around the police. But even they know that tourists are here to have a good time and to party. While it is tempting and a solid part of the Jamaican experience, I’m here working and so don’t indulge. But its nothing to be chatting to a guy blazing up right along the beach. In a private social setting, it would be a different story.

Negril is mostly known for the 7 mile beach, lazing on the beach, sunning on the beach, running on the beach, drinking on the beach, swimming off of the beach, jetskiing, paragliding,, glass bottom boats and diving.

Once again I received a complimentary dive offer only to discover after my shoot that they had no one else signed up to the dive that day. Once again I assembled all my gear for naught.

I had an awesome run one evening. It was a short, run, like the ones I tend to take. But it was invigorating! With Vangelis’ 1492 soundtrack in my ear all was strong and proud! After all, this was the land of the sprinter. When I got back, a man hailed me over to show me a picture that he had taken of me, with the Caribbean sun rays shooting down on the ocean. He was from New Jersey and not someone trying to sell the picture.

That night I spotted a young bellman and inquired if he was a sprinter, which he most certainly was. Just to hear I was of like blood made him excited and in offer of an immediate fist ‘pound.’ He was a footballer as well who said the two sports were beginning to run in conflict with one another.

I’ll end this ramble with some food stuff. Going from a profession of ceasless conversation to one with much solitude leaves the mind needing outlets. So, pardon me.

OK, more food stuff. Curry goat is a common thing. It usually involves chunks of goat, sometimes attached to chunks of bone, sometimes in a sea of small bone fragments, covered in delicious, dark curry sauce. As with many dishes, it is served with peas and rice, previously-formed in a cup and dumped upside-down on your plate like you see in Spanish preparations. I usually doctor this with hot sauce. Jamaican hot sauce comes in a bottle resembling the narrow, Tabasco-style bottles of the American southeast. The taste is very similar though a tad bit sweeter. It resembles the same type of temperature as Crystal or Tabasco so ample shakes don’t overpower you, even when the bottle reads ‘Very Hot.’

Jerk pork, chicken and fish are common as well. As for the jerk chicken, it doesn’t resemble the supposed dry ‘jerk chicken’ I’ve had in the states. Instead, it is a wet sauce that smothers the chicken. You can see pepper flakes in some of the sauces. Man, at times, when cooked with the skin still on, the result is the tastiest chicken flesh I’ve yet had! As for the fish, it was drier, but salty and peppery and oh so good!

Red Stripe lager beer, in that short stubby bottle is produced here and common here. Some Jamaicans say the type we get back in the states is different. But to my unsophisticated beer palate, it tastes like, beer. Many Jamaicans prefer Henneiken instead.

Lemonade, made with fresh limes, is popular, or so I’ve been told. I’ve yet to find some. One night I had fruitcake for desert. It came in the form of what looked like a piece of chocolate cake and was moist and had the hint of the flavor we associate with the fruit cake that we are familiar with.

Stay well. I have to go catch some shots of a setting sun. The next two days should be the final of this island and then it will be to the final leg in Cayman.

I hope you enjoy your weekend.