Trip Reports


The morning sun was streaming through a curtain-less louvered window at the opposite end of the room and was heating and illuminating my resting place so I tried to silently slide my twin bed into a more protected corner. I was starting to hibernate again when I heard the sound of metal lightly striking metal just outside the door. I gently rose to look out the corner of the window only to see Scotty bending over a cook fire stirring a small cast iron pot meanwhile depositing roots and grasses into the boiling cauldron. A scene of witches from MacBeth flashed through my head and a wide grin softened my sleep furrowed face. I arose and went to the bathroom sink to soak my Killa-induced throbbing head in a basin of cold water. I studied my face in the mirror both before and after the soaking to see if the water could work some magic…it couldn’t, so I slipped on a pair of shorts, sandals and a T-shirt and went outside. Scotty’s voice boomed even in a whisper as he inquired how I felt this morning. At that point, I realized that he was talking in a normal voice and my damaged hearing made it seem like a whisper! “I brewed you both some tea for breakfast, mon”, he continued. I looked at the bubbling dark green elixir and inquired as to its prescription. Scotty said it was a mixture of: Ganja, BreakBack, Dead and Wake, Mountain Garlic, several secret medicinal herbs and, of course, spearmint for taste. I tried to thank him but respectfully decline due to “doctor’s orders” but he insistently said, “I am a Roots Doctor, mon! And this is what you need!”. Scotty poured me a cup and added the juice of a fresh Jack Fruit for some sweetness. I held my nose and closed my eyes then took a drink. The spearmint did very little for the taste but I decided to finish the cup to show my confidence in his medicinal prowess. I washed out the tin cup and returned it so Scotty could provide a dose to Sergio who was stirring due to the clamor we were causing just outside the door. When Sergio opened the door, Scotty thrust the warm liquid into his hands and bid him to drink up. As the cup reached his mouth and, more importantly, nose Sergio exclaimed, “Damn! What the Hell is this?”. “Doctor’s Orders!” I responded laughingly, “Drink up!”. Sergio shrugged and drank it down. Scotty mercifully poured the remaining liquid over the cook fire to extinguish it and told us to follow him over to his house on the hill behind the park. With each step we took the pounding became fainter until, by the time we reached his yard, a nice warm feeling had replaced the pain and even my hearing had cleared up, or maybe I no longer cared! We were astonished to learn that it was only 9:00 am after less than 5 hours of sleep! Sergio bought a liter of Roots Wine (for “medicinal purposes only) from Scotty for $100 J and we thanked him for his hospitality as we made our way back to the Bakery for a real breakfast. We both had Akee and Saltfish with coco bread and two cups of Milo each as we talked with Kenloy about what we could do the rest of the afternoon and how we could get a transport to Accompong. Kenloy uncovered an MIDI keyboard from under the lunch counter and began to play some familiar Jamaican reggae tunes as Sergio and I joined in the singing to the bakery workers delight. After playing for a while, Kenloy told us to get our bags as he was going to take the remainder of the afternoon off and show us the area around Maggotty and drop us off at Accompong before returning. We eagerly jumped at the offer and ran over to the park to pack. Upon returning to the Bakery, Sergio took shotgun and I climbed in the back of the pickup while Kenloy opened the sliding rear window from inside the cab so we could all talk as we headed for Y.S. Falls. We drove up through White Hill and down into the Y.S. Falls area where Kenloy stopped at a caretaker’s house to get permission to drive down all the way to the falls and thus bypassing the entrance fee and the jitney ride. When we arrived at the falls we were amazed that we were the only people there as we climbed up to the second pool from the bottom of the eight pools and dove into the cold water. Kenloy climbed the right side of the falls to the next pool above us and dove down into the water next to us. We swam for about an hour until a load of tourists from Montego Bay came walking up and Kenloy wanted to move on to some place new. We drove a few miles up a rutted road to the town of Ipswich where we got out with our flashlights and began exploring the limestone caverns of Ipswich Caves. These caves were a stop on the Governor’s Coach ride to Appleton during the days the railroad was still in operation and their walls were covered by the soot from the kerosene lights they used. Kenloy told us stories that he learned in school which told of how the Maroons used these caverns for refuge during the Maroon Wars and on wild pig hunting trips. While we were sitting and enjoying the echo in the main cavern, Kenloy asked us if we would like to see an underground lake. We said we would so he led us back to the truck for a trip to Elderslie. The roads continued to get progressively worse as we were driving through mainly uninhabited country except for an occasional donkey rider hauling firewood or bringing gathered fruits to isolated villages. Westin Thomas approached our vehicle as we drove towards the entrance to Wondrous Caves and shook hands with his friend, Kenloy, and grinned in our direction. Kenloy told him in Patois that we were friends and wanted to show us the cave but, since he conducted tours for the occasional visitor, we wanted to buy him a couple of Red Stripes on our way out at the Elderlie Social Center. He nodded agreement and opened the fence to let us pass. We grabbed our flashlights and walked down the narrow path into the caverns nearly hidden entrance and after a few chains in the flashlight-illuminated darkness came across a beautiful underground lake whose placid surface was being disturbed only by the constant drips from the ceiling above. Kenloy told us of how the British Soldiers marched within 100 yards of the caves without realizing that scores of Maroon Soldiers were living here underground. The Maroons would dash out and shoot the soldiers and then hide back in the cavern. The British Soldiers were so unnerved by these “phantom” killers that they started believing they were actually invisible and that loss of moral helped to hasten the end to the hostilities. He further warned against hiking unescorted in this region as a Karstified limestone “skin” sometimes crumbled under a person’s weight causing them to fall into underground rivers and deep chasms. We chatted for a while about how we have been treated by Jamaicans since starting our adventure when Kenloy said, “Now it is time for a couple of visitors to pay for their visit! Come on, mon…buy me a Stripe or two!”. We laughed at his “inside” humor and pretended to bargain to get the price down to which he heartily laughed in return. We returned up the road to the Elderslie Social Center where Westin was sitting with a lady friend. Sergio and I decided to splurge a little and pulled a “Nanny” (Jamaican $500 bill so named for the picture of Nanny of the Maroons on it’s face) from a watch pocket and told the store keeper to buy everyone a beer and keep them coming until it was finished. We finished the Nanny, tipped Westin $50J for his courtesy in allowing us access to the cave, and bid all goodbye as we got back into Kenloy’s truck for the journey up into the Cockpits and our destination, Accompong . On the remaining drive up the twisting mountain road, we picked up and dropped off several delighted residents of the area who were waiting for a taxi for which they would have had to pay a fare. About a quarter of a mile from Accompong there is a gate that used to be locked to visitors but is now in the open position since a vote by the community many years ago agreed to allow access to the area. The last few hundred feet up the road are at a very steep angle and there was much evidence that several vehicles were unable to negotiate it as Kenloy downshifted the truck into low gear and crawled up the road into town. We passed the Monument to Cudjoe and continued up the street to “Rubber’s” store (called Rubber for his ability to stretch a dollar further than anyone else) where we exited the truck with Kenloy as we decided where to spend the night. Kenloy suggested we contact a Maroon named Marshall to help us as he, on occasion, works at Apple Valley Park. We agreed and Rubber sent a youth to summon Marshall as we cooled out in his store. A short time later Marshall (Called “Marshall” for his take charge nature. Actual name is Clive Robb) arrived and we sat in Rubber’s store to see how he could help. Marshall said he had a room with two beds for rent in his house for $25 per night with an outdoor privy and shower which suited us just fine so we readily agreed. We bid a sad farewell to Kenloy, with whom Sergio and I became very good friends with, and promised to see him on our next visit. Marshall slung both of our packs over his shoulders and led us up the hill to his home which sat on the edge of town. Marshall had spent his early years in Brooklyn so he was well aware of where places were in the US and what things looked like in NYC and he is a follower of Marcus Garvey and quoted his sayings when he felt they were appropriate. We sat on his front porch while Marshall fixed us a dinner of Stew Chicken with dumplings over brown rice with fresh squeezed orange juice to drink. The sun was slowly setting in the distance as the lights from Balaclava became visible at the base of a mountain some 20 miles away! What a day! We chatted with Marshall for another hour when he suggested we get a good night sleep as he offered to take us for a hike out into the Cockpits the following morning and wanted to start early. Marshall had a Kenny G tape (Breathless) that he treasured and played it for us as we took his advice and went to bed exhausted from all the activity we had experienced today.

Respect Bill Evans

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About the author

Bill Evans