H climbs to the highest point in Jamaica quite frequently. He took our then 11 yo son with him once, he’s been up with friends and family. Our daughter did it once with a group a few years ago. I did it once when I was 13. I have no plans for a repeat performance. Anyhows, back to H and his peak climbing ways. Last year he set up base camp at a little hostel practically at the foot of the highest point in Jamaica, the Blue Mountain Peak. The peak stands 7,401 feet above sea level. I’ve been encouraging H to document his last peak ascent experience. I sat fascinated as he described it. No spoilers here. I hope he writes it one day. But what grabbed my imagination was his base camp experience! He stayed at a hostel called “Jah B’s Place”. When I saw the pics he took I immediately wanted to go there and spend a night. It took us almost a whole year, but we finally made it two weekends ago.
Getting to Jah B’s Place: The Road Trip
I was excited to leave the heat, dust and haze of the city behind and make the trek high up into the majestic Blue Mountains without the children. Yes, it was gonna be just me and H. The plan was to get to Jah B’s Place by mid afternoon and simply walk in the foothills and then grill chicken and sip wine and enjoy the spectacular views that I craved ever since seeing H’s pics from his peak adventure last year. And if you’ve been following my blog any at all, you already know that H’s idea of a good time is to whip out his portable, innovative grill and get to work. I ain’t sad.
Mavis Bank: We Have a Garbage Problem!
So we loaded up our trusty 4WD vehicle (you need one to get to Jah B’s unless you prefer to hike up on foot) and set out. We started our ascent as we left Papine, wending our way past the turn-off to Newcastle (our more frequent route since Newcastle and Holywell National Park are frequent trips for us), going up past Gordon Town, headed for Mavis Bank. It grew quieter. It grew cooler. And as always happens on our road trips, our breathing slowed, our shoulders relaxed and our smiles stayed wider for longer. I adore a good drive out. Getting to the destination is half the fun for me. We were on our way. Woohoooo! So we’re climbing and as we enter the community of Mavis Bank, BAM! It hit us in the face. A community skip overflowing with garbage greeted us. Despite a promise to myself to start documenting our garbage problem as I see it on our many road trips, I didn’t have the heart to take a pic of this. (Our garbage crisis in Jamaica is something I’m very passionate about.) It hurt too much. The pics here were taken by @Romainefrancois on Twitter back in March this year. Nothing has changed. It is heartbreaking. Mavis Bank is is beautiful mountain community. The garbage is a horrible stain that jars every single sense. We continued on our way trying to pretend that it was just our imagination…
The Journey is Part of the Adventure
We passed several groups of young people on foot, water and back-packs in tow who appeared to be on a mission to get to the top of the Blue Mountain Peak. Many hikers start from as far down as Mavis Bank. I would never! So we continued on through Mavis Bank and eventually got to Hagley Gap is really in the parish of St. Thomas and is only 10 miles from Kingston! It feels so much further away though, possibly due to the winding roads. This is where the fun started. We kicked in the 4WD and started the ascent on what was really a dirt road with huge craters and peaks and steep corners up into the actual foothills of the Blue Mountains. The vistas around us were simply spectacular. The mountain range on one side towered like a powerful, reassuring force calling us to come closer and to go higher, and then the views right down to the coast on the other side reaffirmed the diversity of this place we call home, Jamaica Land We Love. Simply. Beautiful.
We’re Here! Jah B’s Place in the Blue Mountain Foothills
We finally arrived. It was exactly like the pictures H had shared with me that had ignited my fervent desire to spend a night at Jah B’s. It was a perfect summer afternoon there in the foothills: clear, blue skies, brilliant sunshine and a gentle breeze, decidedly cooler than the city we’d left behind. We were approximately 5000 feet above sea level here.
Jah B came out to welcome us. A group had departed a few hours prior to our arrival and no more people were expected. We had the run of the place! We were showed to our “private” bed room, which had a double bed and an en suite bathroom. The other option was to share a more “public” type bed room which had several bunk beds and a shared bathroom. There was a communal kitchen which we were free to use as well. Guests can arrange for Jah B to provide meals for them or they can do their own meal prep using the kitchen. H was our caterer for the weekend 🙂 We unpacked the truck. H came prepared with 2 lounge chairs that he set up strategically in the designated grilling spot. This was for us to be able to sit and drink in the views in comfort.
Not Climbing the Peak, But Walking Around in the Foothills
Once we had unpacked, we set off on a walk. We ended up walking a total of 3 miles that afternoon, up and down hill, right there in the foot hills. We went to the small district of Penlyne Castle to buy a little more rum and a bar of soap. The residents were very pleasant and tolerated all the questions I peppered them with: Has the road always been like this? What was that white woman with the clip-board asking them about? When last have you gotten rain? So you walk up here every day? Why you selling the rum so expensive? They smiled at me huffing up the hills and comforted me with “the exercise good fi yuh.”
Enjoying Jah B’s Place
We made our way back to Jah B’s and I sat and drank in the views and the stillness, literally drinking in the scent of Christmas in the middle of July (so many Christmas trees were being grown all around us!) while H got the grill ready. He poured us wine and I was in heaven. It was exactly how I imagined it would be.
There were no outside lights and I wondered aloud what would happen when the chicken was finally ready since the sun would have already set. I needn’t have worried. The moon which was about 2 days away from a full moon, provided all the light we needed. It was magical. We listened to music, sipped wine, snacked on cheese while the chicken grilled and then devoured all of it when it was ready.
Jah B normally has good, strong WiFi, but unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) it was down since the day before we arrived. No problem, Man. We didn’t miss it.
Day 2 at Jah B’s Place
After a solid night’s rest, under blankets, and in socks and sweaters (remember that we’re 5000′ above sea level!) we got up. Coffee in hand we inhaled the brisk, mountain air and made plans to take another walk, this time turning left instead of right as we had done the day before, upon exiting Jah B. There’s no hot water. Deal with it. Let’s just say that the brisk showers finished the job that the coffee had started. We were now wide awake. H made us breakfast: scrambled eggs and cheese. I can’t get over how much simpler our road trips have become since going keto many, many months ago! I speak about this in my account of our recent river adventure and our south coast beach trip. Low-carb eating to the world!!!
We walked up to the start of the trail that takes you up to the peak. That was a total of a little over 2 miles. It was a wonderful way to spend Sunday morning. We passed hikers who had just completed the descent from the peak. At the beginning of the trail there are vendors selling fruit and drinks. There are other base camp options along the route too.
Jah B’s Place: The Perfect Base Camp or Get Away Spot
Jah B actually lives on site. He was the consummate host. He was always present, never intrusive. Every request we made of him was answered in the affirmative with: “Freedom!“. We were totally at home and he shared a little of his own story as a coffee grower over the past couple of years, how the industry has changed and his own plans for expansion.
And then just like that, it was time to pack up and head back home. I honestly wished that I could run away from adulting for just a little while longer. I was in a different world, one that I wanted to enjoy for just a bit longer.
Go see for yourself! Jah B’s Place: Getting Away Differently
I can’t wait to go back. And no, I’m still not interested in making the climb to the peak. Interested in a night out of town in a totally different setting? Check out Jah B’s place right here. Go as a group and bring your games and music along. Cook for yourselves or not. Explain what you want to Jah B and allow him to guide you and help you plan. Walk. Inhale deeply. Quiet your mind and spirit. Walk some more. Forget the daily stresses of life, if even for a few hours.