The Blue Mountains

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”
– Kerouac

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While I was home in San Francisco researching where to go and what to see in Jamaica, I learned about a sunrise hike that takes you to the peak of the Blue Mountains. There is a Rasta family living high in the hills who rents out cheap rooms, cooks homemade Ital food, and will lead you through the dark to the peak where you can see Cuba on a clear day. Blue Mountains aside, Cuba was actually the selling point of this excursion. Myself and the girls I would be traveling with all became great friends while dancing together in Cuba; the island will always hold a special place in our hearts.

Once in Jamaica, our plan was to drive to the hostel during the day, enjoy a delicious dinner, and turn in early so we would be ready for our 2am wakeup call to climb to the peak. We asked countless locals in Boston Bay how long the drive up the Blue Mountains would take, as we did not want to be lost up there in the dark. Apparently, not many of them have ever actually ventured up in the hills as their estimates were all wrong. The supposed 4 hour trip had now taken 6 hours, and our light was fading fast. Armed with the recommended 4 wheel drive vehicle, our vague guidebook directions and a road map, we fumbled our way up the mountain in the dark, asking people we crossed paths with for additional directions. At one point we found ourselves driving on a soft, moist dirt road with a hill on one side and a steep drop off to the other. The car seemed to be handling fine, but we put it in 4 wheel drive just to be safe. Whoops! Not a good idea? The car’s wheels immediately slipped after trying to start up again, and we found ourselves with our back left wheel hanging off the mountain. Attempting to keep calm, we gingerly removed all of our belongings from the trunk, just in case it was going over the edge. I reluctantly sat back into the driver’s seat attempting to coerce the car forward onto the road while Yana held my door open in the event I needed to jump ship. In retrospect, I don’t know how we maintained our cool. I guess adrenaline kicked in, we were literally in the middle of nowhere; there was no other choice. If the car went off the cliff, it would be a long hike back to the last place we saw people. We were able to get the car forward, but now the 2 left wheels were downhill, and the chassis of the car was aground. The whole vehicle was slowly sinking with every attempt at acceleration, its wheels spinning desperately in the soft mud. I had resorted to digging out the car on my hands and knees when a man came sauntering down the path. “Wat da bombaclat!?” He exclaimed. Our poor savior was in utter shock, at both our situations, and the fact that 3 women were 4-wheeling through the Blue Mountains alone. According to him we were not even on a road for cars, and once he was able to get over his state of paralyzed, jaw-dropping awe he ran home down the road to fetch some tools and a friend. After over an hour and multiple attempts at digging, putting planks under the wheels, pushing, pulling, and desperately working together with our new friends, the dismal reality that the car wasn’t going to make it was setting in. People were starting to give up; the old man among us who was once resolutely helping had resorted to standing by shaking his head back and forth in disapproval.  My mind began to drift, will my insurance even cover this if we aren’t on a road? How are we going to get out of here in time to catch our flight?  I don’t know if I believed in miracles before this experience but I’m pretty sure only a miracle could have kept our car from going over. One second it was literally sliding down into the abyss, yet somehow on our final attempt, the car was back on the mountain trail. We all looked at each other in disbelief, and after a moment of silence, the cheering ensued.

Now it was near midnight, and everything on the mountain was closed. There was no point in paying for a room to sleep in, but we also didn’t want to leave and drive back all that way in the dark. We hadn’t eaten a thing since breakfast the prior morning, and all we had in our possession was rum. The boys began calling all of their contacts who owned shops who could sell us food, promising they would want to be woken up for the business. No one was answering their phone calls, so they resorted to pounding on doors. A woman emerged from one in her robe, and opened up her store for us to buy some crackers and beers. She so sweetly offered us her bed in her home, recommending we rest, and continue on in the morning. It seemed like a good idea at first, but when she kept avoiding our questions on price we became suspect. We decided to push on, and just go for the hike, despite our hunger and fatigue. We had come too far to turn back without seeing the sunrise, besides, we felt bad just abandoning the boys after they had been so kind to us. If they had ill intentions, they would not have worked so hard in helping us. We would have been robbed on the spot, and our car would be in a pile down the mountain. They didn’t even want money for their good deed, but they offered to lead us to the peak, and we could pay them as guides. We agreed, and off we went further up into the Blue Mountains. The actual road to the peak is the steepest road I have ever seen. It was a daunting drive, and the car could barely make it. After we left the store, we learned the woman is an evil soul, and would have robbed us had we accepted her seemingly generous offer; the car would have been gone when we woke up the next morning . Another bullet dodged in Jamaica! Good thing we felt dedicated to our new friends and ignored the temptation of sleep.

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The night just kept on providing healthy doses of adventure. We had already avoided driving our car off a cliff, being robbed by a conniving lady, and now we were following a young man waving a machete in one hand, and a bottle of rum in the other, joyously screaming random incomprehensible phrases in Patois up a mountain in the dark. The hike was steep, long and difficult with no visibility. When we finally reached the top we had to huddle in a pile to keep warm in the foggy, cool mountain air. Then the sun rose and it was all worthwhile. There were too many clouds to see Cuba that day; after everything it didn’t seem so important anyhow. Just when we thought nothing else could wrong, on our hike down, a couple of men posing as park rangers tried expunging money from us claiming it was a fee to see the land. I will spare you the details, as this is an entirely different chapter, but we didn’t pay them. By the time we reached our car and drove off, one was waving angrily at us, and the other was in love.

The Blue Mountains are a breathtakingly beautiful, surprising, and magical place. They cradled us, challenged us, chewed us up, inspired us, elevated us, and spit us out with all too much to ponder over on our drive back across the island. It was the perfect ending, in so many ways, to my wild Jamaican experience.

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Behind the scenes…

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