When we awoke the next morning, we agreed that our day would NOT be spent driving. The road trip to Kingston had taken it out of us; all we wanted to do now was to stay close to the hotel. Of course, that didn't mean that we were going to stay at the hotel all day, either; after all, there were plenty of sights to see within an hour of Treasure Beach.
After another breakfast at the Yabba Restaurant, John and Mary and I looked at the guide book for things to do on our last full day on the island. We discovered that both the Appleton Rum Estate and YS Falls were nearby, close to the town of Maggotty, which was less than an hour from Treasure Beach. "Yes, let's do that!" I insisted; so we gathered up our swimwear and cameras and started our day.
To get to the Appleton Rum Estate from Treasure Beach, we took the road through Newell and Mountainside north to Lacovia. From there, we crossed A2 and continued north to Maggotty. This drive was exceptionally pretty, as it paralleled the Black River, through lush, tropical foliage.
We found the Appleton Estate quite easily, just off of B6 at Maggotty; we passed through a security checkpoint at the end of a short dirt road and parked in the parking lot, situated in front of the estate.
As we walked up to the entrance of the Appleton Estate, the first thing we noticed was just how immaculate the grounds were. The grass was green and trimmed, and the shrubs were all well-groomed. In one corner was an old Appleton Estate delivery truck, beautifully restored and resting under a wooden canopy to protect it from the elements. There was even a peacock strutting about in the grass.
When we stepped inside the main building, we found that we were the first customers of the day. We were greeted warmly and cheerfully by one of the tour guides, who took us to the cashier so that we could pay our admission. He then escorted us to the elaborate bar and served John and me rum punch (and a soda for Mary).
"Please have a seat," he said to us, "and watch our information video." He went on to say that they were expecting more people - a tour group - so we would begin our tour shortly.
Sure enough, the bar soon filled up with more tourists; a bus full of German tourists had arrived, as well as a pair of guys from the U.S. Once they had all been served their rum punch, it was time to begin our tour.
While the German tourists remained behind in the bar, we and the other two Americans followed the tour guide outside. I wasn't sure at first why it was just the five of us on the tour; later, we ran into the German tourists again, who were receiving the tour in their own language, delivered by a Jamaican tour guide. It was interesting to hear the German language, spoken with a Jamaican accent!
The Appleton Rum Tour was, as advertised, a journey through time. We learned about the origins of rum and how it was produced throughout the years. The guide showed us one of the earliest sugar cane presses - one that was donkey powered - and he gave us a demonstration. He then showed us some of the old pot stills that were used in the distillation process centuries ago; there were many types of these pots lining the grounds along the tour.
As the tour continued, we came to the present day. Today, Appleton Estate is owned by J. Wray & Nephew Ltd, which merged with Appleton early in the 20th century, and the company produces several different types of distinct Jamaican rums. Thousands of gallons are produced every year in the factory located behind the estate.
We toured the factory (or, at least the parts of the factory that were open to tourists) and learned about today's rum-making techniques. Our tour took us through the pot stills room, where the end result is white overproof rum; and into the aging room, where the rum is aged in oak barrels, much like wine. It is through the aging process that we get the different types of rum that Appleton produces.
Towards the end of our tour, we came to an old man-powered cane press. Here, John and one of the other Americans were volunteered to work the press to squeeze out cane juice from a sugar cane stalk. Each of us was given a taste of the juice, which was very sweet, like a mixture of equal parts sugar and water. It is from this juice that rum is produced.
The tour ended inside of the main building, where the tour guide invited us for a rum-tasting. He set eleven different types of rum on a bar counter, next to the gift shop, and samples were poured into little half-ounce plastic cups. Among the rums available were the white overproof; the Jamaican White Rum (aged 2 years); the Appleton Special (a rum blend); the VX (aged 5-10 years); Cocomania (coconut rum); Coruba (a traditional planter's rum); and five different rum liqueurs, including two that were fused with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. One was a blend; the other was a cream. John and I each tried three or four different rums; we both enjoyed the VX, which was smooth like a fine Scotch. John also liked the one fused with Blue Mountain coffee (which surprised me, because he doesn't like coffee); I liked that one, too, but my favorite of the liqueurs was the Blue Mountain Coffee Rum Cream liqueur. It reminded me of Bailey's Irish Cream, but better.
After the tour ended, we went shopping in the gift shop, where we bought T-shirts and other souvenirs for friends and family. Mary also bought a necklace to go with the bracelet she had bought at Little Ochies (they were both pink, of course). I purchased a bottle of the coffee rum cream as well, because I had enjoyed it so much. Then, with our arms full of souvenirs, we headed out to the car.
Our next destination was YS Falls, which was only a couple of miles down B6. YS Falls is another popular tourist destination, situated on the YS Estate, which was originally a cane farm, a factory, and a logwood farm. Today, the estate still grows cane and logwood trees; the farm also breeds thoroughbreds and Jamaican Red Poll cattle.
The main attraction, though, is the falls: a series of seven beautiful cascades in the YS River. Unlike Dunns River Falls, you cannot climb up these waterfalls; but you can swim in several of the pools, which you can access by a series of stairs that run alongside of the river.
When we arrived at YS Falls, it was lunchtime, and we were hungry. We were in luck, too, because there was a little cantina near the parking lot. We ate a delicious meal of jerk chicken and pork, French fries, and festival.
Having satisfied our hunger, we went into the visitor center and paid our admission fee. Then, we went out to the awaiting tram, which would take us to the falls. The tram was like any ordinary tram, except that it was pulled by a very large tractor. The tractor had enormous tires - tires that were capable of handling the rutted and bumpy road that cut through the estate, to get to the Falls.
The tram ride through YS Estate was amazing. The pastures on either side of the road were lush with green grass, and there were cows and horses everywhere. It was very peaceful, very idyllic. Further up the road, we came to the YS River, which was almost completely shaded by low-hanging trees. From there, we paralleled the river all the way to the Falls.
The tram came to a stop next to a platform in front of the gift shop at YS Falls. We all filed out and went straight to the changing rooms, where we put on our swimwear. Then, we walked across the grassy lawn to the falls.
The first thing we came to as we left the gift shop was a man-made swimming pool...but it wasn't a swimming pool like the one at the hotel. This pool had a rocky bottom, and the water was from the YS River. It was clean and cool and looked very inviting; Mary couldn't wait to get in and swim! We gave her a few minutes to swim around; then, we talked her into moving on to the falls.
When we came to YS Falls, we were all struck by its beauty. Dunns River Falls were beautiful; YS Falls were stunning and pristine. "These are amazing!" I said to John.
We climbed the stairs to the first swimming hole, where one of the locals was helping people maneuver in and out of the pool. (Some areas of the rocks were slippery, and the water was a bit murky, so the Jamaican made sure to tell us where to put our feet.) We spent the afternoon there, swimming and soaking in the cool river water; it was very refreshing. Other tourists joined us there as well, including a church group from Tennessee. There was also an elderly Jamaican man, who talked to John about the falls. (He indicated that the murky water was the result of a storm in another part of the island.)
While we were swimming around in the pool, the poolside helper talked John into taking a ride on the rope swing. John was fond of swinging on ropes, as I saw during our first visit to Fossil Springs in 1998! So, while Mary and I watched, John got out of the pool and joined the Jamaican on dry ground. He gave John a pair of workers gloves to wear; then, he got down on one knee to help give John a boost.
And away he went! He swung out to the middle of the swimming hole and let go, dropping about 10 feet into the drink. It was so much fun that he went and did it again.
John's amusement attracted the attention of the other tourists; and soon, the missionaries from Tennessee were all lining up to take their turns. We had fun watching them swing out over the river then drop into the water.
We played in that swimming hole for about an hour, maybe longer. Then, when Mary was ready to get out, we decided to move on, to see the rest of YS Falls.
We climbed the stairs up each cascade, at the top of which we found another swimming hole. Most of them were closed to swimmers, except for one that was only open to strong swimmers. The one at the very top was chained off.
When we reached the top of the stairs, we found a man standing on the platform; he was there to help you take pictures...for a small fee. We paid him to take a picture of us in front of the misty cascade. Then, after we had taken in the scenery, it was time for us to start back down the stairs.
When we returned to the gift shop, we found that a tram had just arrived. The driver told us that we had about ten minutes before he would leave, so that meant that we had plenty of time to shop. We bought a couple of kid-sized T-shirts and some other souvenirs before we left.
Without bothering to change clothes, we boarded the tram. A few minutes later, we were on our way back to the visitor center.
We left YS Falls around 3:00 in the afternoon and started to drive back to Treasure Beach. To return, we took B6, which paralleled the river for several miles, back to A2, where we took one last drive down beautiful Bamboo Avenue.
Upon returning to the Treasure Beach Hotel, it was time to start packing. Of course, only one of us needed to pack, so John took Mary down to the pool so that I could pack in peace. That way, nothing would get left behind.
Before dinner, John and Mary and I went to the bar to have a drink; John and I also brought our laptops with us so that we could have an internet connection. (John needed to do a little work, and I checked my e-mail.) While we were sitting in the lounge with our banana daiquiris, a tour bus pulled into the parking lot of the hotel. The bus contained about 30 German tourists - the same German tourists who were at the Appleton Rum Estate earlier that day! Suddenly, our once-empty hotel was packed!
Knowing that the Yabba was going to be crowded for dinner, we decided to try something different for dinner. We picked a restaurant from the listing in our room: Jake's Place, a hotel and restaurant down the road.
Jake's Place is one of the more famous hotels on the South Beach. Its unique style and primitive appeal makes it a tourist favorite; in fact, had we not had Mary with us on that trip, we would have stayed there, too. Many of the rooms are not air-conditioned but are open air: no glass in the windows, with louvered doors opening out on a patio that overlooks the sea. It is perfect for a romantic getaway for two...especially two rugged individuals such as us.
When we arrived at Jake's, we were told that the restaurant would not be open for another ten minutes for dinner, so we went to the bar for a drink and enjoyed the beautiful evening by the sea. Later, we were called back to the restaurant and seated.
Our dinner at Jake's was excellent; I tried the curried goat for the first time and enjoyed it. Mary ate some off of my plate as well and liked it; I believe she would have polished off my food if I hadn't stopped her! And, in celebration of our last night on the island, we had dessert after dinner: coconut ice cream that was delightful.
We returned to the hotel after dinner and turned in for the night. We needed to get plenty of rest, for we had a busy day ahead of us...
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