A lesson in Living Simply – Negril, Jamaica

The main reason to take holiday  in Jamaica in the first place is to chill. To feel the sand beneath your feet, the sun on your back, and not think about the rat race you left behind. Walking along 7 miles of beach in Negril, (not really seven, but who is counting), of white sand beach with various star rated hotels, and great restaurants is ideal.  Some tourists have even been inspired to put down roots and become part of tourism landscape in Negril.  Can anyone really leave behind the life that makes you want a holiday in the first place?  What is it like to live a simple life while making a living?

While taking a lazy relaxing walk along the beach strip in Negril, I came across the enterprising set up of Rasta Ringo. Was it the smell of frying fish, or the  almonds drying in the sun. Here was a busy Rasta man  preparing his feast.

Almonds in the sun, Negril Jamaica

For the average Jamaican employment is always a struggle. Opportunities are few and  Negril is a tourism mecca whose mainstay is  package holidays of varying degrees of luxury. This feeds into the tourism economy of the island. Those who are enterprising are able to tap into this economy to either make it their full time income or supplement other sources of income.

Meet Rasta Ringo, an old school dread.  Living the authentic Rasta life on the beach in Negril,  He is slim, and constantly moving.  He is extremely fit, not in a bulky way but with boundless energy as he moved around the make shift kitchen on the beach.  It was the aluminum frying pot perched on folded chicken wire that had caught my attention in the first place. Frying fish on the beach, it couldn’t get any fresher than that. Chef Ringo in his beach trunks deftly bent over to turn the fish and expertly checked its tenderness. The method was basic and the food was cooked with love for its gifts.

Fried Fish, Rasta Style, Negril Jamaica

This was authentic, not the life of the celebrity Rasta.  Not the life where the dread locks are a fashion statement. The Rastafarian movement has a long and colourful history in Jamaica. From here it has taken root in many countries all over the world. Bob Marley was definitely the its most well known evangelist, and many others have worn the locks without the theology. But here at a little beach front restaurant in  Negril, this is the real deal.

Spirituality is not theology or Ideology, It is simply a way of life, pure and original as was given by the Most High of Creation. Spirituality is a network linking us to the Most High, the universe, and each other.  Emperor Haile Selassie I

He invited me over and explained that he had caught the fish himself that morning.  Looking out towards the bluest sea was his painted boat, now serenely resting on the sand after helping to deliver the morning catch. I couldn’t help but think of the times I have stood over frozen fish in the grocery store wondering how long it had been frozen, and if the white fish was really the fish named on the package.  At Rasta Ringo’s, the food may not be fancy, but it is fresh and ITAL.

The boat, Negril Jamaica

Ras Ringo moved deftly from seasoning and tending the fish, to turning the Almonds which he had drying in the sun. He pointed out that they were high in protein and were great for supplementing the diet. “Come”  he said as he move towards a narrow path, just behind the wooden building. He led the way to the back of the restaurant.

A lush green oasis awaited. This was Rasta Ringo’s herb garden The banana trees, which are the largest herb in the world. loomed majestically,  and heavy with fruit. He was growing yams, cocoas.  And like the knowledgeable herbalist that he is, he pointed proudly to each plant and listed the health benefits  like a father proud of his offspring. This was a health food garden, a place of healing in more ways than one. Everything he needed for himself and the restaurant is here in the garden.

Banana Tree, Negril Jamaica

Back in the bar, Ras Ringo spoke of the herb that is a sacrament to the Rastafarian community. You know the one, which has at least twenty names in Jamaica.  A small amount is now legal in Jamaica, and he said that he wanted to thank the Canadians, who were supportive in bringing about this change. Way to go Canadians.

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Rasta Ringo, Negril, Jamaica

Could we grow our own food? Catch our own fish?  It would certainly be more healthy, but not practical. everything seems geared towards getting us to do more in less time.  Buy processed food, put it in the microwave, run to the gym to get exercise and repeat. Because the lifestyle we lead and the food we eat is rushed. We are cheating ourselves.

We work hard and we want to play hard. We may or may not get great joy from the work that we do to earn the money we need.

As we grow older we begin to question the rat race and wonder how  can we change to get the lifestyle we want?

Give me the simple life.

Negril, Jamaica is Just Right

Sunset on the Beach, Negril, Jamaica ○ Judith

Beautiful Negril

If you are looking for a  super chill beach in the Caribbean, where the vibes are cool, the water is warm and you can walk  far out into the sea. Then the seven mile beach of Negril, Jamaica is your glittering prize.  The beach is actually less than seven, but who is counting when you are having fun in the sun.

Where to Stay in Negril

For a place to stay that will soothe your spirit and fill your senses, then let us recommend CocoLaPalm.  Not having been to this side of Jamaica before, it was hard to know what to expect.  From the moment I saw the beach, and was greeted by the staff with a  “Welcome home”, Yes!  I knew every little thing was going to be alright.  You really wish it was home, because then you wouldn’t have to leave.

CocoLaPalm Beachfront Resort was a home away from home. It is in the middle of the action on the beach.  Upscale all inclusive hotels on one side and more relaxed low key resorts on the other. I felt like Goldilocks, from the children’s story,  the four poster beds along the beach at Couples Resort would be too big. The thatched roof retreats near the small reggae bars and restaurants, were too small.  CocoLaPalm, in the middle, was just right. This beachfront resort is owned by Minnesota Family, and has unique octagonal buildings and beautifully landscaped gardens.

The staff were always helpful, and Marley’s by the Sea Bar and Grill offered a great menu.  Your senses are caressed by the great sea view, reggae music and the professional dinning service team who attend to every detail.  Experience Jamaica’s national dish, Ackee and Saltfish for breakfast at Marley’s as you enjoy the sea view.

A Hearty Breakfast of Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica"s National Dish. Marely's By the Sea, Negril, Jamaica ○ Judith
A Hearty Breakfast of Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica”s National Dish. Marely’s By the Sea, Negril, Jamaica ○ Judith

Vendors

Ordinary Jamaicans, trying to get their fair share of the lucrative tourism industry,  will offer you products and services as you stroll along the beach.  The encounters are not overbearing and security on the beach will always make sure interactions are acceptable to the visitor. You will be offered everything from Jamaica’s most famous herb, (which in small amounts is now legal in  Jamaica), to handmade string bracelets in Rasta colours, massages and hair braiding. A firm “No”, to vendors is enough if you are not interested, and usually ends with the words “Respect” from the vendor.

Coconut and Sugar Cane Vendor

Caribbean Nights

Lazy days by the beach are transformed to reggae nights as the evening brings preparations for venues to entice you with their DJ and Dance Hall music. There is even a franchise of Jimmy Buffett’s Bar and restaurant, Jimmy Buffett’s  Margaritaville along the beach.  If you are more old school stick to “culture” reggae beats which are more recognisable.  A taxi to Rick’s Café will treat you to an incredible sunset.  Along the strip, across the road from the beach was a club called: The Jungle. I didn’t go in myself, but found the posted rules very interesting.

Jungle Rules, Night Club in Negril, Jamaica

 

I heard some beautiful voices along the beach, and remember thinking, if only these singers could get recording contracts, there would be new stars in Jamaica. Such is the beauty of Negril. Like Jamaicans say “He who feels it know it.”

Share your thoughts or experiences on this area of Jamaica.