We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Which Port Antonio hotels are on sale?
mm/dd/yyyy mm/dd/yyyy
See hotels
Quebec
posts: 37
I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

I just returned from two weeks in eastern Jamaica. I was initially determined to go to Portland, but I ended up spending most of my time in the parish below it, St. Thomas.

This was a trip which I had a lot of time to plan and dream about before going. In 2007 I became interested in an eco-lodge in St. Thomas which I found on a website called worldstogethertravel. Later the same people behind that site posted some videos on Youtube (thebirney) of their friend and guide who takes in guests, a rasta named Mokko.

I hung out and read all the forums on jamaica, negril.com. jamaicaholics, jamaica.com, here, etc seeking all I could on the runnings down there. It was very engrossing! Eventually I found marcline.com, a site gosted then by the poster "browning". She and her boyfriend visited different parts of Jamaica several times, and because they are superb photographers, they were able to document it on their website and in various forums like this one.

They eventually encountered this Mokko rasta and his place in St. Thomas, and I enjoyed reading about their trips around the island with him.

I was going to fly to Jamaica and stay at Mikuzi guesthouse near Winnifred Beach for a week, and then spend a week at Zion guesthouse in Manchioneal - both places are in Portland. Then the rasta Mokko popped up again on my radar when I came across the pilot for a rasta cooking show on Youtube, starring, you guessed it...

I was intrigued with the idea of staying at this guy's yard in the John Crow mountains, but a little uncertain at the idea of being so isolated.

So I phoned up the director and asked him about how he got to Mokko's place and so on, then got passed on to another person, an American woman who sometimes stays with Mokko too, and got her advice, which was to just call Mokko and get the vibe. I did and ended up flying into Kingston. I called Mokko the night before and asked him to meet me at the airport with a cab.

We flew down, a middle-aged couple, and as Jamaicans strangers often reminded us in the street, we were one white man, one Hindu woman..."Hey, Whitey! India!"

We got through Customs - "Sunninghill? Where is that? The middle of nowhere?" "It's near Bath."

We rsisted changing money inside the airport - terrible rates.

Outside in the blinding sun the rasta was waiting for us at the front doors with his painted Riverside Roots Cottages sign and dreads down to his ankles. He was getting a lot of looks from the assembled other jamaicans waiting outside. He hugged my girl hello with a bg smile and fist bumped me and we followed him to the cab, and we got our introduction to Jamaica and Jamaican driving. It was exciting.

About an hour and a half later, after following the twisty coast road east to Morant Bay through some amazing sights and colourful third world scenery, we dismounted in the Parish capital of St Thomas, just in time for Friday market day. It was absolutely perfect. We were the only outsiders and tourists of any kind. We ate a great meal in a little unmarked cottage restaurant (someone's house) beside the market, bought a few things at the supermarket next door, and then we drove for another 45 minutes up into the mountains to Mokko's yard in Sunninghill.

Edited: 7:17 pm, July 18, 2013
Ga.
posts: 1,698
reviews: 23
1. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

WOw, this is a great read! Hope there is more? Please continue.....................

Bodega, California
posts: 11,892
reviews: 2
2. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

I checked out Zion as a possible place to stay when we did our road trip last year. The place was lovely and the owner a friend of a friend...but the hike/stairs up and down from what would have been our room to the shared toilets was a bit too much for us. Lovely place though. We stayed at Villa Rasta, a guest house in Long Bay for 4 or 5 nights, went to Bath (horrible), rode out to check out the Lighthouse at Point Morant, went to a party in Porty - had a great time all around. It was a lot of fun to go from the Western most part of the island to the Eastern most part.

Quebec
posts: 37
3. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Hi, Scarlett, hi Rastagirl!

Ok, I'll write a little more on this thread like a trip report then, if people are interested.

Rastagirl, I'd love to hear how and why Bath was so horrible...you're not the first person to feel this way about Bath. Those stairs at Zion are legendary. Mokko did guide work out of Zion for years, taking guests on tours, before setting up his own Roots Cottages...all these people know each other.

Back to the ride to Mokko's place in Sunninghill...

The mountains are close to the sea, so after getting into the foothils, you are very quickly in a montain rainforest with huge clifffaces above and below you, at one point, just before entering the Airey Castle area, it's just spectacular, a claustrophobic grand dream landscape at a bend much like at the more famous See Me No More turn in the road in Portland. It's farmers and schoolkids walking home and goats and little else on the road. We arrive at the village of Sunninghill, the centre of which consists of a plywood shack general store and a small rum bar. And a sheltered stop for the route taxi. A few hundred metres up from there along a narrow road is the entrance to Mokko's yard. His place is surrounded by the yards of his various relatives of various descriptions. The Church is four yards away. I discovered while there that the rasta is on good terms with the Church ladies, with the farmers, with the people in town, and I was made to feel welcome wherever I went in the area by everyone I met. It was very nice and old-fashioned.

So we got out of the taxi, I paid the driver, and we carried our bags down a good concrete staircase built into the hillside past Mokko's sister's place, to a compound walled in by bamboo walls painted in the rasta colours. Lots of excited but friendly dogs greeted us, then Mokko's kids and baby mama appeared, and we were led into the courtyard of this cleverly-constructed Robinson Crusoe home. Mokko unlocked and showed us our huts. they were clean, simple, spacious, comfortable. I brought mosquito nets so I installed those. Mokko had one of his teenage girls take us the 50 feet to the river to bathe and freshen up, and the river itself was pristine and a delight, reminding me of rivers I had seen long ago in a British Columbia that had not yet been clearcut.

By the time we got back to the cottages, Mokko had the fire going in the outdoor kitchen, and was putting the finishing touches on a roast fish and rice dinner. The portion was generous, the flavour outstanding, it was hygenic, and I realized that we really were staying woth a rasta who could could and took it seriously.

We ate fruit from Mokko's farm for dessert - June and July are mango season in Jamaica - I never kt. Thomas. We had tiny perfumed bananas, oraheite apples, pine(apple). So we sat and listened to Friday night Irie FM radio blast out the dancehall and traded tall tales over a few Guinness until the yawns broke out.

Quebec
posts: 37
4. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Jeez, I lost a huge post there when I tried to edit this to add some more detail - it said too much time had passed to edit - that's discouraging.

In summary, I wrote:

-the nights were warm but comfortable, with a constant breeze from the Atlantic trade winds moving the trees and air.

-the beds were clean and comfy if firm, the sound of rain on the zinc rooftop at midnight when the daily thunderstorm arrived was fantastic to fall asleep to.

The dark there is total at night - you're ina tropical jungle. The sounds are great - cicadas, treefrogs, croaking lizards

-the bathroom st.ays lit up all night and has a nice flush toilet and toilet paper, etc.

-I felt very safe, and the 8 watchdogs who curled up outside my doorstep were very alert.

-I learned to ignore the roosters crowing at the crack of dawn.

Edited: 12:05 am, July 19, 2013
Quebec
posts: 37
5. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Smith744! I forgot to mention and thank Smith for his writi\ngs about Jamaica in the Negril communities. he really appreciates Jamaica.

Central Ohio
Destination Expert
for Negril, Port Antonio
posts: 11,805
reviews: 53
6. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

I am really enjoying this, you're doing something I've often thought of doing myself but haven't yet :)

Curious if you recall the cost of the taxi out to Sunning Hill? I drive in Jamaica but have not done so in Kingston and not sure I want to start with mountain rides form the airport :)

Quebec
posts: 37
7. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Hi, Liz. The cost of the taxi to Mokko's door was $70. Driver, Mokko, me, and my companion. Of course, when we stopped for lunch in Morant Bay I bought the driver lunch too. Tthe driver looked like a bit of a rogue but turned out to be a great guy - we encountered him again several times, he's a local man.

From Mokko's village to Morant Bay was $2 by route taxi, and it's a thrilling (!) and scenic 35 minute drive downhill to the coast where you can easily shop, change money, etc.

It put my mind at ease having Mokko there at the airport with the car, so I didn't have to worry about connections and routes, etc. I enjoyed the drive in with all the brightly-painted rum shops, drum pan chicken stands lining the route, all the Jamaicans standing in the heat listening to loud dancehall, the smell of diesel, the sea, and rotting fruit in the air.

Edited: 3:40 pm, July 19, 2013
Quebec
posts: 37
8. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Liz, that same driver told me that he won't drive in Kingston. We had a few close calls in the mountains with pickneys playing in the roads, -the rasta scolded them - and we visited their homes where the driver informed on the kids to their parents! It's a very parochial part of Jamaica.

But yes, you really should visit - it's a secret/forgotten corner of Jamaica and Mokko is a great guy.

Central Ohio
Destination Expert
for Negril, Port Antonio
posts: 11,805
reviews: 53
9. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Good to know, thanks. $70 seems very reasonable, you were further than Morant Bay? Or you just stopped there then went into the mountains?

My only experience with the area was a drive-through and a stop at Golden Shores in Lyssons. I want to return to St. Thomas soon.

Ga.
posts: 1,698
reviews: 23
10. Re: I went to Portland & St.Thomas, mostly St. Thomas

Really loving this thread & your writings. Also OhLiz a while back my hubby & I enjoyed your writings on your site about your latest trips as well just never chimed in til now lol. My hubby stayed with a family in Port Antonio back in the mid 90's and cannot speak enough about the genuine love and fun he had there. Can't wait for him to read this thread tonight. Thanks all for the reports, lol we love living vicariously thru you on your journeys!!!