Thursday 7 to Sunday 10 December
Steph had again researched places to go. This time she suggested the Negril Royal Palm Reserve, described as ‘a beautiful and tranquil forest within the Negril Great Morass and one of Jamaica’s leading Eco-tourism attractions’.
Our driver and guide, Otis didn’t know about the reserve, but with the help of a sketchy Lonely Planet map, Steph was able to direct him there. We arrived to find a closed gate and a sign that unauthorised persons were not permitted to enter without written permission.
Somehow Otis persuaded a young guard to let us in. We were greeted by a senior guard who must have been a guide in earlier days, because his knowledge was amazing. He let us creep up a small section of the boardwalk.
The little we saw of the reserve was amazing, with a 1.5km loop boardwalk over the wetlands, beautiful plants and birds in great numbers. Unfortunately that was all we could see, and we were quickly ushered out of the reserve. Lonely Planet says Officially closed to the public due to lack of interest – however many other sites are still promoting it..
Our next stop was lunch at the Kuyaba Resort on Negril’s 7 mile beach, which is really only 4 miles long. It is one of Jamaica’s famous beaches, and a lovely place to sit and spend an hour or two watching the beach vendors ply their trade.
Travelling further south east, we were taken to Rick’s Cafe where Otis challenged us to jump off the rock. I can’t explain it any better that Evan did on his Facebook page…
Then it started to rain, and that was cold, so we left Rick’s Café for the other tourists and headed home. It was a 1.5 hour journey back to our villa, a sleepy drive.
From 8 am on 8 December we started celebrating Bruce’s 70th birthday. It was, after all, midnight on 9 December in Melbourne, his place of birth. After a long breakfast the staff sent us to the Rose Hall Beach Club. Here Hayden and Evan arranged a catamaran sail for Bruce. It wasn’t part of our access rights at the Jewel Grande resort, but with a little negotiating and some hard cash, they were taken out into the bay for a very quick sail with an authorised sailor. Not quite the best sailing experience, but I think Bruce enjoyed being back on the water.
At the appointed hour of 4 o’clock Otis returned to pick us up. The staff had arranged a surprise party for Bruce, with cake and decorations. There was beer and Mumm ready, and a happy birthday song with lots of photos.
Hayden and Evan had arranged a load of gifts, principally aimed at our upcoming adventure in Antarctica. A couple of extra batteries for his camera, feet and hand warmers and some seriously thick gloves with finger holes to operate his cameras.
The staff had suggested the House Boat Grill Restaurant for dinner. It was a great meal, on the top deck of boat moored in the Montego Bay Marine Park Fish Sanctuary. Unfortunately Andrea is not a good sailor so she was a little challenged.
This was our last night together as Hayden and Andrea were on an 8 am flight next day, to return to Berlin.
So Bruce’s real birthday was a quiet affair after the previous day’s festivities. We sat by the pool. I caught up with paperwork and made sure my computer was fully backed up. This was fortuitous as the next day my 6 year old ASUS died.
We went to Scotchies for dinner, treating ourselves to jerk chicken and pork and very spicy meat balls from a wood barbeque. It was all served up wrapped in foil, with beer to neck – real finger food.
It was a sad goodbye with both families as we have no definite plans to catch up again. We will just have to see what 2018 brings.