Sunday, March 1, 2020

Port Antonio

Port Antonio, Jamaica, post 2


The Last Word

We have had an extraordinary time in Jamaica but it is time to go.
Port Antonio park with Kanilela in the background, a beautiful place with wonderful people

In the final week our Guernsey Island friends, Jill and Tony, on s/v Nychea rented a car and we went to Moore Town, a Maroon Village high in a valley, nestled between the John Crow Mountains and the Blue Mountains. The Maroons are descendants of freed slaves who were granted tracks of land in the late 1700’s. Several of these settlements are in the central Cockpit area of Jamaica, Moore Town is the most easterly of the settlements. Nanny Moore, the matriarch of this group, negotiated the deed for Moore Town in 1784 and the community has been occupied ever since. Politically it is a self-governing body with a Coronel who is either appointed or if the appointment is contested, elected. As with most rural communities the Maroons are facing a depopulation as the young depart for the bigger towns and cities. You are welcome to visit the Maroon villages but they do want you to have a local guide to show you around and to explain their history, culture and present way of life.

As we entered Moore Town we were introduced to Theodore, a young man who had travelled extensively in the US and France as a chef and has returned to his home in Moore Town.  The valley is lush, verdant tropical rain forest with an amazing variety of flora. Theodore began our walk with a visit to the memorial to Nanny Moore and some more recent Coronels with an explanation of the history of Nanny’s negotiations to receive the original deed. We then walked to the pre-school to be greeted by the cutest group of children aged 2 years 8 months to 5 years 8 months. They are usually in two classes but one teacher was away and the remaining teacher, who I believe was Theodore’s cousin, introduced us to the group of probably twenty smiling faces. All wearing spotless uniforms and most of the little girls had beads braided into their little mini braids. Too sweet. They were very polite and even the youngest were at the blackboard doing arithmetic. Clearly this is the reason that members of this community have gone on to receive advanced degrees at Ivy League universities and one was a former Prime Minister of Jamaica.

We then went down the road a short distance to the Coronel’s house where Theodore introduced us to Mr. Lawrence who has been the Coronel since 1995. He is a very personable, engaging man who spent his early life away from the village in the merchant marines and in college. He told us of his return to Moore Town at the request of a group of towns people when a new Coronel was needed. As the Coronel he has represented the community at numerous international indigenous people’s conferences around the world, last year he was in the Seattle area. The Jamaican Maroon communities have a unifying body that brings the various community leaders together to discuss common challenges and possible solutions. Mr. Lawrence was going to attend one in the following month. He was a very soft spoken, thoughtful, intelligent man who clearly is committed to the sustainability of the community and gave freely of his time to visit with us on the veranda of his humble home. An hour to cherish and remember.

Theodore then took us on a twenty minute hike on a trail up to Nanny Falls. Along the way he pointed out numerous plants explaining both their herbal and nutritional properties as well as all the tropical fruits we encountered as well as cacao that is the source of chocolate. The hike was generally easy ending with a steep and slippery decent down to the pool at the bottom of the falls. We were the only people on the trail and at the falls. Although not the largest falls in Jamaica to our mind the best because of the sheer beauty and tranquillity of the location.

The tour ended with an excellent chicken rice and beans lunch prepared in the communal kitchen. I am not certain to what extent the village members eat at the community kitchen but definitely the elders all appeared to eat there. We all left feeling we had experienced something quite inspiring and wish the community enduring success. Thank you to Theodore and all.

Everold and George with Mags and me at Soldier's Camp, a great restaurant

On one of our final nights in Port Antonio George Munro took Mags and I out for dinner at “Soldier’s Camp” Restaurant set in a small suburb village on the south west edge of town. The owner, Everold Daley, is an ex-military chef who prepares the most excellent Jamaican meals. The restaurant is open air with large roofs shading the space which is adorned with the banners and flags of military organizations from around the world. Being with George we received the welcome of foreign dignitaries from the owner. It was a great note to end our Jamaican sojourn and to express our thanks and a good bye to George. He and his style of management of the Errol Flynn Marina were a large part of Jamaica being one of the best if not the best stop since leaving Vancouver.

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