Jamaican Island Exploration

The afternoon rain storms seem to have set in over the west and so we drove in the opposite direction with little other agenda than that of exploring.  We followed the coastal highway east from Mo’ Bay towards Ochos Rios.  We discovered much of the countryside to be so familiar to that of parts of Zimbabwe, that at some time I said to Keith to “pinch me!  This looks and feels like we are in Mutare!”  In so many ways it could have been –  Mutare by the sea!  Flamboyants, figs, bananas, sugar cane, bougis, even trees that looked remarkably like our acacias!

Inland roads

The road wound away from the coastline at times and through gaps cut through limestone toward the interior.  At some points we were driving with some relatively high limestone cliffs on our inland side and noticed plenty of caves and crevices reminding us of Jamaica’s pirate history.  We drove off the main road to visit the coastal town of Falmouth where a brand new cruise terminal is being constructed and will be one of the Royal Caribbean Cruise lines ports of call. It will be the only new thing in this little town which looked to all intents and purposes like a film set for Pirates of the Caribbean!

Falmouth church

Weather battened and beaten stone buildings hold solid place besides tiny wooden houses once painted bright tropical colors but now faded to pastel shades.  Buzzing shops and informal markets are alive with a sudden mass of people, cars, mini-buses and battered pick-ups all thrusting and shoving their way through the little tangle of town streets and all following their own set of rules.  We just brought our own set into the general melee!

We escaped the sudden chaos and set back onto the coastal highway heading towards Runaway Bay and whatever else we would see along the way.  The lure of the mountainous inland proved too much and we branched off towards the interior.

Traveling through the steep hills we wound our way ever upward on narrow and often pot-holed roads that twisted like some tormented serpent through the impossibly thick and lush vegetation.  Little communities clustered around make-shift church buildings, goats and chickens, evidence of farms and small-holdings with dwellings set further back and surely with the most fabulous views over the ocean far below, are carved out of this bush.  Impossibly speeding mini-buses roar around the corners honking horns to warn of their imminent arrival, send the occasional bicyclist and ubiquitous goats scattering or hugging the crumbling edge of the road.  It never fails to amaze me how one always seems to find the fastest drivers in the most laid-back cultures!  Nothing else ever seems to be in a rush or has only the vaguest awareness of time!

Fishing at sunset

It was fantastic to find ourselves high above the coastline and in the Jamaican hills.  There were views everywhere you looked.  Toward and out over the ocean, taking in the bays and coves and distant headlands, the reef showing in places with gentle surf cresting white waves against the shallow coral shelves and inland to west and east, mile upon mile of rolling hills and deep valleys all cloaked in impenetrable dark green vegetation.  As a descendant of pioneers growing up in a land dependant on agriculture, the impression of rich untapped agricultural wealth was overwhelming.  But then I suppose it could be looked at too as rich virgin nature in a world of ever increasing over development – and relished as such.  We certainly did.

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