Resetting the Status Quo: A Travel Blog Back-Story

Travel blogging gives a firsthand view of one’s world. Journaling is one of my few positive habits which began a decline in 2015. I write to clear space in my head (it gets chocked up in there sometimes), and now with the hope to entertain, inform, and share my advice and opinions. Throw into the mix meeting people of different backgrounds, being forced to leave my comfort zone occasionally and best of all, TRAVELLING? The world is such a colourfully rugged place: misty blue mountains, golden sunshine, green savannahs, clear cool water, and I could get more poetic. Who wouldn’t want to leave their 4 monotonous walls and dive into adventure?

Satiating this German-coined feeling of wanderlustย online made me stumble upon travel blogging. Initially I wondered HOW did anyone have that much time and money?! I never realized it was a profession which took hard work๐Ÿ™ˆ. Thankfully I found sincere writers who explained it in their blogs such as Traveller Daveย and Young Adventuress. But then it made me feel discouraged. I’m nothing like these awesome people. My chosen career of medicine means free time is scarce. Study abroad opportunities for M.B.,B.S. students are slim. Funding overseas trips is another obstacle. ย Thus reading travel blogs, albeit entertaining, meant feeling as if my desire to travel had to be stifled until an indefinite ‘later’. I’m a now person down to the marrow of my bones.

And that my friends is how a concept was born: putting a spin on travel blogging. I’m blogging about somewhere here, somewhere near, somewhere affordable, somewhereย replicable. I can start on a much smaller scale and explore my homeland now. We are often from places we think we know, but don’t know as well as we should or think we do. Travel blogging doesn’t have to be about far-distant lands and theย impossible.

The presumptuous launch ofย Adventures from Elle boldly invites people into my journal, so let me officially welcome you to what I hope will blossom into a fulfilling past time and breath of fresh air on the Internet.

The Blogger Recognition Award

blogger-recognition-award-badge

Having started Adventures from Elle so recently, December 28, 2016 to be exact (feels way longer), I never expected awards any time soon. I’m still figuring out WordPress features ๐Ÿ™ˆ. Thus, when I was nominated by Renegade Expressionsย for the Blogger Recognition Award, a fellow Jamaican blogger, my first instinct was to politely decline. Nonetheless, that feeling was quickly replaced by happiness from getting visible affirmation about my brainchild. I’m deeply appreciative.๐Ÿ˜Š Starting Adventures from Elle is one of my better decisions and an exciting fulfilling hobby. I wish I had joined the WordPress community earlier.. so much positivity and creativity in one place!

Rules for The Blogger Recognition Award

  • Thank the person who nominated you for this award and provide a link to their blog.
  • Write a post to show your award.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Select fifteen other bloggers to give this award.
  • Comment on each blog and let them know you nominated them and provide the link to the post you created.

Story

My inspiration for Adventures from Elle is simple.ย I missed writing recreationally and decided to reach a different audience this time. My journal grew tired of me and I no longer have high school classmates to entertain with new chapters from my novels. Furthermore, I’m not currently interested in fiction-writing. I want to travel. The benefits of travel are endless, but that’s for a separate blog. Travel + writing? Perfect match. The best time to travel is when you’re young and relatively responsibility-free, but travel requires money (or so I thought) which I don’t have. That’s what Adventures from Elle is all about. A young Jamaican girl who wants to travel the world but can’t and in the mean time is doing the next best thing: discovering her beautiful homeland, sharing her experiences with anyone who’ll read and giving a fresh look at the isle with local eyes.

Advice to New Bloggers

I know we are all multi-faceted people with tonnes we’d like to share. However, do try to theme your blog or at least arrange posts by category. It’s easier for your readers to find content in which they’re interested. Not everything you share may attract the same crowd.

Do try to engage the blogging community. You’ll get a whirlwind of valuable resources, ideas, opportunities to grow as a writer, advice and last but not least, traffic. At the end of the day, everyone cares about traffic to some degree else all these articles would remain in our minds and our photos in our galleries. Read other blogs, like, share, comment, subscribe.

My 15 Nominees

These awards may be repetitive for many of the blogs I’m listing below or the authors behind them may not accept awards anyway. That’s fine! If your blog is included below, just know I appreciate your work in some way. It’s either inspirational, pleasantly thought-provoking, proved useful or a combination of the above. Keep on doing what you do! ๐Ÿค—

  1. Shady Sardonix
  2. Letters to a Hummingbird
  3. The Petchary
  4. Renegade Expressions (can I nominate my nominator? ๐Ÿค” Oh well)
  5. One Better Than the Original
  6. Traveller Dave
  7. Krista’s Compass
  8. Gratest J
  9. Travel with Zoe
  10. The Hungry Black Man
  11. Kai Alycia. Italia.
  12. For the Love of Wanderlust
  13. Shandean Williams
  14. Cooking With A Wallflower
  15. Keren Creates: her blog is hosted on Blogspot so technically a WordPress award isn’t applicable, but her blog is too awesome to escape my favourite 15.

Check out these guys. You won’t be disappointed. ‘Til next time! โœŒ

10 Aged Articles Which Need a Comeback

Saint Valentines’ Day is here! The old art of romance had my nostalgic soul wondering why is it the world got too modern for these little things. Well, the western world’s fashions and trends are often cyclical so here are 10 old things the world should make new again:

1. Post Cards
You know the cards with picturesque landscapes showing off exotic destinations? They’re always on display in local bookshops and souvenir stores. Well, I’ve never received a post card. Ever. These quaint little stationeries are the most thoughtful way to brag about your trips (next to souvenir T-shirts ๐Ÿ˜Š) and make for excellent collections and conversations.

2. Greeting Cards

20170211_164028_wm
Birthdays, weddings, graduations, consolation, congratulation, get well soon, apologies. There are reasons all year round to send a card to the ones you love most. I have all the cards I’ve ever received in my life tucked away neatly. Why? The messages written in them are hearfelt and remind me that I have love and people who care about me in my life. Cards bring me back to happier places and younger times. Every time you reread a stack of greeting cards you’ll notice something new which you overlooked before. P.S. Mommy, I eagerly await my next birthday card. Don’t stop this tradition.๐Ÿ˜™

3. Even better, handmade gifts
Yes, this includes handmade greeting cards. Buy fancy paper, felt tip pens, and you’re good to go. If you have skills or more time to look up videos and infographics, you can get creative with origami, storage containers, handwritten coffee mugs, jewelry, mats and the list is endless.

4. Photographs, in print
Selfies and social media have ruined photography. When last have you printed a photo you took? One bad virus or a social media glitch and many of our memories over the last 10 years are zilch. Indeed your photos can be ruined by the elements and disasters, but holding a tangible photo or picture album and running your fingertips over the faces of loved ones sure beats staring at a digital photo in the dark till the glare burns your eyes.

5. Books in print

20170211_163740_wm
There are just some things with which I’ll never fall out of love. Those are turning the pages of a new book with anticipation, the smell of the pages and being curled up in bed, book in hand with satisfaction.

6. Diaries/ Journals

20170211_193454_wm
Do young girls still keep these things? ๐Ÿค” I’ll encourage my future children to keep one. Notice I said children. Both my son and daughter. There’s something to be said about men who write and are comfortable with self expression. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ In a frigid world where it can be difficult to find someone in which to confide and understand your every feeling, a journal is a judgement-free haven. I promise not to snoop.

7. Board Games
Jamaica isn’t so bad when it comes to this one. Dominoes are still the national board game and you don’t have to look too far to see (or better yet, HEAR ๐Ÿ™‰๐Ÿ™‰๐Ÿ™‰) four yaadie a match some domino! Nonetheless, I’m tired of social outings with friends who look at me funny when I want to play Snakes and Ladders, Ludo and Scrabble over the latest tablet games. I’d play with my brother but he still takes losses too seriously. . . . .

8. Jump Rope, Hula Hoop and Hopscotch
Veering from the paper world a bit, I must bring up these semi-retired athletic past times of mine. I don’t even know how to caption this except to say I’m happy that my nine year brother knows what these things are. It warmed my heart.

9. Maps
Back to paper. Ok fine, Google Maps is easier than unfolding a huge sheet of paper in your lap and trying to pencil in your route. But bear with me. In the planning stages of a trip, isn’t it thrilling to lie on the floor and pour over a map and the landmarks near to where you’re headed? You can make little scribbles, get a ‘feel’ of where you’re going then refer to it later to keep memories of the trip.

10. Love letters

20170211_193417_wm
I couldn’t not mention these on February 14. Unlike texts these cannot get deleted unless you throw them away, and a letter allows you to use more than your visual sense. Holding the paper uses tactile sense. If the stationery is scented, you use olfactory. You get to store these up somewhere, pull them out over the years and fall in love again.

Rockfort Mineral Bath, Kingston

Besides therapeutic mineral-rich water at the Rockfort Mineral Bath in Kingston, the property houses historical ruins of an old fort. Rockfort was first fortified in 1694 as protection against possible French invasion from Saint-Domingue. This was done to augment Port Royal’s fortification which was badly damaged 2 years earlier in the infamous Port Royal earthquake of 1692. Therefore, I’m puzzled as to why this attraction is only marketed as a mineral bath.

Getting There
Starting from Half-Way-Tree, capital of neighbouring parish Saint Andrew, my partner and I took a bus headed to Downtown, Kingston. We came off at Parade, an area surrounding the Sir William Grant Park where most buses in Downtown load, and took a route 97 JUTC bus from North Parade. Route 97’s final stop is in Bull Bay but you are coming off way before that. After passing the Jamaica Flour Mills, you can press the buzzer and come off at the next stop. However, the nearest bus stop is further than Rockfort Mineral’s entrance so just ask the driver to let you off at the gate and save yourself unnecessary walking. He or she is usually helpful enough. This drive took about 20 minutes.

The Entrance
The payment booth is a few minutes’ walk from the front entrance, which is manned by a security guard. If you want to access the property without using the pools, general admission is $250 per adult. For access to both the property and pool, a 45-minute dip in the mineral water is $500 per adult and $350 per child or senior citizen. After paying and signing a liability form, you can change into swimwear in their adequate changing facilities, bathrooms and shower. There are no lockers for safekeeping your things, but they can be left in your sight on the covered deck pictured below. Also, there are signs verifying the mineral content of the water. Whether or not it’s therapeutic for your ailments, you be the judge.

The Mineral Bath
Flanked by several blue deckchairs under a covered deck and with scorching sun overhead, cool clear blue water was an inviting sight. The deepest part is 3ft 5in (1.04m), making it suitable for wading or swimming. They have a life guard on duty nonetheless. It’s a fairly large pool; 3 ladies were inside before we arrived but no one got in anyone’s way. It felt as if we had had the pool to ourselves. I welcome every opportunity to work on my swimming, so that was the beauty of finally being in water not too deep, shallow, cold or crowded with onlookers to make me feel self-conscious ๐Ÿ™ˆ. We were allowed an hour since traffic was slow that day, then lounged on deckchairs before exploring some more.

Rest of the Grounds
There is a grassy field and benches surrounding a quaint little stream and fishpond. You can feed the fish if you like; we did. It was cute how fast they gobbled up the cracker crumbs.

Here are the Rockfort ruins:


It’s a pity they aren’t better maintained. Jamaica, like almost anywhere, has a rich colourful history to which I think both Jamaican citizens and visitors alike should be exposed. I’m not talking an in depth history lesson here; a mere overview of our colonial and slavery past is sufficient, since one will never understand Jamaican culture until they can appreciate our past. Anyway, the deserted archways, cannons and weaponry storehouses (not armed of course) will take you back a few hundred years to Jamaica’s colonial past.

Wrap Up
I’m glad to finally have visited the Rockfort Mineral Bath. It’s a decent place to spend some time in Kingston. I recommend this to the solo traveller who is cautious about his/her safety. However, I give it โ˜†โ˜†โ˜† 3 of 5 stars, because I think the mineral bath could have been developed to look somewhat authentic. . . This is my first time to a mineral bath, but I expected a more natural look. It has been developed to look like an ordinary pool, rather than what it is- a naturally occurring mineral spring. Also, the fort ruins need better preservation for their historical significance.

***The prices mentioned earlier are in Jamaican dollars (JMD). At the time of writing this article, the exchange rate of USD to JMD is US$1=JM$128.96. Also, I featured Rockfort Mineral Spring as #2 on January 9th in my 2017 bucket list. So this is 2 down, 15 to go. ๐Ÿ˜Š ‘Til next time. โœŒ

The Spirit of Budo: Japanese Exhibition in Kingston

The Spirit of Budo is a traveling Japanese martial arts exhibition, put on by the Japan Foundation. It has been shown in 36 countries globally: from Morocco, France, Germany and Brazil, to name a few. I’m happy to see it reach Jamaican shores, the second Caribbean island in which it has been showcased since its debut by the foundation a decade ago. I don’t know much about Japanese or Asian culture really, but I welcome learning of other cultures, especially when that country takes the time, effort and money to carry expensive authentic relics and replicas to a museum near me. It is on display in Kingston from January 10 to March 18, 2017 at the National Museum of Jamaica (NMJ). Do pay a visit if you can.

Getting There

Google Maps is rather helpful in finding the Institute of Jamaica, walking distance from Parade in Downtown where the JUTC buses load. A contribution of JM$400 per person is required to see the exhibit. That is paid to a cashier at the Institute of Jamaica, an umbrella group responsible for the National Museum, National History Museum, African Caribbean Institute, National Gallery, Liberty Hall and Music Museum of Jamaica. In other words, go to the Institute of Jamaica first, pay and collect your receipt. Take it with you 3 blocks down to the National Museum of Jamaica, where you’ll be welcomed to the exhibit after showing your receipt by the security post. The National Library and National History Museum of Jamaica lie between the 2 buildings you need.

The Spirit of Budo: History of Japan’s Martial Arts Exhibit
From the doorway screens, Japanese cultural immersion begins. Japanese swords of the finest craftsmanship, bows, arrows, helmets and training gear are artfully displayed to capture maximum effect of soft lighting. The sights and sounds of another civilization in another era was mesmerizing.

The Spirit of Budo catalogue has pictures of each artifact, which you can obtain at the security desk. Additional facts are displayed on signs beside each stand. I’d say their effort in informing visitors of Japanese martial art history is a success.

img-20170127-wa0055_wm

Taino Room at the National Museum of Jamaica

National Museum of Jamaica
While you’re there, pay a visit to the museum’s own display in a side-exhibition room. There was a Taino display on the 27th of January when I went. It’s always good to honour our island’s first inhabitants. Did you know Taino legacy still lives on in the Caribbean? They weren’t entirely wiped out from genocide nor as placid as our history books wrote them to be. I’m looking forward to the future of West Indian history books as they become rewritten by the oppressed to share their perspective.

‘Til next time! โœŒ

Harmonious Enjoyment Garden, Saint Andrew

The Harmonious Enjoyment Garden, referred to simply as the ‘Chinese Garden’, is a gift to Jamaica from the Chinese government, situated inside the Royal Botanical Gardens (Hope Gardens) in Saint Andrew. There was no better time than Thursday January 26th to visit because the unexpected tranquility restored my spirits, one clinical rotation down and three exams later. As mentioned in my bucket list, I’ve been to the Hope Gardens countless times. I find green spaces rejuvenating in the busy heart of city life. However, the Harmonious Enjoyment Garden is new to me, and felt like another world.

Navigating through Hope Gardens
It is amazing to have walked minutes and enter such tranquility, a far cry from the boisterous peddling and horn-honking of Papine, a town five minutes away from the front entrance of Hope Gardens. Following the only road from its entrance, you’ll come upon a small green wooden building behind the Tea House. It is here that you pay the caretakers an admission fee for the Chinese garden, a subset of the botanical gardens and hence attracting charge. For adults, admission is $150 while children pay $50 each (JMD*). From here, you can choose whether to receive an escorted tour or discover the place yourself at your own pace, which I found more enjoyable. It is open from 10am-4pm on weekdays, and 9am-5pm on weekends. However, they don’t seem to be strict with time. . . I think the Chinese garden operates on the regular botanical gardens’ time of 6am-6pm despite the sign ๐Ÿค” (considering we left it well past 5pm).

The Chinese Garden
Architecture and nature co-existing so harmoniously in a delightfully tranquil setting blew me away. The huge lotus pond flanked by grassy shores, red pagodas with Chinese ceiling murals and Asian floral species made me feel as if I had travelled much further and paid much more. I’m pretty sure the well planned out design and execution of this garden would remind any Chinese traveller or immigrant of home, despite local plants being interwoven amongst the imported species.

If nature excites you as much as it does me, you’ll need no more activity than walking from pagoda to pagoda, across a lotus garden, admiring the well-manicured flowers and shrubs, and reading signs of different monuments to pass 3 hours. Not to mention, sitting still and hearing nothing but birdsong, whistling wind and your own conversation was a refreshing change. Nonetheless, I must add that this garden would be perfect for a picnic or meditation. A young lady was practicing what looked like tai chi in one corner, and made me fleetingly wish for my yoga mat.

Wrap Up
I enjoyed here immensely; only wish I’d gone sooner considering it has been open since August 2015. For me it’s โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†, 5 of 5 stars because the serenity, beauty and cultural symbolism, coupled with its reasonable price, made it worth the time to visit. Carrying a camera is a must! . . (or smartphone works too, haha).

Note: I featured this as #8 on my inexpensive Jamaican 2017 bucket list, dated 09/Jan/17. One place down, sixteen to go. โœŒ *At the time of publishing this blog, the exchange rate of USD to Jamaican dollar (JMD) was US$1=JM$128.96.

A Jamaican Opinion on the USA 2016 Presidential Outcome

The 2016 USA presidential events were followed by Jamaicans, more than many Jamaicans followed all the Jamaican elections in their lifetimes. Is that statement worrisome to anyone else?……

American current events are a big deal to us because if the USA sneezes, Jamaica catches the cold (or bronchopneumonia). Literally. We depend on the United States for just about everything: food, clothes, shoes, medicines, foreign exchange, loans, free aid, opinions, you name it. That being said, I do understand the interest. The newly inaugurated president led a campaign endorsing racism and xenophobia. With Jamaica’s racial composition of 91% Black, and our largest migration number annually being to the United States, the potential worsening of racial tensions and impending deportations should he enact his campaign policies, are enough to frighten us.

What I cannot understand, however, are the number of Jamaicans shocked at or becoming emotional about the outcome. The mounting protests, record-number turnout at women’s marches and low inauguration support imply some kind of disagreement with a Trump presidency. If this is so, why didn’t the people speak before? Did they think someone else would have voted Clinton? Did they think “Chu, he could never win,” and turn off their TVs, leaving franchise in the hands of those who wanted him to win? The Jamaicans upset about the outcome are most likely the same ones who would allow him to win, had we been able to cast our ballot and choose another victor. Trump, if nominated for Prime Minister of Jamaica, would have WON. Let it sink in.

That prevailing attitude of “I don’t care” would have allowed him to win locally, with ourย 47.72% 2016 election voter turnout, the lowest percentage turnout in Jamaicaโ€™s history (besides 1983…which cannot count for obvious reasons, contested by one political party). That statistic gets worse when you consider the number of adults even enumerated. ๐Ÿค” Therefore, Jamaicans who are howling, please hush and exercise your franchise when next Jamaica goes to the polls at the next constitutionally due general election in 2021. There is always a lesser of 2 evils. What we should howl at instead is for change in the voting system, to allow each person’s vote a chance to decide who wins the race. We shouldn’t cry over poor decisions and spilt milk.

________________

Sidenote: My debut post in this category… whoopee!!

Bucket List Jamaica 2017

17 in ’17. Make some bucket list goals which are pocket-friendly and doable. It is useless to have a long list of places entirely out of current reach. I have Marrakech and Madrid goals too, but for now, here are 17 places in Jamaica to which I’ve never been and will try to visit for 2017. Some of them I’m ashamed to have never visited ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ๐Ÿ™ˆ. I mean, I’ve lived here all my life. Nonetheless, in random order of importance:

  1. Bob Marley Museum, Saint Andrew–ย I’ve driven past the museum of world-renowned reggae icon Bob Marley for over a decade every morning, yet I have never been. Museums shouldn’t be only for international tourists; I believe locals have a responsibility to learn of their heritage and play their part in keeping it alive. There’s no better place than a museum to become re-acquainted with the past and hence, I’ll be stopping by for 2017.

2. Rockfort Mineral Bath & Spa, Kingston– After asking around, I think I’m the odd Kingstonian out who has never spent a childhood summer day here. This year I’ll put things right and visit one of Kingston’s oldest public facilities, found on the eastern edge of the city near the Norman Manley International Airport. Its mineral-rich waters are believed to be therapeutic, and on its grounds lie the historical ruins of an old fort.

3. Blue Mountain Peak, Portland– It is estimated that fewer than 5% of Jamaicans have ever visited this peak, which is 7,402 feet/2,256 m above sea level, the highest point in the island. It was declared a UNESCO World heritage site in 2015, and is mainly frequented by adventurous overseas tourists. This year I’ll hopefully join them and the 5%. Even better, I hope I’ll be lucky enough to visit on a clear day so I have a chance at glimpsing Cuba, our nearest neighbour, which is visible from the peak. I’ll approach in the DAYTIME. Night hiking is not yet for me, even though you are rewarded with seeing the whole island come alive at sunrise if you hike in the wee hours of the morning.

4. Castleton Botanical Gardens, Saint Mary– This garden is one of the oldest botanical gardens in the western hemisphere, established 1862. Running through the property is the Wag Water River, so you get to enjoy two beauties in one trip. A good way to spend a lazy afternoon. ๐Ÿ˜„

5. Caymanas River, Saint Catherine– Another lazy weekend or holiday spot, mainly known to and frequented by residents in and around the community of Caymanas. Swim and picnic your afternoon away in an inexpensive spot.

6. Lyssons Beach, Saint Thomas-As a student of the University of the West Indies, my ID grants me free access to this beach. It is about time I utilize that perk. Non-students are required to pay $250 each. Its facilities underwent recent improvements, so it should be a decent place to spend a day some time soon.

7. Another black sand Saint Thomas beach-Fondly referred to as black sand beaches, these are not true black sand but perhaps are so-called to distinguish them from the popular white sand beaches for which Jamaica is renowned (Negril, for example). According to Google Maps, my options include Bob Marley Beach near the St. Thomas/ St. Andrew border, Prospect Beach and Cerulean Bay. As far as I know, these are public beaches.

8. Chinese Garden at The Royal Botanical Gardens, Saint Andrew– I saw it during construction as a frequent Royal Botanical Gardens (aka Hope Gardens) visitor. However, I’ve yet to go inside the completed project. Since the botanical garden is free, I was annoyed by the $150 admission cost of seeing the newly built Chinese garden. However, when a friend of mine went last year and uploaded pictures to Facebook, my interest piqued since the completed attraction looked more beautiful than I had anticipated. I’ll have a look this year myself!

9. Any Portland waterfall– Did you know that Portland, the looker parish, has SIX different waterfalls? It may have more as I keep learning of local places I’ve never heard of before from browsing online. From current knowledge, my options include: Scatter Falls in Berrydale, Nanny Falls near Moore Town, Spanish River Falls in Chepstowe, Avocat Falls near Silver Hill, and the commercialized Reach Falls and Sommerset Falls. With six to choose from, I aim to cross off at least one this year.

10. Frenchman’s Cove, Portland– River meets sea at this scenic spot. It is ranked among Jamaica’s top beaches, therefore no more reason needed to visit this beach in 2017.

11. Another Portland beach– According to Google Maps, my seven options include Winnifred Beach, Boston Beach, San San Beach, Innes Bay Beach, Long Bay Beach, Wilks Bay and ShanShy Beach.

12. Lime Cay, off the coast of Kingston– Fifteen minutes from Port Royal by boat, this tiny cay houses one of the most beautiful beaches of Jamaica.

13. Holywell, Saint Andrew– A paradise for true nature-lovers, this park deep inside the Blue Mountains offers hiking, camping, bird-watching and sightseeing with breathtaking views 900m above sea level.

The next three destinations are St. Ann spots, although if you take the new North-South highway in a small group, you’ll lose the cost effectiveness of these suggestions:

14. Irie River, Saint Ann–ย Irie River is a scenic section of the White River, about 15 minutes upstream from where river meets sea.

15. Island Gully Falls, St. Ann– Its pristine blue water and gentle falls, appropriately nicknamed the Blue Hole,ย has been growing in popularity since about 2014. There’s no better time to visit, before it becomes heavily commercialized and less accessible.

16. Windsor Mineral Spring, Saint Ann– Also known as Firewater Pond, this natural sulphur spring is found in the garden parish of Saint Ann, near its capital St. Ann’s Bay. Your guide will demonstrate the “fire water” feature to you, and you can even wade into the pond as the flames dance on the surface. The high concentration of minerals in the water is said to contain medicinal properties.

17. Fireworks by the Waterfront– Had to complete my list with fireworks for New Years’ Eve by the Waterfront, Down Town Kingston. I always watch on TV, and while I’m sure it won’t be entirely pleasant since I HATE crowded places, I’m willing to put my fears (NYE robberies, hello?) and dislike aside to view the Waterfront fireworks live.

Honourary mention to the luminous lagoon of Falmouth, Trelawny which is FOUR OF A KIND worldwide. I didn’t include it as I doubt it’ll be possible for me to visit this year, since you need to see it at night to appreciate the bioluminescence.

To which ones haven’t you been? Never been to Jamaica or haven’t been in a while? Commence travelling in 2017 with one of these spots. I’m aware most Kingstonians know of, or have already been to many of these places. The odds of you having been to all 17 is low, so do explore somewhere new. Let me know in the comments how was your experience at these places, and others you think I could’ve included. P.s. Pictures not included for all the places (yet) since I haven’t been to them myself (Not risking copyright infringement!). I’ll update with pictures and new blogs after each visit, so you can partake in adventures from Elle.

Currently been to 2 and counting! โœŒ Last updated: February 9, 2017.

Bowden Hill Falls, Saint Andrew

Bowden Hill Waterfall, a.k.a. Falling Edge Falls, is nestled away in the rural community of Stony Hills. This area receives very high rainfall annually, making it a suitable site for catchment facility the Hermitage Dam and Reservoir. If you’ve ever wanted to see one of the two notorious corporate area reservoirs, consider this killing two birds with one stone. Nothing I’d found online mentally prepared me for my adventure on the 30.12.16, but I owe previous blogs many thanks for ensuring I was prepared with sneakers (phew! because I usually approach water bodies in flip-flops). I nearly didn’t see the falls today because I didn’t realize how very far apart the reservoir and falls are. I’ll describe the trails as best I can, for anyone choosing to quench their wanderlust with this treasure.

20170214_113120_wm

Bowden Hill Primary and Junior High School

The Journey
Recruiting a party of nine we began from Half-Way-Tree, travel centre and capital of the Saint Andrew parish. From here, Google Maps serves well until you reach the Bowden Hill Primary and Junior High School (formerly All-Age). The drive took about an hour. By no means is the Hermitage Dam a tourist spot! However, if you must sate curiosity (honestly, how often will I find myself with this opportunity? . .), take the path to the right of the school and be guided by the beckoning roar of water till you find it. There are two paths to it; each offering a different view of the place. If you have time or interest, and weather permits, do find them both.

The waterfall trail, as indicated above, is left of the school. Lost on the Hermitage dam paths, we were forlorn that our waterfall-seeking adventure may have been in vain, when two residents who we drove past earlier found and helped us. After a chat and some rapport establishment, we politely spewed our exasperation for the absence of signage. Hopefully this is addressed, because they seemed to listen earnestly to our concerns. Therefore, maybe your visit will be better (and if so, thank me later haha ๐Ÿ˜‚). At this point they began sharing their development plans for the area. It is their community after all, and nosy people like myself come encroaching, so it is good to see them recognize that they have revenue-earning potential.

The 20-minute hike trail looked like this, and at the fork, go left.

Otherwise, the trail is pretty straightforward but wet, and there were occasional trickles of tributaries (I assume) along the way.ย Your zeal will be rewarded with: a WATERFALL.

20170218_105221_wm

Falling Edge Falls, Saint Andrew

The Waterfall
Bowden Hill Falls is a gush of white water leaping over an estimated height of 40 feet to plunge into a crisp cold linn. Brrrr! It felt like what I imagine the ice bucket challenge did. If you have the thermostat of an average person (sadly I don’t), you’ll adjust once part of your body is submerged. I still enjoyed myself immensely, and got to wash off the sweat and struggles from that hike! The hour we spent by the falls made everything worth the trip. The falls and surrounding rocks had at least 12 residents, but they were hospitable. Also, the linn moves gradually from ankle depth to too deep in which to stand as you approach the falls, so tread cautiously.

Lessons Learnt
Be friendly! Keep your guard up of course, and use your instincts. However, don’t let pre-conceived notions cloud your judgement. The manner (or appearance) of the male(s) willing to assist may take you aback at first. If you roll up in multiple cars and windows up, you’re going to put off people (. . .and have them try to financially exploit you), yet even so they probably won’t carry feelings.ย I have never heard of the hikes here attracting charge, but we were each requested $500 and told that that is the “normal price.” Rather negotiable men they were since clearly, none of us had had nor bargained for that. Nonetheless, tip generously since residents are not obligated to show you around their haven, especially if you go there visibly displaying your differences in wealth.

Wrap Up
Quite a memorable and authentic Jamaican experience this was! It gets 4/5 stars โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜† from my book, because despite finding the trails on a well-kempt day, the water temperature and initial difficulty in choosing the right trail detracted from the experience. I do love to hike so I never minded the time nor effort much, but that feeling wasn’t mutual for everyone in my group.
Tips: โœ” As with all deep water bodies, APPROACH WITH CAUTION!!!!!! Please.
โœ” No mosquito problem by the falls that day (maybe because of smoke from the fire at which the residents were cooking ๐Ÿค” ), but come prepared with DEET repellant.
โœ” Roll your windows down if you drive. HAIL THE PEOPLE YOU PASS; a wave or “hi, wahpm” counts. You actually can public-transport it though, as shown here.
โœ”Sneakers are a MUST. Carry warm clothing.
______________________

P.S. If you find a Rasta guide called Seco, you’re in good hands โ˜บ. ‘Til next time. โœŒ

Reggae Falls, Saint Thomas

Reggae Falls, a.k.a. Dam Head, is a jewel tucked away in the hilly rural community of Hillside, Saint Thomas (what an aptly named district!). This waterfall is not entirely natural as many years ago, the Johnson River which supplies it was being developed to power a hydroelectricity station. The project suffered some damage from a hurricane early in development, leading to its abandonment. However, its aesthetic appeal has not gone unnoticed by residents of the community nor dry land tourists* like myself, who are its main patrons. My only visit thus far was in January 2016. Its waters are touted to have healing properties due to its sulphur content. It is currently not commercialized and I hope it develops, once its ownership remains in local hands.

The Journey
I recruited a group of 7 friends. We pitched in for gasoline costs to fill the tank of a friend’s van. We met in Half-Way-Tree, capital of the Saint Andrew parish, to begin our journey at 9AM. We each had a vague idea of its location and a possible route from Google Maps, but we got lost twice in Saint Thomas before finding the way. That’s because we thought it a good idea to follow GPS, using a poor data connection ๐Ÿ˜…. It added to the fun, but I doubt my driver-friend agreed then. The towns you drive through using the simplest route (and in the correct order!) are Half-Way-Tree, Mountain View, Harbour View, Bull Bay, Nine Mile, Eleven Mile, and keep going till you are almost near Morant Bay then take the left turn to Seaforth. Next up after Seaforth: HILLSIDE!

At this point, it would be handy to spot a resident to guide you as to where to drive and park, since parking is in a dry part of the river bed. If you end up not following their directions correctly at first, don’t feel bad because country people are notorious for their directions. . . There were no signs either, so we were grateful to a father and son pair who directed us. They showed us it was possible to climb the steep hillsides too, as they fearlessly did, but this is NOT a time where the When in Rome proverb applies!

The Waterfall
Reggae Falls is a powerful waterfall, thundering over an estimated height of 70 feet to mist the air, and continue downstream as the Johnson River. We were actually awestruck for a while before making our way closer. I could not stand under it for more than a few seconds as the power of the water seemed to push me away, plus I could not handle the feeling of being back-slapped by nature. The river is rather shallow so we weren’t able to swim. Picnicking, fall-bathing, photo-taking and hiking was how we spent our time. No one was adventurous enough in my group to try, but I assume you could dive into a pool that is hidden behind some rocks to the left of the falls. The deep blue colour of that pool discouraged most of us from taking a swim (I assumed it was too deep for my poor swimming abilities). We were only joined once by another group of friends, so we mostly had the place to ourselves.

A little before our departure we met this gentleman called “Riva-man” (River man), who earns his namesake and keep by cleaning up after nasty tourists and community residents alike who seem to think their waste is biodegradable. Sure this could have been a ploy but since the river was indeed litter-free, we had enjoyed ourselves, and rural communities like these are poor, we didn’t mind collectively tipping Riva-man. He had struck my beggar hard-hearted heart as genuine anyway. . .

Wrap Up
Learning from our mistakes, the return time took under an hour as opposed to the nearly 3 hours it took to get there ๐Ÿ˜‚. Tips: โœ”Rely heavier on people’s advice to get there, not Google maps. โœ”Do go in a group (preferably with a few males) because no commercialization equals no security. โœ”Lastly, do pack food and water. There are no nearby shops, although perhaps if we had asked a resident, they could’ve directed us to somewhere in the community.

I rate Reggae Falls full stars, 5/5: โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†โ˜†. Till next time! โœŒ

___________________________
* Dry Land Tourist: A Jamaican term which refers to locals who visit the scenic “tourist-y” destinations in his/her own country often restricted to overseas tourists, mainly due to cost.