Blue Mountain Trip

Trip Start Jul 06, 2005
Trip End May 31, 2007

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Where I stayed
wildflower lodge

Flag of Jamaica  ,
Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This past weekend I went on a journey to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountain range sprawls across the eastern portion of the island for the length of 28 miles and an average width of about 12 miles and the mountains rise steeply to an elevation of over 7,000 feet. The Blue Mountain range is part of the 194,000 acre Blue Mountain and John Crow Mountain National Park, which was established in 1992 to preserve some the remaining forests and to protect the island's largest watershed. Hiking is one of my most favorite activities and I haven't been able to hike much since I arrived in Jamaica. I was also really looking forward to being in the mountains again, and the cool weather at that elevation will be a relief from the heat of the north coast.

I was going with another volunteer and her visiting friend. We left Ochi on Saturday morning, and we chose to go through Kingston to get to the town of Mavis Bank where we started our hiking. Our destination for the day was Wildflower Lodge near the small town of Penlyn Castle, from which we would set out the next day for the peak. The trail from Mavis Bank to Penlyn Castle isn't well marked but we had some instructions from other volunteers who had hiked recently. A Jamaican man offered his assistance to find the correct trail and eventually we went on without him because we didn't have money to pay him for his assistance. I guess the tour guide thing is pretty big in this area, which might explain the lack of signs to Penlyn Castle. Anyway, it was an up hill hike through lush wilderness and it provided many nice views of the surrounding hills.

Most people that live in these mountainous towns must travel by land rovers (the older versions) to get to the nearest towns that are accessible to public buses and taxis. Children that continue on with their education past primary school stay with friends and family closer to Kingston during the school year and then return to their homes in the summer. You do what you got to do. Right?? Anyway, we finally made it to our destination, a quaint lodge set on the eastern face of the hillside, which is perfect viewing of the incoming weather and sunrise over the mountains. Wildflower Lodge provides comfortably rustic accommodations for hikers, and the surroundings make up for any potential discomfort. The landscape is breathtaking, green everywhere, fluffy clouds, and cool mountain breezes. Blue Mountain coffee is grown in this area and the bushes are lined up in rows in plots dotting the hillside.

A cold shower, warm clothes, and a hot meal settled us in for the evening at the Wildflower. Our plan was to get up at 3am to begin our hike to the peak so we could see the sun rise and take in views of Jamaica below before the clouds roll in. It's recommended that hikers go with a guide, especially since the hiking commences in the dark, so we arranged for a local guide through a friend of the other volunteer on the trip. Unfortunately at 3am, that plan fell through and our guide was indispensable, so we altered our plans to begin again at the break of day. So at 6am we were on the trail, on our way to the peak. To our surprise the trail was well signed and easy to follow. In retrospect we could have started at 3am but we weren't sure what to expect. Next time I go I will feel more comfortable about hiking in the dark without a guide. The other volunteer and her friend are from the Pacific Northwest, and they agreed that the vegetation and terrain reminded them of their home. We walked past stands of pine trees, wild begonia, and ferns were abundant along the entire trail. This area receives more than 300 inches each year, which provides water to half of Jamaica's population. Together with the John Crow Mountains, this area is Jamaica's last remaining rainforest where many rare and exotic plants can be found. At times along the hike I wish I had brought a hat because the wind is quite cold as it passes over ridges. As we neared the summit, the visibility decreased and unfortunately our effort was not rewarded with the views we hoped for. Oh well, we made and we were grateful. The summit looks like many other high elevation locations in the states, with short trees, lichen, and mosses; the sign at the top states that this is "an elfin woodland."

The entire trip took about 8 hours, and we returned to Wildflower Lodge at about 2pm. We were all pretty tired from getting up early and our long hike. I spent the afternoon napping and reading and taking in the views. It was nice to have nothing really to do other than just being.

I was sad to leave that place because it offered so much peace and joy for me, hiking, observing nature, and being quiet. But duty calls, I must return to my responsibilities in Ochi. Even though I was only there for 2 days, it was an adjustment to return to the city and the heat. I definitely will go back in the next 10 months, before I leave Jamaica. If you have the opportunity to come to Jamaica, skip the resort scene and journey to the Blues, you will see the real Jamaica.

I took some photos along the way so take a look for yourself.

Take care.
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hmhighbr on

Hey mon!
HI!! Just checking up on my caribbean buddies. I responded to Drew's email a couple months ago and told him I'd like to island hop over there before you guys go if I can find a flight but no response of course. Its so hard to get in touch with you PCV's. I like your pictures from Blue mountain. I'd really like to see that someday! Hope all your projects are going some extent. Later!


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