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A Visit to Roaring River

I grew up in a community close to Roaring River in the parish of Westmoreland but discovered its underground cave when I was in high school. Back then, it was a local secret. Now, it’s a well-known tourist attraction called Roaring River Park.

For long as I can remember, Roaring River has been known as a very close-knit community. Many of the residents have lived there for generations; some are even related. Visitors go because of the series of limestone caves, mineral springs, blue hole and the river, which supplies water for much of the parish. Even during the dry season, a deep green carpet of wildflowers and grass blankets the area.

Munching goat
Goat in field of wildflowers and grass

Roaring River is located on lands that were once part of the Roaring River Estate. Before sugar lost its importance as Westmoreland’s main crop, much of the lands surrounding the community belonged to the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO), formerly a major employer in the parish. Now that sugar is no longer ‘king,’ many residents earn much of their income by leading tours of the cave, springs and the blue hole.

Part of the Roaring River in Westmoreland
Part of the Roaring River in Westmoreland

We traveled to Roaring River a few weekends ago, not to visit the cave or the blue hole but to see a man (Robbie, a relative) about a goat for a friend of the family. As we drove down its narrow dirt road, the only one into and out of Roaring River, we were greeted warmly by everyone we passed.

Once the goat was purchased and was being prepared, we walked down to the river. The water was so crystal clear, we could see the stones at the bottom. We sat at the river’s edge, watching children frolicking in the shallow part. At one point, three young girls, round 8 or 9 years, raced each other to the edge, stripping off their clothes and jumping in, oblivious to the adults, including a young man, around them.

Walking back to the car, a little boy with two buckets, one almost half his size, caught my eye. I looked around but no adults or older children were nearby. He headed to a spring, caught some water in one of his buckets then with it spilling every which way as he struggled to carry it, he plunked it down in front a horse that was tied nearby. Someone said the horse belonged to his father. When he thought the horse had drunk enough, he splashed the rest on its body, to cool him down, I guessed.

Boy and horse
Boy and horse

As we were loading up to leave, Robbie came running towards us. Don’t leave yet, he said. They’ve gone to get you some bananas and breadfruit. Shortly after, a few of the older children that we had seen, returned with a bunch of bananas and several breadfruit.

Robbie with breadfruit
Robbie with breadfruit

Random photos of Roaring River.

Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise

I was thrilled to see this Doctor Bird, our National Bird. He flitted from tree to branch while I fumbled with my camera, hoping he’d sit still long enough for me to take the shot. Thankfully, he did.

Doctor Bird
Doctor Bird
Roaring River warning
Roaring River warning
Wattle-and-Daub shop
Wattle-and-Daub shop
Painting of Roaring River by John Boydell, from Wikipedia
A 1778 Painting of Roaring River by John Boydell - from Wikipedia

Wattle-and-daub, an old tradition of building that used to be quite popular in Jamaica, especially in the rural areas. Here the wattle, interwoven wooden strips, has been set up. Later the daub, which could be made either from a paste of soil, animal dung or sand will be applied.

I will post a follow up when I visit the cave and the blue hole again. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the blue hole at Roaring River from YouTube.



We’re Celebrating!

Today, InsideJourneys, is celebrating its first anniversary. A year ago, I wrote my first post. Since then, I’ve written many more and most importantly, made several friends, who stop by everyday.

It’s been a fun year. Thanks for your support and encouragement. So pull up a chair and have a slice of this delicious cake. No, I didn’t bake this one but I can tell you it’s great.

InsideJourneys' Blogoversary
InsideJourneys' 1st Blogoversary

Stories from the Road

“Are you African?” The security guard asked as I waited for my cousin and her husband at the hardware

African dress
My African dress


I hesitated for a moment not quite sure what to say. My eyes searched her face for a clue to what prompted the question that hung heavily in the air, separating us. We are both black, and therefore African, but I couldn’t tell what that meant to her. Nothing about her round, pleasant face gave her away.

The moment and the tension lingered.

I smiled. Yes, I’m African.

She twisted her mouth describing a semi-circle, an expression I couldn’t read. It was as if she were struggling to make sense of me, of what I had just said. I waited as she digested that nugget of information.

You live here now? she asked eventually.

I nodded.

I leaned closer to see if her eyes would reveal something, anything. They were soft, almost smiling. Sensing she wouldn’t give me more, I asked why she thought I was African.

Your wrap, she said as if I should have known.

I laughed. I’d forgotten what I was wearing, a gift from my African family.

We’re all African, I said, whether we’re born here or there.


The Wrong Side of the Road

My cousin had left already when I decided to go into town. As I arrived at the end of the street to wait for a taxi, I noticed a young girl, maybe 18 or 19, standing a few yards away.

She looked around and I stopped instinctively, as if I had disturbed her territory. We locked eyes but she turned away before I could nod my acknowledgement.

Unknown flower
Unknown flower

I surveyed her furtively from the corner of my eye: shorts, strappy sandals, blouse, and dead straight hair that she stroked frequently, as if it were the smoothest silk.

Suddenly, my auntie jeans, sensible shoes and hair caught up in a ponytail make me feel frumpy and unfashionable. I tried to recall the girl I was at that age but my mind couldn’t seem to find her.

A car approaches. The driver slows down long enough for the driver to survey the young miss then speed up as he reaches me and refocuses his eyes on the road.

One day she’ll understand, I say to myself. All that fades in time.

Another car rolls by and snaps me back. I’m standing on the wrong side of the road. I cross sheepishly to the other side to wait for the taxi. It’s cooler here, I say to myself, as if in response to the question I imagined she’d ask, that is, if she’d even noticed.

Soulful Sundays: The Folkes Brothers

For a long time, I had no idea who The Folkes Brothers were but I knew every beat, every drum lick of their 1960s hit song, Oh Carolina. It was the song that once you heard it at a party, you knew two things: it was late (or early morning, depending on your point of view), and it was time to go home. I’m really not sure how it got that designation.

Oh Carolina, The Folkes Brothers
Oh Carolina, The Folkes Brothers

The Folkes Brothers, John, Mico and Junior, were a group that played mento – Jamaican folk music. Oh Carolina was written by John Folkes and produced by Prince Buster, the first hit record for him. Oh Carolina is regarded as pivotal in the development of ska, rocksteady and reggae music. Prior to the release of the song, Jamaican musicians copied Rhythm & Blues music from the U.S. Oh Carolina was the first to depart from what was the norm. By incorporating African drumming and chanting, done superbly by Count Ossie, a legendary Rastafari drummer, it  created a new Jamaican sound.

In 1993, Oh Carolina was re-released by reggae singer, Shaggy. It goes without saying that I prefer the original version. After Shaggy’s version became an international hit, Folkes and Prince Buster went to court over its authorship – Folkes prevailed.

Take a listen to Oh Carolina.

Oh Carolina,

Oh Carolina honey darling,
Oh, honey, don’t you cry.  

Oh I’m so lonely

Yes, I’m so lonely
Oh, I’m so lonely, Carolina.  

Carolina, my darling,

Oh I wanna talk to you
Oh Carolina, my honey
You know I love only you.

Oh Carolina,

Tan bonita (so beautiful),
Come back and make things right. 

Carolina, my darling,
Oh how I love you
Carolina, my honey,
You know I love only you



Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

What is a family? According to the dictionary, family for humans, is a group of people who are affiliated by blood, affinity or co-residence.

Some years ago, as I walked to the subway, a guy began walking beside me. He plied me with the usual questions then asked if I had a family. Of course, I said. I forget now what else I said only his response, which was something to the effect that my parents weren’t my family, they were my relatives. A husband and children were family. I remember feeling taken aback, jolted. If what he said were true, I thought, it meant that all along, I was wrong. I didn’t have a family. It was unsettling, to say the least.

In considering the concept of family, I also thought of same-sex families, blended families, single parent families, families headed by young adults, and families with adopted children.

Zulu woman and child
Zulu mother and child
Lesotho man and children
Lesotho father and children
Ofelia & Ofelia
Ofelia & Ofelia

After seeing wild animals up close last year and watching the way elephants and lions protect and nurture their young, I knew for this challenge that I had to include a few animal families as well.

Jackass penguins
Jackass penguins
Elephant herd
Cow elephant and young

Elephant herds provide an interesting study of animal families. Read more about them here –

Elephants have a matriarchal head. The family will consist of an older matriarch, her daughters (usually about 3 or 4 of them) and their calves. A typical elephant family usually comprises 6 to 12 individual elephants, but can expand to a larger group of 20. These females will assist each other with the birth and care of their young. This ‘babysitting’ is a very important part of the young elephant’s development as it prepares her for when she is a first-time mother. The matriarch is replaced by one of her daughters (usually the oldest) when she dies.

The family will eventually split, depending on the size of the herd. The decision to split also depends on the amount of food available in the area, as it may not be sufficient to sustain them all. This means that, in a large area, there will be several inter-related families. These families remain united to a certain extent and meet at watering holes and favourite feeding spots with much joy and celebration at seeing one another. Sometimes, herds combine to form larger clans. These clans are identified by observing the mannerisms of the members of each herd as they interact with those of another.

When travelling vast areas in search for food, the herd is led by the matriarch. The others follow her footsteps in single file. In this formation, they search for food and water. Calves hold on to the tails of their mothers with their trunks. The other females of the herd ensure that the calves are protected from outside dangers at all times by surrounding them as much as possible.

The fact that elephant herds are matriarch-led is most evident in the manner in which elephants mate. Bulls stick to a bachelor (all-male) pod in which they live and travel. When one of the bulls desires to mate, he will search out a herd of elephant cows. He will select a desirable cow and pursue her until she is ready to mount. She has the final say regarding whether or not she accepts the bull’s advances. Once he has mated with her, he returns to his bachelor herd, having nothing to do with the rearing or caring of the young.

Likewise, when the male calves in the herd mature into adolescence, they will also break away from the herd, gradually at first, and form bachelor pods with their peers. Adolescent females stick to their main herd until adulthood and, sometimes, even until death, depending of the resources available and the size of the herd.

Like humans, elephants are capable of forming very special bonds with their friends and family members. These relationships start at the core of the herd, i.e. mother and calf. But, they radiate out, and there have been astounding reports of lifelong bonds between elephants that have transcended time and even distance apart.

Elephants value their family structure, perhaps more so than many other animals. They are naturally outgoing, sociable animals and, as such, enjoy the interaction with fellow family- and herd members. Although structured, the herd is fluid enough to compensate for unforeseen circumstances (such as the death of one of the mothers, where other mothers allow the orphaned calf to suckle). Such ties are rare, and the empathetic and insightful nature of these magnificent animals continues to lure researchers deeper and deeper into the elephant psyche.


Wildflowers of Jamaica: Spanish Needle

I’ve become fascinated by the variety of flowers, including wildflowers, that grow in Jamaica. When I asked about this one and heard that it was the Spanish Needle, I thought of a poem I learned years ago in school.

Spanish Needle
Spanish Needle

The poem, The Spanish Needle, was written by Jamaican poet, Claude McKay, who certainly thought a lot of the lowly wildflower. McKay was born in 1889 and moved to the U.S. in 1912, where he became a seminal figure of the Harlem Renaissance. Besides poetry, he also wrote the novels Home to Harlem, Banjo and Banana Bottom, short stories and autobiographical books.

This is what he had to say about The Spanish Needle

Lovely dainty Spanish needle

With your yellow flower and white,

Dew bedecked and softly sleeping,

Do you think of me to-night?


Shadowed by the spreading mango,

Nodding o’er the rippling stream,

Tell me, dear plant of my childhood,

Do you of the exile dream?


Do you see me by the brook’s side

Catching crayfish ‘neath the stone,

As you did the day you whispered:

Leave the harmless dears alone?


Do you see me in the meadow

Coming from the woodland spring

With a bamboo on my shoulder

And a pail slung from a string?


Do you see me all expectant

Lying in an orange grove,

While the swee-swees sing above me,

Waiting for my elf-eyed love?


Lovely dainty Spanish needle,

Source to me of sweet delight,

In your far-off sunny southland

Do you dream of me to-night? 

I was also surprised to learn (but really, I shouldn’t have been) that the medicinal qualities found in the roots, leaves and seeds of the Spanish Needle can be used to treat a variety of illnesses including malaria, headaches and arthritis. It is used widely in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Jamaica’s National Heroes: Sir Alexander Bustamante

Sir Alexander Bustamante was born William Alexander Clarke on February 24, 1884 in Blenheim, Hanover. Along with his cousin, Norman Washington Manley, he is considered one of the founding fathers of modern Jamaica.

Sir Alexander Bustamante, circa 1960
Sir Alexander Bustamante, circa 1960

As a young man, Bustamante was restless and traveled extensively between 1905 and 1934, going from Panama to Cuba and the U.S. He tried his hand at a variety of jobs, including hospital attendant, police, beekeeper, and dairy farmer.

It is well known that Bustamante created stories about his background to suit his own purposes, including one that a Spanish sailor adopted him and brought him up. The truth is that he was a part of the privileged planter class. When he returned to Jamaica, he established himself as a money-lender.

The Jamaica that Bustamante returned to was still a crown colony. Under this system, the governor had the right of veto and often exercised it against the wishes of the majority.

Pay and working conditions were poor. Falling harvests and the lay-off of workers resulted in an influx of the unemployed into the city. This mass migration did little to alleviate the unemployment situation.

Bustamante realized the social and economic ills that the crown colony system engendered and began mobilizing the working-class. He started a letter writing campaign to the local newspaper, The Daily Gleaner, and occasionally to British newspapers, calling attention to the social and economic problems of the poor and underprivileged.

In time, Bustamante became a well-known advocate of the cause of the masses. Soon, he started traveling around the country, making speeches and getting to know the people.

By 1938, there was much labor unrest and protest by the people against the poverty and degradation that they faced. At a rally in Kingston, when the army threatened to open fire on the crowd, Bustamante is said to have opened his shirt, bared his chest to the soldiers and told them to shoot him and leave the innocent people. He was arrested later that day and was bailed by his cousin, Norman Manley, an attorney. The charges were subsequently dropped.

On September 8, 1940, Bustamante was detained at Up Park Camp, for alleged violation of the Defence of the Realm Act. He was released seventeen months later.

In 1943 he founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), with himself as head. The first general election under Universal Adult Suffrage came in 1944 and the JLP won 22 of the 32 seats.

Bustamante was knighted by the Queen in 1955. In 1962, became the first prime minister of independent Jamaica. He retired from active politics in 1967 and was named a national hero in 1969. He is the only national hero to receive the honor while still alive. Bustamante died on August 6,1977, at the age of 93.

The Bustamante backbone or Busta is a hard candy that was named for Bustamante as he was considered by many to be like the candy, of “firm character.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Food is an integral part of our lives. And on Thanksgiving, we give thanks with one of the biggest feasts of the year.

Thanksgiving isn’t an official holiday in Jamaica though some Jamaicans who’ve returned home have brought the tradition with them. What we have that’s similar is harvest. At the harvest, members bring produce to their church to receive a blessing from the priest.

Honey bananas
Honey bananas

These bananas are called honey, because they’re naturally sweet, sweeter than regular bananas. They are also smaller than average bananas, probably a half or two-thirds in size, and are quite popular in Jamaica. Honey bananas sell fast despite the fact that they’re usually more expensive than regular bananas.

Green bananas
Green bananas

These bananas are called green to differentiate them from the yellow ones, which most people are familiar with. Green bananas are boiled and often eaten with steamed fish, ackee and salt fish or other meats. It’s also used to make porridge, dumplings or put in mannish water soup, a soup that is made from the head and intestines and other parts of the goat. It is believed to be an aphrodisiac.


We picked these avocados at the home of one of my cousins. Since they weren’t quite rips, we wrapped them in newspaper to speed up the process.


The breadfruit was brought to Jamaica by Captain William Bligh between 1780 and 1786. Roasted, it is is the perfect accompaniment to ackee and salt fish, our national dish. It can also be eaten boiled, fried, used in soups, and made into chips. For roasting, I prefer them a little ripe or turned. They are a little sweeter and softer. In soups, I prefer them what we call, young, meaning not ripe. Breadfruit can also be referred to as full, ready.


The main ingredient in ackee and salt fish, our national dish, ackee was brought to Jamaica from West Africa. It’s ackee season now and the trees are laden with fruit. Ackees contain a poisonous gas and must be opened before they are picked.

Jamaican cooks and chefs have been experimenting with how they prepare ackee. Moving away from the traditional marriage with salt fish, ackees can be curried, or used in bruschetta and cheesecake.

A basket of food
A basket of food

A bountiful harvest of fruits, vegetables and produce. Happy Thanksgiving!

Budget Airline, REDJet, Lands in Jamaica

On Monday, November 21, REDJet, the Caribbean’s first budget carrier, landed at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport.


With tickets priced as low as US$9.99 and increasing in increments of US$10 as seats are sold and departure dates approach, the airline could shake up air travel in the Caribbean.

Speaking at the launch, Ian Burns, REDJet’s chairman and chief executive officer tried to allay fears that the low cost carrier will draw passengers away from established airlines, like Caribbean Airlines and LIAT.

REDJet cites its single class of service, its one aircraft type and point-to-point service as among the factors that minimize cost and maximize efficiency. Passengers can purchase meals on board and pay for their bags at the airport.

REDJet had been eyeing the Jamaican market for four years, Burns said, but the country was in the throes of divesting its national carrier, Air Jamaica, and regarded the low cost carrier as a threat. Jamaican authorities however attribute the delay to concerns over safety.

In addition to Jamaica, REDJet  offers service to Antigua, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.

Jamaica’s National Heroes: Norman Manley

Norman Washington Manley was born in the parish of Manchester on July 4, 1893. He was a Rhodes scholar and athlete, soldier (First World War) and lawyer.

During the labor unrest of 1938, Manley identified himself with the cause of the workers and donated time and advocacy to the cause. In September 1938, he founded the People’s National Party (PNP) and was elected its president annually until his retirement in 1969.

Norman Manley
Norman Manley

Manley and the PNP supported the trade union movement, then led by his cousin, Alexander Bustamante, while leading the demand for Universal Adult Suffrage. However, when it came, Manley had to wait ten years and two terms before his party was elected to office.

Manley was a strong advocate of the Federation of the West Indies, established in 1958 and Jamaica’s participation in it. But when Sir Alexander Bustamante declared that the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), would take Jamaica out of the Federation, Manley, already well known for his integrity and commitment to democracy, called a Referendum, an unprecedented move in Jamaica, to let the people decide. The vote was decisively against Jamaica’s continued membership of the Federation.

After arranging Jamaica’s orderly withdrawal from the union, Manley set up a joint committee to decide on a constitution for separate independence for Jamaica. He chaired the committee with great distinction and then led the team that negotiated the island’s independence from Britain.

That settled, Manley went again to the people. However, he lost the ensuing election to the JLP and gave his last years of service as leader of the opposition, establishing definitively the role of the parliamentary opposition in a developing nation.

In his last public address to an annual conference of the PNP, Manley said: “I say that the mission of my generation was to win self-government for Jamaica, to win political power which is the final power for the black masses of my country from which I spring. I am proud to stand here today and say to you who fought that fight with me, say it with gladness and pride, mission accomplished for my generation.

“And what is the mission of this generation? … It is… reconstructing the social and economic society and life of Jamaica.”

Norman Manley retired from politics on July 4, 1969. He died on September 2. 1969. His second son, Michael, served as prime minister in 1972 and 1989.

Manley was proclaimed a National Hero in 1969.