Slow Boat to Kingston
Trip Start Aug 01, 2008
150Trip End Dec 20, 2008
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Where I stayed
Kingston N 17° 59.1' W 76° 50.1'
. . . well, at 08:00 and we're still waiting to see. Kingston is visible three or four miles astern (we're drifting aimlessly, I think) and there is a fine range of hills to port. But no news of when we'll get there. We passengers assume that there's a hold-up with the pilot. Trenton was up most of the night to no avail. But, it's a fine calm day, the Olympics are on TV; relaax, maan.
Eventually, the ship that had our berth relented and we picked up anchor at 09:45, arriving at the container port two hours later. Main features of the steam in were the aircraft appearing to land in the bay (the airport being on a spit of land) and the pelicans that landed just about everywhere.
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(Later): Jamaica turns out to be less relaxed and much more uptight in a bureaucratic way than I'd imagined. Having berthed, we had a longish wait for clearance from Immigration. The "declaration" you sign on arrival at each port was not difficult but had much more content than for previous countries.
The local agent arranged a car for us, setting the time as 15:00 at the gate - presumably because it was going to take a while. I didn't actually see him, myself, but I felt I should call him when we got clearance and wanted to set off well before 14:00; he then wanted certainty that the ship had all the forms signed - I couldn't swear to it, so had to call back a few minutes later. Checking with the Captain, I just got grumpiness - presumably he was suffering from delay and bureaucracy but it didn't go down well with me, as I was trying to do the right thing by his company. Anyway, the agent moved the taxi up to 14:30.
Then we got an extra form to take with us "essential to getting off the ship and getting back again". (I put mine in my bag no-one ever asked for it.) Then we couldn't leave the ship unless we wore high-visibility vests, so we went back and got some from the office
At the gate, we were checked out, signed another form (they'd decided my name was "Peter John", but I didn't argue; it more or less is) and had another nominal bag check. (By nominal, I mean they looked in, saw either nothing or the computer - something we'd been told Jamaican customs would be interested in - and said "that's fine". I presume they were looking for drugs or guns or stolen container-spanners.) All the officials I saw were women, by the way.
Having got out, the rest of us met the driver, who had ID - which was good, because he was very early, which was even better - but Trenton went back in, to a cash machine inside the port perimeter. Faced with a choice of amounts, he chose $200 as being reasonable (you'll see why this is of interest, later).
Driver was intent on giving us a guided tour; we just wanted a taxi downtown. (In hindsight, we agreed he was right; it would have been better. He did have some history and so on.) Having got downtown, we agreed a price and meeting time to go back; but Ron ended up buying him beers, while the rest of us did email and shopping
But before that, we hit the petrol station, also got air in the tyres and dissuaded him several times from the notion that our interest was Jamaican girls. ("Don't have enough time" was Trenton's line.) And we hit the main Post Office. Trenton, the only one with local currency, kindly offered to sub us, and gave me a $100 note to buy stamps, intending to use the change himself or lend it to Gordon. "How much to send a postcard to England?" I asked the lady. "Fifty dollars" she said, holding up five fingers to confuse the issue. "I'll have two, please." I then went to apologise to Trenton for spending half his cash; he'd withdrawn less than two pounds!
Then there was a protracted period while Trenton tried to "buy" and envelope by chatting up a young lady at the philately counter and after I found a cash machine in the car park, various high-denomination transactions took place and off we went to the internet cafe.
You had to have your own laptop there, so I stayed and blogged while watching sport on TV (it was a sports bar owned by Courtney Walsh, apparently) and the others wandered off. Later, Gordon and I went for a walk round looking for a supermarket. Guided there by a young barefoot beggar, we saw that the highlights of downtown New Kingston were the Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut. The ybfb clung on persistently but I was able to honestly say I had no change (well, just about). To my surprise, he didn't stay for the tip promised when I'd been to the cash till, but we came across him later near the book shop, so he got it anyway.
The book shop yielded no book that we wanted (although we discovered that we'd been seeing black stormy petrels at sea) and the foreign papers were old (the British Sundays were from ten days before). We walked round a couple of blocks, back eventually to the sports bar for a meal (pretty good). The ybfb flashed past us at one point, clinging to the outside of the closed door of a bus.
So, that's a long description of not very much. Not an attractive place. Went through the formalities at the gate and back to the ship just in time for our deadline of 20:00.