Today was a hiking day in the Blue Mountains. The hike was organized by a group of personal trainers- a very fit group of people, I must say. They rated the hike a six out of 10 and while I would say that was accurate, the thing I found most challenging was simply staying on my feet. I fell twice and got crazy legs/arms numerous times trying to maintain my balance. Both falls were downhill and I got a nasty scrape on my shin but was otherwise uninjured. Several times we were on a path a maximum of a foot wide with the forest on our left and a sheer drop-off on our right with nothing to hold on to. It was so worth it though. It is stunning up there. The drive, however, is stunning but not for its beauty. The road winds almost at 90 degree angles the entire way but I was in a car with a skilled driver, even when he chatted on the phone. We passed the famed Strawberry Hill resort and began the hike lodged somewhere in the bottom of the sky and among the treetops. We were led by a woman named Meg (and her three dogs) who is starting a non-profit that will work with inner-city children, allowing them to ride horses. It was a two-hour endeavour and many people were complaining about the length and difficulty. The path was mostly in the trees and seemed to follow the road’s twists and turns. It was strewn with mangoes so ripe they squished and exploded under your feet if you stepped on them. We also passed many people in their Sunday finest on the way to church, I presume. It was incredible to see these people, high up in the Blue Mountains, picking their way through dusty, deserted trails, especially the elderly couple with canes. We passed one tiny church perched on a cliff where a small group was passionately singing hymns.
Despite my falls, I had a wonderful time, again marvelling at the difference getting away from the city makes and the effect hearing a running river and the wind rustling the tall grass can have on your psyche.
After the hike, we ended at a small bed and breakfast inn on the river. There was a small pool I dunked myself in with some other brave people. This marked the first time I have been cold in Jamaica, and it lasted all of five minutes. And of course I met a fellow hiker who knows people that went to my high school in Ottawa. She is a Jamaican who did her studies overseas, earning a PHD in history, and now lectures at the local university. I then helped myself to some veggie stew, breadfruit and salad. Then, a thirty minute hike back to the car and we wound our way back down to the city. My quads are sore, skin is slightly burnt but it was another wonderful day of getting to know this beautiful country.