Kingston, Jamaica has been hot… The kind of still, brassy heat that makes it difficult to breathe. The Sahara dust coming in from the Motherland has made things worse, and all over the city sits a haze that forces you to shield your eyes from the glare. We decided to escape one Saturday. We normally head for the beach, but the thought of sunbathing and splashing in warm water held very little appeal in our search for respite from the unrelenting heat of the city. It had to be a river. I envisaged trees along the side of the river and the icy cold water characteristic of our rivers. I created an entire picnic in my mind and I just knew how our day at the river would look and feel. We just had to decide on the river…
Which river though?
My Twitter friend Kerry had posted pics some weeks ago of a spot along the White River called the Old Spanish Bridge. It looked perfect: blue waters, large shady trees and people enjoying themselves. I started making plans. It is a public spot frequented by locals in the know. But she shared how her otherwise perfect afternoon there with friends and family, a welcome get away from the heat, was marred by two things: garbage and inconsiderate patrons who insisted on blaring lewd, loud music from their cars. I immediately crossed that option off my list.
Then my brother Whatsapped me pics of what looked to me to be paradise: blue waters, large shady trees, flat grassy expanses and I knew that this was the spot. I immediately sold the members of my family on my fantasy by simply sending them the pics. It took no further convincing on my part; we were all in!
Hidden Beauty it was!
So Bro sent me directions, I prepared our picnic, and off we went. We were on our way to Hidden Beauty. Getting there was an adventure in and of itself! Please don’t ask me for directions. At the best of times, I am directionally challenged. And even with the directions Bro gave, we still had to stop a few times to ensure we were heading in the right direction. What I will say is this: head out of Ocho Rios in the direction of St. Mary. Turn into the hills as if you’re going to the famous Blue Hole attraction. Drive past it. Drive on past another water park attraction. Yes, keep going. The road is bad. If you’re driving a car, you’ll have to carefully pick your way up into the hills. You can make it, but a 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance is ideal.
Getting to Hidden Beauty is its own adventure!
The drive though bumpy, is simply beautiful. You’ll see a huge pipeline that carries water from the White River to run a Jamaica Public Service hydroelectric installation. This pipe line is obviously old, numerous leaks along its length making it look like a giant, snaking sprinkler watering the lush country-side. It’s quiet. It’s green. It is cool. The air is fresh and there is no evidence of the dreaded Sahara dust in them there hills! So we’re still driving, picking our way, and then we come to the end of the road which suddenly gives way to an obviously well tended expanse.
And we’re finally here!
The gate at the end of the road is closed, but the sign advises us that we have arrived at Hidden Beauty, our intended destination for the day. After a little wait, we’re greeted by a smiling young lady who assures us that we are welcome, and that the fee is JMD 1,000.00 per person. It seems a tad steep, but you know what, I’ll gladly pay for security and peace. And we were allowed to bring our picnic.
Imagine a wide flat expanse of land dotted with park benches and small huts, with trees and flowering plants lending shade and beauty, and a large, completely blue river, ironically called the White River, snaking it’s way on one side of this park. Ahhhhhh….paradise. There appears to be a restaurant and bar on property, but they didn’t seem to be open when we were there. There are swings for children wanting a break from the river. The large, flat expanse appears perfect for a game of foot ball or cricket. There were workers cleaning up the place and ready to guide us as to the best access points to the river. There were ropes strategically placed for patrons who were after a little adventure like swinging and jumping into the blue waters of the river. Signs along the river indicate where the deeper spots are, and the guides are quick to point out where the strongest currents are.
We arrived at 11:30 am and were the only patrons there. Yassssss! We picked a pot along the river banks where we could set up our picnic AND have easy access to the river. It was as cool and as peaceful as I had imagined. The inviting crystal clear blue waters were freezing cold 🙂 As I made my way into the river, I could see straight down to the bottom, fish and all. I quickly felt the strong currents for myself and hastily made my way back to the relative safety nearer to the banks of the river. I think this is what the Garden of Eden must have been like.
Road Trip while Keto: Easy peasy picnic
As a keto family, our logistics where food is concerned has simplified. I wrote about our excursion to Treasure Beach here and explained how cutting carbs and being fat adapted have made our food choices so much simpler. For our river lyme, I cut up two supermarket bought rotiserrie chickens and made a huge salad of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and sweet pepper. I carried one of my low-carb coconut “bruns”, a sweetish treat which is a cross between bread and bun that we enjoyed with butter and cheese. I carried crisp bacon and walnuts to add to the salad and we had our choice of vinaigrette or creamy ranch dressings. Beverages included water, coconut water, diet sodas and rum. Small packs of peanuts were also included. Yum!
Jamaica: We have a Garbage problem
I must say though, that the property was not as clean as it could have been. There was some garbage in our spot when we arrived, and there were not bins nearby. We always travel with garbage bags on our road trips, so we immediately hung one bag from a tree and got to cleaning up our spot. It was disappointing to see 2 piles of burnt garbage easily visible. A more sensitive eye could deal with this small garbage problem and immediately lift the property. We’ve become too used to co-existing with nastiness and squalor.
While we were there more people arrived. I observed 2 couples who arrived in one vehicle which they parked near to us, enjoying some KFC. One guy simply tossed his bones on the ground as he ate. How? Why? And he’s not a monster. I know this because we got to talking later one when I found myself wading beside him in the river. He too was seeking respite from the searing heat, but in his case, he was running away from Ocho Rios. Nice guy, totally unaware that there were better ways to deal with his waste. I recall that my Twitter friend bemoaning the garbage situation at Old Spanish Bridge, told us that she picked up 2 garbage bags of waste, including garbage not generated by her group. One of her friends expressed surprise that she was doing that, remarking: “nuh bush wi deh!” We have become too used to coexisting with squalor and nastiness, to the point where we don’t even see it any more. But the garbage is there. And it is a problem that has been aided and abetted by the failure of the state to articulate and enact a sound solid waste management plan. We need a cultural revolution led from the top to reverse years of decline to where we now are, to address the prevailing attitudes towards garbage.
When we do decide to revisit Hidden Beauty, I will be calling in advance, to negotiate with management to ensure that the garbage is picked up in advance of our arrival. I’m sure that my request which will be made with respect and in the most polite of ways will be granted. The staff and management are friendly, laid back and desirous of running a great facility. I think that they’re simply not seeing what we are seeing and a gentle nudge in the right direction will be well received.
Plan to go to Hidden Beauty
Hidden Beauty is a great spot for a big lyme: think family reunion or friend lyme. Load up the cars, pack a picnic, carry your libations and nuff ice and prepare to to escape to paradise where the fresh air, crystal clear, cool blue waters of the White River, birds and flowers and shady trees guarantee a perfect couple of hours where you can relax, play, read and simply enjoy Jamaica.