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Finding a Sugar Pot in Jamaica

Published:Thursday | July 2, 2015 | 7:00 AMOrantes Moore
Belgian construction manager Josh van Gorp (left) and his Jamaican partner, Deirdre Gayle, renovated and manage the Sugar Pot Beach, Bar and Restaurant in Rio Nuevo, St Mary.

Sugar Pot Ruins Beach in St Mary is located within 10 minutes' drive east of Ocho Rios, close to the great house museum at Rio Nuevo Village, and offers patrons a bar, seafood restaurant, and the opportunity to access a serene bay with tranquil and idyllic alcoves.

According to Belgian architect Josh van Gorp, who began renovating the area in 2009 with his Jamaican partner, Deirdre Gayle, the bay, beach and embankment "is paradise lost".

He told Rural Xpress: "I've worked throughout Africa and the Middle East and came to be in Jamaica through a Belgium company, which got the contract to build the Half-Way Tree Transportation Centre. I was semi-retired, but they called me up to work as the construction manager in 2005.

"The project took 18 months and I returned to Belgium and was planning to retire in either Spain or the south of France. I visited, but Spain is a concrete jungle and I didn't like the south of France because it's expensive and only exciting for four or five months of the year.

"I was looking to retire and buy somewhere I could rent out to visitors. I thought: 'Why not go back to Jamaica?' So, about two years later, that's what I did."

After traversing the island, van Gorp settled in Ocho Rios and began revamping a property in Mystic Ridge.

Upon its completion, he concluded that many of the island's most charming locations are to be found in the coastal regions east of Ocho Rios, and set about looking for empty lots and properties to develop.

Accordingly, in 2009, he came across Sugar Pot, and persuaded the owners to let him transform the coastline utilising only natural materials.

TOURISM POTENTIAL

Gayle, who previously worked as a tour guide and has more than 15 years' experience in the tourism industry, explained: "This is a historical place because it's part of the Rio Nuevo battle site, where the most decisive battle in Jamaica's history took place.

"The building itself is important because it was an old wharf where they used to store sugar, logwood and coconuts for export. If you were to remove the sand, you would see the partitions of the storage rooms, which we traced to the original building and restored the back wall.

"There is something very relaxing and magical about this bay. It has a natural ambience that makes you feel as if you're in another world."

A website (www.sugarpotruins.com), Facebook page and TripAdvisor listing help to promote the beach, but the couple insist more should be done to market St Mary's rich cultural legacy and local tourist attractions such as the Blue Hole Waterfalls and English playwright Sir Noel Coward's historic vacation home, Firefly.

Josh said: "There is a big hole in the road, so customers complain and delivery trucks refuse to come over the bridge. It's the only access road, and considering we cater to tourists, I think it should be in better condition.

"Also, next door, we have a traditional fishing community, Fisherman's Beach, which is a tourist attraction in itself because communities like that are becoming harder to find across the world. If St Mary is serious about developing tourism, these are some of the things we should be working on."

rural@gleanerjm.com