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Thursday, February 03, 2011

To the Peak and Back!

A View from the Wildflower Lodge, obscured by fog

In all my over 20 years of living in the lovely island of Jamaica, I have never been to the peak, yes to the highest point in the island, Blue Mountain Peak. I have always gazed on the majestic mountains from a distance, even went to Hollywell, but never challenged the Mountain and place my feet upon its peak. With my life going by in a breeze I decided that this experience must not be a mere illusion in the short lifespan of this man. So I suggested this trip to the members of my flickr group, who after a diverse mix of resistance and enthusiasm my dream was realized when it was finally accepted and arrangements were made to head to the mountains. This was going to be a real experience of a lifetime!

The Group
I had been hearing warning words and many negative comments about how challenging it is to walk it to the peak which stood 7402 feet above sea level. However, I was never swayed by the horror stories I heard about the treacherous journey the the peak, no, I wanted to experience it for myself! but, did I bite off more than I could chew?

The view from the back of the Land Rover
The journey to the peak was scheduled for Saturday January 29, an over night trip as going to the peak would require more than just a quick one day journey. It was split in three parts: Stage 1 starting at the Scientific Research Counsel (SRC) in Mona where we all met up and departed on our journey to the rural community of Mavis bank. Stage 2 would be a trip up treacherous mountain roads via Land Rovers to our cabin the Wildflower Lodge. The final stage was the real challenge, yes the actual climb by foot to the peak.

The Mavis Bank police station
We departed from SRC at about 1:30pm and made our way up the Gordon Town route to the rural community of Mavis Bank where we made our first stop to await the arrival of our other mode of transportation, the Land Rovers. The wait for the Land Rovers was a bit longer than we expected and even had some of us worried that they would not arrive. Nevertheless, they, despite being a bit late, made it and we transfered our gears and clothes to these tough vehicles. One by one we all climbed into the backs of these well worn vehicles and started on our journey deeper into rural Jamaica.

One of the Land Rovers crossing the river bed
If I said we traveled on roads, then that would be a gross exaggeration, as what we traveled on was definitely not for your regular car or for the faint of heart! We traveled on paths that were covered with craters, narrow enough for only one vehicle, so steep that you would have to lean just to star erect, through hills and valleys and even a river bed! After that journey I have an even deeper respect for Land Rovers, no matter how old and beaten up they look! I was disappointed though that during my journey up the mountain in the Land Rovers my risky photography came to an end when the rain started to fall and forced us to put away our gear for their own safety.

Wildflower Lodge
About and hour later we arrived at Wildflower Lodge, soaked and shaken by our rough ride up to mountain road. This lodge was the epitome of rural living. it was a real rustic lodge with bunk beds made of wood and foam mattresses. It had wooden floors, wooden balconies and the only source of lighting were the genuine "Home Sweet Home" kerosene lamps! Our only source of external entertainment there was a transition radio that was plugged into what appears to be the only socket in the entire building and the the only source of electricity  too! But there was one thing that was strange, yes out of place! What could it be? Well, surprisingly both mobile networks Lime and Digicel had full bars and even more surprising EDGE data connection! So despite the fact that we were buried deep in very rural Jamaica, we still had the full use of our modern technology, our smartphones. We spent the night playing cards, taking a lot of photos and of course eating some real good country cooking and engaging in conversations spanning across diverse topics! Soon it was time to rest up a bit for the challenge that laid ahead.

Our sleeping quarters at Wildflower Lodge
The transmitter radio
It was approximately 1:00am I had to get up out of bed, despite failing at falling asleep, and get ready for the hike... the climb... the challenge of getting to the peak! We all geared up, bags of great and food on our backs, sweaters and hats on, and flashlights in our hands. We headed out into the dark, guided by the only light sources we had, our flashlights and the stars that stood out in the surprisingly crystal clear skies. As I gazed at the unfamiliar site of so many stars, I said to myself this is perfect, I will get photos of when I get to the peak... or would I... would I even make it to the peak?

The only source of lighting at the lodge
With each step I took up the steep mountain side in the dark of the night, the harder it became. We walked until I had to remove my sweater as I began to sweat even in the cold of the mountains. fatigue started to set in and the journey got harder as we got closer to what seem to be an elusive peak, a legend that we were chasing. The difficulty of the journey was now compounded by the fact that I foolishly wore Tims (Timberland Boots) instead of sneakers. With every step I took, my thighs hurt, my calves hurt, my bag got heavier and now my heels began to chafe in the heavy boots that burdened my feet. the silence of the night was disturbed by the footsteps, panting, gowning, complaining and bursts of encouragement from determined hikers, chasing what seemed to be a dream, fantasies of reaching the peak.

We climbed, we stopped for breathers, we fought against fatigue, we bore the agony and pain and we climbed some more in the cold of the mountain night. As we got closer to what now seemed to be a dwindling hope, the mountain offered no assistance as it conjured up thick mist if an effort to deter us. But when that didn't seem to work it got more vengeful and send down rain upon us! By now if we didn't reach so near to the peak we would have given up as we battled steep inclines, darkness, hunger, rough terrain, narrow paths, cold, thick mist and now rain. Finally as the morning dawned upon us and we were on our last breath, it was almost in sight! I pressed through with all my strength, so did my fellow hikers and we did it! We made it to the peak! Soaked, cold and in pain, but we did it we made it to the peak!

The excitement of making it to the peak was short lived as the extended pause in movement made us aware of the cold temperature at the peak, cold which was compounded by the wet clothes that cling to our bodies. I wasted no time in heading down back though, the cold was too much and the mist was too thick and the rain too much for me to even take out my camera for a few victory photos. If I thought the journey going up was rough then I was in for even more hard times. Going down the hill didn't require as much energy, but it certainly came with pangs of distress as I was rocked with pain! My thighs, legs, calves, knees, heels, toes, shoulders, back and even head hurt! Each step I took was like a stab, like a knife piercing every inch of my of my body, but then hunger and thirst started to set in, in full force. The journey down seemed endless, riddled with pain, cold, exhaustion, hunger and yet the rain continued all the way down... and so did my bitter cursing.

Food provided by Wildflower Lodge
I finally made it down to Wildflower lodge after being rescues a few miles away by one  of the Land Rovers It was such a relief to finally be off my feet, get out of the wet cold clothes and to finally get some food! I swore that even if I was getting a million dollars I would never venture up to the peak ever again! But now that the pain is gone, I would do it again... but with comfortable footwear, no camera gear and at least one month training before I tackle the peak again. One item on my bucket list down, I made it to Blue Mountain Peak!!!... And back...

For more photos please visit: JWI/LOP Flickr Trip to Blue Mountain 29-30 January 2011 and My Flickr Page.

15 commented:

awesome photography as usual, it was a good experience hiking with the crew!

Thanks bro! it was certainly a good experience with the crew.

I am ready to do it again if you are!

That was such a fantastic account of the expedition, that, I feel as if I was there! Wish I could have been there! Keep me in the loop, so I can make sure I am in Jamaica when another trip is planned!
Thanks for the account!!!

Lovely photos and nice story.

Seems you guys had a great time. Great photography as usual.

Great story Stunner; I feel your pain. Thanks for telling it!

Now if you go again the lesson you will likely learn is how the mind works against the body if it has negative or uncertain thoughts. Even with no training the next time should be easier!

@Jimbo N: LOL!!! Man you made it look too easy!

@Ruel: Thanks! I hear Charlene mentioning that she wanted it to be a yearly event... so who knows you might just get to experience it.

@Karee: Thank you! Glad you did :)

@Jree Morrison: Yeah, we did have a good time. Glad you like the photos too :)

@Sir Tome: Thanks! Mi mind was trying but the body was giving up! LOL! But I will be better prepared if I go again.

Very nice Stunner.. I love your blog

First,u guys had it easy,i never had a rover, no home sweet home lamps...moreover a radio, but nonetheless, the pics are really nice and your descriptive writing...GREAT.

Amazing story and so descriptive, "Home Sweet Home" lamps and all! Great photos too. Getting to the peak requires much discipline and energy I would imagine and then it got cold and rained... kudos to you and your group!

keep up the good work stunner.

respect my yute!
good job as usual!

how difficult was it to arrange the trip?

this sounds like something I need to cross off my bucketlist too!

That sounds great. Visiting the Blue Mountains has been on my list for sometime now. I am glad you were able to experience the thrill and share it with us.

Loving your photographic skills. Good description of the experience as well.