A last-minute decision lands me in Negril, Jamaica to spend the Fourth of July. I had planned on driving the Jeep up to South Dakota to see the annual July 3rd fireworks spectacular over Mount Rushmore, as well as the Crazy Horse Memorial. However, I found a last minute deal on hotel and airfare to Jamaica – which did not require a passport to visit back then – and could not resist a week of the ocean, beach and sun. Especially not when it was cheaper than driving to and staying in South Dakota during the Independence Day holiday.
What was a solo trip to my first country outside the continental North America region, proved to be hot, wet and fun. I met quite a few people at the hotel and we had fun talking and sight seeing and hanging around the open-air bar of the Hotel SamSara where we all stayed. My room had air conditioning and a balcony with an ocean view, but others were not so lucky in either regard. It also turned out that there are coral reefs less than 100 yards offshore and apparently are some of the best diving places in the world. I did not get certified to dive, but wish I had in hindsight. Next time. For sure.
While there, Hurricane Dennis formed in the Caribbean and at one point threatened Negril, but ended up skirting the northeastern side of the island instead. It poured rain for at least 24 hours in Negril and the ocean waves pounded the rock cliffs, but the area survived with little to no damage. My last day there, after the skies had cleared, I ended up going horseback riding with a tour guide through a seclude nature preserve. Saw lots of animals, learned a lot and got to have some fresh coconut. The only downside was that my back was quite sore on the plane ride back to the Midwest the following day. Another life lesson learned.