After enduring 3 days of confinement during last week’s election, the recently arrived Cuso volunteers were eager to get out of their respective apartments and *do* something, so we packed up our swimsuits and sunscreen and headed out to Hellshire Beach.

Fishermen with the catch of the day at Hellshire Beach

There aren’t any “real” beaches in Kingston; even though the city is on the water, the coast isn’t super sandy and the waterfront is used primarily for port authority business (i.e. lots of big container ships coming and going). Instead, most locals head to nearby Portmore and frequent the beach at Fort Clarence or Hellshire, which are both accessible by city bus (about a 40 minute trip, price JA$100 each way).

I wasn’t exactly sure what to think when we arrived at Hellshire. The bus drops riders fairly close (maybe 200 m?) to the entrance to the beach area, which is adorned with a cheesy charming sandcastle-styled gate. Once you pass through the gate, you encounter a little shanty-town of fish-fry shacks that shield the beach from view. The dirt road leading through the shacks to the beach is littered with a ton of trash, mostly empty plastic bottles.  I couldn’t get over the garbage – it was like someone had taken bags of recycling and dumped them along the side of the road.  Between the condition of the rundown fry-shacks and the garbage, I was silently wondering how relaxing the day was going to be.

Goat wandering the dusty road next to the beach

Once we slipped through a walkway between two shacks, however, we found what we had come for. Beautiful, golden sand and clear, aquamarine water. The sun was shining brightly and the waves were breaking gently. It looked like a scene out of a postcard or a travel brochure.

My entry for the next EnRoute Magazine feature about Jamaica

We spent the day lounging under the palm-thatched cover of one of the fish-fry shacks that line the beach, swimming in the warm, turquoise waters, and laughing at the children and families playing nearby.  We feasted on fire-roasted snapper (cooked in a pepper sauce), fried plantains, and festival (a fried dough that is a national specialty).

Snapper, plantains and festival for all!
Cuso volunteers Wahib and Dinesh playing with local children

After we had had our fill of fish and sand, we headed home as the weather began to turn, catching light rain as we boarded the bus back to Kingston. Turns out it had been pouring in town the entire time we sunbathed – lucky us for escaping in time! I arrived back at my apartment soaked and sandy, but happy to have had a small adventure and a change of scene from the previous few days.

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