Last updated by at .

Holywell Recreational Park

Despite still nursing a broken ankle, last weekend I accepted an invitation to brunch and a drive up into the mountains to Holywell Recreational Park (pronounced Hollywell), a 25-acre park that is part of the Blue and John Crow Mountains.

Holywell Recreational Park Entrance
Holywell Entrance
Mountains surrounding Holywell
Mist on the mountain
Grounds at Holywell
View of the grounds
Flowers and the mountains, Holywell
Flowers and mountain

Holywell is located about 3,000 feet above sea level and about an hour’s drive from Kingston. The drive takes you up mountain roads that are narrow, winding, potholed and not very well signposted, through communities like Strawberry Hill, Gordon Town, Irish Town, Craigton, Redlight, Hardwar Gap, and Newcastle. It’s a ride that’s definitely not for the faint of heart or anyone who gets carsick. The views, however, are spectacular and with temperatures about 10 degrees cooler than in Kingston, it’s the perfect summertime escape.

Lilac flower, Holywell

Holywell Recreational Park is a nature lover’s domain with several species of ferns, wild raspberries, cheeseberries, epiphytes, nasturtiums, impatients, trees such as the Blue Mahoe (the national tree), Caribbean Pine, and Milkwood, and several species of endemic birds.

Cup + Saucer flower, Holywell
Cup + Saucer flower, local name

It’s the perfect place to go to escape the hustle and bustle and heat of the city. At Holywell, you can hike any of the five trails – Blue Mahoe, Oatley Mountain, Waterfall, Shelter, and Wag Water/Dick’s Pond – that go from easy to moderately difficult and can take from 20 to 90 minutes to complete.

Hydrangea, Holywell

For those who want to stay over, Holywell Recreational Park offers three furnished cabins – the Cupressus (2 bedrooms), Hotlips (one bedroom with 2 single beds), and Mountain Yacca (studio with 2 single beds) – with all amenities, including fireplaces (it gets very cold, by Jamaican standards, in the mountains). The only drawback is that you have to book at least a month in advance.

Visitor Center, Holywell
Visitor Center

In addition, there’s a discovery zone where kids can play and learn about wildlife, camping facilities, visitor center, picnic areas, a plant nursery and a parking lot.

One of the guides showed us cheese and raspberries that grow wild in the park. The cheeseberries, as they’re known locally, are a bit sweeter than the raspberries, and the raspberries are a brighter red than what I’m used to seeing in the US.

Holywell Cheeseberries
Raspberries from Holywell

I definitely plan to return to Holywell when my ankle’s stronger and I can tackle the trail. Even though I couldn’t move around as I wanted to, I enjoyed the view of the mountains, the flowers, the refreshing air and cooler temperature.


Particulars for Holywell Recreational Park:

Entrance: $5.00 (adults) / $2 (children)

Cabins: $50 or $70, depending on cabin size

Oatley Mountain Trail Guided Tour: $5

Camping: $5 per person/night

This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world.

For more photos, please check out Travel Photo Discovery and Travel World Online as well.



The Breadfruit, Bligh’s Gift to Jamaica and the Mutiny it Caused

Looking up at a breadfruit tree laden with fruit, I heard an older gentleman remark to no one in particular, that it’d be a rough year. Breadfruit, he continued, as if revealing some truism that was lost to this younger generation, is always plentiful during hard times.

His words echoed in my head each time I noticed tree after tree that was covered in the slightly oval fruit that grows to the size of a large grapefruit. And as the value of the Jamaican currency fell to unprecedented levels against the US dollar this month, I began to wonder whether this abundance of breadfruit might really be a harbinger of hard times.

Maybe now, I thought, that prices on basic food items begin to creep upwards and salaries that have stayed flat buy less and less at the supermarket, its time to turn to this nutritious, and often overlooked food.

Lone breadfruit on a tree

How the Breadfruit Came to Jamaica

The breadfruit was brought to Jamaica in 1793 by Captain William Bligh of the unfortunate HMS Bounty, precisely because it was considered an inexpensive and nutritious way to feed the large number of slaves who worked the island’s then numerous sugar plantations.

Bligh, an experienced navigator, who had lived near Lucea, Hanover from 1784-7, had sailed ships of sugar and rum from the island to England while he was in his uncle-in-law’s employ.

His ill-fated expedition to the South Pacific to bring back breadfruit and other plants ended in the now infamous mutiny in which Bligh not only lost his ship, he also lost the specimens he had collected.

He and 18 of his trusted crew were given a small boat which Bligh piloted 3,618 miles to Timor aided only by a quadrant and pocket watch, and his memory of charts he had seen. On his return to England, he was promoted to captain and in 1791, returned to Tahiti on the Providence for more fruit.

It was from this shipment that Bligh delivered specimens to the island of St. Vincent and Jamaica’s Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas, and Bluefields in Westmoreland.

How the breadfruit caused the Mutiny on the Bounty
Breadfruit storyboard, Hanover Museum, Jamaica

Today, hundreds of varieties of breadfruit can be found in nearly 90 countries from the Pacific Islands, to Southeast Asia to the Caribbean and Central America. Left untouched, a tree can grow to about 85 feet, and yield between 150-200 fruits each year. One hundred grams of fruit has 27 grams of carbohydrates, 70 grams of water, as well as vitamins, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals.

Fried roasted breadfruit, ackee, saltfish, Johnny Cakes, avocado
Traditional breakfast, a slice of fried roasted breadfruit on the right. Max Jamaica Restaurant, NJ

While the easily grown trees, with its distinctive large, cut leaves, flourished in Jamaica, it took more than 40 years for the breadfruit — the taste is sometimes described as a cross between a potato and a plantain — to become popular to the local palate. Now, every household has at least one tree in its backyard and breadfruit or breshay is a staple of our diet, eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even as a snack.

It is baked, fried, boiled, jerked, roasted and juiced. We also make chips, porridge, dumplings, salads, fritters, cakes, muffins and puddings from this almost year-round fruit all the while being mostly oblivious to the story behind their introduction to the island.

Given a choice, I take breadfruit over rice every time. A few slices of the young breadfruit give soups ‘body.’ The ‘fit’ breadfruit, when boiled is soft enough to be mashed like potato and eaten with butter. The ripe or slightly ripe better yet a yellow heart breadfruit is mandatory for roasting.

For the unlucky few who don’t have a tree in their backyards, breadfruit can usually be found in local markets. Roasting breadfruit is typically higher in price. Depending on location, they are between $0.50 and $1.00, and between $0.30 and $0.70 for boiling.

One of my favorite breadfruit recipes is baked breadfruit stuffed with ackee and saltfish.

Baked Breadfruit Stuffed with Ackee and Saltfish

Prepare ackee and saltfish, as shown below, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stem from a medium breadfruit, rub with butter or brush with olive oil, and wrap in aluminum foil. Bake breadfruit for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Test whether a knife or skewer inserted into the breadfruit comes out clean.
Remove the breadfruit’s core (heart), stuff with salt fish and ackee. Rub more butter or olive oil on the outside and return to the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool then cut breadfruit in half. Garnish and serve.

Ackee and Saltfish

1/2 lb Saltfish (dried, salted codfish)
12 fresh ackees or 1 (drained) can of tinned ackees
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 Scotch Bonnet pepper
1 sweet pepper, for garnish (optional)
1 chopped tomato
1 sprig fresh thyme
Oil for frying

Soak saltfish overnight or boil to remove the salt. Drain. If boiled, let it cool before removing and discarding the skin and bones. Flake the fish. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Saute onions until transparent then add chopped tomato, pepper and thyme. Add saltfish and mix with onions, tomato, pepper. Fold in ackees and stir gently so the ackees stay whole. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with sweet pepper or use as stuffing for baked breadfruit.


This is my submission to Travel Photo Thursday, which is organized by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox. Be sure to head over and check out more photos and stories from locations around the world.




Group Getaways: How to Travel with Friends and Keep Your Friendships

I don’t like group getaways. There are too many personalities to contend with, too many logistical issues to manage, and no matter how carefully you plan, someone’s fragile ego always gets bruised.

However, a few years ago, when my best friend announced to family and friends that she wanted to celebrate an upcoming milestone birthday in South Africa, I knew that for her sake, I’d have to set aside my hang ups about group getaways.

I was lucky. By the time the real planning for the trip rolled around, there were only three of us – the birthday girl and a new friend, who’d been out with us a few times to concerts and dinners, and me.

Four friends at dinner
S.A. singer, Lorraine Klaasen at one of our Group Getaway Planning Meetings

Although my friend and I had taken short trips together, neither of us had traveled with our new friend. I wondered secretly what 2 ½ weeks of being in close proximity to each other would do to our friendships, especially when, to control costs, we’d decided where possible, to share a room.

At our first planning meeting for the trip, we discussed our quirks and pet peeves and each person listed their deal breaker behaviors. We also decided on a few ground rules: each of us had to make a three-item must-see/do list, and since we were a small group, we decided to participate in all nine activities, even if an item from someone’s list wasn’t of interest.

That rule might sound unfair but it was a brilliant idea, one that got us out of our comfort zones. It’s how the birthday girl and I ended up at a safari camp in Zimbabwe ooohing and aaahing over exotic animals we’d only seen on National Geographic television.

Since we were hitting three cities in South Africa, each of us took on the responsibility of planning a leg of the trip, from deciding which tour company to use, where to stay, to what to do on our infrequent free days, etc.

It took us a little more than a year to pull the trip together, and during that time, we were in constant communication via email, phone, and face-to-face meetings, usually over dinner at a South African restaurant. We discussed every aspect of the trip and shared whatever information we found on our own.

Not surprisingly, the meetings to plan the trip brought us closer than we’d been before. But no amount of bonding can change people’s personalities, and no matter how much you prepare to accommodate another’s idiosyncrasies, it always is a jar to the senses when you discover what they are.

Travelers at Sani Pass, Lesotho
Freezing at 9000′ Sani Pass, near Lesotho

While no one had a melt down during the eighteen-day trip, there were a few times when I felt ready to close my fingers around someone’s neck, and many times I was rubbed the wrong way by someone’s attitude. In the end, I realized that I could obsess about minor things, miss the beauty in front of me and mar the overall experience, or relax. After all, it was a vacation, not a marriage.

Planned carefully, a group getaway doesn’t have to be a disaster. Here are some tips from our trip that, I believe, not only helped us have a very memorable vacation, but have kept our friendship intact.

  1. Have an organizer: Every group getaway must have an organizer – someone who’s very meticulous, has excellent communication skills, knows how to handle different personalities, can plan and delegate.
  2. Plan is more than a 4-letter word: Plan as much as possible beforehand to ensure your group getaway is a success. Know each day’s activities in detail and make sure everyone else does too.
  3. Know each person’s objective/s: Find out why participants want to be part of the group getaway and what activity they’d like to engage in. Getting each person to identify their ‘must-sees’ ensures that each person’s interests are addressed. Since our group was small, and we mostly liked the same things, it was easy for us to do things together.
  4. Be inclusive: The best way to get participants invested in the success of the group getaway, is to include everyone. In our case, we were 3 people visiting 3 different cities so it was simple enough to plan. For larger group getaways, break the trip down into activities, cities, countries, etc., and make subgroups responsible for each segment.
  5. Set deadlines: To ensure that you have a successful group getaway, it’s not only important to set deadlines for the payment of fees, but also to obtain information. For example, before you book a hotel, you’ll need to know that Uncle John wants a room with an ocean view.
  6. Keep communication open: When it’s difficult to get together in person, use email, telephone, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc., to keep communication lines open.
  7. Discuss pet peeves:  Find out as much as you can about the person you’re sharing a room with. Understand that you might have to put up with behaviors that are different from your own but remember, it’s only for a short period.
  8. Have fun! The whole reason to plan a group getaway is to gather friends, family, etc., together to share an experience and have fun. Once the trip begins, that should be the only thing on the agenda.

What are your suggestions for keeping your friendships intact as you explore the world with your friends? 


This post is part of Boomer Travel Women’s Group Getaways blog carnival. Head over to More Time to Travel to read about more group adventures.