After relaxing beachside, we picked up some stalks of sugarcane to chew on and walked back to the car. It was onward towards Negril via the A1 Highway, which winds its way along the coast. The estimated hour and 40 minutes ended up taking us nearly three hours, because around every bend in the road seemed to hold an excellent photo opportunity.
Finally, we were in Negril, which turned out to be a long strip of resorts, guest cottages, and hostels. After checking out a few of them, we went with the Villa Mora Cottages, on the other side of the road to the beach. At the front of the driveway to the place was a guy cooking jerk chicken in a re-purposed oil drum, which we later learned was voted one of the best jerk chicken places in all of Jamaica. His name is Marshall Campbell, but everyone knows him as “Step Aside.” For 400 JMD (about $5 USD), we each got a quarter of a chicken and a few slices of bread.
We wanted to check out the bar scene, and we heard of this club called The Jungle, which was only three doors down the street from our place. For $15, we could have unlimited drinks ’til 3am! But once we got to the gate, which was like the gate to a private home and two burly guards out front, we were told we couldn’t peek inside to see how it was. We’re used to New York City, so we decided instead to skip it and go drink on the beach. We went to the southern end of town, where the locals hang out, bought a bucket and a few six-packs and ice, and went back to the beach.
Soon, we were approached by a guy who asked if he could help us carry the bucket somewhere. After getting begged at on every corner throughout the day, I lost my cool and insisted that he leave. He picked the bucket up, trying to joke, but I was still annoyed and basically yelled at him to leave. He left, we drank, he passed by again and mumbled something then left, then he came by once more. This last time, he just took a seat next to me. I looked at him and asked him what he wanted, and he started saying that he’d like a beer. We had already given two beers to Step Aside, our jerk chicken guy on the way over, so we told this guy no. He pestered us and pestered, until finally he offered to go buy us more beer if we gave him the money to do so. When he left his phone and the fattest joint I had ever seen as collateral, we gave him $20, and he came back with two more six-packs of Red Stripe, to add to the two we had and our bottle of Appleton Estate rum. We then started talking, and soon we were all laughing and having a grand ol’ time together.
All of a sudden, a booming voice calls out to us. He is standing between our beach chairs, and the moon behind him obscures his features. “Step aside!” Joseph and I looked at each other, we thought we were busted for smoking and drinking on the beach. But then Rohan (the guy who had first joined us) started talking to him, and then translated to us. “Step Aside wants another beer,” he said. We looked at him and then the other guy and laughed. Our jerk chicken guy had sent this guy to fetch more beers for him! The new guy, Amin, soon sat down and we forgot about Step Aside’s beer request. We all drank, and Amin told us he knew us because he was the security guard at the cottage where we were staying. Some security they have, huh?
When we were all drunk and high, we learned that there was a big concert going on about half a mile down the beach, by Bunny Wailer, the famous reggae musician who had been in the same group as Bob Marley. We went over there, and though we were late, Rohan found a hole in the fence and we got in for a bit.
We stumbled back to the hotel soon after, but not before getting some more jerk chicken to tide us over for the night. The next morning, we got up, showered, then it was off to drive back to Montego Bay to catch our early-afternoon flight back home. The drive was quite pleasurable this time around, as we saw many locals walking down the road in their Sunday’s best, ready for church. After stopping for some beef patties and coffee at Tapatop, some roadside stand, we were back at the airport. Soon, we were on the plane, leaving this strange paradise for freezing temperatures once again.
*If you’re wondering what the title means, my hometown, New York City, has a borough (1 of the 5) called Queens. One of the neighborhoods in Queens is Jamaica, which is also where JFK International Airport is located. So technically, the trip to Jamaica started in Jamaica. 718 is the first and most-recognizeable of the phone dialing area codes of Brooklyn and Queens. My flight back from Jamaica with Delta was DL #718, so I guess I took the 718 back to the 718 – JFK in Queens, then my home in Brooklyn.
*Thanks to my travel companion and one of my dearest friends, Joseph, for taking most of these great photos!