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Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

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sutherlin, va
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Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

This is the first trip to Negril where we have had to book the ride

to the hotel in Negril as they have always been included in our package deals before. I see Clive's mentioned frequently-is this who you would recommend?

We have a friend who will carry us around Negril but we need someone reliable for transfers to and from the airport especially getting back for the return flight. We have stressed before about missing a flight home (on the last trip the shuttle was over 2 hrs. late).

Thanks so much for the advice!

p.s. Does anyone remember what the road to Negril used to be like?My son still calls that one of his most exciting adventures!

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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1. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

I really enjoyed my transfers with Clives last year, and they are the most reasonably priced too.

Los Angeles...
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2. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

Yes, Clive's is excellent, as are many others you'll see recommended on this board.

Not sure if Clive Sr. is currently, but he used to be the President of JUTA, the government run taxi group.

His reputation is very important to him; in fact our last trip, there was a miscommunication by one of his staff and Clive's felt terrible. So, he comp'd our ride back to the airport for our return.

They have always been reliable; you can book directly from their website without a deposit. Prices are listed as well. MoBay to Negril is $20US/pp and includes a drink or beer. The price is slightly higher if you want a guaranteed private transfer.

They will pick you up in an A/C van, quite comfy.

The road these days is modern and easy fo the driver to navigate.

Your son must be referring to the "old" road from the back side of MoBay. I have been on that road a couple of times when heading to Anchovy to feed the hummingbirds at Rocklands.

Central Ohio
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for Negril, Port Antonio
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3. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

I remember the old road well. When the new one was being built we'd go through Anchovy but before that always the coast....I still like the "inside way" but the coast road is long gone....

If you haven't read the book Walk Good by Roland Reimer you might enjoy this excerpt:

ROAD TO NEGRIL

This is an excerpt (the second chapter) from a very long Trip Report, which is actually a book entitled ‘Walk Good’. I wrote the words with the Negril.com boardie community foremost in my mind. I would like to post the entire work as a series, but I will first have to get Negril.com approval.

Parts of this excerpt have been re-written to suit the tenor of this board. Any resemblance to real persons or places or events or things is purely coincidental, as this is a conjured work of pure escapism and should be taken as such.

Babylon by Bus (gentrified version) ‘Lang road draw swet, shaat cut draw blud'

There’s ‘Road to Negril’ chatter on the message board of the ‘Negril.com’ web site and some are saying that the rebuilding of the infamous road to Negril is almost complete!

Yeah, and I just put your check in the mail too pal.

Even during my first visit to Negril in 1976 there was a lot of talk about rebuilding the road, and that was a quarter of a century ago. But hey, maybe this time it is different. Maybe a miracle has happened. I’ll check the road out first hand when I get to Jamaica in twelve days.

In anticipation of my trip, I've been visiting the Negril.com message board every day. Many, many times a day in fact. I literally cannot wait to get to Negril. I’ve got a bad case of Pre-Negril-Syndrome. Reading the message board eases my PNS symptoms and at the same time gets me cranked up for the trip.

Apart from the beach and the sea and the people, one of the things that I look forward to on my regular visits to Negril is the trip from Montego Bay (MoBay) to Negril on the dreaded and legendary ‘Road to Negril’. The Negril souvenir shops sell T-shirts boasting ‘I Survived the Road to Negril’, depicting a battered old bus bouncing along a pot-holed road with luggage tumbling off the roof rack and rows of shocked looking, wide eyed tourists gaping out the windows. But the drive really isn't that bad. Oh yeah, there are a lot of potholes and big washouts after a rain, and those that travel it do get jounced around a lot, but Jamaica is a third world country. If I wanted an island experience with smooth roads, I'd go to Hawaii. The surface of the road to Negril, with all of its imperfections, is immaterial. It’s what is seen and experienced along the roadside that’s important.

Einstein said that with the right kind of vehicle, one could stretch time. Well I’ve found a way to do it without a fast starship. I just book a trip to Negril. The moment that I close the deal, time starts to slow down. The closer that I get to departure, the more it slows. The last two weeks are interminable. How can time drag so? I feel like I’m back in a stifling grade school classroom on a warm spring day, watching the clock, waiting for the home bell. Every day drags on, seemingly endless. Tick…………Tick………..Tick, even the seconds pass in slow motion. It’s as if some tiny invisible time-devil has grasped the second hand on the clock and is holding it back, sneering and snickering at me as I wait for the time to pass.

Then, about two days before departure, the time-devil lets go of the second hand and starts to push on the hour hand. I find myself in a flurry of wrapping things up at work, buying last minute items, washing and packing and going over lists to make sure everything is in readiness. I inevitably run out of time and leave for the airport feeling rushed and certain that I’ve forgotten something important, or perhaps left the garage door open.

Ultimately, I find myself sitting in the plane. A contented feeling, tinged with excitement, washes over me. It's as if I’m going home; in a way, I am. We're headed for the Montego Bay airport located in the northwestern part of the island. Montego Bay is the smaller of Jamaica's two international airports, the other is located in Kingston, the capital, on the eastern side of the island.

Jamaica, with a population of approximately 2.5 million, is the largest English speaking island in the Caribbean. The vast majority of Jamaicans are descendants of African slaves. Other groups include East Indians, Chinese and Europeans. This ethnic diversity is recognized in Jamaica's national motto, "Out of Many, One People."

Today is Saturday. For the first week of my stay in Jamaica I’ll be batching it. Amy, my fiancée, will be coming down next Saturday and six days later we’ll be married on the beach. A group of family members will also be coming to the island to help us celebrate our wedding. I’m looking forward to getting everybody together. Sometime during the next week I have to make sure that the wedding preparations are in place. Other than that my agenda is clear. The first week will be my time to reacquaint myself with Negril, a place that is never far from the forefront of my mind.

The Airbus 330 slows and descends between heaping mounds of cumulus clouds. Out the window I catch glimpses of the blues and greens of the Caribbean. The sea is spotted with white caps and the occasional long wake that trails behind a ship. There's a reggae beat coming over the airplane’s sound system and the mood on board is upbeat and anticipatory, happy chatter punctuated with bursts of laughter fills the cabin. Although this is a regular Toronto – MoBay scheduled flight, it feels like a holiday charter. Soon every window has a head blocking it. I watch the sea go by below us, we’re much lower and are getting very close now. I stomp my feet, they’re tingling with anticipation, I can hardly sit still. We begin our final turn into the MoBay airport. Through the window I see a sun-drenched island, rows of palms line the roadsides and in the distance a regiment of green hills overlook the airport.

With a land mass of 4,411 square miles, Jamaica is the third largest of the Caribbean islands. It’s 146 miles long and varies in width from 22 to 51 miles. The island is very mountainous. Almost half of its land mass lies above 1,000 feet and Blue Mountain Peak, the highest point on the island, is 7,402 feet above sea level.

We bump down onto the runway. Sporadic applause echoes through the cabin. It's a short taxi to the ramp. Momentarily the doors of the aircraft, front and rear, are opened. The heat and humidity of the island waft languorously through the cabin, and thankfully, the scent of the sea quickly disperses the stale bum smell left by 225 people who have just gotten up out of their seats after the four-hour flight.

I emerge from the cabin onto the deck of the old fashioned roll-up steps. The MoBay airport does not have the luxury of modern loading fingers, but there is a lot of construction around the terminal building and I expect that the new additions will include them. I’ll be sorry to see the old steps go. I step out of the plane into the dazzling tropical sunshine. It’s hot! I squint into the deep blue sky. Tall clouds crown the tops of the green hills to the east. The tropical sun licks my skin and the breeze off the sea flaps my shirt.

I consider stepping onto the hot tarmac at the MoBay airport the official beginning of my vacation. It is so nice to be back! What is it about this island that makes me feel so at home? Weeks of sun, sand and the warm Caribbean stretch enticingly ahead.

While walking through the terminal on the way to clear customs, it’s a habit of mine to check out the people who are in the departures area waiting to board their flights home. At the MoBay airport the arriving passengers pass by the departing passengers just before the turnoff for customs. They all look deeply tanned and so relaxed, sitting there with their packages of rum and woven hats. But they look more than just relaxed, there’s something else. It’s in their faces and in their body language. Even the children travelling with their parents have got that look. After many trips to Jamaica I think I’ve figured out what it is. Their vacations in the sun have drained them of the karmic sludge that builds up in those of us who live in the cold, drab cities of the northern climates. Their psyches have been given the once-over. Plucked out, de-gunked, cleaned and polished and put back in, imbued with new life. In Jamaica the Rastafarians have a special word for it, ‘ital’, meaning wholesome, natural, vital. Ital is also used to describe a way of life. The people waiting to board their flights back to reality look rejuvenated . . . they look ital.

In the short hallway just before customs we're greeted by a group of Jamaican folk singers and dancers. The ladies are dressed in multicolored, layered crinoline dresses and they’re wearing traditional headdress. A couple of men are strumming on guitars. They sing and sway as we pass by them on the way to the customs hall.

I join one of the lineups for customs. The MoBay customs hall is perpetually hot and stuffy, perhaps the agency thinks they can sweat out the interlopers or maybe they just haven’t discovered air conditioning yet. The customs and immigration agent is quick and polite, if a little stiff, “Where are you going?” Stamp, stamp. “Hold on to this paper,” he hands it to me. “Have a nice stay in Jamaica.” Then he beckons the next person in line.

I walk into the arrivals area, it’s a hubbub of activity. Like most airports, there are several bored looking people standing around, holding up signs bearing the names of arriving passengers. But these signs are different, they show the names of exotic hotel destinations or tour companies and some of them are painted with hibiscus blossoms. Each one holds the promise of an exciting tropical stay.

I’m surprised to see my own name on a sign being held up by a nice looking Jamaican lady in an Air Canada Vacations uniform. I approach her, “You’re looking for me?” I ask, curious as to why she needs to talk to me.

“Mr. Kahuna?” I nod. “Your hotel, ah,” she checks a sheet of paper, “Sam Sara, is overbooked, so we are sending you to another hotel on the beach, Legends.” She looks at me for a reaction. Legends, I know the place, it’s the sister hotel to Sam Sara. I’ve walked by it on the beach hundreds of times, but have never stopped in, not even to visit the bar.

“Legends is on the beach,” I said. The accommodations in Negril can be categorized as those on the beach and those on the cliffs to the west of town. Sam Sara is on the cliffs and I had I had been looking forward to a stay on the cliffs this trip.

“Yes, and it’s an upgrade too!” the agent replies, mistaking my response for enthusiasm. She opens a brochure and points to some promo photos of Legends.

This does nothing to appease me, as my experience with brochure photos versus reality has been universally disappointing.

“An upgrade?” I said, still unsure about the change in plans.

“Yes, and we are going to refund you two nights stay,” she added, as if it was unimportant.

“Oh, now you’re talking,” I said, my British blood awakening.

Smiling, she nods and hands me an envelope then points me towards the door to the airport’s bus yard, happy to have me on my way without incident. They say that change is opportunity, so I shrug my shoulders and thank her.

I’m halfway across the floor when she comes running after me. “Mr. Reimer!” What now, I wonder, hoping for additional refunds. “You are also entitled to a free dinner at Legends for you trouble. Just tell the restaurant manager who you are.”

“This gets better and better,” I tell her. An upgrade, a free meal, the beach, things are already starting to get interesting and I haven’t even left the airport.

I duck into the men’s room to doff my heavy golf shirt and change into a tank top. I had already changed into sandals and shorts in the stinky little bathroom on the plane. Some day I'll arrange my affairs so as to live in a climate where I can spend the rest of my days dressed in a wardrobe that consists entirely of shorts, sandals and a large variety of T-shirts and tank tops.

My luggage consists of a carry-on bag that is stuffed to capacity and one large, baggage-smasher proof, hard-shell Samsonite. It too is densely packed and is very heavy. I trundle it through the door to the bus parking lot and I’m immediately descended upon by a phalanx of red-capped, uniformed porters. I’ve been here before, so I’m ready for them. Two of them lunge for the handle of my big suitcase, but I put my shoulder down and use my high school football open field running skills to deftly dodge both of them. Another one comes at me from my right. His eyes are wide, he’s compact and looks powerful. He makes a grab and his hand locks momentarily onto the suitcase. I pull it hard to the left and dip. He loses his grip and I make a final short dash to the curb, the unofficial goal line. Touchdown! Triumphant, I feel like slamming my carry-on to the hot asphalt and doing a stupid dance.

The baggage porters at MoBay can be pretty aggressive. On one trip Amy and I were dropped of in front of the departures area and when I emerged from the bus about 20 seconds behind her I was surprised to see her engaged in a fierce tug-o-war with a porter who had nabbed her suitcase. It’s true, blondes really do have more fun.

The tropical sun is glaring harshly off the glass and chrome of the many busses and vans in the lot. I pop on my shades, my island ensemble now complete. I ask directions and eventually track down my ride to Negril. I see the driver standing beside the small bus in the shade of a big potted Ficus tree. I introduce myself, the tag on his shirt declares that his name is Lassive. Many people in Jamaican have names that conjure up images of past colonial times. I throw my carry-on bag onto the front seat of the bus, reserving the best seat for the trip to Negril. Lassive is a big sturdy guy about six feet tall. He has close-cropped hair, an easy smile and a deep voice. He obviously works out, his pecs and deltoids strain at the seams of his crisp white driver’s shirt. He’s a lady-killer, if Amy was here she would be swooning, and not because of the heat or humidity. Lassive grabs my big suitcase and easily manhandles it into an open window at the rear of the bus.

Several other passengers are standing around beside the bus, their ghostly blue-white limbs poking out of shorts and tank tops that haven’t been worn for months. I look at my own forearms, I'm so pale and the sun is so intense that I'm sure I can see the blood coursing through my veins. The other passengers look happy to be here but they still have an uptight air about them. I probably look the same to them. A couple of days in the sun will do wonders for us all.

Lassive consults his checklist and then gives us the signal to board the bus. "OK, lets go to Negril," he says. I jump into the front seat. The bare skin of my shoulders burns as it makes contact with the hot leatherette upholstery. Lassive cranks up the motor and the radio comes to life at full volume, blasting the interior of the bus with reggae music from IRIE 107.7, Jamaica’s coolest radio station.

"Sorry ‘bout dat!" Lassive yells. He turns the volume down, but just a little. He reaches under the driver’s seat and pulls out a little clear plastic bag filled with pieces of cut sugar cane. He turns around and holds the baggie up to the passengers, “ Have you tried sugar cane?” he asks. “Jus chew on it an’ suck it, it’s sweet,” he says. The baggie makes the rounds and everybody gets a couple of pieces. “But don’t spit it on my floor,” Lassive adds. After the sweet juice is sucked out of the cane, the stringy pulp is discarded.

On a good day, Negril is an hour and a half down the road, but depending on road construction, it can take much longer than that. We leave the airport and head into MoBay. At the exit to the airport we pass a long, low concrete sign, the large bas-relief letters, painted in a vibrant pink, call out;

“Welcome to Montego Bay”

Shortly thereafter, a more conventional sign urges us to;

“Drive, Ride and Walk Good”

Seeing these signs drives home the fact that I am finally, actually, and blessedly here.

We proceed on the left-hand side of the road of course, which feels strange, but only for the first few minutes. Jamaica used to be a British colony and the practice of driving on the wrong side of the road has been carried forward into modern times. And speed bumps here are called ‘sleeping policemen’ as they are in England.

Soon, another sign points the way to Negril and proclaims;

‘Negril 72 Km’

Measuring distances in kilometers is another vestige of British heritage.

We drive along the coast on the 'Hip Strip' where most of MoBay’s tourist establishments are located, passing the Breezes resort and a string of souvenir and jewelry shops. We pass the Margaritaville nightclub and the Doctor’s Cave Beach, MoBay’s only real beach.

There’s a twist in the road ahead, we approach it and slow down to navigate the curve. A group of young men are loitering on the corner. I pull my arm in the window, take off my watch and slip it into my carry-on bag.

Lassive looks at me, “Why you takin’ off your watch mon?” I suddenly realize he thinks that I’m afraid it’s going to get ripped off my arm by someone we pass on the street. But it’s not that at all, I have a habit of getting rid of the watch soon after I arrive on vacation. On top of that, it’s a $39.95 Timex Explorer so it really has little value.

“For the next three weeks I don’t care what time it is,” I tell him, ”all I have to know is whether it’s day time or night time.” For some reason, Lassive finds this extremely funny. He puts his head back and roars deep laughter, then looks back at the road still shaking his head and smiling.

This area of MoBay is commercially developed, we pass a McDonalds and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, the Colonel’s smiling face beaming out at us as we roar by. There’s a long smooth concrete wall, about six feet high, that corrals the commercial yards on the inland side of the road. It runs along for a fair stretch. Like a long extended billboard, it's painted in sections with advertisements for commercial establishments; plumbing and electrical services, drug stores, tours companies and all manner of other businesses.

Finally, we pop out the end of the Hip Strip at a big roundabout, another British colonial artifact. Here there’s another road sign informing us that Negril now lies 82 kilometers distant. It seems that, for our efforts in travelling the five kilometers from the airport, we have somehow regressed by 10 kilometers on the road to Negril.

Immediately beyond the roundabout Lassive slows the bus down to a crawl. Ahead of us, taking their time as they saunter across the road, is a straggling herd of cows. The cows in Jamaica come complete with horns. Big, impressive, long, sharp horns . . . just the way they were meant to be. These cows, perhaps emboldened by their bony outgrowths, are totally oblivious to the traffic. Lassive maneuvers the bus through a space between a couple of them and we are again on our way.

After that, the road straightens out but the surface is uneven. The traffic is thinner and we pick up speed and as we do the bus starts to rock from side to side. A car pulls out to pass us, music thumping from the inside. As it roars by the horn sounds, but not with a beep, instead it plays the first bar from ‘I wish I was in Dixie’. The car has been hand painted in the Rasta colours of red, green and yellow. The driver’s arm is out the window, waving as he passes. Lassive beeps the horn in response. Across the rear window of the car, in large glittering stick-on letters, is written, ‘Not Skeered’. Many Jamaican car owners decorate the darkly tinted windows of their vehicles with names or slogans. Other accessories, like big fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, are also common.

The road to the south of MoBay around the bay is in pretty good shape, but there’s not much to see here, the high ground to the left, the sea to the right. We pass a big sewage treatment plant to the sea-side of the road just before we turn to the west.

There’s evidence of the fabled roadwork along this part of the road. Long tracts of land paralleling the road have been expropriated and are in the process of being cleared of bush. We slow down, the traffic is lined up ahead of us. At the point where we approach a flagman there’s a collection of heavy equipment and dump trucks parked helter-skelter across the road. The trucks look as if they’ve had a hard life. One of them, its box loaded high with gravel, sits hunched forward, disabled by a front tire that has gone flat. Several men are standing around, hands on hips, looking resignedly at the tire.

Here a new bridge is under construction over one of the many small creeks that make their way down to the sea from the hills above. We get detoured off the main road through a small hamlet called Anchovy. A sign posted on a telephone pole proclaims that the 'Miss Anchovy Pageant’ will take place next week. The narrow road that winds through the village is extremely rough, no doubt made worse by all the traffic that has bee re-routed over it. Everything in the bus shakes and rattles with a vengeance, it’s impossible to carry on a conversation amid the clatter.

Soon we are back on the main road and free of construction. Lassive puts the hammer down and gets the bus careening down the narrow road. He sees me eyeing the speedometer.

“Don’t worry mon, every ‘ting is under control,” he assures me, “I drive dis trip t'ree times a day,” he says, holding up three fingers. I wish he would keep both hands on the wheel. We zoom past a truck parked on the left side of the road with only inches to spare, a shock wave of air blasts into the open window. I pull my arm in from the window again. Someone once described driving on Jamaican roads as ‘a near death experience’, I understand exactly what he meant.

Abandoned at the side of the road, almost completely covered in vegetation, is a derelict power-shovel, it's rusted and everything that is remotely utile has long ago been striped from its carcass.

Lassive seems to know everybody that passes in the opposite direction, beeping and waving at them as they go by. In fact, since we left the airport, he has used the horn continuously, and so does everyone else. The trip so far has been punctuated by ‘Beep!’ from our bus and Beep! Beep! in response from passing vehicles. To Jamaican drivers the horn is not an accessory, it is a vital necessity, more important than the vehicle’s brakes. I’ve heard that the first thing to go on Jamaican cars is the horn. I imagine the automobile horn repair and replacement shops here must do a thriving business.

We cross another new bridge at Great River. Just beyond, as we start the climb to Round Hill, I look back at MoBay. The view is spectacular! The blue ocean, the hills of the city dotted with buildings, the sweep of Montego Bay and the whole scene drenched in brilliant sunshine, it’s gloriously and totally Caribbean.

The further we get from the city, the more the road surface deteriorates. There are more potholes and narrow portions, especially when we pass through built up areas, but as the road gets worse the roadside gets correspondingly more interesting.

The first town we enter is Hopewell. The main street hugs the sea. On one corner blue tarps cover the stalls of a small produce market. Cars and people clog the street.

Just beyond Hopewell we pass one of the many seaside bars that literally line the roadside between MoBay and Negril. This one, called ‘The Old Steamer Beach Bar and Grill’, is located on the narrow strip of land between the road and the seashore and fronts a small strip of sandy beach. The skeletal wreck of an old coastal steamer lies in the water just offshore, its rusted boiler and ribs poking up out of the water. Local folklore has it that this particular steamer was run by a certain Captain Groome from the town of Rio Bueno on the north shore. Captain Groome reportedly used his ship to run guns to Cuba.

We roar past the exclusive Tyrall golf club, situated on land that was originally an expansive sugar plantation. To the left of the road is a large water wheel, built by slaves in the early 1800's and restored in the 1950's, that used to be part of the old sugar mill that was located here.

Next is the town of Sandy Bay. The town has been misnamed, there’s no beach here and the coast runs relatively straight, so there is no bay either. However, it’s an industrious looking town. There are quite a few buildings that are under construction and on a long gradual slope overlooking the sea is a large Jockey underwear manufacturing plant.

A big woman in a colorful dress is walking down the side of the road, balancing a basket filled with laundry on her head. Many Jamaicans still wash their laundry in rivers and streams. Lassive deftly avoids the lady then swerves back to hug the left side of the road as a truck coming from the other direction angles towards us to avoid a big pothole. This doesn’t phase Lassive, but it scares the hell out of me. Lassive turns around in his seat and asks if anyone wants to make a stop. If that truck had come one inch closer I would have had to make a stop at the nearest restroom. One of the guys in the back of the bus yells that he’s “really, really thirsty and needs a drink”. We pull over across from a roadside stop.

Thirsty and his woman disappear into the darkness of the bar, which is a rudimentary structure clad in unpainted, weathered boards. The outside is festooned with colorful liquor and beer advertising posters. There’s one of a dapper looking Jamaican man smiling and holding up a frosty bottle of Heineken. I almost change my mind about going into the bar. Soon Thirsty and woman emerge, he with an armful of Red Stripes.

We get back underway, a couple of chickens burst from the bush just ahead and dash for the other side of the road. They barely escape with their lives.

There is a nice open stretch of road here and we make good time. To seaside, a pelican swoops low over the water, looking for lunch. Inland, cows graze on verdant slopes below high jungle hills.

Ahead, the decaying stone ruins of an old sugar mill rise above the vegetation. The coastal area stretching south of MoBay and was once home to many large and prosperous sugar plantations that were constructed by the forced labour of imported African slaves. Due to the frequent and violent slave uprisings, the land here is stained with the blood of Jamaica's ancestors. We roll past crumbling foundation walls and the skeletal remains of a windmill tower, standing as a mute witness to past times.

Scattered here and there along the side of the road are ramshackle stands selling jelly coconuts, woodcarvings and assorted crafts. We pass one with a neat row of conch shells lined up like soldiers on parade, proudly showing their gleaming pink insides to all that pass.

We round a corner and there before us is Miskito Cove. The unique spelling of the name, Miskito Cove, stems from misspelling on old maps. It was named after Indians who traveled from the Musquito Shore on the eastern coast of modern Nicaragua. They used the cove as an entry point when on raiding parties to attack Jamaica's native Arawak Indians.

Miskito Cove is home to a small fishing village but equally important is its topography. It’s a narrow inlet, nearly a mile long, that's sheltered by a substantial reef that lies relatively close to shore. When high seas and hurricanes threaten, many of the local boat operators, including those from Negril, make a run for the protection of Miskito Cove.

Beyond Miskito Cove we get on to a lengthy stretch of straight road. Here there are signs of recent roadwork, the ground has been scraped bare and there are a couple of bulldozers parked at the side of the road, baking under the hot sun. The ground rises a little along this stretch and from the road we can see far out to sea. Lassive gets the bus rocking again. Suddenly he reaches down to his CB radio, which has been chattering quietly since we left the airport, and turns it up a little. I listen, between the static and crackling I can make out the word ‘Babylon’ being repeated several times. A tour bus passing in the opposite direction flashes its lights at us. We slow down to what seems like a crawl. Around the next corner there are several police cars parked by the side of the road in the shade of some tall trees. An officer is standing beside one of them, pointing a radar gun at us. I’m a bit surprised, I didn’t expect to see radar traps on Jamaican roads. We cruise by at regulation speed. Once past, Lassive smiles at me and says, “Babylon not gonna get I.”

There are more signs of construction along the way. At one ravine crossing there are several huge concrete bridge spans stacked along the embankments. I recall seeing them there last year, and the year before that. It looks like it will be a serious bridge someday, when someone finally gets around to building it.

A big brown sow wanders out into the road directly in front of the bus, Lassive jerks the wheel just in time to miss her but the right front wheel slams into a gaping pothole. The bus lurches and a woman in the back lets out a yelp. Lassive pounds his fist on the steering wheel and mutters something in patois that I can’t make out.

We approach the high headland that overlooks Lucea Harbour. There's a roadside beer stand and a hand-painted sign that claims;

Best View - Check it Out!

Partway down the slope of the headland are three large cylindrical tanks. At first glance they look like oil storage tanks, but in fact they serve as molasses reservoirs for National Rums Ltd. Each time I pass the molasses tanks I experience an inexplicable warm, fuzzy feeling in the pit of my stomach.

One of my favorite spots along the road to Negril is just ahead, a narrow bridge. This part of the road reminds me of sections of the famous ‘Road to Hana’ in Maui. We come around a tight left turn high above the sea and then the road dives steeply to the bottom of a hill. The road is very narrow, with space for only one and a half cars. There’s a high cliff to the left that is overgrown with tropical vegetation and to the right a sheer drop off to the sea. At the bottom of the hill there’s a tight turn and a single lane bridge. Road traffic must come to almost a complete stop to cross it. The resident entrepreneurs, taking advantage of this, have set up a small refreshment stand just before the bridge.

The narrow bridge is located on the eastern side of Lucea Harbour. Just beyond the bridge there’s a large flat plain where sugar cane is growing. The plants are topping off at ten feet, it will soon be time to harvest them.

Next we pass through Johnson Town, where a long strung-out collection of fishing huts line the south shore of the harbour.

We round the bay of Lucea Harbor and enter the town from the south. Lucea is the bustling capital of Hanover parish and the biggest town between MoBay and Negril. The town has a lot of character and, as Ricky Ricardo used to say, I love Lucea.

It’s Saturday, market day in Jamaica. The narrow main street of Lucea is completely clogged with people and vehicles. Some of the market goers pause to look into our bus as we creep past. I wonder how many hundreds of busses and vans pass by this way each week. Lassive slows the bus down to a crawl, weaving slowly through the crowd. The smells of fresh cooked patties, curry and jerk chicken intermingle and swirl deliciously through the open windows of the bus.

A pushcart filled with fresh cut sugar cane bearing a hand painted sign promising ‘Cool Drinks’ is partially blocking the road. Lassive leans on the horn, the pushcart pusher moves it slightly, yielding just enough space for us to squeeze by. Tinny music screeches from the roadside booth of a cassette tape vendor, competing with the booming dancehall vibes coming from the bar across the street. We finally emerge from the chaos of the market and veer to the left up the hill that overlooks Lucea.

The City Hall, an old building that used to be the Lucea Courthouse, dates back to the 1800’s. It's built on the side of the hill and is crowned with a magnificent, four-sided clock tower. The clock has been running since 1817 and to this day it keeps perfect time. The clock was built by European craftsman and was intended for delivery to the island of St. Lucia. However, the Lucea townspeople, who were quite taken by its beauty and exquisite craftsmanship, refused to exchange the clock for the one that they had ordered. Instead they kept it and took up a collection to make up the difference.

The clock tower itself was the gift of a wealthy German landowner. He immortalized his ancestry by having the roof of the tower built in the shape of an old Prussian army helmet, resembling those worn by the Royal Guards of Germany.

At the top of the hill there’s a small sign that points to Negril and we make a right, heading back to seaward. But this road is clogged with cars too and soon we see the reason why, there is a funeral in progress at the graveyard at the top of the hill. We pass slowly by the crowd that has gathered to pay their last respects, all dressed in their ‘Sunday go to meetin’ duds.

I’m surprised to see another Jockey manufacturing plant to the west of Lucea. Do Jamaicans go through an inordinate amount of underwear? And are the underwear that are manufactured here tailored specifically to the Jamaican physique? In fact, most of the products manufatured here are destined for export to the U.S.

Once past Lucea, it’s all downhill to Negril, figuratively speaking. Some sections of the new road are completed here and we are borne on stretches of new asphalt, literally whisking along. I see segments of the old road snaking off along the coast, reaching for memories that I can’t quite recall. Someday most of the old road will be bypassed and this trip will become routine, I rue that day.

We’re passing through the little village of Lances Bay when Thirsty yells out that he has to ‘take a pi_s’.

“Yeah mon,” Lassive says, “we’re going to stop just ahead.”

Minutes later we pull into a rest stop at Cousins Cove, so named because the land was once part of the dowry of an heiress who married her fortunate cousin. There's a cave nearby that, several years ago, was the site of a bat guano mining operation.

A few Jamaicans are sitting at a table near the outdoor bar, drinking beer and playing a loud, table slapping game of dominoes. Jamaicans are passionate about their sports and although dominoes, played normally, is a clam table game, in the hands of Jamaicans it becomes an aerobic sport.

I pick up a cool Red Stripe and take a long pull at it. It slides down my throat like golden nectar. I can get Red Stripe back home in Canada but for some reason it just doesn’t taste the same in northern latitudes. Besides, I don’t feel right drinking Red Stripe unless I’m standing under a hot sun wearing a pair of shorts.

Soon we are back on the road. Davis’ Cove is the next waypoint, it is my all-time favorite spot along the road to Negril. Rounding the curve above the little cove I feel as if I am transported back in time, what an incredibly picturesque little place it is! It’s so perfect that it looks like an overly contrived movie set. The road hugs a placid tree lined cove with crystalline water lapping on its shores. In the distance beyond the tranquility of the cove, the deep blue Caribbean crashes in a white spray on the reef. A small collection of fishing huts is nestled on a beach in the sheltered end of the cove. Multi colored fishing boats are pulled up on the sand. Beside them are stacked numerous hand made fish traps constructed of sturdy branches and chicken wire, each a different shape and size. It’s mid afternoon and as we pass through Davis’ Cove there isn’t a soul in sight. The only sign of life is a goat sleeping in a patch of shade at the end of a long tether in the front yard of a modest house. This little cove will be bypassed by the new road, which is probably a good thing. Someday I plan to come here and spend an afternoon checking it out.

Just past Davis’ Cove is Blenheim, the birthplace of the avuncular Sir Alexander Bustamante, Jamaica's first Prime Minister.

I’m still daydreaming about Davis’ Cove when we’re stopped by a lady in work boots and a hardhat waving a red flag. Could it be road construction? There’s a big bulldozer working up on a high ridge of light colored marl beside the road. It’s the kind of material that they use to make building blocks in Jamaica. He’s pushing the stuff around and some of it has come down onto the road where a front-end loader is busy clearing it. A burst of black diesel smoke rises from the bulldozer and a big boulder crests the ridge and tumbles down the slope. I note with more than a little consternation that its present path will bring it right on top of our bus! Somebody in the back yells “Holy #####!’ This gets Lassive’s attention, up until this point he was quite bored with the whole operation. Eyes glued to the approaching boulder, he jams the bus into reverse but as he does, the boulder topples off in another direction, rolls a bit further and then settles in the middle of the road. We all look around at each other, shake our heads and then start to laugh. The front-end loader goes to work clearing the boulder and other debris off the road. The process takes some time, but after a few minutes the flag lady waves us back on our way.

About a mile after the construction stop a shinny black Cadillac swooshes past us. It looks way out of place on this road and I do a double take. A ‘Sandals’ flag is flapping from the radio antenna. Lassive sees me looking, “VIPs,” he says.

We press on through Green Island, a busy, industrious looking hamlet that is blessed with a splendid little bay. We are getting really close now and I’m starting to get restless, eager to stick my bare feet into the sands of Negril. Lassive is eager too, he has to get back to MoBay and do another trip today, and he has his foot in it again. Soon the neat cinderblock houses of the government project in Orange Bay, perched up on the hill overlooking the sea, come into view.

Then suddenly we are into the home stretch, the terrain flattens out and we hurtle past a big billboard sign welcoming us to Negril. Thirsty sees it and lets out a rebel whoop. We roar past the big, recently completed Spanish Riu hotel on the shores of Bloody Bay. Then we see the sign for the Couples resort and then the gas station with the Negril airstrip tucked in behind it. Next is the colorful sign for Hedonism, otherwise known as the zoo. Finally we are on the long straight Negril Beach road zooming past dozens of hotel and restaurant signs. There are quite a few people walking along the roadside.

Mine is the first hotel stop, we pull into the Legends parking lot. I say goodbye to my bus mates and jump out, excited to be here. Massive retrieves my luggage and I thank him with a tip.

I can see a little part of the beach from the parking lot, I can already feel the sand between my toes.

CAN
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4. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

whew Liz...that was loads of typing! Respect!

Yes I remember what the old road was like very much so.

BTW Clives is great and reasonably priced but I wouldn't say he is THE most reliable transfer as there are lots of others just as 'reliable' imo.

sutherlin, va
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5. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

Ohliz-

Thank you for sharing that wonderful recollection of a past road trip to Negril. It brought tears to my eyes reading it because I have so many of the exact same memories from my first trip to Negril. I miss the old road. I miss also as you do, the roll up steps to the plane where you walk down them and bam! you realize you are finally in Jamaica! I don't think the Jamaican singers and guitar players are in the new terminals either. I always enjoyed hearing them as we went through customs.

I had never experienced anything like that road trip that day several years ago anywhere I had ever traveled before.It was as though a whole new world opened up that day on the road to Negril. Yes, we bought one of those t-shirts also with the bus and frantic people hanging out of the window. We were proud to wear the shirt that said we had survived the ride because we certainly did earn the right to wear it!!! As a matter of fact my husband wore his the other day! Do they still sell them?

I am printing your story to place in our scrapbook from our first visit there. I took many pictures on that trip and wrote a detailed daily summary because I wanted to preserve the memory for my son who was then very young at the time of his first trip to the island.

It was amazing to me to visit year after year and see no real sign of progress whatsoever on the road construction. Then we stopped going to Negril for about three years and stayed elsewhere around Jamaica to enjoy different experiences with our son. When we returned last year to Negril we were simply amazed by the road progress-it was completed!!!!! No more bulldozers and other heavy equipment to dodge, no fear of tumbling boulders, no animals of all shapes and sizes to swerve around, not to mention islanders meandering down the busy highway. It did not seem like we were visiting the same place. In its place was a beautiful paved highway. One wonders what this will lead to as far as commercial development........there will be many changes for Negril in the upcoming years. You can see the change taking place now.

I cherish those old road memories....thank you for rekindling those wonderful old memories again today- you are truly a Negril expert if you have ever experienced the old road and can write about it so beautifully!!!!

Tulsa, Oklahoma
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6. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

I don't know if they make those "I survived the road to Negril" shirts anymore, but I did see ONE of them at the craft area across the street from the Rockhouse, and of course I HAD to get it. (very big grin). I think the lady's name was Wendi that I got it from, and I plan on bringing her a shirt from Oklahoma. :-)

Central Ohio
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7. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

Glad you enjoyed that but note I said it's not my story, it's a chapter (the first, I think) in a BOOK called WALK GOOD by Roland Reimer (who used to be very active on the negril.com message board years ago, as ""Kahuna").

If you enjoyed that chapter you will probably enjoy the rest of the book as the tone is very similar.

It is available here:

amazon.com/Walk-Good-Travels-Negril-Jamaica/…

Avon Park
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8. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

Just Delicious!

Townshend, Vermont
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9. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

Unfortunately, our experience with Clive's was not what we hoped for. Last December we waited an hour outside of the airport in the heat for our driver to arrive. He was not at all informative ; in fact he talked on his cell phone most of the time. We were going to Couples Sans Souci so it was a 2 hour+ ride.

The ride back to Montego Bay was much better. We were picked up on time, a pleasant driver, etc. In the future we will take the bus provided by Couples.

Central Ohio
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10. Re: Is Clives the most reliable transfer service?

I prefer to book with a specific driver rather than a company that may send this or that driver.

To that end, our Negril or Ochi transfers have always been with our friend Delroy (no web or email), Chef Thompson at cheftours.5u.com or Sala Kerr (or his uncle David) of talkofthetownnegril.com

Others I know folks like include Patrick of Esperanza Tours....