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Archive for the ‘Caribe’ Category

Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens.

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above

The soft sands and the gin clear water on Negril, Jamaica’s Seven Mile Beach demand a lofty vision.

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Sunkist2 Island Traveler

This page gives you a little insight of my Travels through my lens.

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El Portillo, Samana, DR

On a road less traveled, over the foothills to the Copra Groves of El Portillo, D.R., few see vehicals.

On a road less traveled, over the foothills of Las Terrenas, to the Copra Groves of El Portillo, D.R., few see vehicles. Time to slow the journey.

The destination is the journey.

The destination is the journey.

I love this road trip and when taken, from Puerto Plata, the culture of the countryside unfolds for me.

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No Problem, Mon, Every ting is Irie!

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My purchase of the vinyl record Rastaman Vibrations in 1976 got me started.  The rest all fell into place, as I picked up guitar, and listened to the Bob Marley lyrics.  Sure, I remember the “ska” tunes of Desmond Dekker’s  The Israelites, and the My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small.  Each had the lilting sway of the island beat and the swagger of Reggae roots.  But, Jimmy Cliff, the Marley Clan, and those Jamaican pioneers of the 70’s showed that one did not have to be a Rastafarian to feel the vibe.

The tribute to artist Bob Marley for the 2013 55th Grammy Awards Ceremony and the emergence of a slew of media advertisements featuring artist Jimmy Cliff at the 2013 Super Bowl Championship for Volkswagen is an image of respect to two of the Jamaican culture’s strongest emotions.  Harmony and independence are summed up in the Jamaican Nation’s independence motto:   Out of Many One People.

Negril Beach posseProfessor Dr. Carolyn Joy Cooper, literary scholar of the Department of Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona Jamaica has worked  for the preservation or as she says: ” of the vernacular – that the genuine Jamaicans embraces so wholeheartedly. The class structure is of such that some considers others to be illiterate if they embark on the illumination of the common language of the locals.”  Patois is the distinctive Jamaican language or as ‘Patwa’ being the preferred language of youth.

I began to learn Patwa twenty plus years ago on the beach from Jamaicans. Back-a-Yard, the gathering place of family life, board games, BBQ and Redstripe is the proper place for complete Patwa education. The commitment in the preservation of the Jamaican Creole dialect needs to be supported as true Jamaican Tongue.

IM NEVA NAA BADDA MI, FI WHA GWAAN BACK A YARD IM A JAH KNOW.  ZEEN?   That’s the attitude:” Mind your business and your neighbor’s issues are between he and his maker.” “Do you understand?”

Elvis rules the beachIn that VW Commercial the blonde Tow-Haired Fellow from Minnesota pulls the Beetle into the Managers parking spot after a too long lunch hour and says: EVERY TING CRIS ( “groovy”), BOSS MON?  That is: “Go with the flow, Volks.”

How can you not love this Language.  Want to learn more?  Take a couple of mile stroll along the seven mile sugar sand beach of Negril, Jamaica one day.  For now , ” Respec’, Brudder Mon!”

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Idyllic and tranquil are the two regular descriptions of Jamaica’s Western point of Negril.

This exposed region hosts a seven mile beach of white sugar sand and the proverbial “gin clear water” of this reef protected district.  Negril beach and the nearby West End Cliffs supports a number of small family run hotels and a few larger all-inclusive resorts. October 21, 2012 5:00PM local Kingston television news began reporting the stalling of the 90 L weather front at 200 nautical miles due south of the island, the name Sandy was uttered.  Mid-October brings the usual tropic afternoon thunderhead cloud formations to this part of Jamaica.  They build with a light sea breeze and the Westmoreland Parish mountains beyond the Great Morass wrings the moisture out of the passing formations with a dense soaking at two or three PM each day. All are prepared for a ten minute rush to shelter from the front and then back to the most gorgeous late afternoon sunsets.  October 24th was no different. Yet this day. the tone changed at two o’clock.

I spoke to the hotel owner, who had anxiously walked the beach near the moored dive boats and non motorized watercraft. He asks: “Do you believe the reports?”  I had been monitoring several online weather services and the numerous models. Stormcarib.com has become a staple for me.  We both knew the answer. One hour later all his boats had steamed east to the town of Lucea, and the safeharbor sheltered up the nearby river.  The beachboys, 15 in total, organized and hauled the windsurfers, pedalboats, hobiecats and all to the grassy areas well beyond the beach. Next came the chaise lounges numbering in the hundreds.  When the season is in full swing these chaises reach from the cocopalms to the water’s edge and carpet the several hundred yards of frontage. In the three hours before sunset, all were stacked and stored beyond the hotel’s buildings. Tensions began to mount as several communications of the storm preparations were placed under the hotel room doors. Occupancy was at 79% and the staff at 100%.  The beach scene was an eerie vision: light waves lapping the shore, a glimmer of sun filtering down through intermittent breaks in the purple-gray thunderheads and a handful of humans roamed the water’s edge. The lighter side of the whole circumstance came when all was secured by the beachboy staff.  The soccer ball was produced and the goals drawn in the sand for a rollicking game by the most hearty staff.

Soon the Ground’s Keeper crew emerged, as they proceeded to pull the weakest limbs from the cocopalms and surrounding vegetation. The tractor and wheelbarrows were filled. These precautions included the open air dining rooms, where the potted planters were brought in from the perimeter of the exposed regions.  These folks knew their jobs and silently all were carried out. The night of October 23, Tuesday, the diners found wonderful meals and rum punches flowed.  The eyewall of Sandy stood a mere ninety miles south of Kingston, Jamaica.  All models determined a direct hit at hurricane strength within 20 hours.  As the gusts of winds began to pick up to 25 tp 30 knots, I knew the beach was prepared to take the brunt on the next day.

Wednesday, October 24th started with a break in the overcast and the sun poured onto the beach. Sadly, there were no chaise lounges. All was packed in preparation. The Beach Vendors were absent. Typically a vendor would pass every several minutes, but they were long gone.  The Health Club was boarded up tight and the Spa had sent all home to their families.  Lunch and dinner were sanctioned to the buffets in the two largest dining halls.  A memo under each door required the verandah furniture to be brought inside of each room.

THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

Negril is a low land area, more like a sandbar between sea and swamp.  The saving grace is the reef offshore approximately 3 KM out and sheltering most of the Seven Mile Beach and Bloody Bay. On a calm day, no waves break on the coral several feet beneath the surface.  On the morning of Wednesday, October 24, the gusts were picking up, and the seas were encroaching the sands.  The guests were gathered at the one swim-up bar; it was an active site. The beach bars were long closed and secured down.  Kingston TV reports were on full storm mode; anchors were taking the reports of the police and field reporters.  Sandy was making landfall in the eastern portion of Jamaica and east of Kingston was experiencing the  hit at 80 mile per hour winds.  In Negril, the winds rose and the seas churned higher, but the rain that was promised did not come.  Mudslides have ravaged the slopes of the hills in other areas in past storms.  Folklore prevails here in Jamaica.  There is a perception, call it a destiny, that storms with female names will pass-over the island. Hurricane Gilbert, Ivan and others lingered with infamy.

By 4:00 PM the rains came and the seas rolled, the cocopalms bent in the 60 mile wind gusts and the night concluded with sand blasting across the ground and walkways.  Most guests braved the elements to find dinner and then return to the security of their rooms. Thursday, October 25 let the world know that Sandy was focused and raging to the north. On Negril beach the licking was to begin.  The Jamaicans explained it perfectly: Hurricane Sandy was a ” Woman with a Tail”.  The seas continued to build and the reef did its best to protect.  Yet the waves threw fifteen foot monsters against the West End Cliffs and the Seven Mile Beach was strewn with seaweed and erosion swept away sand and shore. Negril still fared the best on this Birth of Sandy.  Other parts of the Eastern Regions did not do as well.  St. Anne Parish, Portland, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio all had disaster events and loss of life. Electricity, roads and bridges were out.  Still, Negril never lost power and the roads stayed open.  This was a blessing to an area of the world that evokes peace.  The path of Sandy could only have hoped for that fate.

Port Antonio to the East on Jamaica

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Flying in to Sint Maarten, W. I.Sometimes I think back to a short time before the 1995 Hurricane Luis hovered over Sint Maarten for those thirty-six immeasurable hours and I have to roll my closed eyes back in my nodding head and sigh,”What a waste.” An exposed and windy place is this point of land. No, it looks more like a jagged little island. It is connected to the ironshore coast, but the razor sharp edges of each foothold prevent any temptation to test a pair of Keds. The waves that suck under the hollows on the extreme verticals to the open sea leave the bellowing of the humpback’s long deserved breath. This is a rugged and exposed place. It does not invoke comfort. It is also the touchdown point of the island’s international airport.

When the bohemians found paradise, the Dutch side of this Sint Maarten/ St. Martin tiny island prospered. Small comfortable enclaves sprang up in the secluded nooks and bays. Not fancy, but club-like, these refuges built a following of word-of-mouth guests, who could not think of any alternative. Caravanseri began as this and continued to thrive through the nineteen eighties tourist boom while keeping the intimate character- a home in the tropics.

This brings me to the Pirate of Sint Maarten.

As my little de Havilland Twin-Otter aircraft hovered yards from touch down on the beach front landing strip, waving below was J.J. and the gang outside the villa at Caravanseri. It was a long day on the island of  Saba and my throat was begging for more than those steel cylinders carrying that beautiful air all during a scuba day at 100 feet below on  Saba’s ocean gardens.  At Caravanseri I knew my destination: the open air octogonal restaurant; the Bar, manned by Moncel and the “Pirate”. Fifteen mintutes later, having been hosed down with the villa’s outdoor shower and with a fresh linen shirt,  I was ready to roll. Moncel was ready. Two glasses in hand, and a grin on his face, he began to perform his magic.

THE PIRATE

1 OZ BRANDY
1/2 OZ GALIANO
1/2 OZ B AND B LIQUOR
1/2 OZ CONTREAU LIQUOR
1 OZ VODKA
2 TBLSPOONS CREAM
2 TBLSPOONS COCOCREAM
NUTMEG SPRINKLE
SHAKE ON ICE, SERVE IN A REAL TALL GLASS.

Hurricane Luis for 36 HoursThat year it was all gone ; just a nice piece of barren land with great waves crashing over those jagged rocks. All blown away; villa, octogonal bar, Moncel? (hope not); everything!  But you know, we still have the Pirate, though, we can leave Hurricane Luis for another two hundred years. Enjoy.
UPDATED from October 1999
The hotel was rebuilt under the name Millennium, only to be devastated once more by the 1998 storm: George.  After three months of repairs, it opened to be renamed Caravanseri with 75 rooms and a repaired restaurant on the cliff. Sadly a freak October 1999 storm again destroyed this hotel, shutting it down completely. Thank you Mother Nature!
UPDATE-September 2012 season   A time-sharing hotel of several stories and  re-named Caravanseri is on the location.  The octogonal restaurant is back in the islands. Where’s Moncel?

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 Still feelin’, Hot, Hot, Hot!

RegGay Blast Off RecordIt seems like ages, but only four years have passed since losing Byron Lee, an icon of the West Indian Culture, and five years from sitting  next to him on a Jamaican Air flight.

At 30,000 feet above the Caribbean, it is not hard to imagine the lilting sway of the coco palms to the music of the islands.  I was on my way to Jamaica and my thoughts drifted to the luxury and pampering I was to receive at a beautiful refuge on the Negril coastline of Jamaica. Yet, while sitting in the airplane seat next to Byron Lee of the orchestra Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, the heart and the rhythm of the islands came alive. Byron Lee, a legend of island music, had made his final tour before his death the following year in November, 2008.

During those past 43 years, Byron Lee had made an indelible mark of cultural style to world music.  On heading back to Jamaica from a September tour of the States, airliners were his lifeline to his home, family, and roots.  Calypso music enhanced with island soca style has infiltrated all parts our lives.  Byron Lee and a few others were the early pioneers of this now contemporary hit. Having finishing a 37 city tour, Byron’s focus was on the newest of over 52 recordings.  “Caribbean Sty-Lee” on V.P. Label was his fusion of the sounds of Bahamas, Trinidad, Belize, Barbados, and of course Jamaica.  That recording “flirts” with reggae, French souk, soca, and a Latin pulse.

Much of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires’ performance schedule included the regional Caribbean carnival scene and Mardi-Gras.  His tours took him to the heart of carnival in Trinidad and on though the season to St. Maarten, St. Croix, and St. Barth.  He toured each island and country while maintaining a band of 14 performers of trumpets, trombones, sax and singers, all backed by that unmistakable calypso sound.  North America has embraced the carnival and the Dragonaires toured to the cities of Toronto, Winnipeg, Miami, Atlanta, Orlando, and Brooklyn in NY.  Each city has a carnival to rival the best.

If  “Hot, Hot, Hot”, written by Byron in 1983, has not gotten you up on the dance floor, nothing could.  Other notable hits included “Dollar Wine”, written by Collin Lucas back in 1991, and Byron’s “Tiney Winey” in 1985, also preformed by Arrow.  The music transcends all ethnic lines.

What is the future for Byron Lee’s legacy?

Byron in the 80sHe leaves his family at his Jamaican home, “Sweet Music” in Stony Hill outside of Kingston, while sharing his successes with his grown children.  His concern for the music industry was strong.  As he related, the damage from piracy on the small label hurt the third world artist the hardest.  Fifteen to twenty percent loss to bootleg and piracy is difficult to overcome.  Artists need the support of the fan.  Wise words from an artist who got a break-through to perform several songs in the James Bond movie, Dr. No. in 1961.  When I asked him of his greatest fear, he mentioned the vague concept of retirement, and he turned with admiration to the memory of Ray Charles, who worked into his 70’s, for that lasting inspiration.

The Airliner A-320 was over azure blue sea and descending.  Byron Lee summed his career for me, “My music is a vitamin; it cleans the heart of hunger.”

The band has continued since Lee’s death at 73 years of age, with the name slightly altered to Byron Lee’s Dragonaires. Look for his music on V.P. Label or Atlantic or visit the website at http://www.byronleemusic.com/ and be sure to enjoy the legacy of Byron Lee’s art.

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Caribbean Bird Watching, an Aston Martin & Vodka Martinis

I love all the above.  The Peterson’s Guide to NorthAmerican Birding was the part of the reason. The book series by Ian Fleming: James Bond, and the ensuing countless films of the Queen’s Secret service agent, Bond, “James Bond”, found a place that will enthral me forever.

Birds of the West Indies, written by, yes, James Bond, is also one of my favorite books.  Bond was a remarkable man living and working in Port Antonio, Jamaica, West Indies.  Bond was a birder and illustrator, and became a friend of  Ian Fleming.  Fleming was an avid birder and keenly aware of Mr. Bond, American ornithologist and the book published in 1936. As a masculine unasuming Anglo-Saxon, Mr. James Bond was the perfect image to  model the character Agent Bond.  Agent 007 was born. 

Now, James Bond, the birder, started research in the 1920s in the area of Cuba and Hispanola, then Cozumel and Belize, and throughout the Antillean regions. I have carried the book to these places, as there is no better reference.  The color plates of parrots, hummingbirds, pigeons and doves are remarkable.  I recall a walk at dusk on El Portillo Beach, Samana, Dominican Republic and hearing, Woc- Woc.  Looking closer, I recognized on a low branch the long yellow legs, rich plumage back and stately crown of a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron.  This handsome bird was in the book and quickly checked on my list.  Then, some years later, I was priviledged to Scuba Dive off of Lyford Key, Nassau, Bahamas on the underwater wrecked frame of the Stealth Bomber of “Thunderball”, one of my favorite Bond films.

For me, each film and each tropical bird link the two Bonds together.  What Fleming film links them for you?

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