A luxury guest-house, a weekend away, a chance to go horse riding on the beach… I heard the term ‘Babymoon’ somewhere and decided now B (our baby boy) was a robust 7 weeks old, it was time to get out of Kingston. H (my husband) explained to me later, as we lay in our gorgeous king-size bed with B kicking and chortling between us, that a Babymoon was when a kind person, usually Granny, babysits the baby for the first time and the parents get away together for a romantic break. Not so easy when Grannies are 10,000km away!
We headed across Jamaica to Ocho Rios on the North coast. Leaving Kingston on a Friday night is usually bad, but with a screaming newborn in inching along traffic, it’s hellish. But traffic here is localised, so once you’re about 8km from the city centre, suddenly you’re flying along a new bit of highway, which lasts for all of 20 minutes. It abruptly ends (presumably as did the funding) and then its single lane, potholed mountain roads the rest of the way.
After 2 hours, the baby’s grumbling had got more incessant so we looked for somewhere to stop to feed him. But while the roadside is dotted with shack-like bars, the thought of stopping at any of them and getting my baps out in front of the locals sitting around and the passing traffic wasn’t very appealing! I’m sure it would have been fine, but with the baby’s screams now melting our minds, we ended up pulling over so I could hop in the back, and then breast-feed him as we continued along our way. I had B under the seat belt with me, but it didn’t feel very secure as we swerved and bumped along the twisty road. B didn’t mind though, his face buried happily in one of my giant shock absorbers!
We arrived to our guest house (www.thebluehouse.com) and had a couple of drinks to unwind. Dinner was grilled Mahi-Mahi caught that day, fried plantain and a goats cheese salad with watermelon. Back in Kingston, we have the luxury of having B in his own room, but on this trip, no such luck.
B lay in between us, delighted with his babymoon, snuffling in for a ten minute snack every half an hour, so not a lot of sleep was achieved!
We had breakfast on the balcony, entertained by warring hummingbirds. These fairy-like creatures are a territorial bunch, and put on quite a show for us fighting over the feeder.
We saw all three of Jamaica’s species; the Streamertail (known locally as Doctor Bird), the Jamaican Mango Bird with its red flashing tail, and the tiny Vervain Hummingbird (or Little Doctorbird) which is only 2 inches big and my favourite!
I was booked in that morning for a beach ride at a place called Hooves. Having fed B all night, I happily abandoned him to ‘quality’ time with Daddy, and whizzed off down the road. FREEDOM! Flying along the gorgeous coast in our Suzuki, windows down, reggae blaring… The stables was behind an old sugar cane plantation house, with interesting bits of machinery and delapilated outbuildings still lying around the grounds. A friendly Rasta welcomed all us riders, and told us not to let them eat the marijuana along the way. There were a few total beginners on our ride, but the horses were so well-mannered and relaxed and were only allowed walk anyway, that all they had to do was stay sat aboard. Half of them were in shorts though – big mistake!
I talked one of the guides into hanging back with me for a few sneaky canters which were fab. We road though the overgrown fields, through an exotic smelling all-spice forest and came down to a picture perfect strip of white sandy beach.
Our bags had been brought down by jeep with some fresh Limeade and fried sweet potato and saltfish snacks, and we got changed into our swimming things, remounted then trotted into the sea! In all the years I have ridden, I had never done this before. The horses go in chest deep, and then trot along the flat sandy bottom with big bouncy strides! They managed this effortlessly, cushioned by the tropical warm water, but still must be tremendously fit. I was very impressed by their condition, and found out that a good few of them were ‘salvaged’ horses, rescued locally.
The two-hour ride took three, Jamaican style, so it was nearly four hours by the time I got home to H and B, who weren’t missing me at all, but chilling out happily in their pants in the hotel bedroom with the AC on. Always a bit surprising just how well they manage without me.
We spent the afternoon at Reggae Beach, a lovely private beach well worth the 600 J$ each to get in. Lots of shade for B and a pretty mini reef we took turns to snorkel too seeing lots of brightly coloured fish, a few red stripe crates, the most enormous spikey sea urchins I’ve ever seen, a large sting ray and H even saw an sea-snake. On mature reflection, and from the safety of dry land, he decided it might have been an eel. H’s new one-way valve snorkel is a big winner – snorkelling is much more enjoyable without a lungful of sea water every time a wave hits you!
On the way home on Sunday, we stopped at Firefly, Noel Coward’s house famous for its beautiful views. We were the only visitors and had a tour round the once much-loved house, left pretty much untouched since the famous playwright lived there – even to the bathroom cupboards full of gentlemen’s talc and the like! Funny seeing the faded pictures on the walls of all his famous guests, from the Queen Mother to Liz Taylor, and lovely to see his ‘Room with a view’ and the piano where he composed so many of his songs. Considering it’s one of Jamaica’s top attractions though, it feels pretty forgotton about but well worth popping in if you’re passing.
I left his song book propped up on the piano at my favourite Noel Coward song, having had a good laugh at the all too true lyrics.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Noel Coward
In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire,to tear their clothes off and perspire.
It’s one of those rules that the biggest fools obey,
Because the sun is much too sultry and one must avoid its ultry-violet ray
The natives grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they’re obviously, absolutely nuts
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The Japanese don’t care to, the Chinese wouldn’t dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one,
But Englishmen detest a siesta,
In the Philippines there are lovely screens, to protect you from the glare,
In the Malay states there are hats like plates, which the Britishers won’t wear,
At twelve noon the natives swoon, and no further work is done
But Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
It’s such a surprise for the Eastern eyes to see,
That though the British are effete, they’re quite impervious to heat,
When the white man rides, every native hides in glee,
Because the simple creatures hope he will impale his solar topee on a tree.
It seems such a shame that when the English claim the earth
That they give rise to such hilarity and mirth
Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
The toughest Burmese bandit can never understand it.
In Rangoon the heat of noon is just what the natives shun.
They put their scotch or rye down, and lie down.
In the jungle town where the sun beats down, to the rage of man or beast,
The English garb of the English sahib merely gets a bit more creased.
In Bangkok, at twelve o’clock, they foam at the mouth and run,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen, go out in the midday sun.
The smallest Malay rabbit deplores this stupid habit.
In Hong Kong, they strike a gong, and fire off a noonday gun.
To reprimand each inmate, who’s in late.
In the mangrove swamps where the python romps, there is peace from 12 till 2.
Even caribous lie down and snooze, for there’s nothing else to do.
In Bengal, to move at all, is seldom if ever done,
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.