Saturday Day Dream

There is something about sitting on a beach that puts you into a day dream. After a while, things get a little hazy, and you realize you have been staring at the same rock for at least ten minutes. It must be the hypnotic sound of the waves, the continuous, unhesitating wash of them. Someone says something to you, and you reply: “What?”

Dreaming sands: Saturday afternoon on Winifred's Beach. (My photo)
Dreaming sands: Saturday afternoon on Winifred’s Beach. (My photo)

So it was when we escaped from town for a day with visiting relatives, ending up on Winifred’s Beach in Portland, eastern Jamaica. Winifred’s has always been one of our favorites. The road down there has not improved (violently bumpy) but the glimpse of the water through the trees as you jerk along downhill (preferably in an SUV) is alluring. It’s a little more built-up than when we first visited close to thirty years ago, when there was only the occasional tent and one or two shacks selling drinks. Now there are two or three unpretentious  places where you can buy food. A couple of Rastafarian gentlemen diligently sweep the sand and tidy up, and ask for a small contribution for their services.

"Eating a food" at Neville's establishment on the beach. (My photo)
Hanging out at Neville’s eating establishment on the beach. (My photo)
The sweepers and tidy-uppers, who keep the beach clean. (My photo)
One of the sweepers and tidy-uppers, who keep the beach clean. (My photo)

Yes, Winifred’s is a public beach – an increasing rarity in Jamaica. Much of our coastline – especially on the north coast – has been hijacked by monstrous all-inclusive hotels or fenced off by the owners of villas. To walk along what’s left of the severely-eroded Negril beach, you have to run the gauntlet of security guards whose main purpose is to keep you off a particular stretch of sand (if you look like a tourist, you might be let through). This is a huge contrast to other islands I have visited (notably Barbados and Grenada) where all beaches are open to the public.

The beautiful and famous Grand Anse Beach near St. George's, Grenada has hotels adjoining it but remains a public beach. (My Photo)
The beautiful and famous Grand Anse Beach near St. George’s, Grenada has hotels adjoining it but remains a public beach. (My Photo)

Then, at Winifred’s, there is the spring. In one corner of the beach, it is a slightly muddy jade green at its deepest. A small stream makes its way gently into the sea. If you scoop up the sand there it smells strongly of sulphur. Its natural mineral waters (very cold) make your skin tingle, after a swim in the sea. My back felt wonderful after lying in it for ten minutes; I wish I could do it every day. At one time local people used to do their washing in the spring; the strong detergent was ruining the water and vegetation and flowing into the sea, threatening the coral reef. Now, there is a large sign up in patois telling people not to do their laundry there, and there were no signs of any washers.

Tree roots on Winifred's Beach. (My photo)
Tree roots on Winifred’s Beach. (My photo)

Dear Winifred’s. I floated on my back in water clear as glass, the sun in my eyes. A wave broke on my face and made my eyes red. Memories drifted back of sitting under the same tree with twisted roots with my parents, during one of their visits here. Of sitting on the edge of the water watching our son’s ecstatic play in the waves. Of calling him endlessly to come out of the water, because it was time to go home. He never, ever wanted to come out of the water, even when the shadows lengthened.

But there I go. Day dreaming, again.

A little girl and a sleeping dog. (My photo)
A little girl and a sleeping dog. (My photo)
Boys kicking ball on the beach. (My photo)
Boys kicking ball on the beach. (My photo)
Winifred's Beach is sheltered, enclosed by rocks and fringed with small coves. (My photo)
Winifred’s Beach is sheltered, enclosed by rocks and fringed with small coves. (My photo)

5 thoughts on “Saturday Day Dream

  1. Just beautiful! My home island has some truly breath-taking places to enjoy. I really hope Winnifred’s beach stays the same, undeveloped and available for all of us, poor and rich alike. It bothers me so much to see other countries like China buying up our national resources. What will be left for our future generations down the road? Plus, these foreign businesses and corporations will never love our country like we do. For them, it’s all about how much money they can make from our island, and when they have used us up, they will leave, like the bauxite companies of previous years.

    If only we could make a dent in the crime and corruption! Jamaica has its faults, and they are many, but we have much to be proud of our little island with its friendly, open people (for the most part) and beautiful natural resources. God bless Jamaica always!

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    1. Yes, Winifred’s is a special place and as I noted there has been an ongoing, quiet battle for years to keep it open as a public beach. This “buying up” business worries me (and many Jamaicans) too. It’s not xenophobia, it is just that we are a small place and we need to preserve our own natural and historic heritage for ourselves. The bauxite companies have actually disfigured the Jamaican landscape permanently, too. I totally agree with you though – and Jamaicans deserve better. The problem is our leadership (or lack of it).

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  2. Thanks to the Petchary Bird for photos of our favourite beach in JA. And to all: Please note that the people of Winnifred beach and their supporters in the surrounding communities have been fighting for YEARS to keep the beach free and open for ht e community. This in the face of sustained and organized attempts by UDC to make this just another private beach associated with a development.

    The case winds it’s way through courts with multiple delays, year after year, gov’t. change after gov’t change. It is truly a David vs Goliath situation and the people of the beach are to be commended for their tenacity. While many who read this may say, “what’s the big deal? So we have to pay a little to enjoy the beach. So what?” I urge all to consider the question of where the children of the poor will play when this beach is closed? Where will the small business people of this beach go when there are no other beaches open to them?

    This is an extraordinary corner of Jamaica with few, if any, of the hassles experienced on Negril’s or Mobay’ beaches. The local people do a wonderful job making visitors feel welcome, providing great meals and a wonderful atmosphere.

    And yes, the road is dreadful— and after +20 yrs. I say, walk; or drive very carefully and very slowly. If the road were perfect there would be no beach to enjoy, no square inch to access. Good things always demand a bit of effort to reach them.

    Free Winnifred!! http://www.free-winnifred.com/

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