Blue Mountain Peak
It takes about 3-4 hours to make the seven mile hike up to the top of Blue Mountain. The trip usually begins at 3 a.m. so you reach the summit by sunrise. It’s an interesting hike up the rocky narrow trail in the pitch darkness. Once it starts getting lighter you can see the prehistoric looking vegetation like the giant fern palms. In this area there are over 300 kinds of flowers and plants that are only found here and nowhere else in Jamaica, or the world. The rain forest is so lush you almost expect to see dinosaurs in the morning mist. When you’ve made to the top it’s well worth the journey. The view is simply incredible, on a clear day you can see Cuba.
The surrounding mountains can take on a blue color due to the constant mist in the air, that’s why they’re called the Blue Mountains. Jamaican folklore says once you’ve seen the blue color in the mountains, it means you’ll never leave Jamaica. I’m not sure about never leaving, but I saw it and was in Jamaica for another 10 months.
Here’s an interesting story about my trek up the mountain from a page from my notes.
1/15/92 – I’m going up to the Blue Mountain today with Tom and Petter (my Jamaican & Norwegian friend) we’re spending the night at the Maya coffee plantation owned by Peter Bentley. The camp is a working coffee farm so we got a tour along with an in-depth lesson in coffee growing and production. It’s a pretty rustic place with gas lanterns and bunk-beds. We went to bed early since we have to get up at 2:30 a.m., plus there’s no electricity and it’s dark up here.
We were up and on our way on time, 3 a.m. in the blackness of night. The path up was pretty narrow and rocky but not that steep. As it grew lighter we could see the amazing lush scenery unfolding around us, I was taking photos all the way up. Clouds moved in and we were soon shrouded in mist all the way up the air was very cool as well, around 50˚ and all I had on was jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt, I was freezing. Another interesting thing is since this is coffee country the air is filled with the smell of coffee. I was really wishing I had a nice cup to warm me up. Only two years ago were the Blue Mountains made Jamaica’s first National Park.
We finally reached the peak about 6 a.m., just in time to see the sunrise. It was so cold and we tried to start a small fire, which wasn’t easy since the air was thin and damp, but we managed and it did warm us up for a bit. The sunrise was incredible and the views were equally amazing, you could see about 100 miles down the south coast as well as seeing Cuba in the other direction. We stayed at the top for about a half hour soaking in all the scenery and taking pictures before starting our trek down the mountain.
At this point my friend Tom suggest we take a different route down, is only one way to the bottom, down, right? Because of this decision we would be lost for about the next 10 hours. Petter had decided not to come with us for some reason, I guess he was the smart one. Tom and I (and the camp dog that followed us) started down into the thick dense rain forest, I was wishing we had a machete it was so thick, and the brush we were walking on was really about 3 ft. of matted vegetation, not solid ground. It was tough for the dog whose paws kept falling through the porous ground brush. We eventually came across a stream so we had some water to drink, for now. It’s very surreal, we saw almost no animals or insects of any kind other than humming birds, some the size of a small sparrow, others the size of large bumble bees. At first I thought they were really big bugs until I saw one land on a branch a few feet away. Wow.
We followed the stream until all of a sudden we stopped in our tracks, another 5 feet and we would have walked off a 100 ft. cliff/waterfall. As the stream ends so does our path. If you were not paying attention it would be so easy just to walk right off the cliff it was so well hidden. We contemplated scaling down the cliff on the vines but decided it was not the best idea so we rested a bit and discussed our options. The only option was to now go back up the way we came. This was not as easy as it sounded, since the jungle was so thick we couldn’t find our original path. We figured if we just went up we would get back to the top, sounded reasonable. We were now very tired and thirsty, fortunately it is the rain forest so we were able to lick some water off of the larger plant leaves. The way up was pretty steep and the spongy ground made it even more difficult, specially for our trusty dog. By now I had to put the dog (a shepherd dog of some kind) around my neck and carry him since his little paws kept falling through ground vegetation making it difficult for him to walk. We both took turns carrying him up the mountainside. As we got further up in front of us was cliff about 10 ft high or so, we were obviously not on the same path.
We could hear voices coming from above the cliff, it was part of the path down the mountain. We yelled to the people and told them we needed help. Tom climbed up on my shoulders and pulled himself up the cliff with the help of the people above. I struggled to hand him up the dog, now I’m thinking to myself, how the hell am I going to get up? I found some vines and pulled myself up until Tom could grab me and pull me up. We made it and were very happy to say the least.
Now on the path we still had a two-hour hike back to camp. By the time we got back to the camp it was dark and people had wondered what had happened to us. I told Petter “I got it all on film”. We told our story to everyone only to find out people have fallen off that same cliff we came across, and died, the JDF (Jamaican Defense Force) retrieving the bodies.
This was one of those trips I would not trade for anything and would do it again in a heartbeat, but with more water and a machete of course. I will never forget that trip and have some awesome photos as a reminder and will be posting more at another time. Whenever I take on an adventure in Jamaica I always make sure tell my friends, “If you don’t hear from me in three days, look for me.” People disappear in Jamaica all the time. So as they say, “Walk good”.
NOTE: This is the one year anniversary of starting my blog and I would like to thank all those who have visited or left comments. I hope you all enjoy the next years selection of photos and stories. Thanks for visiting.