It's real - Kingston

We're dirty backpackers now. Our flight landed early in Kingston, immigration and customs were a breeze - no passport stamp because we had nothing to declare (and they sent us to the kiosk instead of a person), boo - and the trip is underway in earnest.

Since we got in with plenty of time to figure out the rest of the day, we elected to check out something that I was really excited for: Port Royal. Once the largest city in the Caribbean, I was curious to see something of the "Sunken Pirate City", aka "The Wickedest City in the World," "Pirate Utopia," and "Sodom of the New World," known for its pirates, cutthroats and prostitutes.

Battlements? Ramparts? Some part of Fort Charles looking out into the Caribbean where Melissa is facing. A British fort built on old Port Royal.

The Giddy House, I think it used to have British gunpowder or something? A short break here is probably why we're not actually sunburned now.

The earthquakes got it though.

The trick with it is that we're only in Kingston this one day (leaving for Ocho Rios tomorrow) and Port Royal is about 15 minutes west of the airport, which itself is out on a spit of land pretty far from where we're staying and the core of Kingston. So it was pretty much after we landed or never and I'm proud of us for getting the real "travel" part started immediately.

The thing about Port Royal is that while it was once the "Pirates of the Caribbean" pirate capital of the world, it was hit by an earthquake in 1692, and being built on a sandbar, it pretty much all slid into the water. I had really hoped to see some kind (any kind) of ruins under water. A street, building foundation, canon, ship or something would have been great. I'm sure it's out there and maybe it's visible to the general public when they wander in, but we saw nothing of the sort. There's an old British fort, built centuries after the pirate city was destroyed, and some partially sunken buildings from the same era and later earthquakes, but no direct evidence for us of the pirate utopia. Sad, but we're glad we went. I wouldn't recommended it as see at all costs to anyone, but if you're out there and are interested, it's worth some time.

The weird thing about being in New Jersey this morning amidst a rainy & cool May, and suddenly being in...normal Jamaica I guess? is that we were not prepared for the simple hour of walking around in the tropical sun. Not the exertion but the sun exposure - we have absolutely no base tan built up and didn't think to dig out sunblock or hats at the airport.

Oh well, we managed to duck into a harbor-side hotel bar before we actually got sunburned. Like just barely.

Panorama. Was not cheap but we tried our first totally new Jamaican food here: stamp & go.

The most important thing to prepare for on any international trip - I think - is to figure out how to get to your first hostel or safe wifi zone, without having to rely on cellular data. As it turns out, T-mobile gives me free unlimited 2G & texts in Jamaica and it works pretty well, so we're able to look things up, slowly. However you never know if that's going to work before you leave so we researched the bus route to our hostel, but even knowing that in advance didn't make it a foolproof trip.

Buses here don't say which direction they're going, don't say what stop you're at, there's no printed route and the stops themselves are generally unlabeled and not necessarily more than a spot next to a quarry where there's no grass because the buses pull over there regularly - at least from what we could tell while trying to keep our gigantic backpacks from getting in other people's ways.

Although I tried to stay on top of the stops by their descriptive names (Opposite Total Gas Station, After Airport Roundabout, etc), we almost definitely missed a stop from the Google directions. We got off at the next one to try to walk back, even as the roads started flooding from a brief rain and the distance between our desired stop and actual stop grew pretty large. Really, we got off the bus and the bus driver yelled at us to see where the only two white people on the bus were going and told us to get back on, he'd help us get to the Half Way Tree Center that's walking distance from our hostel. This was probably a good thing, I suspect we ended up driving through Trenchtown, which everything online pretty much agrees is a place visitors should not go.

On that note everyone's been really helpful and friendly here although not unlike the New Yorkers we're used to, mostly going about their own business and only interjecting when it's clear we have no idea what we're doing.

We've been on the road for about 14 hours, but it feels like two solid days. And yet, because of the weird travel energy that most people get, we're doing just fine. We're headed to Ocho Rios tomorrow, which should be a lot more beachy and idyllic vacation type stuff.

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