It is no doubt that Jamaica is the jewel of the Caribbean. Wi island likkle but it is beautiful. Recently, we’ve been on a journey to highlight some of Jamaica’s ‘hidden gems’. Our first stop, according to Charles Hyatt II, was just up the road from our office.
Listen, if a Jamaican ever tells you that something is around the corner, or up the road, they’re lying.
Since we were only going up the road, we decided to leave at 10 when the city’s traffic wasn’t at its peak. We packed our bags, programmed our GPS and head for the mountains. We cruised through Papine’s Square to the Gordon Town’s where we discovered a statue of the great Louise Bennett-Coverly. It was sculpted by Basil Watson and unveiled on Miss Lou’s 99th birthday in 2018.
After making the right turn at the Gordon Town’s Police Station, we noticed that our phone signal’s strength weakened. This was a clear indication that we were on our way to the “country”. The route given by our GPS was one of the most scenic routes I’ve ever seen. We were surrounded by hills and valleys, animals and rivers. Coupled with the amazing glow provided by the sunlight, it was the perfect background for a selfie.
After driving for what felt like 2 days and countless stops to get reassurance from kindhearted rural St. Andrew residents, we were almost at our destination. Or so we thought.
Checking our watches, it was now 12:00, two hours after we’ve left our Kingston office and we had approximately 45 minutes more to go. We were cautioned by many concerned residents of the ‘sipple*’ roads and were advised to park the car and walk the rest of the way. Being the strong-headed Jamaicans we are, we drove for another 20 minutes until our wheels were no match for the roads.
We found a safe spot to park the car and we began our hike up the mountain. As we ascended, we realised that we were moving out of our tropical climate and into the artics. The place started to get really cold but the air became lighter and our Kingstonian lungs were beyond grateful. We walked and walked until we saw a sign, “THIS WAY TO CINCHONA”.
My legs started to rejoice and my heart was glad. That excitement came to an abrupt end as we realised that we still had a long way to go. In true Jamaican style, we made jokes, told stories and of course, braved our way to the top!
They always say that endings are the best part. We agree. The end of the hike was spectacular. We felt like we were on top of the world. Being in that garden made me wonder what Eden looked like. We were on top of the world! On the border of St. Andrew, St. Thomas and Portland, we were surrounded by the beautiful, lush Blue Mountains.
At an altitude of 4500-5500 ft, the Cinchona Botanical Gardens is the highest garden of its type in the Caribbean. It also carries historical significance, as the Cinchona trees planted in the garden were used in the production of quinine, a medication used to treat malaria. That’s where the garden got its name from.
The garden is home to a number of European trees such as the Cork Oak, Jalop, Camphor, Mulberry. Other foreign trees include Canadian Maple and species of Eucalyptus. Many of the plants are endemic, therefore, they can’t flourish at lower altitudes. Rubber, green peas, carrots, Irish potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and citrus were a few other garden residents. The best part of the garden are the benches and picnic area, where you can sit, relax and take it all in.
The garden also features a trail where nature provides a lively, green feast for the eyes. Along the trail, there are expansive hillsides, verdantly awash with clusters of pine trees. ‘Beauty sometimes comes at a price’ is a lesson Cinchona visitors can relate to. They appreciate the tranquil lushness that Cinchona offers and at the same time forget about the long hard, sometimes painful journey to get there.
Before going on the hike, ensure that you do the following:
- Check the weather – make sure it’s sunny!
- Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes
- Take water – hydration is important
- Bring food – the journey plus the walk will make you hungry
- Wear warm clothing – it’s always ‘winter’ in Rural St. Andrew
There is much in this little island to be grateful for, and here at Good News Jamaica, we don’t need a holiday to celebrate Jamaica. We believe in celebrating her uniqueness every day. Follow our “Hidden Treasures” series to see our weekly highlight of something refreshingly special on the island. You can also suggest locations for the series by sending emails to Info@GoodNewsJamaica.com.