Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Making history on the new highway

Published:Sunday | October 5, 2014 | 12:00 AM
The highway opens up absolutely beautiful, virgin countryside. - Photo by Omar Downie
Sign announcing the closure of the Mount Rosser road on August 31. - Contributed
'Sheriff' Nicole arrives after conquering the steep highway. - Photo by Omar Downie
Joan relaxes in the refreshing, calm, clear water at Blue Hole. - Photo by Omar Downie
Kelly takes the plunge. - Photo by Omar Downie
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Joan Williams, Contributor

Some Fun and Thrills riders created history on Sunday, August 31, by being the first and possibly last law-abiding riders to take on and conquer the new North South Highway since it was officially opened, the very highway which, reports state, has been knocking out some automobiles because of its steepness.

I say law-abiding, as ever since the new road was opened by the prime minister on August 5, 2014, huge billboards declared that bicycles would not be allowed. It was, however, the closure of the Mount Rosser route on that day that led 30 of our courageous cyclists to take that route, for that was never the plan, as we play by the rules.

We had been on our way to enjoy ourselves at Blue Hole in Moneague, with some members opting to ride from Kingston over Mount Rosser to get there, and a few of us with less stamina preferring instead to hike from Faith's Pen. So we hikers had gone ahead when we saw the sign just outside Linstead announcing the road closure and recognised a possible dilemma, for while no road closure can stop cycles, it presented a problem for the support vehicles.

Luckily, our resident attorney, Charles Williams, was with us and he jumped into action immediately to get permission for the riders and support vehicles to use the road, and since the toll was not going to be implemented until the next day, September 1, the necessary permission was granted without much difficulty.

MAKING HISTORY

So that is how history was made that day, and I hear that some of those who had actually opted to ride, rode over the entire hill, and one young man even made his own history by leaving some blood and skin and the highway!

Driving there was also a treat for me as it was the first time I had actually driven on the new highway, and found that not only does the engineering appear to be first-world but also it opens up some new, lush, virgin territory with fabulous scenery that we eagerly drank in.

We hikers had planned to take the exit to Faith's Pen, but that exit was closed, so we had to go to the end of the highway, drive to Faith's Pen then hike back to Moneague before heading east to Blue Hole.

To get to this new place which our 'sheriff' Nicole Smith had scouted out for us, we walked past the infamous Moneague Lake which, during the rainy season, causes such hardship for the people in the area, but it looked really innocent and harmless that day as the water was low and barely visible because of the prolonged drought.

After passing the lake, we walked through the small district of Watsonville and on for about another two miles to the destination which is an attractive picnic area by the river and Blue Hole and the owner, Mr Carter, told me that a few months before, it had been nothing but bush; however, he has a dream to eventually make it into a full entertainment centre - cinema and all.

Incidentally, he also told me the name of the river there was Blue Hole but the map identifies it as the riverhead for River Hoe.

Anyway, drawing from The Gleaner article titled 'The wonders of our blue holes' which was published in 2006 by Shelly-Ann Thompson, I concluded that there could be no river named blue hole as "... Blue holes, many of which serve as sources for municipal water supplies and have pump-houses, are among a country's wonders", said Stefan Stewart, chairman of the Jamaican Caves Organisation. "Blue holes rise from underground rivers, and owe their blue colour to clay that is found in small amounts in the water. They are found in many places in Jamaica, but are more common in the west," said Stewart.

GREAT TIMES BY RIVER

Anyway, once everyone had arrived at the beautiful, new destination, we all had a delicious, though small, breakfast as we lolled around, exchanged experiences and enjoyed all the blue hole had to offer. Of course, as usual, the river was quite cold at first, but once the body became acclimatised, it was to die for.

While most of us just settled for a refreshing swim, four local kids decided to put on a show by diving from the ledge beside the road, which is probably about 40 feet high, and one even went further by climbing into a mango tree and chucking off into the bottomless blue hole. However, one of our hikers, Kelly, not to be outdone, climbed up to the ledge and represented our group by also diving off into the deep blue hole!

So not only was August 2014 historic for Jamaica with the opening of that other beautiful leg of Highway 2000, but also for the cyclists from our group who love to take on a challenge no matter how daunting the hills and this time they went even further when they used woman/manpower to demolish the hills which the news had been telling us had been knocking out high-powered vehicles, some of which we actually witnessed.

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;http://www.amazon.com/Tour-Jamaica-Joan-Williams-ebook/dp/B00EJWCSHS/ref...

Contact; gratestj@gmail.com