Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bob Marley's Grave

Jamaica is one of our favorite vacation destinations. Limited flight hassle from Chicago, great hotels, fantastic food, beautiful and diverse landscape, influential culture, and the friendliest people you've ever met. Since we are in Jamaica now, we thought we'd share one of our favorite Jamaican adventures.

We first visited Royal Plantation in Ocho Rios in 2001. At the time it was a newly acquired Sandal's that was still off the radar. Being a smaller hotel there weren't many activities or any crazy all-inclusive resort newlywed games. This gave us time to get to know some of the staff members well. Those relationships continued over repeat visits.

By our third trip to RP (2003) we knew Sibony and Hensley very well. These were two very fun and caring individuals. They asked if we would like them to take us to Bob Marley's grave - about 90 minutes away from our location. Hensley would borrow a friend's car and asked if we could just pay some money, like a rental. At first we were hesitant, not that we didn't trust them, but what was the condition of the car?ow long of a trip is it? But the chance to go see Bob's birthplace and grave with friends could not be passed up.

Since this trip was technically against policy we couldn't talk about it. We did tell one other couple our in itinerary and to call out a search party if we weren't back by dinner. We walked off-property to the craft market across the street to be picked up in the older model small Nissan. We stopped at a nearby gas station while another staff-friend, Dave, saw us in the backseat with his coworkers. He just gave us that look of "what the hell are you up to."

We didn't realize that our tour would start in Fern Gully. This is a 9+ mile stretch right outside of Ocho Rios where you drive through a forest of giant ferns. We've never seen anything like it. If you are visiting Ochie, you could probably hire a cab for an hour to give you a tour - worth it. As we kept driving, we just kept our faces glued to the windows. This was our first time in the interior of the country. It was very pretty.

About an hour into the trip the car overheats. Luckily, this occurs in a small town. Within a few short minutes we had several people come over to help with water. This would never happen in America. Dave kinda remembers talking to one of the men, telling that guy would not happen at home, and the man replied that they had to help us as guests to their town and to their country. After a bit more time we were off and shortly arrived at Bob's grave. Hensley stayed outside, partly to watch the car, but we think also because he was not very fond of all the "Rastafarians" hanging around. That statement is in quotes because we think some of them were posers just so they could smoke in public. Bob's grave is one place where smoking for locals was tolerated.

So into the complex we go with Siboney. He was a great escort given his size. When we would get a barrage of offers to buy weed he'd wave them off and that was the end of the story.

Bob's grave is up in the mountains and has a great view of the surrounding countryside. We did talk to one or two legitimate rastas while on the property and heard stories about their customs and why Bob Marley was so important to them.


I think Siboney was more excited than we were to be there. There were so many points he wanted to stop and have his picture taken. At first we thought this was odd since he had been there before, but then we realized he didn't own a camera. So we snapped away...

Top: Bob's birthplace kitchen Bottom: chair inside the home
Once we were done with our tour we met back up with Hensley and took off back down the mountain. The car stero was playing some ol'its or "old hits" ska and rocksteady. That's when the police pulled us over. Uh oh, Babylon! Apparently two obvious tourists in the car with folks that look like locals leaving Bob Marley's grave is just-cause. We knew we shouldn't worry, but Hensley had time to run an errand...... They approached the vehicle with assault rifles in-tow. Our friends talked to the police in high-speed patois and we were eventually asked to get out of the car. They did a quick check and sent us back on our way. As suspected, a scenario like ours is usually suspicious. Our friends told the cops "not these people" and that seemed to work. On our way back to Ochie we stopped in Siboney's village and saw his soccer field - which was the cow pasture, with a view of the sea.

We were delivered around the corner from our hotel safe-and-sound. As we walked around property the rest of the day the staff asked us how we enjoyed our trip. Seemed like everyone knew our secret.

We're back at Royal Plantation this week. A lot of things are the same, but Hensley and Siboney are long gone. Working elsewhere around the island. Maybe the coconut telegraph can help us find them so we can meet up for drinks?


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