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.

Carolina Fall

Glowing autumn colours

I was gazing out of the hotel window a couple weeks ago when I was on a trip to Tennessee.  It is officially Fall but we have had unseasonably warm weather and the trees seem reluctant to turn.  The fact that we followed some incredible storms with wind and heavy rain, tornado sightings and generally what the Weather People here call “active weather”, spoke more of summer.  But as a skein of geese fly overhead calling disconsolately, I know that I am looking at the beginning of autumn. 

It often seems to me that trees are like people and many have quirky personalities.  Some of the trees out there are completely bare – almost flaunting their nakedness!  Not in a vulgar way as an exhibitionist, but rather a matter of expediency.  As if they know that they will be bare most of winter so instead of going about it slowly, they just got it done – in a green-today and gone-tomorrow kind of way.  Others almost seem apologetic and a little shy about this whole changing thing.  In fact some of these trees look as if they are blushing, turning pink or orange from the top down.  Then there are those trees which are just down-right determined to hang onto their green for as long as possible.  All this makes for gorgeous quilted-counterpane-scenery with soft golds, glowing yellows, blushing orange and starter reds showing against the deeper multi-hues of green.
Blue Ridge Parkway

Tomorrow we will travel up the Smoky Mountains and over to the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of a more advanced stage of autumn.  We expect to see a forest of trees in a far bolder dress.  There we will find the ones who have embraced this change of seasons and are flaunting their glorious colors before taking their well-earned winter rest.  There will be different colors at differing heights and dependant on the sunshine aspect of the slope or the protection of the valley.    

Smoky Mountains

A unique feature of the Blue Ridge Parkway is to be found in its name – this road of twists and turns often runs along the mountain ridge giving one the feeling that you are driving on the very tip of the world.  The views to left and right extend for mile after undulating blue mile.  It is one of those things so hard to capture in photographs which give but an indication of the magnificence and harder still to describe in words, all of which are inadequate.  It is truly a soul-kind of experience no matter the season you visit but perhaps especially true of the fall. Then the scenery takes on a living technicolor with specimens that continually surprise with their vibrant and extravagant color.  A stranger turned to us at one incredible viewing point, and said, “It makes you long to paint!” and I couldn’t have said it better.

Quilted-counterpane scenery
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