So a dear friend of mine came to visit me this past week. She left today to return to Virginia. When she arrived last Thursday, we took the bus to Port Antonio (she hadn’t read my blog post about transportation.) Maybe she’ll do a guest post describing her experience.
Suffice it to say that, after taking the bus from Kingston to Port Antonio, she decided that for her return trip, she would charter a taxi from Port Antonio to the airport. As luck would have it, when we were out to dinner Monday night, a cabbie that I had met and used once before, met us on the street. He said he already had a passenger going to the airport so he could give us a discount. We thought about it while eating dinner and decided to go ahead and charter him. I called him to let him know we wanted to arrange transportation for Wednesday.
This morning, at the suggestion of my friend, I called him to confirm our charter. That’s when he told me he was just about to call me. He said his first passenger’s flight had changed so now we wouldn’t be sharing the trip (and cost) to Kingston. He quoted a price that was higher than his original quote, however, it was still about 30% below market price so we were okay with it. We agreed to make the trip with him and he picked us up around 8:15 a.m.
His vehicle was clean and in better shape than most of the taxis I travel in. We began our trip and the first thing I noticed was that he was very interested in talking with us. That was fine, except that he kept looking back at us in the back seat and I was concerned that one of those times he was going to meet oncoming traffic and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
We continued along the way to Kingston, stopping only once for him to relieve himself on the side of the road.
We soon stopped for gas and he bought us both a little treat. We continued along the way and when we got near Kingston, he pulled into a subdivision, and said he was going to stop for a minute. We pulled up to a very nice house in a beautiful neighborhood. There he got out of the car and met with an older woman. Interestingly, he returned to the car with three Jamaican apples, which he happily gave to us.
We continued to the airport, dropped my friend off, and that’s when the real fun began. We left the airport and headed into downtown Kingston. He said he had to stop somewhere to pick something up. We drove around and he pulled over to ask someone if they knew where the RJR radio station was. The first person he stopped to ask did not know. He continued until he found someone who directed him to the radio station – he wanted to go there to get a 2012 calendar. We made our way to the station and he went inside and returned to the car empty-handed: they were out of calendars. By now we had been driving around for about 30 minutes. I asked him, with some irritation, if we were going to start heading to Port Antonio and he assured me we were. We drove around some more and I realized we were still in downtown Kingston. The next thing you know he pulled over to ask someone if they knew where a second radio station was! He got directions and as with the first station, he went inside and returned to the car, again empty-handed: they, too, were out of calendars. By now I’m getting frustrated as I didn’t plan on spending my entire day in a taxi.
We continued along our way when he pulled over and picked up an old man and a sack of peanuts. He put the peanuts in the back of the car, and the old man, well, he sat up front. This man was going to ride with us to Anotto Bay.
I know I have mentioned in earlier posts that the people here (especially the taxi and bus drivers) drive extremely fast. Another thing they do is constantly overtake other drivers on the road. It’s like an unspoken code that you must always pass any car that is ahead of you. There is a portion of the trip that is called the Junction. It is a route that cuts through the mountains. It is windy and curvy and I’ll be damned if he did not slow down a lick driving through the Junction! Instead, he drove about as recklessly as one could imagine. I have never prayed so much in a car before. All I could think of was to get me home so I could delete him from my contacts because I was never going to use him again!
We continued on our way and soon came to a police checkpoint. I was so happy! I thought that surely, after being stopped by the police, he would be encouraged to drive more carefully. These checkpoints are fairly common. The police check to see that the cabbies are legitimate taxi drivers. My cabbie had his paperwork so after about 10 minutes, we were on our way.
We soon arrived in Anotto Bay and safely delivered the old man and his peanuts to a small shop. We continued and we next stopped at a Jerk Centre. There the cabbie said he was going to buy us each a soda, which he did. That stop lasted 20 minutes.
At some point he stopped to relieve himself again, on the side of the road. I don’t remember if this was before the police stop or not.
I eventually arrived home, safely I might add. What should have been a 2.25 hour trip took 3.75 hours. The moral of the story: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.