Saturday, June 16, 2007

how do you get there? Cunha Cunha Pass Trail

As you can see from the photographs I've posted on Flickr ( 'maroon country' photoset ), one of my favorite places to take photographs in Jamaica is a Blue Mountain cultural treasure: the Cunha Cunha Pass Trail (CCPT). The trail runs between Maroon communities of Hayfield in the Parish of St. Thomas and Millbank in Portland. Local historians have traced the origins of the CCPT back the indigenous Arawaks. The Maroons (fugitives from slavery that established their own independent society in the mountains) built an elaborate system of trails that took off east and west of the main trail. Some of these trails are still used by farmers and hunters today. If you stay up there for a few days, you get to check out many of the local dishes. Two years ago Linette Wilks, leader of the Bowden Pen Farmers Assocation, prepared me and my guide Shaggy a meal of wild boar.

Ms. Wilks has been involved in youth development activities in Kingston for many years, and spends her 'retirement' in Millbank (although there is nothing retiring about Linette!) If you are driving up the valley of the Rio Grande River from Port Antonia the eco-tourist cabins are a few miles past Millbank. I must warn you, however: that road from Port Antonio is notorious and brutal, particularly in the rainy season. David Kingsley has only driven it once, and will not drive it again. We hear various reports from others about its current condition.

If you wish to visit the Ambassabeth Cottages, send Ms. Wilks a call well in advance (876 395-5351; ask her for her email address as backup). She can arrange for a trail guide to meet you in Hayfield for the hike over. The guide books say that she can also arrange to pick you up in Port Antonio or Kingston. The farmers of Bowden Pen say the hike is five and a half miles, but it seems longer. If you are going to hike over, you might as well stay overnight, prepare for rain, and bring repellent with DEET. We left mosquito netting at Ambassabeth, so perhaps you will be able to us it! The accommodations are substantial (albeit rustic), the food is wonderful, and the mornings are exquisite - the best time to go out on hikes, before the rain sets in.

While I was taking the trail photos and meeting my wife in Hayfield on Sunday morning, the six Temple University study abroad students were visiting the Quaco River with an expert guide. I'm hoping they will share their digital photos, and that I can share one or two of them here.

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