Day 40-41: Blue Mountain Peak

I almost felt this journey was not going to happen- something that should have taken place during the first week never happened until the very last weekend. During the course of the month, my family and I often hiked up smaller mountain in the neighbourhood to prepare. Initially we should have had at most 7 individuals present but it boiled down to just the immediate household- the ones who have been so dedicated about getting fit for the journey. When I heard individuals reneging on their decision I felt that it was going to be cancelled. Then rain was in the forecast for days up to saturday, so I felt for sure we were not going. But we persisted in spite of those obstacles.

Early on Saturday morning I was awoken- 4:08am. Not an ideal time I wish to get up. Sauntering from bathroom to bedroom to kitchen, I was ready- backpack in hand. I tossed a bottle of water, a package of cashew and a sandwich wrapped in foil paper in my bag. Everyone emptied a mug of peppermint tea in their mouths and we took our places in the vehicle.

At five fifteen in the morning we were on our way to a place called Mavis Bank- located in Irish Town, St. Andrew. We drove on local roads and highway for thirty minutes- which took us to the tip of the mountain. The rest of the drive carried us around and around the mountain, the precipice getting steeper. We stopped here and there to ask directions ensuring we were still on the right path. Another forty-five minutes and we were driving past signs that read, “Mavis Bank”. We knew we were headed in the right direction. Finally we came upon our destination- the landmark of a police station. We met our driver and tour guide- “Rasa”. He is a rasta I’m sure with his red turban that reaches heights above his head. He was young and bubbly. After a quick bathroom break at the police station, we settled in the land rover. It climbed over rough terrains and when I thought the vehicle would somehow drive in the opposite direction because the mountain was getting steeper, it just kept climbing up and up. By 8am we arrived at the designated location where we would walk the rest of the way. “It should take us 3-4 hours” Rasa said. We would arrive just after 11am. Rasa may not have anticipated that all of us weren’t as fit as he was. When 11am came and passed we were still walking. I think around that hour we arrived at the half point. We had water to rejuvenate, some cashew and the aroma of other mountaineers’ pots on fire caught our nostrils. Finally we left again for the journey- many stops along the way. Long entertaining conversation turned to quiet solitary moments. Moments of gasping for breath and complaints of exhaustion were heard. There were moments where the landscape was so breathtaking we had to pause in silence to observe. The rain came down in various speeds. Sometimes it was a simple drizzle and with the trees above protecting us, we hardly had to worry about getting wet. But there were other moments, when the rain began to pour, leaving all of us scrimmaging for our rain coats. We walked through mud, wet leaves, wet stones, puddles and dirt. As it got steeper, we needed more thigh muscles to pull us upward. The rain would stop as soon as it began and in the outskirts we would observe the mist of clouds just falling lower, or was it that we were going higher?

By 1:30pm we were getting really antsy. This journey needed to end Now! This was enough. Other mountaineers who were on their descent encouraged us that we would be there in no time- maybe 45 minutes!

“Forty-five minutes! What! I don’t think I can walk for another forty-five minutes”. I was speaking out loud to whomever wanted to hear and to myself. This is way too much for me. I made up in my mind that I won’t be stopping anymore and I won’t be walking at this slow pace. Plus it was now my turn to carry the heavier bag. I threw it over my shoulders and I placed one foot in front of the other until I was far ahead of my family and Rasa. I could not see them again. Instead I met other travellers who were curious whether I was alone. I assure them I wasn’t and I continued climbing. Still it was getting steeper. The terrain rougher to walk through, because of many rocks. There was a point I paused for a moment to catch my breath and thought, “how much longer?” Every twist and turn I was hoping I would find the end.

When I met upon a sign, I read it in it’s entirety and finally at the very bottom it read, “Welcome to Blue Mountain Peak”. Wow…I would have never known that was the end. I walked around and then sat in the rain alone at the top lost in thoughts. Twenty minutes later I’m reunited with my family. We climbed for a few minutes again to touch the triangle. This triangle marks the very peak of the mountain. We were in the clouds, misty and rainy as ever but we were there. We sat and basked in the moments of wind and chill until we were ready to start the four-hour descent.

What an experience! The journey down was as rough as it was coming up- no lies! There were still moments I felt I was still climbing upwards. It took less time but that’s only because we didn’t really stop as much. When we returned to the starting point, we enjoyed Blue Mountain coffee. And while this may seem so simple, it really was a pleasure to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee with my family.

I suppose now that it’s been a few days, I would do it again.Image

Day 29- Day 31: The weekdays

When the week started on May 20th I was looking forward to what was in store. My cousin was off on vacation so I wasn’t sure how I would be making it to Kingston. On the first day, I woke up drowsy. It seemed that the weekend had taken a toll on me (waking up so early and spending the day in the sun at Dunn’s River falls) then waking up early on Sunday to attend Church. Plus my period started so all of that just made me tired and unmotivated to plan the day. After eating breakfast my cousin prepared, I crawled back into bed and I slept the rest of the morning. I officially got out of bed around one in the afternoon. Then ate lunch and found my way under the sheets again for another nap. This time I got out of bed and stepped out on the verandah where the breeze was nice and cool. My cousin sat next to me and we talked, me with my very lethargic voice.

After six that evening my cousin’s wife returned from work. We decided we would go for a hike up the mountain. This has been a weekly thing for the family since I’ve been here in the last month. We are preparing to climb the famous blue mountains! So getting in tiptop shape is important. Apparently it takes roughly 4 hours to climb, so this is not a journey for the weak. We are all anxiously looking forward to it.

On Tuesday, I woke up early. I was placed on the bus at the Portmore shopping centre. Taking the bus to halfway tree by myself is not as scary as one may think. I found a single seat by the window and I watched the conductor as he called out, “ahf-e-chee” “ahf-e-chee” and how he spots potential passengers from afar and solicits them for the journey. Before the bus arrived on the toll road highway it was packed. Not long after, the bus arrived in halfway tree. When I got off the bus, I had to walk through crowds, avoiding eye contact with street vendors and taxi drivers alike. Normally on Tuesdays, I leave the YMCA early so that I can make it to the soup kitchen for 12pm but this time I decided to stay. At the end of the day, my Canadian friend, who volunteers there too decided we would go to Devon House. It was just a walk across the street. Yes I have been there before-to see, this time I was going to relax. We bought our ice cream, me the soursop flavor and him the devon stout. Then we found a bench in the park to sit and chat about our life in Jamaica so far and what we hope to do with the experience when we returned home. Three hours later were still chatting and picturing ourselves living in Jamaica. Just after five in the evening, my ride called and so it was time to say goodbye to Devon House. This day will be banked away in the file of treasured memories.

By Wednesday, I was back at YMCA. This time I arrived at 8:30 am with my cousin. I worked on a ┬ápresentation and when I arrived at my designated classroom, I had the children’s undivided attention as the video of Barack Obama which I chose to use started. I waited for my cousin when classes ended and he arrived shortly. We went into the plaza called Twin gates to purchase sneakers, in preparation for Blue Mountains. The teachers are happy because Thursday is Labour Day, so no school for them. I’m looking forward to the long weekend myself!