Trip Reports


I awoke and didn’t bother opening my eyes as I just lay on my bed and listened to the gentle breaking of the waves on the beach. This would be our last day by the ocean and I wanted to take advantage of it! I opened my eyes and glanced across the night stand to the luminous travel clock dial. It suddenly occurred to me that it was still dark and that the sun wouldn’t be rising for about an hour as I put on my still damp swim suit, grabbed my towel, and headed for the beach. I walked through the warm breaking surf until, submerged up to my chin, I bobbed like a undulating cork while watching the sun began to back light the Santa Cruz mountains in the distance. As I was beginning to make out the features along the expansive shoreline, I noticed a person running on the beach. He had traversed its length at least three times when I watched him drape his feet over a fisherman’s boat and do scores of sit-ups and crunches. All of his activity was making me tired as I bodysurfed one last wave onto the beach. Sergio was up and showering as I entered the room toweling off from the outdoor shower. I hollered, “Good Morning!” to Sergio and heard a muffled “Morning” in return. I put on my shorts and T-shirt and went out to sit at the gazebo where we met Robert and Helen the night before. People started to stir in the complex as Robert and Helen emerged from their door with Sergio emerging from our building on the other side. We talked for a bit and then decided to finish the conversation over Blue Mountain Coffee and a pastry from the TransLove Bakery. As we approached the cafe, Helen said that the red Toyota pickup belonged to Kenloy Lee who she was talking about the night before. When we entered I realized that Kenloy was the guy I saw exercising on the beach during my pre-dawn swim. We shook hands around and ordered the coffee and pastry from the waitress. Kenloy is a part Chinese, part Maroon Jamaican and a very funny young man. He entertained us with some fascinating stories about his early years in Jamaica and revealed his nickname “chin” that most Jamaicans use to refer to Chinese Jamaicans. We told Kenloy that we were interested in staying in Apple Valley for an evening and he told us that he would be heading that way in a couple of hours if we wanted a ride. Sergio and I agreed and Kenloy said he would stop at Golden Sands to pick us up before he left. We went back to take a last swim in the ocean and perfect our less than adequate bodysurfing style. After an hour or so we went back to our room to pack and wait for Kenloy. We were sitting at the gazebo talking to the owner, Mr. Lewis when Kenloy pulled in. He came over to say “Hi” to Mr. Lewis. He told us that he had to go to Black River to pick up some building supplies on the way so we loaded our packs and I got shotgun while Sergio jumped in the back of the pickup. After picking up supplies we headed for “Tombstone” where the road turned at Lacovia towards Maggotty. I asked why it was called “Tombstone” and Kenloy said that two brothers had a fight over a woman and both died in the melee so they buried them on the spot and diverted the road around their resting place. The winding secondary road follows the Black River up into the Cockpits where it springs from an over 150 foot deep “blue hole” in the earth. As we rounded a turn in the road, a recreation spot called Glenwyn Halt which consisted of bamboo structures appeared on the right side of the road. This place offered boat rides along the Black River to see the Maroon Caves which line the bank above the Hydro Plant. The Halt was empty except for two workers having a spirited game of dominoes to pass the time. It was easy to see that since few tourists venture into this area these attractions rarely survive. We passed the police station and crossed the railroad tracks when Apple Valley Park came into view. After meeting Kenloy’s parents and buying a pattie and a Ting each, Sergio and I went over to our room at the rear of the park inside of a old Concert Stage where large Reggae shows used to be held. The performer’s dressing rooms were remodeled into 2-twin bed rooms with shower in each for $25 US per night. We stowed our packs and went out to explore the park. Apple Valley Park is a 550+ acre recreation area on the edge of the Cockpits along the meandering Black River. Patrick Lee designed the entire park which uses the water from the Black River to fill two lakes, six swimming and wading pools, three waterfalls and a Jacuzzi. We noticed a very tall Jamaican painting a picture of one of the lakes so we went over to take a closer look. Scotty, a local High School Art teacher and an Herbalist, was just finishing his painting for the day so we sat and chatted while he cleaned and put away his supplies. It was getting to be around lunch time and the pattie and Ting had not done the job, so we walked with Scotty over to the bakery and bought three more patties, three pieces of Bulla Bread, three pieces of yellow cheese and a “pear” (which we call an avocado in the states). Over lunch, Scotty told us about Maggotty Falls and said he would lead us down for a refreshing dip so Sergio and I accepted his offer. As we walked up the dirt road into the Barton District that was barely more than a path, Scotty keep picking different herbs and roots along the way and explained for what each was used to cure or alleviate some condition. After a mile or two we came to a path that led down into a steep canyon where we could hear the roaring of the Black River as it made a descent into the Hydro Plant further down the river. We jumped into the cold water and howled in feigned pain at the shock but, in the hot weather, it quickly became a real pleasure. Scotty didn’t join us but instead found a perch on the side of a large rock where he munched on some wild garlic he had gathered on our journey. After about an hour, Sergio and I exited the water and found a spot to stretch out and enjoy this beautiful spot. On the way back to the park, Scotty had to go to his home for awhile so we took a different fork in the road which more closely followed the river back to Maggotty. We were walking over the bridge that spanned the Black River and noticed the Police Station we had passed on our way into town with an officer standing on the side of the road. He called to us and asked if we were staying in the area to which we affirmatively nodded and pointed at the park. We thought that perhaps there was some problem but quickly learned he was just a little bored and curious. He invited us to sit on the Station’s front porch where he introduced us to the two other officers who manned the post. We told them about our trip so far and ask them about Accompong and the Cockpit Country where we were traveling to the next day. They explained that they had no jurisdiction in Accompong as the Maroons were governed by a Colonel who adjudicated all disputes and punished those guilty of misdemeanors. They assured us that the town was very hospitable and that we would be well received which made Sergio feel better as he had voiced concerns about going there earlier in our trip. Sergio asked the first officer we talked to if there was any “night life” in Maggotty which caused him to chuckle. “Yes, mon!”, he said, “You are in for a treat”. Sergio gave a puzzled look. “Tonight ‘Killa-man-Jaro’ is playing at the yard downtown for $100J!” After an hour or so we shook hands and continued our journey back over to the park to shower and clean up for the expected activities later in the evening. Sergio and I were comparing notes concerning where we had been and where we were going so we could accurately keep our journal up to date when a knock came on our door. Sergio answered it and Scotty’s beaming face stood tall in the doorway. He was wearing his best clothes and smelled heavily of aftershave. We followed Scotty to the yard where the session was to be held. Hundreds of locals from the surrounding communities were milling about the entrance to the cement block walled enclosure and they all turned to stare at the tourists who were going to sample the “Killa”. We paid our entrance fee and paid Scotty’s way as well for the feeling of security his 6′ 5″ towering frame provided. Less that 50 people were inside at the 9:00pm starting time but, I was soon to discover that Jamaican artists never start on time. The small venue was surrounded by four twelve foot high speaker columns with six sets of 12″ bass woofers and sub-woofers strategically placed to provide maximum effect. We went over to a booth near the rear where beer and snacks were served. We bought two Red Stripes each and were surprised to learn that many Jamaicans drink their beer warm. After opening the bottle, the server leaves the cap on the bottle so the purchaser can pour some into the cap or sometimes onto the ground to see if it fizzes. If it doesn’t, they exchange it for a new one. Scotty introduced us to all the people he knew in the compound which was virtually everyone and, sometime around 11:00, a deafening roar compounded by maximum echo of “KiiiiillllllaaaaaammmaaaaaannnnJJJJJJaaaaarrroooooo”! pierced our senses. The accompanying breast-thumping beat of the DJ music and overlaid rap actually made the street lights flicker in unison to the huge current draw! Within seconds I began to worry about permanent damage to my hearing and possibly my sanity as many locals were checking to see if we could stand the punishment. I very discretely wadded tissue between my thumb and fingers and placed it in my ears with little overall effect so I just resigned myself to whatever damage the Killa decided to inflict. Somewhere around 2:00am, Scotty had paired off with a lady friend and Sergio told me he was ready to call it a night so I gratefully accompanied him back to the park. We were now 500 yards away but it sounded like Killa was outside our door as the session lasted till 5:30 in the morning! Somewhere around then we finally were successful in ignoring the ringing in our ears and drifted off to sleep.

Respect Bill Evans

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About the author

Bill Evans