Escape to Zion country
A piece of land in the promised land,
natural environmentally friendly
Just the kind of place he wanted to build
Where grass grows green
That’s where You’ll find me
Where the air Is fresh and clean
I want to be
White sand beach
And I see deep Blue sea
There ain’t no place On earth that I would rather be
Lay’in in the sun And I’ma having fun
The place to happiness is second to none
Lyrics from Zion Country
Kaili McDonnough, Staff Reporter, December 27, 2003
A CLEAN, simple and scenic utopia exists only 45 minutes from the beautiful town of Port Antonio, Portland.
Tucked away on a small dirt road in Long Road, Portland is the home and business establishment of Free I, a native of the Netherlands who now calls Jamaica home.
Free I landed on Jamaican shores 10 years ago and says he immediately felt an attachment to the land. He returned to Jamaica the following year for a three-month long holiday in which he rented a small room from a resident in the vicinity of Winifred Beach.
Following his second Jamaican sojourn, Free I went back to the Netherlands but knew he ‘was not fulfilled with all that life had to offer’. While he led a comfortable existence in Holland, he says he had the frustrating feeling of trying to figure out exactly what was missing from his world.
Months later he figured out what was missing Jamaica.
One year later, knowing only a handful of Portland residents, Free I surrendered to the Jamaican way of life, bought a few acres of land and started developing his dream project which today is four wooden beach cabins overlooking an inviting bay. As one who has appreciated the simple life, with little commercialism and formal enterprise – Free I notes that ‘the Jamaican lifestyle provides more time for meditation, thinking and relaxation’.
AT ONE WITH NATURE
Stressed out from the vigour of urban life? Consider joining Free I for a weekend in the Zion Country. A far cry from typical tourist resorts and guesthouses, in Zion Country you are truly one with nature. The rooms are without air-conditioning, electrical outlets, televisions and phones. Bathrooms are communal and are located outside the cabins, as are washing basins that have mirrors reflecting a view of the entire bay. Water from the faucets is cold rain water caught during the rainy season and stored in tanks.
“This is what country living really feels like – pure and free of technology and commercialism,” reckons Free I. The entire experience at Zion Country is mystical, especially if you are a person who is unaccustomed to the rustic way of life.
Apart from its physical beauty, another element of Zion Country Beach Cabins is that you must create your own fun. It is a fantastic place to visit if you feel like a weekend of kicking back with an engaging novel or lounging by the beach. For nature watchers, the bay is a major attraction. It is like an open pool where Manatees often congregate during the season. This is also a paradise for bird watchers and hikers.
Ninety-five per cent of guests are European tourists. Free I says he welcomes more Jamaicans to soak up the rustic Portland experience. “Most Jamaicans,” he notes, “are not adventurous enough as when they go off for a weekend escape they retreat to all-inclusive hotels and luxurious joints.” He further comments that “there is beauty in off-the-beaten track resorts (and that) it is an added cultural and social experience in one’s life.”
WHAT TO DO
Bird watchers would swell with delight at this retreat, as throughout the property there are many species of birds, which are attracted to the number of rare lumber and fruit trees.
In addition, Free I often organises hiking trips up the river to Reich Falls or up to the Blue Mountain peak, historical trips to the Morant Point Lighthouse, Folly Ruins and as far away as the Bob Marley Museum on Hope Road in Kingston.
WHAT TO TAKE
Comfortable and casual clothing (including a swimsuit), a book or a few magazines, board games, binoculars, good company and an open mind.
Release the bohemian in you and escape to Zion Country for a weekend filled with mellow vibes and relaxation. The local rate for two people is $2,000 a night. This includes a continental breakfast that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate.
KEEP IN MIND
Zion Country is an eco-friendly resort that promotes environmental awareness.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Kingston, drive through St. Thomas to Portland. Five minutes after passing Happy Grove High school, the road will fork. Make a right turn and drive another five minutes until you see a big sign for Zion Country Beach Cabins on your right. Make a right turn and you will see Zion Country on the left hand side of the road.