Mon | Sep 25, 2017

A ride along David Linehan's dream

Published:Sunday | February 7, 2016 | 2:00 AMJoan Williams
Surrounded by misty hills.
Flash with a coffee mortar.
Chully explains his early return.
Hiking along the breakaway area.
Mikey on his bike taxi.
A copy of Joan Williams' book, Tour Jamaica.
Joan Williams
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David Linehan was an insurance executive from England who came to Jamaica in the early '90s to help with the FINSAC fallout. Born in Surrey, England during World War II, he had a colourful life which included being a professional cyclist for England, cycling in many international races including the Tour de France. He was fluent in both Spanish and French and had an intelligent, sometimes irreverent, sense of humour.

David loved cycling, teaching and everything interesting and wonderful about the world. He also impressed us with his many escapades, including how he got into the English cycling team. Online, the reminiscing was usually backed with photos of him in past great races in various countries.

I first ran into him at a friend's home. I do not recall why we were on the subject of death, but I certainly recall how he revealed that his idea of the perfect exit was to be shot by a jealous husband. He was in his early 70s then. Kapow!

Well, it wasn't a jealous husband that killed David, but multiple cancers at age 75. Even after these cancers were diagnosed and he was under treatment, I still used to see him fully geared out and cycling. He did admit to me that sometimes he felt quite weak although I would find his wit always still strong.

He would have been overwhelmed by the send-off in his honour from his many friends and admirers from just about every cycling club in Kingston on Sunday, January 10. On the day, we all gathered at Newcastle at 6:30 a.m. Here in the Blue and John Crow mountain range, it was as cold as any English autumn morning. We planned to cycle to Buff Bay and back in his honour, a round trip of 42 miles.

I would have loved to have taken part in that cycle ride in his honour, but the 21-mile uphill ride back from Buff Bay to Newcastle was not my idea of fun.

I therefore joined those who planned to accompany the cyclists to Newcastle and hike from there to Cascade Waterfall at Regale. It was a wonderful day for hiking as the hills were overcast with a misty drizzle to keep us cool us for most of the way.

Bike taxi

We stopped temporarily at Green Hill, discussing whether to use a wet and slippery shortcut to the waterfall. It was then that a fellow named Mikey rode up and advised us that his bike was a taxi. We kindly declined his offer of taxi service.

The rain soon started to pour down though and some persons hastily jumped into our support vehicle while the hardier ones soldiered on.

At Section, it was quite an experience as we stopped at Dennis' Coffee Shop, where patrons get the total Jamaican coffee experience. Here, the coffee is taken through every stage before your very eyes as if you are a tourist wishing to see it go from bean to belly. The beans are roasted, then ground in a mortar and boiled on a wood fire. Quite rustic.

While there, we met a colourful character named Flash. He had a glass of white rum in his hand (at around 9 a.m.) and was sipping quite happily. When asked why he was indulging so early, he explained that he was on his way to church, and "since the parson have him owna spirit", he had to get his, too.

After coffee, Flash staggered along with us to his church at Padhouse. He sang one of his songs en route for us and assured us that he was a successful entertainer, but I am not sure I would agree!

On leaving Section, hike leader Charles Williams encouraged us to walk along the safe new road. However, some of the motley crew proceeded along the dangerous breakaway, possibly buoyed by new-found courage from the fresh coffee and Flash's antics.

I recall that the new road at Section had not been built at the time of our previous crossing to visit Avocat Waterfall further along. At that time, we had to perilously push our cycles along the steep and narrow breakaway. This time, Section was less scary, but deceptively so, as the depth of the ravine is now hidden by an overgrowth of bushes around it.

Ideal for hiking

It was an easy walk continuing downhill from Section in cool mountain weather ideal for hiking. Not much further on, we were surprised to see attorney-at-law Chully Williams cycling up towards us. We thought he had amazingly morphed into an outstanding cyclist, and had left the other forty five cyclists in his dust. He responded that since it took him over an hour and a half to ride ten miles downhill, he had decided not to complete the 21-mile downhill phase to Buff Bay, as he might not get back home until Tuesday morning!

Not too long afterwards, we were amazed to see one of our A Team riders bolting up the hill. He assured us that he had in fact completed the journey to Buff Bay, where he had lunch and beer with everyone else.

We eventually arrived at Cascade only to hear that the waterfall was another mile further on and nearer to Regale district. So we plodded on, surrounded by beautiful fauna all around.

The walk to Regale was invigorating, but on arrival there, the skies became heavily overcast and we could barely see the falls in the hills.

Soon, we were joined on the road by a gentleman professing to be a part-time tour guide and he sang the praises of the waterfall as he wanted to take us up to the top, but with the mist and overcast weather conditions, the tiny wet path looked very slippery and treacherous. Most of us therefore shied from possibly hurting ourselves, and additionally, it was too cold to swim, anyway. We decided to arrange another trip, specifically to the waterfall, in the summer months.

Shortly afterwards, heavier wet mist descended, limiting visibility at times to no more than about one foot, so we all piled into the support vehicle. Being a big open-back pickup, our gallant men went straight into the back, but soon, I could hear them howling about the cold as we drove along.

Following the lovely hike, we drove the few miles down to CafÈ Blue and had a lovely breakfast along with our aforementioned A team cyclist.

That was another wonderful and healthy morning of hiking in the scenic, now UNESCO-certified site of the Jamaica Blue Mountain range.