The big bamboo (raft that is)

FEBRUARY 20, 2015 – Welcome to Jamaica. Ya, man. We had a rollicking time on the ship getting to Montego Bay from Santiago de Cuba due to wave action and it’s grey and rainy as we set out to do bamboo rafting in the mountains.
We have an entertaining tour guide named Denise who gives a brief lesson in Jamaican patois and explains that KFC means Keep From Cooking as we pass the familiar chain restaurant. She also supplies some general facts about the island on our ride. The drivers drive on the left side of the road here and that’s disconcerting as the roads are very narrow and winding and we pass a few vehicles with only inches to spare.
It’s pouring rain when we arrive and not enough rafts are available for all in our group, so instead we will first partake in a liquor tasting and demonstration while we wait. Luckily, the liquor tasting pavilion is under a roof so all is good and soon a wiry little man named Dalton is explaining the origin of different rum flavours and tiny shots are being passed around, including banana and coffee flavoured rum. Then Dalton slips on plastic gloves, fires up a blender and gives a step-by-step demonstration of how to make a genuine pina colada. He’s like an island Rachael Ray in a ball cap and rain jacket.
He explains that fresh coconut is a must and shows how to use it to make coconut milk – the store-bought stuff in cans just isn’t good enough, according to Dalton. He doesn’t measure anything, just tosses in random amounts of coconut milk, fresh pineapple, condensed milk to sweeten and of course, rum.
Here’s a handy hint from Dalton for all you pina colada drinkers out there: Put the ice in your glass, never add it to the blender. If you add ice at the blending stage, you are going to have to drink the whole concoction or throw away the watery slush that’s left. But if you aren’t able to guzzle an entire blender-full of pina colada in one sitting and haven’t added ice to the blender, you can store the left over in the fridge for a few days.

Rafting with the folks in Jamaica
Rafting with the folks in Jamaica

The rain has cleared and it’s time to make like Errol Flynn and float down the Great River on a bunch of bamboo sticks lashed together and outfitted with a bench and seat cushions. Soon the river is like a bamboo raft highway with more than a dozen of the crafts floating down the shallow, limestone-bedded river. Our captain Shane points out flora and fauna along the way, even stopping a few times to gather examples to show us, and we enjoy a serenade of Bob Marley hits that another captain sings.
Shane plucks an African tulip tree bloom for me, a eucalyptus branch and explains multiple uses for soft limestone (it’s good for pedicures, for example).
It’s a peaceful, enjoyable way to take in the Jamaican countryside. The hour passes in no time. It’s back to the bus and back to the pier where the Cuba Cruise/Louis Cristal is docked – or we are given the option of going to a shopping area to stock up on souvenirs. The ‘shopping area’ is an exaggeration. It’s one store perched high on a cliff above Montego Bay. Prices are very high, in US dollars but it’s all a ploy. The clerks are quite aggressive and barely have to glance at an item and you’re offered a deep discount.
The shopping wasn’t worth the trip but we did get to pass another KFC – supposedly the second largest in the world and the one that generates the most revenue of any in the world. Jamaica loves fried chicken, apparently.


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I'm a professional who writes about real estate, renovation, small business, horses and travel. My horses are my passion and I love to travel and try new adventures.

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