“All men must come to the mountain” – Jamaican Poet
Where do I begin?
Should I start with the 2.5 hour drive from Kingston, up to the base, Whitfield Hostel, along the meandering treacherous not so prettily paved roads and dirt tracks, where at almost every corner you see a stalled vehicle, the engine of which was being examined by at least 11 persons? You wonder if that will be the fate of your carrier as well. We saw many shells on engines carrying loads of varying types uphill.
Or should I start at the base camp, where we lightened our loads? No excess baggage for the climb.
We, five of us including two guides Robert and Kay, started our trek at 1:00 p.m (not all of us had properly functioning watches), under heavy overcast skies and even though rain was predicted and we were advised to put our essentials in a garbage bag and put the bag in our back packs, I didn’t heed that advice because my high end Under Armour back pack was supposed to protect my paraphernalia against any type of weather. I paid the consequence of being obstinate and foolish. The clouds were so dense with a lot of fog we did not get much of a view on the way up. Perhaps it was a good thing as we could not see the cliff drops. Definitely not for the faint hearted. This was not really the ideal occasion to take many selfies and photos – focus was on ascending as safely as possible.
2.5 hour walk (no biggie right?) to the first official 15 min rest stop at Portland Gap. (We had other mini breaks along the way to allow those of us with sub-optimal lung capacity to catch our breaths)
We passed independent coffee estates and coffee farmers picking the beans or carrying the crops on their heads The roads were not navigable at this point.
Another 2.5 hours to the peak but at this point the action really began – non stop deluge, those of us who didn’t bring our rain gear had to pull out the garbage bags to use as rain gear. It was a futile exercise.
Two Jacobs ladders (stairways to heaven) and some paths which felt like we were walking on leafy carpets (no not all of it was scary) we made it to the peak – yaaay -at 5:45 pm, but we knew that we would not see a majestic sunset yet we still felt victorious.
Yes we came we saw we conquered, one Trini, one Pole and the rest Yardies.
It had stopped raining by the time we reached the “summit”, but the temperature was considerably lower than when we started off. Chattering teeth and freezing hands, we sought to cheerfully warm up each other by trading dry fleeces. One smart person much to our envy, brought out her winter gloves.
We began our trek back down at 6:20 p.m., trying to take advantage of the little daylight left. Within a short time we had to bring out our flash lights and miner’s head lamps to light our way down. Narrow paths, loose stones and gravels made the downhill descent frightening, for me at least, as I literally clung to the mountain sides to avoid cliff drops.
The night whistles of the birds kept our company as we tried to strike up lively conversations which included topics like Donald Trump, poisonous snakes and rice and beans. At one point our guide asked us to turn off all lights – pitch black got a new meaning but so did shining stars.
All men on deck still, except that one person’s knees started to buckle – oh oh – a makeshift hiking stick was cut from an overhanging branch and we forged on like good troupers for the next couple hours. We were elated to see the lights of the buildings in Mint Valley and Mavis Bank, and in the very far distance the city of Kingston. The sweet sounds of reggae music drifting uphill were welcomed.
We arrived at the hostel around 11:00 pm, some of us determined to still eat our rice and beans and others just having a cup of tea and hitting the sacks literally. A Hostel without electricity and wifi, fueled by “Home Sweet Home” kerosine lamps.
As we were settling into well deserved sleep we were awaken my much commotion as the hostel “welcomed” another group of 19 adventurers who were spending the weekend there and hoping to start their adventure at midnight to catch the sunrise. All power to them, they looked all young and fit!
After a hearty robust breakfast the next morning under blue skies with white puffy clouds we headed back to Kingston some more sore than others but all expressing the same sentiments.
It was worth every 50k+ steps (for me it was double as my legs and feet were not as long as the rest).