Jamaica

Although geographically very close to Cuba, Jamaica is culturally a world apart. A relatively small island, packed in with beautiful beaches and thick jungle in famous mountains. The island is loaded with interesting history, from the large pirate based at Port Royal, to the ferocious and rebellious Maroons who hid and fought colonial powers from the mountains. The two things I really came for were to see some Cricket and experience some raw Reggae music up close and personal.

Highlights

Cricket – Seeing the first two days of the West Indies vs India Test Match at the Historic Sabina Park. After traveling on the road for 8 months it was great to indulge in a familiar sport and get to know some incredibly passionate and knowledgeable locals as several bottles of local OP rum disappeared. I was also lucky enough to get up close to many legends of the game, including the legend Sir Vivian Richards who I bumped into in the car park after day 2.

Sumfest – I was over the moon to hear that two of my all time favorite roots reggae artists (Luciano and Tarrus Riley) were headlining the world’s biggest reggae festival (Sumfest). Many of the top dancehall artists from the world were there as well. The vibes at the festival were great however they were long nights before the top artists came out – if I were to do this again I would arrive around 4am rather than 11pm.

Reggae in Kingston – I was lucky enough to experience every night of the week out in Kingston. There are completely different styles of Reggae and no two nights were the same. I’ve been into roots reggae for a long time and dub and was lucky enough to see along concert from up and coming Jah 9. The real eye opener for me however, was seeing first hand the raw intensity of dancehall music on the streets of Kingston – WOW – it is spectacular. A deserted car park, or a seemingly random street would be quickly converted into a raging dancehall party, going into well into morning. There is a whole culture of synchronized dancing, and the top songs have their own set routines. The big dances right now seem to be ‘snapchat’, ‘ski’, ‘tom cruise’ and ‘breadfruit’. The wildest parties weren’t advertised and could only be found by driving around with a local.

Danger – I had heard many warnings about how dangerous Jamaica is, especially parts of Kingston. I had a very minor taste of this my first night in Kingston where a group of us were robbed just outside our hostel (I didn’t loose anything though the two people in our group that had a phone and wallet strapped over their shoulder did). Some locals try to use the reputation to their advantage, for example a cab driver from the airport was telling me if I took the local buses I would almost definitely be shot and robbed – but that didn’t happen and it was a pleasant ride. Most locals I spoke to really resent this reputation and go out of their way to explain how safe Jamaica is becoming. As with all places you travel – common sense is needed to avoid real trouble.

Beautiful beaches – needless to say Jamaica does have gorgeous beaches. This is well known and there are some big resort towns built up to accommodate fly in fly out tourists. A surreal highlight was swimming in the ‘luminous lagoon’ near Montego Bay, apparently the strongest luminescence here in the world.

Next steps I’m changing scenery and heading back into the Andean Mountains to tackle some large volcanoes!

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Sabina Park Kingston, West Indies vs India. A gorgeous ground.

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West Indies Speedster Gabriel bowling to Virat Kohli.

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Cricket – hanging with some locals who are die hard cricket fans. The two on the right hand side of the picture have been to every Sabina Park test match since 1980.

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Room in the ‘dub club’ event on the hills overseeing Kingston. Late on Sunday night.

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Kingston – Crazy dancing at a local dancehall party in northern part of Trenchtown. I saw things at this event that I won’t unsee! Here there were three girls doing a dance off on the dirt, she did much more than just a headstand.

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My favorite reggae artist (Luciano), and Sumfest 2016. Notice it is daytime – a long night! Well worth it though I’m so thrilled I saw him live, especially given it was his first live performance in almost 6 months.

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Tarrus Riley at Sumfest, Montego Bay.

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Late night chess game while waiting for the dancehall parties to fire up outside!

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Jah 9 – after a promotional gig. One of my favorite roots reggae artists – check her out on youtube!

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Swimming angel – Lumious Lagoon. Surreal stuff and very hard to capture on camera.

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Port Royal beach – having a crack at some body surfing,

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Classic Jamaican breakfast – Acqee and saltfish. Good way to start the day.

India – 2004 and 2011

In 2004 I had my first rough and ready backpacking experience completing a little over 3 months going around India seeing as many Cities as possible. It was an eye opening experience and completely changed my view of many things about the world – and helped me appreciate how lucky I am with the great life opportunities I’ve had.

On this trip I was focused primarily on two things, firstly to learn more the history of India, and in particular northern India where my farther is from, and secondly to see as many of the Australia v India Cricket test matches as possible – it was a historic tour for Australia.

In 2011 I returned to India to go back to my favourite spot in the Himalaya foothills, Dharamsala, which is also where the Dalai Lama is based. The focus of this much shorter trip was to watch some IPL Cricket and the opening of the new stadium at Dharamsala (the Dalai Lama went to the opening ceremony).

Highlights

– Cricket, Australia’s ‘final frontier’ – in 2004 Australia had been completely dominating world test cricket for the prior 10 years. They had beaten every other country on their own solid except for India – this was the last achievement they were seeking to prove their world domination. They had come excruciatingly close in 2001, but were undone by some heroic Indian batting in Calcutta. This was the next chance. I saw two of the test matches (in Chennai and Nagpur) and saw Australia clinch the series in Nagpur. Afterward during the celebrations at the local hotel the Australians were at, was lucky enough to have a beer with a few of the Australian players who were surprisingly down to earth and relaxed.

– Learning about half of my heritage (Punjabi), staying in Amritsar and seeing the beautiful Golden Temple, visiting the border with the Pakistan and seeing the theatrics with the flag raising ceremony.

– Stumble into military base – while doing one of my random exploratory walks in Shimla, I stumbled into a military base on top of a hill. After some pretty intense questioning from the soldiers, and explaining the route I had taken, and the cricket games I had seen, I was let go without incident.

Rajasthan, beautiful colored desert towns (including blue, pink and white towns) and ancient forts.

– Bargaining – Turning from a timid to a fierce bargainer. So many things need to be bargained for in India (transport, accommodation, gifts). I progressed through several distinct phases: 1) Not bothering with bargaining as the absolute $ was small when converting rupees back to $; → 2) Bargaining timidly, and viewing it as a burden and a real hassle. → 3) Finally, looking forward to the challenge of bargaining, and going in shamelessly and ruthlessly. After I left India I was actually missing the challenge of haggling.

– So many other highlights… so many to write here in retrospect! (alas, I should’ve started a blog earlier!).

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