By Juan Sempere
If you’re a fan of reggae, you simply must pay homage to the genre’s most revered figure at his final resting place in Jamaica.
Any person who chooses the Caribbean resort town of Ocho Rios as their vacation spot, is likely invested into Jamaican culture, which in turn owes a huge debt of gratitude to reggae music and its patron saint, Robert Nesta Marley.
The musician was barely 36 years old when he passed away, back in 1981, but you wouldn’t know it by visiting Jamaica, where his familiar face will peer at you from nearly every storefront, souvenir stall, and roadside landmark. If you visit the Land of Wood and Water in early February, the devotion to Marley gets even more acute with celebrations surrounding his birthday on Feb. 6.
The ride is long… but worth it.
Scheduling a daytime tour to his family home in Nine Mile, Saint Ann, is highly recommended, and they have departures from Moon Palace Jamaica, (Front Desk will be happy to assist you). Here are some things you can expect from the experience:
Expect to invest about six hours during this excursion: An hour and a half to get there, two to three hours at the actual destination, and the rest on the way back to Ocho Rios. Though the mountain roads are a little bumpy, your tour guide will make the trip amenable by hitting you with all sorts of knowledge about Marley, his music, and the island culture. There are many nice vistas along the way, so don’t forget your camera.
All About Bob
Time stops at Nine Mile. At least that’s the way it feels. People in care of Bob Marley’s childhood home have taken to heart the preservation of the whole place to make it look as close to how it was during the King of Reggae’s formative years.
The lush vegetation that surrounds you opens up to reveal the humble-yet-imposing dwellings that once housed the clan of Marley’s maternal side of the family. The decoration and furnishings are as colorful and vivacious as Bob himself.
Bob’s work will surround you. References to Marley’s songs are all over the place. That painted rock he used to sit upon outside the house, painted with Rasta motifs? It’s called Talkin’ Blues, like the album. The mausoleum rests on a place named “Mount Zion,” so you’ll probably start humming “Iron Lion Zion’ as soon as you set foot inside the property. And your guide will probably come up with amusing anecdotes about familiar tunes like “Sun Is Shining” or “Three Little Birds” if you ask him nicely. All that’s missing is someone barging in and boasting that he shot the sheriff, but left the deputy otherwise unharmed.
Taking In the Lifestyle
You’ll make a “jerk” joke. Probably. Try not to do it, though. We assume that the locals have heard every single lame pun using the name of the traditional spicy rub, and that you’ll be tempted to try the delicious jerk chicken (and your hacky comedic material) when you stop for lunch. So don’t say we didn’t warn you if your punchlines are served with a side dish of blank stares.
A quick jaunt to this Mecca of Reggae will take you from Ocho Rios' tempting beaches to the majestic heights of inland Jamaica, but it’ll also make you appreciate Bob Marley’s legacy in a whole new way. Go on, book the tour and then, as the man himself suggested, “Don't worry… about a thing… 'Cause every little thing… gonna be alright”.