Some say you can see the whole island from the top of the Blue Mountain Peak trail.
Some say you can even see all the way to Cuba on a clear day. I was not so lucky, but it was worth the climb anyways.
My knowledge of the Blue Mountains prior to visiting Jamaica was limited to a vague recollection of the cultivation of coffee in the area. Not being the type of traveller to select a destination based on available peaks to climb, at least not yet, I only learned about the popularity of this hike after making harbour in Port Antonio. The name and a quick google image search had me dreaming of a romantic walk through all that misty green, suddenly I could not leave Jamaica without visiting the Blue Mountains.
The forecast held little promise of sun for the foreseeable future, but I was determined, and nothing was going to stop me. Certainly not the weather. Rain schmain! My skin’s waterproof, right? That is the thing about being someplace for a limited amount of time – you cannot get stuck on details like the weather, otherwise you are unlikely to ever leave your hotel room/guest house/B&B/sailboat bunk. Discussions with friends back home limited to statements of, ‘Oh yeah, I thought about doing that, but it was raining.’
It is a long ride from Port Antonio to Portland Gap, the roads through the mountains narrow, twisty. The last couple of hours filled with pitches and potholes best negotiated only by 4×4. So I booked a stay at Whitfield Hall, the closest accommodation to the trailhead, and got a good night’s sleep. I had heard that many hikers begin before dawn, timing their arrival at the peak for sunrise. Figuring I would not be seeing more than clouds at the top, and the best view was likely to be of the forest along the trail, I slept in.
My kind of sign!
Up and up into the clouds – a view over coffee plantations – about 30 mins into the hike.
There had been plenty of warnings about how this is a difficult hike. Very steep, especially the first hour. I scoffed inwardly a bit. I grew up hiking the Coast Mountains of British Columbia so a few hours up a mountain in Jamaica is doable … As it turns out it was steep, very steep. And I did not take a single photograph of those parts. I was too busy huffing & puffing my way up.
Honestly tho, it is not just a certain level of fitness which comes in handy when embarking on this kind of adventure. All those family outings of hikes up mountains, kayak trips through storms, camping excursions spent swatting and swearing at mosquitoes, created a default sticktoitiveness leading to today’s one foot in front of the other mentality. As a result forewarnings of potential physical difficulty are unlikely to keep me away, regardless of my current muscular state of affairs. Thanks Mom & Papa! Anywhooo, I can always go slowly.
And who can help but stop for a breather when surrounded by a lush, tropical rainforest? Of course, it was more that just the view which was soaking it. Rain, mist, mud, all of it nicely soaking in. Meh, without the rain there would be no soothing green, no tree trunks draped in ferns and orchids and weeping moss. My skin is waterproof and shoes can be washed.
There were these stretches of flatter sections where I felt as though I was walking through a fairytale. Have you ever gone on a stroll through the woods and come across places where the trees thin out a bit and in between the forest floor is a soft carpet of flowers and ferns? I love these spaces, always so welcoming with a touch of fantasy, a gently manicured wilderness. I could easily wander off the path and lay down among the trees, maybe take a nap.
Perhaps it was the weather, perhaps it was off season. A little from column A, a little from column B … For whatever reason, this supposedly popular hike was virtually devoid of visitors and I found myself alone on an otherwise busy island. A little time away from it all, away from life on a crowded boat, seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. My favourite landscape is ocean against mountainous forest and I had been getting plenty of the first while sailing. This hike brought the last two elements into balance. Each soggy step and drip from above worked like magic on my slightly frazzled demeanor.
I made it to the top, misty air colder than any my skin had felt since leaving spring in Quebec a month before. A view of clouds my final reward as an orchestra of wind brushed tree branches howled around the mountain. Grateful for the thermal underwear tossed into my pack despite an inner voice criticizing the extra weight. Who needs long johns on a trip to the Caribbean?
Sure, it would have been nice to confirm if I could truly see all the way to Cuba from the top. But the vaporous atmosphere suited me just fine. There are views everywhere I travel, I have been quite spoiled by those views, gotten a bit snobby about it at times. Occasionally bad weather and cloudy scenery serve as good reminders that I should climb a mountain every once in a while just to climb it, just because I can.
Do you like to hike? Do you plan in advance? Or go on a whim?
A new postcard inspired by my hike on the Blue Mountain Peak trail is now available at my Etsy shop, Atelier Art Postal. Get your copy here. Remember to sign up to my newsletter for a member’s discount – just scroll down and fill out the form at the bottom of this page.
Wishing you all the best!