Although Kingston is a harbour city, its own shores are too dirty and small for most beachgoers. Therefore, on the weekends, most city-dwellers looking for a break head to either Hellshire or Lime Cay, both about half an hour from the city in different directions.
Lime Cay was the first of the two that I visited. It was Wayne’s last full day in Jamaica, so we decided to cut him some slack and head to the beach with his friend Marvin, who is doing cool robot stuff here. Lime Cay is a little island just outside the Kingston harbor, and getting there requires a first stop in Port Royal, a small town at the end of the Palisadoes (peninsula) past the Norman Manley Airport. Port Royal is notable because it used to be THE hangout spot for the real pirates of the Caribbean until a huge earthquake left most of the city underwater and most of its residents dead. Nowadays, Port Royal is more a tourist attraction than a residential area. From Port Royal, you took a ferry (the “Y-Knot”) out to Lime Cay, passing several smaller and less idyllic cays on the way (like Gun Cay, still covered in British fortifications). The ferry ride over was definitely bumpy; if it had been a car, I probably would’ve gotten ill, but for some reason the water instills reassurance and calm in me and I spent the ride grinning as the boat jumped through the choppy waves. The girls in front of me were not so excited–they were determined not to get wet (a strange thing, considering their destination!) and covered themselves with towels while shrieking instead.
The small island has nothing on it except two fairly pricy food stands and sound systems and, of course, the small copse of eponymous lime trees. That, and lots of primping upper-class Kingstonians. Given that it’s no easy task to get to Port Royal without your own vehicle and that the ferry to Lime Cay costs almost USD $10 per person, most lower-class Kingstonians can’t afford the trip. This ensures that Lime Cay is a pretty elite location to party, a fact further confirmed when we saw the daughter of a candidate running for Prime Minister on the beach right next to us. We saw more tourists and, well, white people at Lime Cay than we had seen anywhere else in our stay in Kingston so far, including a troupe of middle age Hungarian men who were all well-tanned and sported Speedos with a David Hasselhoffish air. A few people are dancing, but most are standing in the water with their alcohol, talking to their friends. We saw many young Jamaican girls with their sugar daddies who were usually older, potbellied, and foreign. Just off-shore, a number of yachts were anchored with their well-to-do occupants stretched out on the deck, too elite to even share the beach with normal people, while jetskis zoomed around just offshore, barely avoiding the errant swimmer and the incoming ferries. There is very little horseplay otherwise. The plus side? Almost no catcalls the entire trip, which I can’t say about very many places I’ve gone in Jamaica at all.
Flash forward to a week later, and we are driving down the highway in a taxi towards Hellshire beach, just outside of Portmore in the parish of St. Catherine. The cab ride to Hellshire costs about US$15, which is really reasonable when split up between 4 people. Getting to the beach at Hellshire requires first going through the thick row of restaurants, outside which employees try to tempt (or even ORDER) you to come inside and try their version of Hellshire fried fish. The beach is very crowded: people are sprawled out everywhere on the beach and in the water. Vendors selling crafts, toys, coconut jelly, and jerk chicken are scattered all over the beach as well, occasionally weaving their (smoking, in the case of the jerk!) wares through the crowd. In the middle of it all were the costumed horses that carried screaming children slowly from one end of the beach to the other. And, of course, like every other populated space in Jamaica, music was thumping over a soundsystem that was being set up for the bashment that happened every Sunday night there.
In the midst of this colorful riot was me and my crew: one Asian girl, three very white guys (well, Oliver is half-Korean, but who’s counting?). We were just about the only foreigners on the beach–we spotted a handful of white people and several Asians, including a few Junko-lookalikes, throughout our stay. We were asked if I was Dan’s sister, if Christopher was Oliver’s son, and if Christopher was my brother. There were many, many catcalls, including several persistent souls who had long conversations with us. One person opened up by telling me his girlfriend was Asian, and then proceeded to hit on me–nice form! Another few (including a 13 year old boy!) asked my companions for permission/advice to get me to be their girlfriend. Even Dan got to experience some “romance”, when a random girl came up to him and began wining. It was pretty hilarious all around.
For US$1, we purchased a small yellow plastic ball and proceeded to lose our minds. Who knew just tossing a ball around in the water could be so much fun? Apparently, the entire community. Before long, there were at least 7 kids who were fully invested in our freeform game, and a few older women and men joined in part-time, too. People were dancing in the water and out of it, and mostly everyone was just having a good time. After the sun went down, people headed into the many restaurants for a truly delicious dinner of fried fish, lobster, festival, and ice-cold Red Stripe. The few people who stuck around after that enjoyed a smoke on the beach or some pre-emptive dancing–and more than one couple headed out into the ocean for a hidden-in-plain-sight quickie (serious!!) before the party started.
All in all, I found Hellshire much more fun and down-to-earth than Lime Cay. I guess, to continue with my theme from the last post, that Jamaica sometimes lumps colonial formality with upper-class-ness, which is really too bad.
On a similar note: yesterday was Emancipation Day, and there was a long (over-rehearsed, devoid of content) spiel by His Excellency The Most Honourable Professor Kenneth Octavius Hall, Governor-General and representative of the Queen. Am I the only one who was totally weirded out about that?