Jamaica the beautiful

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I have traveled to nearly 30 countries. Except for Oahu of the Hawaiian Islands, no other place, in my experience, matches the beauty of Jamaica, though I’ve yet to see what I’ve heard to be the gorgeous scenes in New Zealand and Switzerland.

Visitors to Jamaica have always been struck by the arresting beauty of the place. Jamaica is stunning.

The first time I flew from Montego Bay to Kingston, (it was always a trip I took by road), I was fascinated. The undulating hills were breathtaking. Others in the plane gasped. One man blurted out in delight.

I’ve also hiked the Blue Mountains twice, and though both hikes occurred some 30 years ago, the memories still linger. Driving along the coast in Portland, such as in St. Margaret’s Bay, is a special experience.

The grandeur of Jamaica’s beauty has always been acknowledged. It is alleged that when Columbus got lost and landed there in 1494, he is supposed to have called it “the fairest isle that eyes have beheld.”

Similar encomiums have been recorded by others who visited the island. Sibbald David Scott, writing in 1875 on his trip to Jamaica, described what he saw upon approaching Kingston Harbor while on the ship’s deck. “The aspect of the island is beautiful—almost everything looks beautiful under a powerful sunlight…. On looking upwards there are such hills, or rather mountains, clothed to their summits in luxuriant verdure.”

In the foothills of the Blue Mountains, just below Gordon Town, Scott said “nature was in full luxuriance here: so rich a prospect my eyes had never feasted on before.” As they traveled on, “the air feels purer and cooler as we ascend.” The treacherous but spellbinding journey through small, winding paths and close to steep precipices had him declaring, “It is in truth a garden of Eden run wild.”

Alfred Leader, who published Through Jamaica with a Kodak in 1907, wrote the following while at Farm in Montego Bay:

There is a fascination in Jamaica which grows on you. Before me now are the great mountains, with their tropical tree-covered sides. I see the cocoanut (sic) palms waving in the breeze, and hear the pleasant rustle which accompanies the movement of their graceful leaves. The blue sea is beyond. It is very beautiful.

He called Bog Walk “a little Switzerland,” described it as “entrancing,” and declared “it the most attractive place in the Island, and a photographer’s paradise.”

Of the famous Bog Walk Gorge, he said, “the river enters a magnificent gorge—its massive fern-decked rock walls rising on the right almost perpendicularly about nine hundred feet, the water rushing along the rocky bed below.”

More than 100 years ago, Leader said “St. Ann has been well named ‘The Garden of Jamaica’” and that “earth has nothing more lovely than the pastures and pimento groves of St. Ann.” Port Antonio, he declared, “is very pretty from the sea.”

Whether morning, afternoon, evening, or night, Jamaica is bathed in beauty.

Of the sunset, Leader wrote.

A strikingly beautiful and, to me, altogether novel phenomenon occurs here occasionally after a cloudless sunset. Within a few minutes of the sinking of the sun below the horizon, long streamers of pale crimson light, radiating from the point of the sun’s disappearance, form, and gradually extend entirely across the sky from west to east; the impression given is that of a huge open fan, with its alternate pale crimson and blue shafts projected upon the heavens.

The night was no different:

And then, the languorous day over, comes the charm of the nights (as after dinner we sit out in the piazza overlooking it all, having a quiet smoke), the brilliance of the stars and new constellations, the hiss of the cicada (a lizard-like insect), the cackle of the tree toad, the hum of innumerable insects, and the thousand other strange sounds which reach one, together with the sweet scents, the myriad fire-flies darting hither and thither like little points of electric light, and the almost continual sheet lightning. (I don’t think a day passes but we see the latter.) There is an irresistible witchery in it all.

And the sunrise:

Sunrise is beautiful indeed: the sky tints not gorgeous as at sunset, but more delicate, pale blues and rose and mother-o’-pearl blends prevailing; and in the valleys below you see the mist clouds rolling up and slowly melting. Everything then is deliciously fresh, sweet, and quiet.

The Englishman, entranced by it all, exulted, “there is always something to admire, something novel to be seen, in the course of a ride or drive in this beautiful Island.”

An old poem by a Jamaican under the nom de plume, “Tropica,” captures the Jamaican evening best:

Subtle perfume of some flower —
What it is, no one knows,
Myrtle or orange or logwood —
Jasmine, coffee or rose ;
Flashes of light and of colour —
Firefly flames in the trees.
Murmurs of minor music
From water and birds and breeze;
Tropical earth-laden odours
Coming up from the ground;
A chorus of evening insects
And—twilight falleth around.”

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