My family waves a bumpy goodbye to the lush greenery of Blue Mountain coffee land as our truck manoeuvres the steep, winding roads back down to Kingston, and then heads west to the rugged south coast of Jamaica. We’re stopping off at (or rather, taking a 2 hour detour to!) Jake’s hotel in Treasure Beach on the way up to Montego Bay, which means we get a 350km tour of the local life of the island. We pass the best of cliché Jamaica – buzzing countryside towns, roadside jerk shacks, and kids chewing on grilled corn in the morning heat.
Jake’s (named after the owner’s pet parrot) is all we hoped it would be – Gaudi-esque mosaic walkways that glisten in the midday sun, wonky trees shading the scattering of colourful chairs and tables, and a wooden jetty jutting out into the turquoise sea. We spy a couple of sun loungers right on the end, and note them for a spot of relaxing later in the afternoon. Though sitting amongst the colourful huts, grazing on salt-fish fritters and sipping family friend Dougie’s legendary rum punches all afternoon sounds like the dream, we’re saving ourselves for the real reason we made the detour to Jamaica’s south coast – Floyd’s Pelican Bar.
This hardy little shack stubbornly resists the elements in its idyllic position, slap-bang in the middle of the Caribbean Sea. Such a setting could attract pretence, but the choppy 15km threshold is sure to wash away any prudish inhibitions. The colourfully-clad Jamaican driver at Jake’s reassures our anxious faces with a stereotypical “No worries, man… no worries,’ as we consider crossing the waters in the scuffed wooden fishing boat with a tiny engine at the back. If we were a little sceptical, our worries roll away with the turquoise waves as the ramshackle paradise comes into view… the light catches the mishmash of wood and dried palms as sun-kissed tourists hang their feet off the weathered jetty. And when I say weathered – Floyd’s Pelican Bar has faced hurricanes and tornados, never-mind thunderstorms and the incessant corrosive lapping of the Caribbean waves!
Our hardy little boat pulls up to the precarious steps that plunge into the water and a friendly Rastafarian greets us with a cheery hello. We later discover that this is Floyd, who set up the tiny haven that appears to be lost out at sea, and resiliently continues to rebuild his unique business when the elements get the better of him. We have to watch our step as we navigate around the wooden ‘floor’ – there’s the occasional glimpse of turquoise through a gap beneath, and beer mats, Jamaican flags and memorabilia hang from the ceilings and walls in a charming Caribbean jumble. Once out on the wonky jetty, we sip on bottles of Red Stripe and strong rum and coke as we try to find a gap amongst the hundreds of carvings in the wood to add our own. We take it all in, as the next storm may wash it all away again… we can only hope that Floyd and his Pelican Bar will continue to resist the elements until our next visit to Jamaica.