The Jamaica Visitors Rarely See

Less than 20 minutes from the Montego Bay International Airport, we ditch the car and begin what turns out to be a 50-minute hike up into the hills overlooking the second city.

Within minutes of leaving the main road, we are surrounded by dense vegetation. All around are mahogany, cedar, mango and other trees, many of which no one in my party recognizes, small clumps of sugar cane, succulent and creeping plants, moss and vines. The trees grow close together and straight up in an effort to find the sun. Their leaves form a protective canopy.

It is cool here – at least a degree or two below what it is in town. The air is fresh and clean.

We leave the feeder road and take a path that is wide enough for one person, or a donkey, the only mode of transporting heavy loads in these remote areas.

Pipes taking potable water stop at the road. There’s no electricity, and the only people we see are the ones in our party.

Each careful step takes us higher into hills, further away from the noise of the city. Except for the sounds of the birds chirping above, it is peaceful here. I have to remind myself that another Jamaica exists just beyond the trees.

We spot a neat little house, fronting a lush vegetable garden, its doors and windows open but not a soul, not even a dog is in sight. Sometimes, when his farms is in a remote area, a farmer will build a hut nearby with a bed and a kitchen in case he gets trapped by rain, but this isn’t a hut. I wonder how people find these places and how they decide to build where there are no modern conveniences. Not even cell phones work.

But it’s the view that captivates. Through the clearing, we can see directly out to the airport and the hotels at Freeport. It feels like you can just reach out and touch them. We watch a plane descend slowly over the Caribbean Sea until it comes to a stop on the tarmac.

Freeport and Mobay airport, Jamaica
Freeport (in the foreground) and Montego Bay Airport

Men Are in Charge of the Cooking

By the time we arrive at our destination, cooking is well underway. It’s the men who typically do the cooking here in the bush. It’s their domain.

There’s curried goat, (the goat had been killed a few days before, cut up into chunks and left to marinade in curry, onions, thyme, garlic, pimento, salt and Scotch Bonnet peppers), rice and peas, roasted yam and breadfruit, dumplings, fried chicken, boiled green bananas, and yellow and white yams. All this will be washed down by copious amounts of JB (affectionately called, Jamaica’s Best) over proof rum, that promises to ‘come in like a lion but leave like a lamb, a Trojan horse in reverse.’

Between now and the end of the year, the bush around the island will come alive with events like these as Jamaicans begin to celebrate the holidays.

This is the Jamaica that visitors rarely see.

Mango tree with few leaves, Jamaica
The largest mango tree I’ve ever seen
Yellow Slipper, a tree with spikes Jamaica
Yellow Slipper
Green bananas, Jamaica
Bananas
Three large pots with dinner, Jamaica
Dinner’s on!
Cleaing the rice, Jamaica
Preparing the Rice
Chopped vegetables for the soup, Jamaica
Preparing the soup
Man checking curried goat, Jamaica
Curried Goat
Man checking saddle on a donkey, Jamaica
Saddling the donkey to leave

Hiking or running shoes are advisable here. We also wore long pants, and packed hats and mosquito repellant but there were no mosquitoes or bugs, and the trees provided shade.

32 comments on “The Jamaica Visitors Rarely See

  1. This sounds like a great hike and a fun outing especially with so much delicious food at the end of it all. I didn’t appreciate mango trees got so big!!

  2. This was definitely off the beaten path for the tourists. I’ve never had goat curry but it’s that uniqueness that will surely make my husband happy and willing to try it. What a wonderful view and worth the hike. It sounds like you had quite a feast up there too.

  3. Awesome day…I’ve been to Jamaica 3 times, and yes, I’ve only seen what the tourists see. Perhaps you can help me change that next time we are on the island!

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  5. Really nice shots, I really like this side of Jamaica as well, it’s more personal, that’s how the people are living there, not what’s in the travel reports.

  6. Such a fantastic see as well as really worth the actual walk. This might sound just like you experienced a significant banquet upward generally there as well.Thanks for the classic shots sharing with us.I hope to see more informative and useful articles in future.

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  8. Very cool photos and experience! I’d say you deserved such a yummy reward after an hour-long hike! LOL! I can almost smell the curried goat. Yummm!

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