Journeying To The Bob Marley House At Nine Mile: Part 1
Most people that go to Jamaica, tend to park themselves in their hotel and spend their time lounging on the beach or poolside. Jamaica, whether fairly or unfairly has a reputation for being a little dangerous. I was shocked the first time we went there, to find out it consistently ranks in the top five for homicide rates in the world. In fact, the US State Department has a level 3 travel (Reconsider Travel) advisory for the entire country, and even level 4 (Do Not Travel) for some parts of the country.
It’s really hard to believe this can be true when you’re hanging out at the beach, but the reality is the reality. Nonetheless, while I wouldn’t really consider myself a massive Bob Marley fan, I’ve always felt he was one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century. His near-messianic status among Jamaicans, unbelievable aura, and incredible positivity always fascinated me. And come on… No Woman No Cry, Three Little Birds, Jamming, Buffalo Soldier – those songs rule.
So I asked around, and found out I could hire the same guy that drove us from the airport to the hotel we were staying. It would be an hour each way, and he would wait for me there. And everyone I talked to said I would be seeing “the real Jamaica” since Nine Mile (the town where he was born and buried) is pretty deep inland and up in the Blue Mountains.
The road there was… quite harrowing honestly. I’m no stranger to narrow, winding, congested roads, so it was not really that big of a deal for me. And my taxi driver Laurenzo, did nothing but exude confidence, even when going around blind turns with oncoming traffic on the same side of the road. But normally it’s me behind the wheel, so I reeeeeally had to trust him. And I could very easily see many people freaking out. No joke – at least 4 or 5 times he had to swerve out of the way of an oncoming speeding truck.
But it was true, this was the real Jamaica. No hotels, no tourists. In fact we drove through Browns Town, which is where many of the workers from our resort came from each day. Thinking about them taking those roads to work every single day just to get to work was crazy. As we got deeper into the island, we started climbing up into the mountains. While these aren’t very high mountains, the atmosphere was very different. It actually kind of sort of reminded me a little bit of the interior of Hawaii. This is not really a view you see often in the Caribbean.
And the driver was cool – he pointed out different points of interest and talked about the local towns and culture. Apparently in Jamaica, having a big house doesn’t mean you are rich, because people often start out with small houses and add on portions themselves. Also, aluminum dirt is apparently a big industry there, and the corporations have their own private roads. Like I was told, this is a Jamaica most visitors never see.
Also, I’m sorry to say this, but anyone who is afraid to leave their resort, with a taxi driver they arrange for with the hotel, is really telling on themselves. It’s really sad to go to a country, especially one with such a rich and complex history as Jamaica, and be too scared to leave the hotel. If you’re going to do that, why bother going anywhere outside the USA at all? You can just fly to Florida and sit on a beach, and probably have about as much chance of getting robbed as you would going slightly out of your comfort zone. Every all-inclusive resort on every island, in every country, is basically the same thing. Drinks all day, sit on the beach, gorge on breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lather, rinse, repeat. So you can certainly allow yourself a half day to get out and meet the locals. If you’re too scared to do that, don’t bother going to their country.
Anyway, about 30 minutes into the drive it started raining, which made the road even more… fun.
As we approached the outskirts of Nine Mile, the Bob Marley graffiti really started ramping up. You could tell you were getting close. The rain, which has been pretty steady for the previous 20 minutes or so suddenly stopped almost as abruptly as it started. Later on, when we were heading back, the rain picked back up exactly where it had stopped on the way up. Like Bob’s vibes somehow kept the rain clouds at bay. I mean, obviously not, but it was sure fun to think that at the time.
Then, as we drove through the town, with no real warning and seemingly all at once, a couple of giant double doors (literally like the entrance to a 17th century fortress) opened to the left of us and we drove into the compound.
I was immediately greeted by a giant mural of Bob, and a worker who offered me a Red Stripe beer for $5. I was staying at an all-inclusive resort where I got these for free whenever I wanted, but I figured I would just go with the flow. You know, yah mon and all that. I paid the $30 entry fee (yes they take American Express at the Bob Marley house) went up a bunch of stairs to a waiting area, that was also a bar. There were a few other tourists waiting for the tour to start, and they were drinking some flaming “Bob Marley shot” drink. Literally it was on fire and they drank it through a straw. I’m more of a whiskey (and non gimmicky drink) guy, so I was content to just sip on my Red Stripe.
At this point Laurenzo went to wait at the car, and I hung out with the other tourists waiting for our tour guide to arrive. None of us were particularly prepared for him, but we’ll talk more about that in the next post, coming soon. Stay tuned.
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