I keep thinking to myself “don’t just post about the great times you have on the weekend. People want to know about your everyday life as well – about the Cuso volunteer experience, and working in a new country, and how you spend your days.” I will definitely write more of those posts, but … the weekends are just so fantastic!

Today was a day I have been anticipating since I first Googled “Best beaches in Kingston” – which I did about three days after I applied for this placement. Today was my first trip to Lime Cay, a wee uninhabited islet just outside Kingston, accessible only by boat. Lime Cay is one bus ride, one boat ride, and an entire world away from life in Kingston.

I had made plans with 2 more experienced Cuso-related friends (one is a former Cuso volunteer who was hired by her organization, which I just think is so cool and huge testament to the difference she made during her placement) – and we met first at the main downtown bus terminus, Parade. Parade is interesting enough to warrant it’s own blog post, so for now I’ll simply say it’s an experience, and an important meeting point.

Travelling friends met (even if we did have to plead with the bus driver to wait just a minute for one of us), we headed out through Kingston, past Norman Manley International Airport, and down the Palisadoes to Port Royal. We didn’t take time today to explore this former garrison town and one-time capital of Jamaica, but I look forward to doing that when my history-loving son visits at Christmas. Instead, we headed straight down the road towards the water, quickly hailed by a stander-by who let us know that Herbie of the SS Geraldine was the captain for us.

For those not rich enough to have their own boat (at different points in the day both a cabin cruiser and a yacht anchored just off the island) fishing skiff captains are happy to deliver you to Lime Cay. Herbie was a gentleman, offered us a great deal ($1000 each for a round trip), waited while we provisioned at  the wee convenience store (Ting, rum, Red Stripe, banana chips, and big big bottles of water makes an excellent beach picnic). Herbie also procured for us a massive block of ice for the cooler Karen had borrowed for the day – making him even more of a hero.

And, with that, we were off. We reached Lime Cay in 15 or 20 minutes, arriving around 11 am, and decided we’d make the most of the day and ask Herbie to return at 4 pm. In retrospect, my bright red spots tell me that may have been too long. They also tell me to apply my sunscreen more evenly and more often. But I digress.

Lime Cay is everything you could want in a desert (deserted?) island – it is peaceful, it has interesting physical features, the water is warm and the shoreline mellow. You do have to watch out for the urchins – is this case of the sea variety, not as in young children relentlessly hawking sweets as you’ll find at most other beaches in the area (hawkers are actually prohibited on Lime Cay). Although she was the one to highlight the spiny danger for us, Karen was – unfortunately – the one to step on one hidden in a pile of seaweed. There didn’t seem to be lasting ill-effects, but it did make us all a little more vigilant for the rest of the afternoon.

When we first arrived at the island we could see evidence of only one other person – his clothes hanging in a tree beside snorkel-gear packaging. After a few minutes we saw a head and snorkel going by. If a snorkeler can pace, that is what our neighbour did all afternoon – back and forth, back and forth, for hours. Eventually others came – couples, a family, an older woman enjoying her rum and spliff in peace. There was plenty of room for us each to have our own spot of paradise.

After a brief wander from one end to the other just to explore, we found a sunny spot that edged against a shady grove, put the cooler in the shade, and commenced relaxing. The three of us had hardly stopped smiling since we first got on the bus. Now our grins turned into bliss. We’d each brought something to read, something to lay on, and a need to fully unwind. And unwind we did.

It is so lovely to spend a day with people who have space for you to do your own thing (I wandered off with my camera for a bit to see what I could see) but whose company you also enjoy. We had great conversation and great quiet time. We swam, in ones or twos or all three of us together. I made more use of the shady glen than my friends did, and still ended up redder than either. Somehow time stopped and yet 4pm came all of a sudden.

Back in Port Royal we had dinner at Gloria’s, which is arguably the most famous beach seafood restaurant in the region. They are also infamous for their slow service, but it’s a big place and was fairly busy, and once we got our drinks we were happy to just sit and watch the people and the sunset. All three of us had lobster – 2 grilled and one in curry. I had been looking so forward to it after my fabulous experience at Hellshire, but somehow this one missed the mark. It was larger than the lobster at Hellshire, but bland and rubbery, which was a disappointment. Somehow I still managed to eat the whole thing.

Fed, watered, and tired we headed back to the corner the bus would ‘soon come’ to. ‘Soon come’ is a Jamaican phrase that can mean anything from “I’ll be right back” to “it’ll get here when it gets here.” In this case, it turned out the meaning was the latter. And so we sat curbside underneath the lights and sounds of a typical Jamaican bar – Wray and Nephew banners flying and cheesy 80’s music blaring. The DJ took a shine to our Hannah, so when she asked for some Lionel Ritchie we got a 30 year retrospective. Mr. DJ must have only had Lionel’s greatest hits album, however, since we were soon listening to Kenny Rogers and Jimmy Buffett and the best of what I can only call disco-soul.

The bus eventually arrived, but we had one more adventure in store. What should have been the simplest part of the day – sharing a taxi from Parade back to our respective homes was … interesting. I have not been that terrified in a car since the first week I arrived in Kingston. And, to our amazement, five minutes into the ride our cabbie asked for a plastic bag to be passed from the back seat and then pulled up behind a car that was on the side of the road with its four-way flashers one. The baggie, inevitably, was stuffed with weed. Which he sold? delivered? to the car, then ran across the road to buy oil and top up the other car. It was surreal. And annoying. Tired, dehyrdrated, and did I mention tired, I don’t think any of the three of us knew what to make of the whole thing, but I was thrilled to be the first one dropped off.

Tomorrow I will once again stay out of the sun to give my skin a rest. I will read, and watch TV, and pamper my burns and smile thinking of one more fabulous Jamaica memory made with fabulous Jamaica friends.