Should You Go To The Bob Marley House In Nine Mile?

Should You Go To The Bob Marley House In Nine Mile?

In my last post, I talked about the trip up to the Bob Marley House in Nine Mile, Jamaica. Read that if you’d like to learn about the journey, or read on for my experience at the house itself…

View from Bob Marley compound
This is definitely not the Jamaica you see at the resorts! The place was laid out like a colonial fortress.

After waiting for really just a few minutes, our tour guide arrived. My only regret of the entire experience was that I never got a picture of “Captain Crazy” as he introduced himself. What can I say about the Captain… he was definitely pretty crazy! He kept making intentionally bad jokes and laughing at them with a big “aahhh haaaa haaaa haaaa” – like basically if you close your eyes and imagine a 60-ish year old, missing quite a few teeth, stoned, rastafarian dude, wearing a yellow shirt that says “Smilin’ Island” – then you are imagining Captain Crazy. He was fine, the other tourists loved his silly jokes, and I appreciated them for what they were too.

Also, before we continue, quick pro tip: wear sandals or flip flops, no socks, since you’ll be taking your shoes off a few times.

We were taken through the house that Marley was raised in, as well as the surrounding areas. We learned about his childhood and life, which I won’t repeat here, you can always read the Wikipedia article if you’re curious. One thing that shocked me honestly was that he was far from the only person in his family to die young, many of his siblings and other relatives met tragic ends in all kinds of terrible ways.

Lots of cool Bob Marley memorabilia at his house. Not quite a full museum-worth, but plenty.

About five minutes after hearing this, we were offered, by a seemingly random dude, to buy (and smoke) some joints. I was coming back to a 5 year old and a baby, so no thanks. Would I be interested instead in some weed-laced gummies? Also, no thanks. But the guy wasn’t pushy or anything so it was cool.

After the main house, we walked into what I would describe as the town square of the compound (really it was like a fortress with several buildings surrounded by walls and separated by open areas) where a tribute band was playing Bob Marley greatest hits. They were pretty good! The other tourists were dancing with each other, but I was alone so I just kind nodded along. There was also a restaurant there, with – you guessed it – marijuana-laced cakes and other desserts. Not sure if the entrées/other courses had weed as well, but I wasn’t really in a place to find out.

We then proceeded up a path to the top of the mountain where Bob and his mother are buried. Captain Crazy pointed out a “magic” plant the wilted when he touched it, which he promised would be back to normal when we came back down. I was the only person who noticed he had an ice cube in his hand, so I assume it was just a reaction to the cold.

At the top of the hill was another small house where Marley apparently wrote “Is this Love” – the “single bed” is still there. We then saw a meditation stone where Marley would meditate and come up with lyrics. This was also in another (lesser known) song called “Talking Blues”.

Is this love
“We’ll share the shelter… of my single bed.”

Now it was time for the main event, the final resting place of the legend Bob Marley. Things got a little more solemn now, as pictures and video were strictly forbidden in the mausoleum room. And we were instructed to take off our shoes before going in. We were told about how Marley’s death was suspicious, and how there were rumors the CIA was behind it (he actually died of skin cancer, which would have required the amputation of his big toe but he refused as doing that would affect his stage performances), as he had actually survived an earlier assassination attempt.

But lest you be concerned that things at the Bob Marley compound ever get too serious, we were treated to one more Captain Crazy joke, when he saw I was wearing Nikes:

Captain Crazy: Ok everyone, now time to take off your shoes… ESPECIALLY Nike shoes.

*silence as everyone starts taking their shoes off*

CC (to me): Ask me why?

Me (cringing in advance): Why… ?

CC: Just DO iiiiiiiitttttt. Ahhh haaaa! Haaaa! Haaaaaaaaa!

Exterior shot of the mausoleum where Bob Marley is buried.
R.I.P Bob. Thanks for all the joy you brought to the world.

The mausoleum itself was an interesting experience. They give you a lit candle (although somehow I didn’t get one, maybe it was because I was wearing Nikes) that you’re supposed to walk around the grave with and then tell Bob Marley what you want to say to him and then blow it out. At least one of the other tourists was crying. I thought it was tasteful and nice, but again… I appreciate the man, and I appreciate his music and all that be brought to the world, but I never had an intense emotional connection to him, so I just quietly walked around (without a candle), barefoot, gave a little nod and went outside again.

Next to Bob is his monther’s grave. I really didn’t want to take my shoes off again so I stayed at the entrance outside. There was also a tiny church with maybe 30 seats nearby, but I don’t think Mr. Crazy explained much about it. After that, we were offered one more marijuana-laced item – this time it was tea. Somehow this seemed more tempting than the cakes and joints and all, but again I turned it down. We headed back down the hill where lo and behold the magic plants had recovered.

4:20 in Bob Marley's Kitchen.
Check out what time the stopped clock shows. It’s always 4:20 in Bob Marley’s house…

At the bottom Captain Crazy said the tour had concluded and he would accept tips, to which I finally took the chance to get him back and say “sorry I don’t have any money, I spent it all on these Nikes… … … haaaaa haaa haaaaaaa!” before handing him the $15 I had left in my wallet. Which to be fair to him, he laughed along and gave me a fist bump.

And that was that. There was another opportunity to buy stuff at a huge gift shop (they also takee American Express) which you have to walk through to get to the exit. I did end up buying some stuff (pay attention to what you buy, as most of it is made in China, but some is produced by local artists), but honestly the whole store experience felt a little corporate and not really in the spirit of the place. As I headed out to rejoin Laurenzo, I saw another tour guide with a much larger group heading for the entrance. Captain Crazy had vanished though.

The grounds are really very nice. This was the path up to the mausoleums with the “magic” plants.

I got into the car and started the long road back to my resort. On the way back I had a long conversation with Laurenzo about the location, Bob Marley conspiracies, and Jamaica in general. It was really interesting – apparently the road we were on was “the Queen’s road” as it had been built ahead of one of her royal visits. Apparently, the other, older road into the mountains is actually far far worse. Jamaica, while independent, still is nominally a “constitutional monarchy” with the British royal family as the reigning head of state. Like Canada basically. We talked a little bit about colonialism (Columbus didn’t discover nothin!) and how Jamaica unfairly gets a bad rap for crime. All this as he continued dodging oncoming traffic around the blind turns. It was certainly something!

Eventually I got back to the hotel and shared my stories with Ariel and our friends. That night we all did karaoke – Ariel and I sang Three Little Birds.

So was it worth the effort getting there? It was surely a long trek to get back and forth from where we were staying (over an hour in each direction) while the time spent there was about an hour. And we were much closer than the big resorts in Montego Bay. I suppose you could stay longer at the bar, or really have a nutty experience with weed cakes, joints, tea and such. And I bet that is where the real magic lies, because I can just imagine that vibing to a live Bob Marley tribute band, at his house, while smoking a doobie, would probably be a pretty insane experience. The tour itself is rather short, although certainly worth the cost of entry. I’m just not 100% sure it’s worth the journey if that’s all you’re going for — unless you’re a huge Marley fan that is. I enjoyed it, but that’s also because I enjoyed the trip getting there and am an absolute sucker for off-the-beaten-path kinds of places.

Verdict: A trippy, off-beat, way-out-of-the-way, hidden gem. Yah mon, this is great use of the time you are given.

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