Road trip to Rose Hall and Half Moon

by Glen

Wednesday 11 Feb, Jamaica day 17, Montego Bay: Drive east to explore the Montego Bay area.

Last evening, while editing videos, we heard the all too familiar sound of the deck being carpet-bombed by a seagull. Or at least, some large capacity bird! Early this morning I went on deck for damage assessment. I really can’t imagine what this bird ate, but it made the worst carnage ever! Not just the usual white poop everywhere, though there is plenty of that too, but all sort of other nastiness. I think this bird must have been pooping and vomiting at the same time. There are lots of bits of rotting fish & fish bones, half digested bits of meat everywhere, and brown poop that I would normally only associate with a very sick dog. Absolutely dis-gust-ing. And I just cleaned the damned decks 2 days ago! It took me about an hour to clean off the boom, spray top, windscreen, life raft and decks. And left me rather stinky in the process: my only regret was that I didn’t take photographic evidence to be used to prosecute the gull, if I ever catch it. Anyone know how to DNA a gull from its bowl contents?

Over breakfast we call Budget for a rental car. Surprisingly, they will deliver and pick back up to/from the yacht club for no extra charge. So we agree on a 9:30am delivery and they actually do arrive bang on time. What service!
By 9:45am we are on our way towards Montego Bay town. As we leave the port area, there are hordes of passengers from the two cruise liners walking up the street heading for the beach and climbing into taxis. They are even queuing to get into the Hard Rock Cafe beach club.

Our plan was to have a quick walk around the town before heading off eastwards on the northern coast road. But a quick drive through the very busy and grubby streets was enough for us. Granted, it’s a tidier town than Kingston. It’s more on the lines of Port Antonio, but still not worth walking through. So fairly quickly we are on the road out of town heading for Rose Hall Great House, which is 30 minutes drive away. On the way, we pass several very fancy hotels on the coast side and equally fancy golf courses on the landward side. This really is the high-end tourist area of Jamaica.

And at The Rose Hall Great House we pay high-end entry price. $50 for us to get in! But it turns out to be worth it. We seem to have again made it before any crowds arrive and we get the first tour, with our own tour guide, who is very pleasant. The house itself is very grandeur and has a rather sinister history. Its impressive limestone structure was built in the mid 1700s by the owner of this former sugar cane plantation, which at that time covered 6500 acres with 2000 slaves. It was then passed down the family until the beautiful Annie came onto the scene in 1820 and married the then owner. She was very cruel to the slaves and soon earned the name “white witch” because she had been raised by a lady in Haiti who practiced and taught her voodoo.
In 9 short years Annie managed to murder 3 husbands and several slave lovers before she herself was murdered by a slave lover in 1830 at the age of 29. Later, several other people tried to live in the house but all came to a nasty end, rumored to have been down to Annie, who had once said “there will be no other mistress in this house other than me”. So the property ended up derelict till 1965 when an American purchased it and restored it to its former glory, then let it open for public viewing. And still no one has actually lived in the house since Annie died. The house and gardens are beautifully presented and inside the house is all period decoration and furnishings. Quite impressive and really gives you an impression of the high wealth these plantation owners had.

From the old house we head on upwards and view the wonderful “white witch” golf course. It’s scenery like this that tempt me to try to play golf, again. But “old-dog-new-tricks” and all that, I’m too old to learn golf now. I’ll stick with the less frustrating sports of sailing and kitesurfing 🙂

Next stop is the Hilton Hotel. To our surprise we have no resistance from the security gate guy when we use our usual “we are coming in for lunch”. He opens the barrier and we hear him mumble something about “…prearranged…”, but it’s too late, we are already through and off to the car park!
Once in, we wander around as usual. It’s all quite nice, with large pools areas and a water park with slides, but pretty crowded and not as exclusive as we imagined. The beach is really narrow and the water a muddy brown. We had planned to have a coffee at the beach bar, but when we get the menu there are no prices marked on it. So clearly this is an all-inclusive resort where we won’t be able to pay. So after 30 minutes exploration we quietly depart.

Our next resort plundering session is at the Half Moon Hotel. Here, we are interrogated at the security gate, but then allowed in. And oddly there are no modern barriers to enter through. Instead there are huge old raught iron gates that he has to manually open for us. But all is revealed later on this one. Once in, we drive to the east end of the resort where we had seen the beaches and swimming pool area on google maps. The gardens are really very well done and the whole place looks newly built to a very high standard with just 4 rooms to each of several cottages, surrounded by green lawns and the gardens.
After a quick wander around the pool, we head to the bar and look at a menu. Phew … this one has prices on, so we can be here as guests. And so we enjoy a very nice lunch looking over the pool. It feels like we are on holiday! We eat as slowly as possible while we absorb the scene around us, then retire in our swimwear to poolside chairs and towels. The infinity pool is beautiful, except that the water in it is quite murky. So we don’t venture in. Other than the pool water, this resort really does have an exclusive feel and a very relaxed ambiance. They even bring us complimentary drinks by the pool!

Once lunch has settled we take a stroll along the beach front, clicking some photos and video. All very nice. But clearly it’s a man made beach. Sand with a lot of stone and other bits. I joke that they’ve made the beach out of building rubble!
Before we depart, we decide to look at the other end of the resort which is much older. We expect to see some dilapidation, but quite the contrary. They have managed to retain, in full, its colonial heritage look and feel. The cottages along the beach are perfectly maintained and preserved. It’s absolutely wonderful and even more peaceful than the newer end. In the main hallway there are photos of various visitors over time: The Queen, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Sir Richard Branson, George Bush …. to name just a few. We joke that by the end of 2020 they will have our photo up there too! This beautiful old hotel also now explains the huge manual gates we had entered through… the pieces of the puzzle come together. We make a mental note to look it up on google and learn more about the history of the place.

From the Half Moon Hotel (and the fully relaxed “we’ve just been on vacation” mode) we head back to the boat via the supermarket. It’s all a bit “come back down to earth with a thump” type of feel! The traffic is a nightmare (it’s rush-hour) and food shopping is never our favorite task. But it has to be done while we have the car. Not to mention Cayman Islands will be much more expensive than here.

We are back on Cloudy by early evening after a lovely day out. Nice to have a rental car and not drive huge distances for once. It was a very leisurely chilled day.

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