Sun | Mar 18, 2018

A visit to Nanny Falls, Portland

Published:Sunday | May 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMJoan Williams
Kevin and RJ
Descending the steep incline
Frolicking in the falls.
Apples, apples and more apples.
Taking a quick pic with Col Sterling.

According to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, ".... in 1739, Cudjoe, Nanny's brother, signed a peace treaty with the British, leading to the Maroons becoming the first blacks in Jamaica to gain officially recognised freedom".

Nanny, at first, refused to sign any treaty with the British but eventually agreed to a truce.

Quao, the hero of the Windward Maroons, also signed a peace treaty with the British, which brought the tension that existed between Quao and Nanny to the fore and split the Windward Maroons between the two great leaders. Nanny's group went with her to a new settlement, New Nanny Town, now called Moore Town, while Quao and his group went to Crawford Town, both in Portland.

In 1754, Quao's group resettled three miles away in present-day Charles Town, above Buff Bay. Both Moore Town and Charles Town remain active Maroon communities to this day.

Each Maroon settlement included a white superintendent whose job was to maintain good relations between the Maroons and the British. The success of settlements like these depended, to a large extent, on the diplomatic skill of the superintendent; and Moore Town was fortunate in having good superintendents. The most famous of these was Lt George Fuller, an Englishman, who became the acting barracks' master, and later superintendent at Moore Town between 1809 and 1823. He also started the Fuller family through actual marriage with a Maroon girl.

A hundred and ninety-three years later, on February 28, 2016, 80 members of The Fun & Thrills Adventure Club of Mona drove, bicycled and hiked to the Moore Town Maroon community.

Moore Town is now governed by Colonel Sterling, who has been in that position for the past 20 years. According to him, the Maroons do not have set elections but whenever the residents want a change of leadership, they have ways of asking for a change or letting their dissatisfaction with the current leadership be known.

Under his leadership are the villages of Kent, Brown's Field, Seaman's Valley, Moore Town, Ginger Hill, Comfort Castle, and Millbank, a population of around 10,000 Maroons. They have their own regulations and the Maroon Council deals with all judicial activities except murder, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Jamaican State. On our journey to Moore Town above Port Antonio, some of our super-fit cyclists rode all the way from Mona. The rest of us, comprising hikers as well as approximately 20 other cyclists, travelled to Buff Bay in motor vehicles.

The cyclists commenced their ride there, while those of us who opted to hike, walked from Fellowship district, which is further along up a road above Port Antonio.

Amazingly, though, all our super-fit cyclists who started from Mona arrived at Moore Town before some of those who started from Buff Bay and also before many of the hikers!

I was impressed with the Maroons' pride in their culture, which is on display everywhere. Their low crime rate is helped by the community custom whereby strangers entering the area are intercepted by Maroon guides to find out what they want. If necessary, the strangers are taken to the colonel.

As usual in this area, it rained most of the day but we welcomed the cooling effect which made it ideal weather for hiking and riding.

It rains so much here that, just outside of Windsor, we saw a marker on the road showing flood depths of up to seven feet, above our heads. On checking with a nearby farmer tending his banana crop, he said he had never seen it at seven feet but said it did rise to the six-foot level a few years ago when it flooded his field. (They had severe rainfall and water damage just last week. I wonder how high the water rose).

As one enters the Maroon community, one could feel a difference. We saw at least four churches in the first 200 metres after leaving the main road. Most were some form of evangelical denomination, but I learnt from the colonel that Moore Town's Anglican Church predates all the others by around 100 years.

I had the pleasure of meeting two bright young men, namely, Kevin Patterson and Rayon Sterling, aka RJ. They proudly informed me that they were members of the Maroons' Junior Cultural Group where the traditions are taught from an early age. Here, children are exposed to all aspects of Maroon culture while at school. It is notable that two (i.e. half) of the winning Titchfield team in the 2016 National Schools' Challenge Quiz are Maroons.

On arrival at Moore Town Basic School, we suddenly felt hungry and headed straight inside for a typical Maroon breakfast that had been prepared for us.

After breakfast, we anxiously set off on the remaining 20- minute walk to our actual destination, which was the famous Nanny Falls, and accompanying us on the entire journey that day was

89-year-old Gladys Campbell, who was on vacation from Canada, and many hikers had a problem keeping up with her!

Nanny Falls is a beautiful treasure which falls under the jurisdiction of the Moore Town Maroons.

From the very beginning of the journey, we were immediately struck by the thousands of lovely apples all over the ground. Such a waste, when one considers the cost of apples in Kingston.

Thank heavens, the trees still had an ample supply hanging fairly low so we picked and ate as we walked. The falls was a good way down below the dirt track, but thankfully, the Maroons had built steps to access the falls in relative safety. Some of us townies, however, used to the 'safer' steps and elevators in our concrete jungle, found the steeper Maroon steps quite a challenge. I guess they were not as fit and sure-footed as Maroon folk.Our breath stopped momentarily when we saw the beautiful waterfall which was really thundering down following a few days of heavy rain.

The force of the waterfall far exceeded what we saw on the exploratory trip some weeks before, but being The Fun & Thrills Adventure Club, we ventured straight in and had a wonderful time bathing and frolicking in the fierce, cold water.

This was an awesome day spent enjoying Maroon culture and hospitality, food, river, and waterfall.

Later, we thanked the Moore Town Maroons and all 80 of us headed home.

Our super-fits, of course, bicycled all the way back to Mona, St Andrew.