June 26, 2009

A Blue Mountains Adventure

From Kingston, you can see the Blue Mountains that encircle the city. Ever since Tatiana, my 8-year old daughter, saw the mountains, she has wanted to travel there. On Thursday, as I had finished my interviews, and did my writing early in the morning, we finally decided to take the girls to the Blue Mountains.

Our taxi driver, Ken, offered to take us to Mount Holywell Park for the day, but he charges nearly $100 for the trip. Figuring there must be another way, I did some Internet searching. I came upon a guest house, thirty minutes from Kingston, nestled in the Blue Mountains. I called the owner and asked if we could come up there, have lunch, and do some hiking. She said we could, and that we should take a route taxi from Papine. I called Ken and he gave us a lift to Papine for JA $500 – around US$6.00. He chuckled when I told him our plan, and told us to be safe when we got out of the car.

At the taxi depot in Papine, I spotted a woman who looked as though she was in charge of the taxis. I asked her where I could get a route taxi to Newcastle. She shook her head, and a driver near her told us we needed to charter a taxi. Not wanting to take no for an answer, I explained that I had spoken with someone who told me I could get a route taxi to her place. She suggested I call her. As I was looking in my bag for my cell phone, I explained that we weren't going all of the way to Newcastle. Where we were going is two miles past Red Light.

“Oh, Red Light,” she said, and took us to a combi and asked the driver if he went that far. He said he did, and we piled into the combi. People kept getting into the combi as we waited for the driver to leave. When we finally took off, there were 21 people piled into this vehicle the size of a small VW van.

After a squished, bumpy ride up the mountain, we finally made it to Mount Edge, the guest house I had contacted. We paid the driver JA $600, and got out of the combi. We found Mabel, whom I had spoken to, sweeping and packing basil. I asked her what they had for lunch. She replied that there wasn't any lunch. I was a bit taken aback, as I had told her over the phone that we planned to eat there.

It was 1:30pm, but the kids had munched on chips in the combi on the way up there, so I figured we could hold out a bit. I asked Mabel where we could get something to eat. She said there is a place about 30 minutes up the road, and we could walk there. I figured with the girls walking slowly, we might make it in an hour, so we set out on our hike up the road.

As I suspected, the girls stopped at every stream and small waterfall that we passed. It was a breathtaking hike – the dark green mountains, the clear blue skies, the babbling stream that we kept passing. At one of the waterfalls, the girls ventured up the stream a bit while I sat down and swatted mosquitoes.

After walking for about an hour, we reached a small wooden house that looked somewhat promising. We asked the owner if he served lunch. He shook his head, and said that he only sold chips, sodas, and beer. Tatiana and Soraya got some Pringles, Nando got a beer, and Raymi and I drank the water we had brought with us. We asked the guys at that store where we could find a restaurant. They said it was three miles up the road.

Three miles! Surely Mabel didn't think we could walk over three miles in 30 minutes! We decided to press on and keep walking up the mountain. We figured eventually we would find something to eat. Fortunately, Nando had some cashews and a couple of bottles of water.

After walking and walking, we were almost ready to give up when Nando saw a sign that said “Welcome to Newcastle.” Next to that sign, was “Gap Cafe – Two miles.” The Gap Cafe was still two miles away, but surely there would be a restaurant in Newcastle. When we arrived at Newcastle, we realized it was a military base. Still no restaurant. We decided we would hitch a ride in the first car willing to take us - whether it was up or down the mountain.

The girls were complaining about all of the walking, and I was beginning to get tired and hungry for some real food. We kept on walking, hoping a car would pass by. Finally, a car did, with two young men. We asked if we could ride in their back seat, and they let us pile in. Lucky for us, they were going to the Gap Cafe.

When we finally reached the Gap Cafe, it was 5pm! When I got out of the car, I asked the hostess if they still had lunch. She said, “Sorry, we are closed for a private function.” What were we going to do? The girls were tired and hungry. She looked at us, and then said that she could fix us some food, but that it would have to be to go. I said that was no problem and asked what they had to eat.

We chose two plates – fish in coconut sauce and oxtail. They were a bit pricey, but we had to eat! The hostess allowed us to eat on their patio, which had a very scenic view of the Blue Mountains. The food was scrumptious! Tatiana and Soraya, who generally don't like fish, practically licked the Styrofoam container of the fish in coconut sauce. And, Raymi ate every bit of her oxtail. It was a wonderful meal, in a beautiful setting.

After eating, we didn't have a ride. But, we were full, and now we only had to walk down the mountain. It was only 21 miles to Kingston, after all! We walked for about 30 minutes, and a combi rolled by. We flagged him down, and he said he was going to Strawberry Hill, about halfway down the mountain. We asked if we could ride along, and he agreed to let us.

From Strawberry Hill, we quickly flagged down a car. This one was a squeeze, though. It was a four passenger vehicle, with three people already in it. The girls got in the trunk area, and Nando and I sat in one of the seats. At first, the girls thought it was fun, but they soon began to complain about sitting on metal benches.

Nevertheless, we made it safely to Papine, where we got a taxi back to New Kingston. On the way home, we ate patties and coco bread at Juici Patti, and arrived home tired from a long day. Now that we know where we are going, next time we will go straight to Mount Holywell park and walk down the mountain on the way back!

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