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

May 30th: The beauty of Jamaica

The other day I was out at night driving in the city and while I was simply staring at the lights and the buzzing of cars, God knows what was on my mind, I heard a familiar noise. Not so familiar that I’m accustomed to hearing it, but it was just a potent memory of what was once familiarity. When I was a little girl this whistle was like hearing the ice cream truck in the summer days. “I know that sound, they are selling peanuts”. In that breath, my friend signaled the man and there I saw the familiar cart. He pulled out a neatly rolled up carton and when I undid the top, I poured out delicious warm peanuts and tossed them in my mouth. May I add here that I was on my way to Strawberry hills again?

The experience was equally as good as the first time- except we spent part of our time by a fireplace. Yes, Jamaica even have fireplaces! It gets cold in the mountains. Somehow this strawberry hills story sounds like “another world” because the way one would picture Jamaica is certainly not in the painting of fireplaces, elegant restaurants that serves exquisite meals, and beautiful spas.

Earlier that day, I walked into this haven of solitude. One turn off a busy street and into a quiet sanctuary where birds are chirping and palm trees are everywhere. Walking along pavements lined with flowers and into the reception area, we are greeted by friendly staff. We placed our order and minutes later we are climbing staircases to relaxation. Somehow it got quieter and the air may have gotten cleaner. Another garden lined the second floor of the building. And by the time, I removed my shoes and entered into the chambers of solitude, it got even quieter. I followed the instructions given by the masseuse and waited. I fell deep in thought- thoughts of how life can be so perfect, and wishing that life could just stay this way. I allowed myself to just lay in total surrender and allowed the masseuse to do the trick. When the time came to an end, it was hard to believe. I walked out a new being.

I hardly have this many good moments packed together at home, but this is vacation so I suppose it’s to be expected. It’s why it’s a vacation because you don’t often get the chance to enjoy life as much. Oh, if my life could just be one long vacation! ahhh

Day 36- Day 38: Observations and Nuisances

1. I’m always sticky and dirty after a long day outside. The hand sanitizer is great but it adds to the stickiness. I started to carry around wipes so I can clean my face, feet and hands but what’s the point when you have to do it more than once!

2. Ants! They are driving me crazy. I can’t leave anything out even if it’s still in the wrapper. Just today I saw ants in my unopened pack of halls! Halls (the candy!) It’s not even sweet.

3. Security is everywhere. One annoyed me the other day when I went into a store with a half finished drink. “What is that?” “Water” I said. “Why you have the water?” “Because I’m in Jamaica and it’s hot” I’m rolling my eyes and wondering what is he talking about then proceed to leave the store. “A joke, a joke”. I looked at him and walked away to complain to my cousin. I saw security signaled to my cousin and said he was just joking. But I thought he was just annoying!

4. Cold beaches! Why must the water be so cold? Isn’t this Jamaica?

5. Beggars/PanHandlers/Squeegee kids- Whatever their names they are just annoying now.  They work in the streets and attempt to wash the windshields for drivers. They are very aggressive.

6. Waiting. I spend a lot of wasted time just waiting around for someone.

7. Prayers. I see prayers at the beginning of schools, at lunch, after lunch and at the end of school. I like this idea.

8. Crabs walk around freely even in your backyard.

9. Stray dogs are everywhere. It makes me sad to see them roam without anyone to care for them.

*will get back to this list when I think of other things…