YAH YAPS! Travel Blog - YAHGLOBAL.com
Tropical White Sand, Turquoise Ocean....and Litter - Welcome to HellshireJune 25, 2011
Litter everywhere. Plastic bags, empty dented soda cans, banana pepper sauce stained paper plates, wood (not of the drifting variety) planks and torn fishing nets. Perhaps "everywhere" is too harsh a word, but given my penchant for pristine tropical beach scenery I am quick to deem any ocean front with an article of manmade debris for every 15 foot radius to be "littered". This isn't a disgruntled piece of thesis you are about to read however. In fact, Hellshire Beach ended up as the setting for one of my favorite days while in Jamaica.
Hellshire sounds like a moniker given to some Scottish countryside where broken castles and stone huts stand as reminders of a medieval time, or perhaps even the name of a forbidden forest from the mind of J.R.R. Tolkien as in - "Never venture into the Hellshire alone". I'm pretty sure a few rogue tourists heard the same ominous whisper in the back of minds as their rental cars pulled up into the desert like entrance of this hidden beach. The makeshift structures (can't quite call them buildings) of scrap metal, wood, brick and aluminum siding that bookend the sand bottomed driveway inside Hellshire take the off the beaten path concept to a whole other level. You start to rethink your game plan, keys still in the ignition, when you are immediately approached by bright wide smiling teeth and dreadlocked silhouettes emerging from the dark entrance of one of the local "cafes". "Welcome, welcome Mon" accompanied by firm but heartfelt handshakes and genuine offers to help unpack the vehicle pretty much ensure that you are now committed to a day here at their beach. "Ya wan't help witcha ski?" said one of my new friends, pointing at the surfboard strapped to the top of the burgundy Range Rover, something I keep on hand when on any island in case there are waves in sight. I agreed to the aid understanding that this was all going to cost me somehow. I'm a notorious (to my budget) over tipper and Jamaica is notorious for expecting tips for everything - small price to pay for enjoying its fruitful land.
Passing over the cool dirt floor of the cafe a sense of intrigue washed over me as I heard the sound of gentle waves slapping against the reef in the distance. There was also the sound of children playing in that same distance, soothing any suspicion built from years of carousing cautious guidebooks that warn readers to avoid places like this. The bright sky blinded me as I exited on the other side and the initial view of the powdery white sand and azure waters validated the long drive almost immediately, however when my vision adjusted to the sun’s rays I noticed the sand peppered with, well...garbage. It was far from a dumping ground but still a bit of turn off nonetheless. Any hopes of writing about a proverbial hidden gem in the less traveled Jamaica washed away...or did it? I was in for the long haul and had to put aside my judgment for the time being.
The mouth watering scent emerging from the rustic eatery kitchen behind me, presumably operated by my welcoming party, prompted an order of fried chicken, fish, and festival - a delectable pan sizzled dough/pastry essential to any Jamaica cuisine experience. Apparently this is the golden ticket at Hellshire. Once they know you're here to put money into the community, the red carpet begins rolling. Within seconds of placing the food order I witnessed a display of hospitality that rivaled that of the Bahia Principe, of course without the amenities. Fingers were snapped ordering old hammer and rusty nailed beach chairs to be carried out to where my towel lay and drinks were delivered with a speed uncommon to a place operating on "island time". After gnawing down the last chicken wing and gulping a frosted bottle of pineapple soda I carefully placed my towel over questionable parts of the beach chair and reclined with arms stretched out behind my head. Perhaps my sated appetite altered my vision but all of a sudden the scene at Hellshire became much more appealing. Vendors hocked seashell necklaces, traditional red-yellow-green Rastafarian garb and accessories in addition to items that should have been out of place such as Disney themed floatation devices for kids, but the potluck of Hellshire seemed to make everything belong.
The crowd appeared to be mostly local or at least from neighboring communities and even when I approached a lily white (in comparison to the surroundings) couple to investigate their travel origins their return speech indicated a hint of island patois common to expats. Guided horseback walkabouts of the shoreline were available for only three U.S. dollars and a steady flow of customers lined up for the opportunity, finally uncovering who the vacationers were. Fishing boats nearing their final days pulled ashore with nets full of catch to feed the next set of visitors and watching fish heads being chopped into buckets became a pastime for children at the beach. I tip toed over the hot sand maze avoiding debris until I waded into the inexplicably clean ocean water with only churning sand to prevent seeing through the turquoise surface. Clearly the condition of the beach had no correlation to water quality, indicating that a few well placed garbage cans on shore would obliterate the only thing keeping Hellshire from becoming a major tourist draw. Perhaps this was an intentional ruse created to keep Hellshire a predominant local recreation area. After all, will so much resort development on the island, its only fair that the community get to keep something for themselves and those that dare to brave the journey towards Kingston.
My final act at Hellshire beach was to take my "ski" out to the small waves crashing on the reef about a half mile out to sea and attempt a few short rides. As i walked out to the closest paddle out point two wonderfully buxom middle aged local women sitting in beach chairs and cleaning fish smiled at me "You be careful out there baby. The current can be a little strong and a crocodile or two has been seen swimming around the rivermouth from time to time. Stay in this area (pointing) and you'll be ok". I smiled at the maternal baby comment and gave thanks, replying for them to keep an eye on me out there. "Of course!" one of them said with a frisky wink, and in one moment the island worked its magic. I entered into the Hellshire and came out on the otherside not scathed but touched by it's honesty and now fond of this modest beach and its endearing community - litter and all.
Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com
post by : Editor - YAH Yaps
The Actions of a Few - Stanley Cup Finals Riot 2011June 16, 2011
"The actions of a few..." The phrase is commonly heard after many riots. When the few come from a few hundred thousand the resulting few thousand can combine to create quite the disaster. That's what happened at the conclusion of Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Vancouver, B.C.. Heartbroken fans left downtown with their heads down. Some maintained their undying optimism and belted out "Next year!" in order to keep spirits up. Others stayed to show their respect for their team that played 100 games with the heart of a champion and to respectfully congratulate the Canucks hard fought opponents, the victorious Boston Bruins. Few others however, had something else in mind.
Having been in Vancouver for the last two series leading up to the Stanley Cup Final I was able to witness the most awesome display of camaraderie I had ever seen and I am not referring to the NHL team that played on the various screens sprinkled throughout the city, but the fans that they played for. I have attended many sporting events throughout North America, including the 2010 Winter Olympics that cast a spotlight on Vancouver and heralded them as one of the most friendly and cordial populations anyone has visited. I agreed as I watched a city bond to celebrate not only their country that brought home the most gold, but to sing the praises of all visiting athletes and tourists from around the world. Hundreds of thousands partied on the streets through the days and nights with barely a scuffle in sight. I thought I would never get to see such an awesome display ever again but this year's Stanley Cup run in Vancouver not only dismissed my own assumption, it far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
Gigantic screens were set up in hotspots throughout the downtown core on the city streets that served to bring everyone together into one massive living room to cheer on their home team. The workplace let people go home early to catch the 5pm game times and it's safe to say that weekday morning hangovers were tolerated for the first time, especially considering the same "affliction" fell upon many bosses and CEOs as well. Fans were ecstatic to the point of gleeful tears during victories and even the losses brought out the best in the crowd, opting to show good sportsmanship and anticipate victory for the games to come. The sun seemed to shine on this picture perfect setting for almost every single big game and the public gathering continued to grow with the chances of their team bringing home the Cup. Every age, ethnicity, and class of citizen became one. Vancouver was alive, vibrant, and no matter your worries in life a simple trip to CBC studios (most popular screening location) complemented by a few high fives with strangers would soon wash it all away. The city was willing the team to win and it seemed all but a guarantee that the sea, sky and mountainside landscape of Vancouver would shine even more with the inevitable ownership of the Stanley Cup trophy. That's why in the dying seconds of the third period of the last Game 7 a blanket of disbelief fell upon the once so certain crowd of over a quarter of a million public spectators.
I'm not even going to address the specifics of the riot here. The multitude of iPhones, cameras and camcorders in attendance captured every minute of the travesty and a quick search on the likes of Google, YouTube and Flickr will have every moment in HD available for your viewing. Instead, I feel it is a duty as a media source of sorts to let anyone that happens upon this article know that the post game events taking place between 8pm and 1am on June 15/2011 in downtown Vancouver by no means reflect upon the city and its people.
It's difficult at times to look at the proverbial "silver lining" of anything so negative, but as I write this article sitting at a café across from the retail carnage of smashed windows now boarded up, I'm seeing something that 15 hours ago (when the 3rd goal was scored on the Vancouver Canucks) that I could not have anticipated. The crowd of passionate fans had slipped into an immediate depression after the game defining goal against their home team. Dreams of a summer filled with parades and celebrations washed away into the sewers and you could feel the impending depression form as fast as the excitement dissipated. As I left the crowd I was certain I would awaken to a morning stroll of a city hanging their heads low, with nothing left to bring them together. All watercooler talk would now cease and the sea of blue and green jerseys would be relegated to dark closet spaces until next season (or never again for disheartened fair-weather fans). Instead, I woke up to a surprise.
A hand painted makeshift sign across from me hangs on the boarded windows of iconic Hudson Bay Company store reading "On behalf of my team and my city, I’m Sorry", placed by an eccentric middle aged gentleman and citizen of Vancouver early this morning. This sparked an influx of Vancouverites with black Sharpie markers in hand to offer their own pleadings to not judge them by the actions of a few. Other writings came from visitors encouraging the city to keep smiling and ensuring them that this event does not impact their perception of this Pacific Northwest gem of a city. The city is also filled with people, garbage bags in tow, gathering and sweeping up remnants of the previous night's wreckage. People are talking again, smiling, hugging, coming in late to work without repercussion in order to restore the image of their hometown. The Mayor is walking amongst them and shaking hands, thanking them all for their help. News crews are documenting the whole thing and once again the city is alive and buzzing with positivity, brought together not this time by victory, but by a defeat that has already proven to be short lived.
You have nothing to be sorry for Vancouver, if anything you have restored the faith of myself and many others, that both your city and humanity in general is still in good hands. Thank you for being you.
Wish You Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com
post by : Editor - YAH Yaps
Shedding Light on the LighthouseJune 12, 2011
A young girl within earshot, no more than 4 years old at best, questioned innocently "Daddy, I thought we were going to see a lighthouse today?" with a tone of disappointment lingering at the end. Daddy answered defeated but affectionately "We did honey, it was that tall white castle looking thing with the red top on the rocks". The girl replied with a somber "Oh..." and diverted her attention to a shiny object along the forest path, forgetting about the whole fiasco within seconds. I smirked as I walked past in the other direction.
To a child, a "lighthouse" surely sounds more entertaining than it really is, possibly conjuring visions of a bright arching rainbow landing squarely atop a fairy tale type abode as if it was a pot of gold one could reside in or at the very least is a place with a funky gift shop. In reality, it's pretty much how "Daddy" described it - a tall white castle looking thing with a red top on the rocks. So why the fascination? Sure we can draw upon the old clichéd metaphors of how the structure symbolizes the beacon of hope for us all as we contend with the rough seas in our own life, but that's simply the result of reading too many inspirational poems, self-help books, romance novels and fortune cookies.
Tourists spend hard earned cash to rent cars, take shuttles, brave city bus routes, hike unfriendly trails, and become novice rock climbers with heavy backpacks full of camera equipment, energy bars and bottled water to simply catch a glimpse of a lighthouse, operational or otherwise. Yours truly is guilty of going to extreme lengths to do the same. Within the last 2 months alone I photographed the lighthouses of Diamond Head Beach (Oahu), Makapu'u Trail (Oahu), Key Biscayne (Florida) and most recently I had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with the Point Atkinson Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver, British Columbia.
After visiting Vancouver on numerous occasions, the bug finally got the best of me on a return journey. In the past, I would stand along the west facing shores of Spanish Banks beach and catch myself staring across the channel at a lighthouse perched upon the large stone outcropping of what I thought to be an off limits zone to anyone without a boat and a boatload of gas to fuel the journey. On one fateful day (last week) the magic of Google uncovered that the hiking trail to this "beacon of hope" was only a 45 minute bus ride away. So off I went, backpack packed with camera equipment, energy bars and bottled water, traipsing through towers of Douglas Firs and Pacific Northwest forest growth until I could hear, then see, the waves crashing against the very rocks that once seemed unreachable. There she was (a lighthouse is often ironically referred to as "she" although they are completely phallic in nature), standing tall and serving as the sole reason anyone would make the journey to her shorefront. As with most operational lighthouses, the actual structure was off limits and kept within a gated "No Trespassing" zone. The 12 year old within me often guffaws at any attempt from "the man" telling me what to do and often takes the message as "Welcome - Feel Free to Hop the Fence" but on the other side a large weather beaten dog house the size of a small dark cave kept me at bay.
To tell you the truth, without photographic evidence to say otherwise, my mind saw no discernible difference between the Point Atkinson Lighthouse and the other three I had visited in the last 60 days and I spent most of the time at the nature park admiring the surroundings without paying much attention to the actual subject of investigation. I realized that is always the case. So again, why the interest?
As far as aesthetics and architecture go, popular lighthouse attractions are often of the same standard variety and most of them are completely outdated in their ability to serve as a signal for incoming ships. In fact, the more sophisticated the system, the more contraptions, technology and structural additions (the less traditional) the less likely we are to be drawn to it. We won't look twice at anything visually modern but give us the old circular red, white and without hue and we'll plan a vacation around it. Forget modern navigational developments, we want nothing more than a big light bulb jetting out 50 feet in the sky. The magnetic power of a lighthouse is thus found within its simplicity, but even more importantly - location, location, location. The nature of this beast places it against a backdrop of perfect sunrises, sunsets, quaint B & B accommodations and always accompanied by a soundtrack of seagulls and shore lapping waves. We're talking about the concept of seaside cliché at its best.
It's the journey, and all of the side effects that make our beloved lighthouse so endearing. It's the vacation you may never have taken, the hike you would have otherwise ignored, the nearby coffee shop you may never have discovered, the people you may not have met along the trail, the shiny object distracting a little girl and the time she spent that day with her Daddy. If we didn't have an excuse like this to pull us away from the mundane we may never venture anywhere, and that is what where the beacon of hope truly lies.
Wish Your Were Here - Editor, YAHglobal.Com
post by : Editor - YAH Yaps