Blue Mountain Ganja – Port Antonio, Jamaica

There’s an almost mystical aspect when smoking a big fat spliff of powerful Jamaican Ganja with a dread-locked Rastaman hidden away in his rainforest retreat.

“Psst, hey mon! You smoke herb?” I looked around but couldn’t see anyone…the thick jungle grew right up to the gravel road winding above Port Antonio into the Blue Mountains. “Over here”. His face, framed by massive dreads and a big smile of flashing white teeth, peeked out of the foliage.  A path opened up. His comfortable grass-covered and open-sided hut was basic but ideally suited for jungle living. Isaac rolled a ridiculously large spliff from a burlap sack full of the freshest, greenest, most aromatic herb I’d seen. “We grow it all in small plots, along with the pineapples. When you see pineapples, the herb is not far away.”

The first puff and I was there. The second and I was out there. The third and I was almost out. We finished it off and I staggered back out to the road. “Have a good walk, mon.”

Jamaica, if anything, was more stoned than Colombia. And much more relaxed about it. You could get high on the beach, behind the bar or shops, on the roadside. No paranoia at all.

Everybody had a cousin who grew world-class ganja in the bush. Ganja was virtually free. Everyone had a stash. The herb from the Blue Mountains, grown in the same climate and elevation that produces the legendary coffee, had the reputation of being the best.

Smaller buds, highly concentrated and very compact. Almost hash-like in their consistency. And smooth. You could take giant hits and not start hacking away. Rich and mellow. Color would vary, depending on age and cure. The golden variety was cured to perfection, left to hang in well-ventilated huts up in the misty mountains. The purple bud was more tightly wrapped during drying and was darker and slightly musky. All of it, of course, would knock your socks off.

I had only $10 left to my name but the opportunity for a modest smuggling caper was too good to pass up. I still had my 35mm Camera (I had long ago given up taking pictures, couldn’t afford film or developing) and hand-made leather case, it was worth something. Didn’t take me long to arrange a trade: my camera and case for a quarter pound of the finest, strongest and most beautiful Blue Mountain ganja.

I don’t think I’d ever held such a magnificent prize in my hands. Could this be the best dope in the Caribbean Basin? Better than the Oaxacan spears? In Jamaica ganja is worshipped. And I am a convert!

But how to get it across the border? I wrapped the weed up tightly (no avoiding it, I’d have to squash the buds) with plastic and duct tape into a football-sized package. One of my last tasks in Port Antonio was to clean out the chain locker. Pulled out 200 metres of muddy heavy-duty galvanised chain up out of the hold, coiled it on deck and hosed it down with fresh water. When nobody was looking I stashed the dope in the bottom of the compartment. Lowered  the chain back in. Perfect.

We sailed into Key West, cleared customs (Jim declared three cases of Jamaican Rum, for which he paid duty) and docked out at Stock Island. The first thing I did was to haul the anchor chain on deck and rinse off the salt. “Gee Phil, I love the way you’re always cleaning the anchor chain locker, good work.” said Captain Jim.

That quarter pound not only made me very popular amongst my friends in Key West but it also financed my next adventure up the East Coast and then off to Montana and Wyoming.

Published by Phil Parent

Phil Parent is a geographer residing in Queenstown New Zealand.

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