Tapioca in the Junction
I think a lot of persons go through the scenic Junction Valley without ever drinking in the beauty of their surroundings.
I also think many see the huge, attractive sign saying 'Tapioca' on the roadside just after passing Devon Pen, but have never taken the time to see what's inside.
For years, I fell into the second category until at the insistence of fellow rider, retired senior Superintendent of Police Charles Simpson, we agreed to visit one sunday. We were not disappointed for Tapioca is like an oasis in the area and we now visit quite regularly.
The ride through Junction is always extremely pleasant as we travel along a beautifully undulating road where the voluminous flora and huge trees offer great cover from the sun, so it is not at all stressful once you have conquered the Long Lane to Stony Hill segment.
When we get to Castleton Gardens, it is a must-stop just below the entrance for janga soup. For I am here to tell you that the lady who cooks the soups opposite to the Castleton Police station is, in my estimation, the best soup cook in Jamaica and on Sunday mornings, her soup and boiled corn are ready very early. So this stop has become mandatory for us when we traverse that valley.
On our last trek to Tapioca, because some people do not like to or cannot ride, but want to come along, our chief organiser Charles Williams, added a hiking leg which allowed them to participate by walking from Castleton Gardens to Tapioca, a distance of six miles. So we had quite a crowd of troopers, many from Stella Maris church, going there that Sunday.
Once you get there, the surroundings are really well-kept, pleasant and serene, the breakfast is delicious and reasonably priced and the workers there are very friendly and helpful.
Further, they have guides who are willing to take you on a short hike over the hill to the south of the property to the 'Ugly River' where you can frolic in the cool, refreshing waters.
I, however, think that what we are told is the Ugly River is actually the top section of Flint River though, as I can find no reference to Ugly River anywhere but when one looks on the map, the Flint River appears to run directly past that area. Anyway, there is nothing ugly about that river which comes out of the hills and flows over huge rocks and which, even in the drought, has enough water to facilitate those who really want to swim (as opposed to cooling off) and even dive.
So we followed the guide over the very steep hill then walked for a while in a southerly direction past the Devon Pen All-Age School and a Roman Catholic Church before ending up in a beautiful swimming area just under the Devon Pen Bridge.
This was a different swimming area from the place where we were accustomed to going on our own and a great improvement. For on our own in the past, we had been accustomed to heading west from Tapioca and walking along the main road to where the Wag Water and Flint rivers intersect. While one can swim and cool off there, we were unable to find any really deep spots there to dive.On the other hand, this section of the Ugly River is really a much better area to frolic in after a long ride and a great breakfast. I suspect it will remain a regular destination of ours for years to come.
While most of us consider a ride to places like Tapioca enough exercise for one day, fellow rider Maurice Gordon of music fame, considers it infra dig to drive back from our treks, no matter the distance. So his custom is to recruit the super fit fellow riders (of which I am never one!) to ride back all the way to Kingston with him. And where there are no takers, he often does it all by himself. I can't wait for the next Negril ride to see if he will beat our role model and mentor Uncle Roy (Thomas') record by riding back the same day! Incidentally, for the benefit of those who keep telling me they are too old to ride, hike, or exercise while enjoying the wonderful outdoors, Uncle Roy is way over 80 and still enters most 5ks around Kingston and often rides his bicycle too!