Lyssons Beach, Saint Thomas

Lyssons Beach is one of Jamaica’s better public beaches, a prime jewel in Saint Thomas near its capital Morant Bay. This white strip of coastline has two sections but the best part of it is that they’re both free! One is managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA), a government arm charged with maintaining Jamaica’s shoreline. The other is owned and operated by the University of the West Indies (UWI) for its students. My experience is based on the UWI portion but the coastline and views are the same.

Getting There

Starting from Downtown Kingston, I took a coaster (small public buses) headed to Morant Bay which board passengers along West Parade. The fare is $250 per person. Check the destination of the bus with the conductor (man who collects the fare) before boarding since buses which run to other communities of Saint Thomas such as Yallahs also load there. It will be a tight fit as all Jamaican country buses are. The ride is an hour and a half, inclusive of stops to pick up and let off passengers. The landscape along the way varies from urban, suburban to entirely rural where trees replace buildings. Coastline appears, disappears and reappears along the way until you’re finally at the Morant Bay bus terminal, the bus’ final stop.

Taxis line the left side of the A4 main road in Morant Bay. Ask which one is going to the hospital or look out for taxis marked Lyssons. The hospital to which I’m referring is the Princess Margaret Hospital, St. Thomas’ only hospital and practically just across from the beach. You’ll blend in more if you ask for the hospital which is likely what the driver will be calling out as the destination in his bid to obtain passengers. As soon as you pass the hospital on your left, ask him to drop you in front of the beach which is on the right side of the road. The fare costs $100. Try to take a legitimately licensed one. The paraphernalia to confirm this are a red licence plate on the vehicle and a Transport Authority (TA) sticker on the windshield with the driver’s name and other information.

The Beach

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UWI Lyssons Beach

There’s a barbed wire fence separating the beaches, visible in this photo if you look carefully. Both have lifeguards, picnic tables, sun, sand and sea but I think the only difference is the availability of clean changing rooms and bathrooms, BBQ grills, seclusion and better security at the UWI portion. The UWI beach is open everyday except Mondays & Tuesdays for cleaning, and on Good Friday and Christmas Day but is open on all other public holidays even if they fall on Mondays and Tuesdays. It normally opens from 10am to 5pm.

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Changing rooms & bathrooms at the UWI Lyssons Beach

Such few students utilize the beach even though its management costs are paid by each and every one of us in our fees! I like to think that my expensive tuition/miscellaneous fees are to be utilized to their last drop, thus I should have gone here earlier with friends, run a boat* and relax. It’s not too late though and that’s exactly what I’ll do in the distant future before my undergrad tenure is over. Nonetheless, here is the lovely beach:

The staff was warm and welcoming and left my friend and I to our own devices. Since the UWI portion of the beach is underutilized, we had a private beach to ourselves and got to release our inner child with sand art, cartwheels and paddling in the Caribbean sea. It was overcast and therefore much more bearable than the sun I experienced at Carib Beach nearly three months ago.

I’m not aware of any strict open/closing hours for the government-run part of Lyssons beach. It’s not fenced around like the UWI portion so I’m sure it’s 24/7 since there’d be no means by which to restrict access. Of course, there wouldn’t be a lifeguard or caretaker around after hours so use it at your own risk I’d say.

Wrap Up

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A royal poinciana tree in full bloom

We easily retraced our steps to get home although Morant Bay-Downtown buses take longer to load in the evenings since most people are travelling in the opposite direction.

UWI Lyssons beach could use a bit of work though to be honest. I’m sure deck chairs with umbrellas, pool tables and a few more comforts aren’t too much to ask, so I’d rate it 3 stars, ☆☆☆. I must add too that St. Thomas’ beauty is so unrecognized! People should notice this parish more but hopefully after I’m done exploring it so my posts still count as “off the beaten path” (Haha I’m just kidding). Lastly, I had featured the UWI Lyssons Beach in my inexpensive 2017 bucket list so this is 7 down, 10 more to go.

‘Til next time. ✌

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*Run a boat: Jamaican colloquial expression for cooking a big hearty meal outdoors, usually with friends or family over open fire, a BBQ/jerk pit or grill.

Why I Said Bye to Lye

A discussion I had this week on the controversial topic of Black hair has inspired this post. This was the first in a long time that I’ve expressed my reason for going natural. With the interesting feedback I got, I felt like sharing my view here for anyone else who cares to know.

What The Fuss Is About

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The World’s Beautiful Spectrum of Hair Textures

Black hair varies from tightly coiled “nappy/kinky” hair to looser spirals in its natural state (the 3C to 4C spectrum primarily). Many people of African heritage choose to loosen their curl pattern with perms, jheri curl products and texturizers, or remove their curls and kinks altogether with relaxers. The reasons behind this vary. On one end of the spectrum, many believe that it makes our hair texture more manageable and easier to detangle and style while others vehemently defend that it’s the only way our hair can be presentable, professional, tame or even beautiful. Let’s get real. Hair is trivial! It grows for one phase then sheds when the follicle has completed its cycle. Only our hair grooming and cutting practices or even our physical and mental health may prevent the strand from achieving maximum length during its growth phase. Thus, the way one chooses to wear one’s hair- straight, wavy, curly, coiled, whatever- should never be a politicized or even discriminatory feature but undeniably, it already is.

Putting Black Hair In Context Historically

Chattel slavery, indisputably the worst breach of human rights by far to have ever occurred on this planet, lasted for nearly 300 years. Its effects are far from being undone despite the last African-Caribbean slave trade ending in the late 1800s. Call me a pessimist if you wish but I think it’s impossible to ever undo the effects. The scars run deep into the psyche of us African descendants whether or not we choose to admit them or are even aware of them ourselves. Nonetheless, we brush off ourselves and stand on the sweat, blood, tears and bodies of our ancestors to reach for excellence. In fact, the very university I attend, once a slave plantation and mark of shame for my predecessors is now a badge of honour having been repurposed into 1 of 3 campuses of the best tertiary institution in the Caribbean region. Anyway, when you are abducted and stored on a slave ship on the lowest deck in a space marked 6′ x 18″, chained together and only given the chance to stretch your legs once daily for a journey from Africa’s west coast to the Americas which lasted weeks before modern navigational technologies, then if you’re one of the lucky to survive, branded, sold, bred and traded at the will of a master, trust me, hair care is the last thing on your mind. This disruption in culture resulted in the breakdown and loss of African hair traditions, styling and grooming customs which had allowed Black hair to gleam and flourish.

To compound matters, we were taught that our features were unsightly. To have hair that was as close as possible to that of your master would make you more attractive and as a result, make your life easier with visible rewards such as lighter work, better food, clothes, shelter etc. This was the privilege of being born to Black and white or mixed parents during chattel slavery. The closer you got up the spectrum of being white (and hence having a looser curl pattern usually), the greater the privilege i.e. sambo (1/4 white) > mulatto (1/2 white) > quadroon (3/4 white) > octaroon (7/8 white).

150 Years Later

Nowadays, one can have the hair once deemed as gold standard by a Eurocentric model of beauty without being of mixed heritage. It’s sold by the bundle and taken from the heads of Brazilian and Asian women once you are willing to sacrifice for the hefty price tag. If that’s not your style, you can straighten your own hair as often as every 4 weeks once the kinky roots reappear. You can even have the texture of a looser curl pattern if you don’t want the straightest extreme of the hair texture spectrum for yourself.

I find that 100% OK. Not every person of African descent chemically straightens their hair because of this historical context. Not everyone is ready yet or willing to take on the challenge of learning how to care for our fragile kinks and coils especially when we have to figure things out for ourselves. Our mothers often can’t teach us how to care for our hair in its natural glory because they had no one to teach it to them. Not everyone is yet ready to reflect on or challenge the prevailing belief that God gave us “bad/unmanageable /ugly/tough/kaya/difficult or painful to comb through/unprofessional/ frizzy/short/cyaa grow/stumpy/bumpy/pepper grain” hair. Not everyone is ready to unlearn that and fall in love with the beautiful curly naps with which God has blessed our race.

My Journey

But for me, I grew too uncomfortable to chemically straighten my hair after peeling back these subconsciously entrenched layers and I’m happy that my hair (nor scalp) will never be subjected to harsh chemicals again. However, change cannot happen overnight. In fact, I creamed back my hair with my first attempt at going natural in 2012. What many of my friends and family labelled “a phase” lasted for 6 months because I went back to the familiarity of relaxers. My second try was the succesful one and on December 10, 2013 I made the “big chop”, that is, cutting off my relaxed ends. I won’t say I’ve never looked back. Initially it was hard. I can never remember a time where my hair couldn’t be caught up in a single scrunchie effortlessly and it took one full year of growth before I could look presentable doing that. It has been an ongoing process to figure out what my hair likes or needs. It doesn’t like what it did 2 years ago. The textures on my head are different. Along the way I’ve had damage from a myriad of causes and my initial plans of growing long hair has been sidetracked/derailed many a time because I’m lazy and cheap when it comes to hair maintenance (I ain’t gon’ lie!). My hair goals have moved from length to health to none at all and repeat.

Wrap Up

I’ll never lecture another woman about what to do with her hair just as how I’ll never tell someone how to wear their eye colour. BUT I love to see Black women wear their hair in a natural state or with extensions that match our own texture because of what being natural means to me. Whenever you’re ready to, if you’re ever ready at all, do join me on my no-lye lifestyle.

P.S. I really look forward to hearing the feedback on this one so kindly drop your thoughts into the comment section below. 🙃 Also, since I’m often oblivious to political correctness, by Black I totally meant people of colour, people of African descent, African-Americans etc., whatever term is now acceptable.

‘Til next time! ✌

“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”
– Bob Marley, Redemption Song, 1980 which he quoted from Marcus Garvey in 1937

Gordon Town Falls, Saint Andrew

Let me start by saying that these falls are unnamed. It’s a pity to have such beautiful cascades of the Hope River tucked away in Penfield, a small district in Gordon Town, yet after all these years they are still nameless. Until a name for these falls catches on, myself and the other people who seek out this treasure will continue to call it the Gordon Town Falls. The only alternative was offered by a Penfield resident whose grandmother told him that the fall was called “Mother Brown Fording” in honour of a slave who had drowned there. Since slavery was abolished in 1834, you can imagine how time would have legendized that story. Moniker aside, Gordon Town Falls is a very relaxing trip and easy to accomplish by either public or private transport. My only regret is not knowing of this place before. It’s a pleasant coincidence that all three rural tips of Saint Andrew, a mostly urban parish, conceal such beautiful waterfalls.

Getting There

The journey began in Papine outside of the Texaco gas station next to the University of Technology (UTECH). A driver whose taxi had only one passenger asked us “Gordon Town?”, to which we replied, “yes, Penfield.” The official taxi stand is beside the gas station outside Papine Plaza (the one with Parkview supermarket). Thus, if the gas station is free of taxis when you go (rather unlikely), there is your best bet. The drive lasts 15 minutes, gets bumpy in the last 5 minutes and costs JM$150 per person. You’ll be let off in Penfield’s square, the last point at which vehicular traffic is tolerated.

You’ll see 2 paths; the one on the left which goes uphill is the correct trail, not the one which leads downhill on your right. The trail is straightforward with no side-paths on which to get lost and is shaded with verdant trees overhead. Nonetheless, ask the residents milling about the square for directions if you like. The path involves crossing 2 footbridges pictured above, roughly 10 minutes apart, which is the length of the entire walk. After rounding a corner past the second bridge (pictured above right), there you are by the main fall!

The Waterfalls

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Two of three cascades at the Gordon Town Falls

Gordon Town Falls is a tier of three waterfalls cascading into gentle azure pools of varying depth. The main one is packed with a few sandbags to form a nice pool at the base of the fall for bathing and swimming.

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Closer view of the main fall (pictured above)

My quartet never ventured further than shoulder-deep, but it gets deeper as you approach the waterfall so tread cautiously. And brrrr! The water’s temperature was a far cry from the heat of the city. You’d never believe Kingston reaches maximum temperatures of 34°C with the temperature of the Hope River. As usual, submerging oneself causes temperature acclimatization despite how long it may take to feel mentally ready for the temperature shock. We were the laughing-stock of a passerby who tried coaxing us to make the dip. We eventually did and had our fun, especially with having the water to ourselves.

Exploring Some More

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End of the path along the river’s course which led us to private property

We decided to go in search of the other cascades which the passerby mentioned. These are more uphill than the two pictured above. We thought we could follow the river’s course further but eventually hit up on private property and had to turn back. However, we were rewarded with the third cascade pictured below. It is less grand but flows into a delightful pool complete with river current for jets– nature’s own jacuzzi.

Wrap Up

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The second bridge seen from the view of the waterfall

We retraced our steps to the Penfield square and got a taxi in about 5 minutes headed to Papine. Gordon Town Falls are located in a residential community, albeit sparsely housed as with all communities perched on the rural Jamaican hillside. Thus, it is 100% uncommercialized and lacks amenities like changing rooms, bathrooms and garbage disposal facilities. It is not a tourist spot but I highly recommend it for its easy accessibility. If you go, you will likely have it to yourself no matter how long you choose to spend. Besides transport costs, it’s free!!! 😊

I was shocked when 2 residents of the community told me they didn’t know the depth of the water because they have never been inside it! I guess when you live alongside gorgeous scenery everyday it gets commonplace. For all the amenities it lacks, I guess I should give it 4 stars, ☆☆☆☆, but I know I’ll heed my friendly driver’s parting invitation to return again one day. I don’t recommend this place for the solo traveller though. Group is best!

If you missed any, read about the other two Saint Andrew falls here:

‘Til next time ✌

Castleton Botanical Gardens, Saint Mary

The Castleton Botanical Gardens sit in a river valley on both sides of the Junction main road which links the Saint Andrew and Saint Mary parishes. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the western hemisphere, established in 1862 by English planter Colonel Castle on what was once a sugar plantation. The Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas, Jamaica’s first botanical garden, had suffered repeated flooding by the Sulphur River. This led to much discontent and paved the way for Castleton’s establishment. In 1869, Colonel Castle gifted the gardens to the government of Jamaica. As a result, the 15-acre garden is free and is now a popular picnic spot for Kingstonians wanting a break from the city. The tortuous Wag Water River flows parallel to the gardens, adding to the view and giving one the opportunity to swim in unbridled beauty.

Getting There

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Castleton Entrance along Junction Main Road

Starting from Half-Way-Tree (HWT) in Saint Andrew, I boarded a bus heading to Annotto Bay in Saint Mary. Annotto Bay buses load beside the Portland buses next to the HWT Transport Centre, directly across from HWT’s Burger King fast food outlet. The fare to Castleton is $150 per person and in fact, you can take a bus headed to Portland too since they drive the same route. You’ll still get your fare at the right price once you tell the conductor (man who collects the fare) where you are getting off, since you pay for how far you travel, not the total journey of $450. These rural buses never leave until they are full so I had a 15 minute wait during which I suffered miserably in the humid heat. You’re fortunate if one of them has the air conditioning on since they’re stingy, but by time the bus starts moving you won’t need it as much. The total drive from HWT to Castleton took about 45 minutes. Look out for the signs on either side of the road after you pass Temple Hall, then just say “bus stop driver” when you do. They’ll know your only destination could be the gardens if you ask for a stop there, so you’ll be let off conveniently at the entrance.

The gardens are open every day of the week from 5:30am to 6:00pm between October to February. They open until 6:30pm during March to September. It’s also open on all public holidays except Labour Day (celebrated May 23 usually) and National Heroes’ Day (celebrated every 3rd Monday in October). As I mentioned earlier, the gardens are free. Whoopee!

The Gardens

Since we alighted on the left side of the road, it makes sense that we explored the left gardens first. It is the more “botanical” portion of the garden which straddles the Junction main road. We explored it before we went to the river since we’d be too lazy afterwards. The Castleton Gardens (left) is a stunning labyrinth of stone paths curving through lush green shrubbery, colourful flowers and tall sweeping trees. Palm trees dot the landscape attesting to the garden’s former glory as a palmetum boasting over 180 species of palms.

I wish I could say I felt cool and refreshed walking through the grounds but today was very hot and sticky with 90°F recorded as our maximum temperature and humidity at higher than normal (76%). Anyhow, my eyes were very happy and I eagerly strolled to marvel at the view and read the scientific names of trees I can barely pronounce. There are many gazebos and benches inviting one to sit and chat or picnic, but I didn’t heed that call today. After an hour or so, my friend and I headed to the gardens on the right of the Junction road.

This garden is much smaller and boasts fewer species. Nonetheless, this is where the action is at due to the Wag Water river making its rocky course downstream at the back of the property. It has restrooms and a tiny but well-stocked bar run by a pleasant bartender. A coconut (with no jelly 😑) from the bar restored my strength then the heat and humidity was put to a rest with:

The Wag Water River

This section of the Wag Water River is a sprawling expanse of cool clear water meandering its rocky course through a narrow river valley. Its current is gentle enough to swim in but gets strong enough in a few parts to carry one away if he or she isn’t careful (lesson learnt!). Its depth ranged from ankle to waist deep so it really is ideal for swimming once you watch out for the ubiquitous stones and boulders.

Wrap Up

Leaving Castleton proved hassle-free. In under 10 minutes we got a bus with seats to choose from, then relaxed and enjoyed the view back to HWT.

They say nature is the best healer and I’m a firm believer! I have exams shortly but I know I needed a break. Too much stress isn’t healthy and the 3 hours I spent here today are hours in which I probably wouldn’t have been productive anyway. Thus, here I went crossing item #6 off my 2017 bucket list, feeling zero guilt for “vacationing” instead of beating the books and feeling somewhat mentally revived to finish this last hurdle. I give Castleton full stars, ☆☆☆☆☆.

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P.s. Today Monday June 5 is World Environment Day with the theme, “Connecting People to Nature”. Today’s adventure seems rather fitting doesn’t it? But don’t worry if you missed today. 😊 There are 4 more days left as the entire week is being celebrated as National Environment Awareness Week in Jamaica under the theme “Protecting Paradise.”

‘Til next time. ✌

Food Baby Aborted: What’s for Lunch?

Last month I expressed my dissatisfaction with the typical Jamaican lunch and the feedback was enlightening. I didn’t realize so many people were concerned about the portion distortion, nor experienced the distended abdomen (“food baby”) and sluggish feeling afterwards. My abdominal distention would last until night or even the next day sometimes and cause serious discomfort. If I wore tight-fitting clothing, within 30 minutes of lunch I appeared infanticipating. This is likely due to a myriad of factors: the stale recycled oil used to fry or stew the chicken, high MSG content, overeating bleached rice while rushing my meal in a short lunch break, high sodium content or even the sugar many cookshops are notorious for adding to rice and peas, chicken and gravies as their “secret ingredient.”  I finally decided to make a change although it’s still in progress. Here are my weekday lunch substitutes so far:

1) Smoothies

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Mango Nut Smoothie

The components vary depending on what I have, but my ideal ingredients include (not all in one smoothie of course!):

  • Oatmeal
  • 1 glass milk: I use 1% lactose-free milk (cows’ milk to which lactase has been added to break it down to the more digestible glucose and galactose), with hopes to use almond, hazelnut and hempseed milk, or even yoghurt occasionally.
  • 1 handful of nuts or seeds: peanuts, almonds, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
  • Fruit: banana, mango, pineapple etc.
  • Spices: vanillin (1/4 tsp), powdered cinnamon (1/2tsp), nutmeg (1/4 tsp, grated).
  • Occasional ingredients: cocoa powder
  • 6-10 ice cubes

Prep/cook/clean up time: 20 minutes. Blend until smooth and serve cold. Affordable combinations I’ve tried so far are banana and mango smoothies.

I make them overnight sometimes and freeze, or in the morning. Drinking lunch instead of eating may not sound filling but it actually is! It’s due to that soluble fibre and complex carbohydrates causing a slower release of energy, however I carry these only on early days.

2) Pasta Dishes

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Coconut Tuna Pasta

My most frequent concoction is what I like to call coconut tuna pasta and consists of penne, elbow or twist pasta, coconut milk, tuna (canned in water, drained), julienned sweet pepper and spices (chopped scallions, thyme, cayenne or Scotch bonnet pepper, parsley). It takes about 20 minutes to make al dente pasta, during which I prepare the other ingredients. At 20 minutes I stir everything else in, mix, cool, store and clean up. Overall, this takes about 40 minutes and I prepare enough to serve 2 lunches (but my brother takes it for dinner so it always seems to serve once 😒). Even with substitutions, I think this can work out affordable and relatively efficient.

I plan to substitute tuna for leftover chicken, lentils or chick peas occasionally, and switch pasta for sweet potato or yam if I happen to find any at decent prices.

3) Wraps

So time-consuming!!! I still make my wraps (knock-off tortillas) from scratch because for the life of me I cannot find any affordable brands! The cheapest pack of 10 7-inch diameter tortillas is like $500JMD, while if I sacrifice the hour it takes to knead a dough for about 8-10 wraps, flatten with a rolling pin and make them on stove top in a skillet, it’d cost about $40JMD total. I kid you not since a kilogram of flour costs $100 and I use 1/3 bag each time with some paprika for colour and flavour, and of course water.

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Curry lentils on the stove

So far my fillings have been:

  1. Curried lentils
  2. BBQ lentils
  3. Curried chickpeas

I’ll probably keep all the fillings legume or vegetable related just because it’s cheaper. Health is an added plus 😉.

Ideas I haven’t actually tried yet are loaded potatoes (which I’ll most likely  load with cheese and chorizo) and some other tasty bites I’ve pinned here mostly taken from budgetbytes.com, music to the ears of a broke girl who likes to eat.

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When all else fails, there’s the good old sandwich which doesn’t exceed 15 minutes to fix (ham, etc.). I don’t mind getting soup for lunch at tuckshops either when available and occasionally, I give myself a break and have lunch delivered. There are often inexpensive healthy delivery options in the corporate area from humble home cooks trying to earn an honest living if you ask around.

These are some of the dishes from the only such cook I currently support who delivers to my campus at lunch hour (click pictures for description).

Benefits Reaped So Far

  • No abdominal distention after meals, whoopee!
  • No distention= clothes fitting better and looking slimmer (at least in my opinion 😊)
  • No discomfort after eating
  • I feel more energetic.
  • I feel happier knowing I’m taking better care of myself.
  • My tastebuds are happy from a wider meal and flavour variety. I no longer feel stuck in a lunch rut and man, do I not miss the grease and rice!

Disadvantages

  • Making time to cook.
  • Keeping warm food warm. I’ve yet to find a small food thermos, so I often end up reheating food even it was cooked that morning. Plus, I’m doing a microbiology clerkship right now so I keep thinking of what could be growing in the food I’m leaving at room temperature.
  • Keeping smoothies cold. My insulation flask isn’t too insulating.
  • Spills. This hasn’t happened to me, but carrying lunch makes this a disastrous possibility.

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Will I eat rice & chicken box lunches again? Possibly. But never again will it be a daily habit.

**Disclaimer note: I’m only referring to cookshop or cafeteria box lunches. By no means am I saying Jamaican cuisine on a whole is like this because we do have very healthy and scrumptious local food. You just have to search widely, pay more or make it yourself if you want it on the go at lunch time.**

If you already make these, plan to or give any a try, join the conversation below in the comment section. I’d appreciate healthy affordable suggestions too as we strive to live our best lives. 🤗 P.s. Before this new “lifestyle” I’d never eaten yet alone cooked a lentil. 🙈 I’ve been missing out.

‘Til next time.

Bull Bay Beaches, Saint Andrew

I figured it was time I feature a stereotypical Jamaican chill spot having written about waterfalls, museums, a botanical garden, mountain and mineral spring. You guessed correctly: a BEACH! 🌴 In keeping with A.f.Elle budget-friendly style, I chose an unpopular one: the Wickie Wackie beach in Bull Bay. Bull Bay is a suburban town on the border of the Saint Andrew and Saint Thomas parishes. It lies beside its lesser-known sister bay, Cow Bay. Both place names reflect their former purpose of cattle-rearing predominantly for leather during Spanish colonial rule of Jamaica, before British conquest in 1655. This beach only comes up in conversation when it is the venue of a party or concert such as the annual Wickie Wackie Music Festival. I wanted to see what it looks like when it isn’t pulsating to the ‘riddims’ of the latest fete.

Getting There

Starting from Half-Way-Tree (HWT), parish capital of Saint Andrew, we boarded a JUTC bus (state-run public buses) en route to Downtown, Kingston from the HWT transport centre. We came off at Parade, an area surrounding the Sir William Grant Park where most buses in Downtown load. Circling this park takes you to North Parade from which we took a Bull Bay JUTC bus, route 97. Total travel time from HWT to our stop in Bull Bay took about 90 minutes, inclusive of waiting time. We came off opposite to Little Copa Club and Restaurant. However, we unintentionally gave ourselves unnecessary walking. 😅 There is a closer stop so it’s safe to say press the buzzer after passing Little Copa on the right– not alight at Copa.

Secondly, note the original aim: Wickie Wackie Beach. What we got instead by choosing that stop: Carib Beach as shown by Google Maps. Both beaches are adjacent and honestly, it’s one coast line anyway. Both are public beaches (i.e. free) and we found no clear line of demarcation separating the two. I’m almost certain we crossed that “invisible line” and visited both beaches with our wandering feet.

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Carib Beach against the backdrop of omnipresent mountains

The Beach

Slightly missing our beach target was a blessing in disguise. We wound up at a surfing school-turned-hostel by the name of Jamnesia, run by an affable Rastafarian family. Public beaches in Jamaica are a dwindling kind and finding clean bathrooms and changing facilities at them is elusive. In other words, you have to pay for such “privileges.” Thus, if we didn’t find Jamnesia, we likely wouldn’t have accessed such facilities. They allowed us to use them for free. This beach strip is found along Sugar Loaf Bay and presents a good surfing spot. Showing up on a day when waves were ‘flat’ denied us such opportunity, not that I was intent on learning how to surf before nailing swimming 😂. Surfboards and instructors are available but sadly I never obtained the price.

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Abundance of trees on the Bull Bay coastline

It is undeniable that Jamaica has far better beaches but if you want a safe, free and secluded beach for a few hours, this is it! Impetuous waves break against a brown-sanded rocky coastline with fiery sun blazing overhead. Only the saltwater and occasional shady tree offered respite. Beaches are beautiful with that seemingly endless horizon and 50 shades of blue as sea meets sky. However, saline and unshaded sun reminded me of why beaches are lower on my list of outdoor attractions. Cool fresh-water rivers and waterfalls have spoiled me rotten and I don’t mind. That aside, I had myself a wonderful peaceful day strolling along the shore and swimming. The water was very pristine, if not the sand.

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Carib Beach, Bull Bay

Wrap Up

Leaving by bus was easy, as coasters (smaller public buses) run all the time between Bull Bay and Downtown at the same price as JUTC buses, JM$100/person. We got one in under 5 minutes. If you wait on a JUTC bus, expect an unpredictable waiting time ranging from several minutes to an hour.

I’d recommend going with a friend like I did, unless the goal was for solo time and meditation which seems safe enough to do here. Carry sunscreen and adequate water as it is easy to become dehydrated fast. Also, do consider wearing your swimsuit. It was our stroke of luck to find good amenities, but on a public beach in Jamaica it’s possible you won’t find any.

I had a wonderful time, likely due to the company I had who enjoys unfrequented spots as much as I do. However, I won’t romanticize the attraction. The lack of amenities, occasional plastic bottle litter on the sand and the ubiquitous stones (albeit smooth) earn it 3 stars, ☆☆☆ from my book.

‘Til next time ✌

Hiking in the Caribbean: Part 2

In the second part of Rochelle’s Caribbean Hiking Guide, we are going to discover the hiking opportunities offered by Cuba, the largest island in the area, and Guyana, an unspoiled… Read More The post Caribbean Hiking Guide: Cuba and Guyana appeared first on Justraveling.

via Caribbean Hiking Guide: Cuba and Guyana — Justraveling

Liebster Award

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Ah, Renegade. You’ve considered Adventures from Elle yet again for a blog award. I really appreciate this. 😊 Many thanks. Head over to Renegade Expressions for an interesting perspective on life and above-average knowledge of birds (leading me to wonder if ornithology is a side-profession of his).

The Rules of This Award

1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you and display the award.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
3. Give 11 random facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 11 blogs.
5. Notify those blogs of the nomination.
6. Give them 11 questions to answer.

11 Questions For Me

  • What countries have you visited or would like to visit? I’ve only left Jamaica twice- once on a prep school Disney World trip to Florida, USA (too young to have clear memories of it) and the other to Curaçao, a tiny Dutch-speaking Caribbean island. High on the “would like to visit” list are Canada, Guyana, Cuba, Haiti, Iceland, Costa Rica and Ecuador (an odd mix of tropical, temperate and polar climes).
  • Do you play any sports? Nope. Tried several. Realize I’m too clumsy and steered clear of sports after grade 10 altogether, except for watching (and LOVING) track and field like a stereotypical Jamaican.
  • Who is your favorite actor? Taraji P. Henson
  • Are you an Apple, Android or Windows Smartphone user? Android
  • Do you see the glass as half-empty or half full? Usually as half-full, unless I’m depressed where I’ll sometimes think half-empty for a while.
  • Are you a Cat or Dog person? DOGS. 🐶
  • Do you know who Goofus and Gallant are? Lol.. no. I’ll probably be judged for this.
  • Who let the dogs out? (Who cares?) Ruff, ruff, ruff, ruff 🎵
  • Can you do the Macarena? Sure can. One move my left feet can do.
  • Heathcliff or Garfield? Garfield definitely.
  • What is your favorite guilty pleasure? It isn’t guilty if you own it right? Everything cheesecake despite my metabolism screaming no. Close second: Chocolate.

11 Random Facts About Me

  • I’m a proud product of a single-parent family. Thanks, Mommy.
  • I’m not from a travelling family so I’m not sure where my wanderlust gene comes from. Autosomal recessive perhaps?
  • My favourite fruit: a juicy ripe East Indian mango. (No mangoes aren’t all the same species. That statement angers a Jamaican as much as a person who peels mangoes to eat. Don’t take it personally. 😂)
  • I talk a whole lot and ramble, but only among people with whom I’m comfortable.
  • I did advanced level Spanish in high school (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam- CAPE) and have a national award for it. I still listen to a few Spanish songs and read an occasional Spanish article, but I’m terribly shocked at how much my knowledge has deteriorated in just 3 years of disuse. I’m not sure I could translate a magical realism text anymore e.g. from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, requiescat in pace.
  • My favourite subjects in high school in order were Biology, Spanish, History and English Literature.
  • April 2017 (the 28th I think) makes 4 full years since I last chemically straightened my hair.
  • I walk because walking is one “sport” which has never failed me.
  • My left feet & I seriously admire dancers!
  • I’m a recovering comfort eater. My weight went up into the obese category because of it 4 years ago, but having found alternative crutches/outlets for emotional issues plus incorporating more movement into my daily life, I’ve been maintaining at a decent enough BMI of  24.9, smack at the upper end of normal for my height. I’m still heavier than I want to be but it’s not something I’ve actively worked on changing since 2014. I committed that year to dropping 10% of my body weight, did exactly that in 5months and since then, everything I’ve lost/been able to maintain has been from trying not to “indulge” in a self-destructive habit.
  • Still training my brain to have photographic memory. If I ever succeed, I’ll let you know.

My Nominees

Sorry! I don’t have 11 at this time.

11 Questions For My Nominees

  • Are you where you thought you’d be 10 years ago, and if not, are you pleased with where you are instead?
  • Favourite type of weather?
  • Dancehall or soca?
  • Beach or mountains?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve?
  • What is your biggest food craving and how often do you indulge in it?
  • Favourite cuisine from around the world?
  • I just bought you a plane ticket to somwhere you’ve been dying to visit. Where are you going?
  • Hug or shake hands?
  • If you had to lose one sense, which of the 5 would be easiest to part with?
  • Zoo or safari?

Hiking in the Caribbean

A Caribbean vacation is often envisioned as sipping from a coconut while reclining in a deckchair on a white sand beach. That image is encouraged by the “sun, sand, and… Read More The post Caribbean Hiking Guide: Jamaica and Haiti appeared first on Justraveling.

via Caribbean Hiking Guide: Jamaica and Haiti — Justraveling

Hiking isn’t a popular Jamaican past time. We don’t have a culture of backpacking and camping either; that’s seen more as for cadet groups. What Jamaica has though, is a mountainous interior teeming with beautiful trees, plants, birds, sweeping valleys, rivers, waterfalls, cool weather and all-around spectacular views. There are quite a few people who already regularly make use of Jamaica’s outdoors and are reaping the benefits. I’m not (yet) an avid hiker but I have my eye set on the good spots. 😎 The limited hiking I’ve done so far has me looking forward to more. So far, I’ve covered only one such place here since my blog only covers 2016 onwards. Thus, consider my guest post to justraveling.com as a sneak peek into my personal hiking bucket list. I wanted to share an alternative tourism spin on the whole region as we are more than sun, sand and sea.

With that, head on over to these guys and see the many opportunities to hike globally and closer to home.

The Jamaican Box Lunch

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A typical Jamaican lunch. Photo Credit: fooddiaries101.wordpress.com

“Sell me a rice and peas and fry chicken with curry gravy.”

“A curry goat and rice.”

“A jerk chicken and rice and peas.”

“A stew peas and rice.”

These are some of the daily options on the lunch menu of a Jamaican restaurant, tuck shop, road side shop etc. Delicious, sure, but so few options. Chicken, chicken, chicken, maybe fish, maybe goat. However, notice the common theme: rice. With the bounty of staples available to the Jamaican diet (breadfruit, yam, green bananas, plantains, sweet potato, white potato, coco, dasheen), cookshops trade our health for financial gain and serve bleached rice. Jamaicans have acquired the taste for rice because if more Jamaicans had an issue with this, surely more options would be introduced. I have reached my chicken and rice limits after having my final box (at least for now) yesterday.

Portion Distortion

  • 1 serving of rice=  1/2 cup
  • 1 serving of chicken, or meat in general= a deck of cards in area and thickness. That is, half a chicken breast, maybe a small thigh or chicken leg.
  • 1 serving of vegetables= a cup of shredded cabbage and carrot (the typical Jamaican salad)

If any Jamaican is ever served that, even in a small JM$300 lunch, a shouting match would erupt. The reason: how dare you serve a Jamaican the correct portion of food?! A small lunch should have 3 servings of rice, 2 servings of chicken (with curry gravy) and for side, either a garnish of shredded carrot and cabbage or a hefty serving of mayonnaise-drenched pasta. If we were active enough to require that much fuel, we would not have a worsening obesity crisis and high type 2 diabetes rate.

What can I do about it?

I’m not advocating for the boycott of cookshops, vegetarianism, veganism nor the cessation of rice consumption, especially not the latter. Rice is cheap and it “full belly” as we say, meaning that it is very filling and hence we get value for money. Personally I don’t like rice and would love to do away with it altogether, but my family nor budget can accommodate that change. Plus, I’d miss the Jamaican staple of rice and peas if away from it long enough.

I feel sluggish after my lunches in the week which doesn’t occur on weekends, so it must be because of the differences in food. I also go home noticeably larger around my middle at the end of the day. That’s not normal nor good for my long term health. That type of lunch is devoid of vitamins, minerals and fibre. What I’m receiving instead are saturated fats and more starch than my body can burn in a day.

I have a few ideas already on my alternatives, but of course this involves me carrying lunch on most days (again). This is something I’ve tried before in one of my phases, but hopefully this one develops into a lasting habit. And no not salads. A salad on its own isn’t a complete meal. I’ll let you know what I try and how I feel after I’ve made the change long enough to reap the benefits.

I tried eating healthier previously for the wrong reasons (yes there can be a wrong reason to work out, eat healthier etc.). Now, my reason is all coming from a place of self love- wanting to be the best me that I can be which involves avoiding the habits which predispose me to developing lifestyle illnesses and having enough energy to take me through each day. I owe this to myself.