If it were all up to me, and my inner naysayer had nothing to do with it, I’d lead quite an exciting life. I’m sure I’d be on some excursion or another every other weekend. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? Right.
I had quite an adventure last October. I quelled that nagging naysayer for a spell and took up the offer from a colleague to go on their annual trek to the Blue Mountains. Not only will it be fun, he said, it’ll also be a wonderful spiritual experience. Not that he needed to convince me. I’ve wanted to go to the Blue Mountains since forever and it was one more thing to cross off my bucket list.
So, on October 11, 2013, I practically dragged my cousin along and, with over 60 other people, we started our trek to the Blue Mountains that Friday night for a weekend of fun and spiritual growth and restoration.
My cousin and I (on the right) at the cabins.
I should point out that I do absolutely no physical activity. I walk, but only quite leisurely and only when absolutely necessary. Needless to say, that didn’t help my case at all.
On that Friday night, we left in buses from UWI, Mona and traveled to Mavis Bank in upper St. Andrew. We arrived there at about 11pm and after briefing us, they asked who would like to take the Rover (for a fee, of course) to the foot of the Blue Mountains. Where’s the fun in that? I scoffed. Let me tell you this, if you ever plan to go the Blue Mountains with the group I went with and you are not athletic, take the Rover. I learnt that lesson the hard way.
So here we were, about to tackle the highest point in Jamaica and we are heading downhill. Huh? I thought we were supposed to be going up. Well, we did go up. And up. And up… And up. After crossing two rivers and a little stream, I might add. It was a difficult and seemingly endless journey with only flashlights and the moon as light for most of the way. I’d have given up if I could but that wasn’t an option in the middle of nowhere. I had no clue where I was. Of course, there were several stops along the way but at that time a five-minute stop felt like five milliseconds. I kid you not.
Along the way, my knee started to give me a bad time. It hurt to walk. I wasn’t used to such extended strenuous activity but I had no choice but to continue. And continue I did. At one point, it was my cousin and I walking along the way, (there were groups before and behind us), passing darkened houses. I imagined the persons sleeping in their warm and cozy beds and there I was, with my very foolish self, trying to prove that I could climb the Blue Mountains. I cursed myself. So many things went through my head. I thought of Jean Da’Costa’s Escape to Last Man Peak and I felt like those children taking back roads and bushes in the night to escape the plague of pneumonia. Except I knew I wasn’t escaping anything so I must have been a blasted idiot.
Finally, we reached Jacob’s Ladder – the last leg of the journey before we reached the cabins. You all know that little song we used to sing as children, right? This did not disappoint. It was a zigzagging trail for the most part and every zig and every zag led us higher and higher. I was told it would take me about half an hour to reach the cabins. After one and a half hour I was still walking. I was so exhausted that, had it not been for my cousin (although she was just as frustrated), I would have probably threw down my blanket somewhere and slept right there along the path and continue when I was rested. At least by this time it was daylight and I didn’t have to wonder if anything was lurking in the shadows beyond the reach of our flashlight. Alas! We finally reached the cabin approximately 8 hours after we started. My cousin and I were the second to last set of persons to reach. By then, everyone was already asleep and we were beyond exhausted.
We fell onto the makeshift cot and slept and slept and slept and slept. We slept through all the Sabbath’s day worship. We got up once to shower and eat something. We ate a little. Somehow I didn’t have much of an appetite. As for the showering part… Ha! The water was near freezing point I’m sure. It’s a wonder I even washed my face or brushed my teeth! It was VERY cold up there!
The path to the cabins. This photo was taken in the middle of the day. Go figure.
We still hadn’t gone to the peak yet. The walk to the peak was slated to begin at 3am on Sunday morning because they wanted to catch the sunrise. They said it was about an hour’s journey. Ok, I thought, that’s roughly two hours for me. I couldn’t go to that far and not got to the peak! My knee was even feeling better. Well, it turns out I could actually go that far and not go to the peak. About 30 minutes in, I decided to turn back. I really couldn’t keep up and my knee, once again, started its protest. Added to that, a girl wasn’t feeling well so somebody had to take her back to the cabins. Of course, my cousin and I gladly volunteered.
Since we didn’t actually go to the peak, we stayed in the park area and took silly pictures.
Silly… but fun! :)
We left the cabins at approximately 12pm on Sunday for our trek down the mountains. That was actually fun! It was hours of walking in the rain! My cousin and I got separated from the group we were walking with. I think they ran all the way down. So, we were left to find our own way. We were a bit flustered and worried when we had to decide what path to choose when we came upon forks in the road and so much for following the footprints – the rain washed them all away. Luckily, we didn’t get lost.
It took us a little over three hours to reach back to Mavis Bank. We just had one last river to cross. Except the little river was now a raging course of flood waters. About six strong men had to help us across. Finally, we had a mini-mountain tiny hill to climb to reach the point where the bus was to pick us up. By this time we were soaking wet and cold. All our gear was wet as well. And that is how we traveled home in the bus, with the air conditioning on. I couldn’t wait to get home.
But all’s well that ends well. I accomplished most of what I had set out to do. I remember while struggling up the mountains that I swore that I’d never, never, never, ever go on that trip again. Not even if they gave me all the money in the world (people say all kinds of things in difficult circumstances). But, in retrospect, I’d gladly go again. It was a new and exciting experience filled with picturesque and inspiring sights and the sense of peace and calm that pervaded the area was well worth it. Besides, if I go a second time, I’d know exactly what to expect, what to bring to make the experience better for me and, of course, I’d definitely know to take the Rover!
And, although I didn’t make it to the peak, I got pictures – my motivation to make it there next time.
“On a clear day, you can see forever…”
That’ll be me at the top of the Trig Station next time :)
Have you ever been to the Blue Mountains? How was your experience?