Mon | Oct 15, 2018

The Marleys and 'Big Dun', aka 'Fish Dun'

Published:Sunday | September 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Another view of the cyclists enjoying the Spanish River.
Cyclists frolic in the Spanish River.
The river comes out of the John Crow Mountains, cascading over humongous rocks and forms a beautiful swimming hole below the tiny waterfall.
Apples go to waste on the ground.

Joan Williams, Contributor

What's the difference between riding and driving? Apart from the speed, as far as I am concerned, the significant difference is that when you drive, you rarely notice hills, but when you ride, the road appears to be nothing but a permanent uphill! I get this reminder every time I ride out into the lovely Jamaican countryside.

So, while I thought the ride from Agualta Vale in St Mary to Bybrook in Portland was relatively flat, except for the hill going up into Bybrook itself, I am here to tell you that the road from Agualta Vale to Buff Bay in Portland is really full of hills, although it is part of the north coast highway and appears flat.

That's life anyway, full of challenges, but lots of fun when you finally achieve your goals.

These roads appear fairly flat when driving, but they are certainly not!

Although I had hiked to Bybrook twice before, once doing a hash with Jah 3 and once with fellow outdoor lovers, and each time we had a ball at a little waterfall just above the bridge, when I led my fellow riders there, promising to introduce them to this great new spot in the Maroon River just before getting to Berwick Spring, I just could not find the place!

It was a sympathetic local youth nearby who saved my hide, for after a long, hot, challenging ride, no one accepts excuses as everyone just wants somewhere to swim and cool off, not excuses!


The local young men took us to a nearby district called Chepstowe (they just called it Stowe) and on to a hidden gem of a waterfall and swimming area in the Spanish River, called Big Dun or Fish Dun. Here, the river which cascades out of the John Crow Mountains over the humongous rocks into the deep canyon forms a small waterfall which fills up the natural dam below, which is probably about 20 feet deep in sections.

This section of the Spanish River runs through a coffee farm which we later learnt belongs to the family of Jamaican superstar Bob Marley. In fact, it is from this humble district and the big farm that the Marley Coffee brand, which is gaining traction internationally, grew.

Although Jamaica National Heritage Trust has no information on their web page on the area, we could see the ruins of old edifices all around and we actually had to walk down ageing brick steps that appeared to have been there from the days of slavery, to get down to the Spanish River.

The river comes out of the John Crow Mountains, cascading over humongous rocks and forms a beautiful swimming hole below the tiny waterfall

Further, we were told by the local folk that this area had been treasured by the slaves as it is very well fruited and they used to be able to roam freely to supplement the little food they were getting from their masters, and when they were hurt, they used to bathe their wounds in sections of the river which they claimed had healing properties.

The path down to the river and small waterfall was strewn with apples which were just going to waste, reminding us why people often say that "... if you live in Portland, you can't starve, for it is so well fruited all around."

So, thanks to some kind young men from Chepstowe, not only did we discover another hidden gem in this beautiful country of ours, but also, we learnt about the great generosity of Ziggy Marley, who we were told had donated part proceeds of his big hit album Family Time which was released in 2009 and which won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children, to the basic school in the area.

So the Marleys are highly regarded in the area, not only for creating employment and allowing people, more or less, free access to the lovely swimming area and fruits on the property, but also because of Ziggy's greatly appreciated philanthropic gesture, which not only helped the kids, but also put the small, secluded district on the map.

Joan Williams, moderator of Joan Williams Online broadcast on POWER 106, describes herself as an unapologetic addict to the Jamaican outdoors. A foundation member of Fun and Thrills Adventure Club, she explores the island at any given opportunity cycling, hiking or swimming with that group, family, Jah 3 and anyone else who will have her. In 1995, she published the popular 'Tour Jamaica', and the fourth edition is now an ebook available at: Contact:

Photos by Joan Williams