VIDEO: Davi's First Time - Camping in the cold
I was extremely excited to go camping. Just the thought of making s'mores and telling 'duppy stories' around the campfire was enough to have me dying of anticipation.
When the day finally arrived, I checked, double-checked and triple-checked to ensure that I had everything I needed. I was determined to have an amazing experience.
The road to Portland Gap was long and winding. Little by little, my excitement turned to apprehension as we went further up the hilly terrain. I tried to put on a brave face, but I was mentally saying a prayer and singing every hymn I knew to keep me occupied.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally arrived at The Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.
There, we were greeted by Ranger Love, who told us that we would have to walk to the camping site. The walk, he said, should take about 30-45 minutes. I psyched myself up and began the ascent. I was determined to complete the hike in 30 minutes and then brag and boast to everyone of how fit I am.
Seeing us struggling with our bags, Ranger Love decided to help us by straddling them to his bike and going ahead.
Less than 30 seconds after I started walking I was out of breath. I was already tired and I had barely taken 10 steps. It appeared that I had overestimated my fitness level.
'Beg unuh sen' a JDF helicopter fi mi," I told my friends.
The amazing greenery reminded me of scenes from the Lord of The Rings movies. For a brief moment, I imagined myself as Frodo faced with the task of getting to Mordor.
Comforted by this, I began singing Ziggy Marley's Road To Zion to pep me up.
Every so often, I would take a break to catch my breath. To be honest, it was every five steps. Occasionally, donkeys, which are used to transport some of the tourists to the peak, would appear, forcing us to crouch in the corners of the narrow track to get out of the way. It was the coolest thing ever!
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally saw the sign which signalled that we had arrived at the campsite.
It was cold, and I had barely caught my breath from the hike when I remembered that I had to set up my tent. I pulled, tugged, and tried everything, but no matter what I did, it just looked like a piece of tarpaulin spread on the ground.
Finally, I beckoned to the ranger. In less than five minutes, he had the tent set up and ready for me to move in with my bag and pans.
By now it was nightfall and I had to layer up with a sweater, scarf and hat. I ventured to a little area designated for campfires so that I could get the adventure started. I am a country girl, but I had no clue how to light a fire with just branches. Once again, Ranger Love to the rescue.
The smoke from the fire was too much for me to handle, so I decided to make myself useful by getting water from a nearby pipe to make some tea.
The warm chocolate tea was exactly what I needed to thaw me out, but by now, I was as hungry as a bear. I went back to the pipe to get some more water to boil some sausages. Not wanting to wait so long to eat, I decided to roast some marshmallows with Ranger Love and get acquainted.
He told me that he had been a ranger for more than 20 years, and some of his duties included enforcement of park rules, recreation, going into schools and giving them information about the park, and also resource monitoring.
He added that many persons venture into the cool Blue Mountains for the exercise and to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
It was so serene and peaceful that I honestly thought about staying up there permanently - if KFC and Pizza Hut would deliver.
"How far away is the peak?" I enquired.
"It's about three and a half miles away," he replied."
"How many hours of walking is that?" I asked warily.
"It depends on your fitness, but it should take about one and a half to two hours."
"So, based on the time I took to get to camp, how long you think it would take me to reach to the peak," I asked.
"About two days," he said with a laugh.
I could not stop laughing. He was right!
"We'd have to wake you up at about 2 a.m. to get there to see the sunrise," he told me. I guess that ruled out the peak for me.
By now, the sausages were ready to be devoured. After having our fill of the boiled ones, we roasted some more along with s'mores and soup.
Then we sat around the campfire for me to tell my 'duppy stories'.
I told stories of rolling calves and even some about Bredda Anancy. But instead of feeling scared, everybody was laughing. This was not going as I had planned.
We made our way back to the tent to settle in for the night, and once again, I had to layer up to combat the cold. It was one of the most restful nights I have had in a long time. Peaceful, calm and, most important, no alarm clocks.
As I shifted into the second gear of sleep, I was jolted up by some noise close to my tent. As my eyes adjusted to the predawn light, I peeped out and saw some donkeys braying less than five feet from me.
"This must be the Blue Mountain alarm clock," I thought to myself.
I couldn't go back to sleep, so I decided to get breakfast started. Breakfast was, of course, more sausages, since that was the only thing we had left.
I was exhausted after all that, and I was dreading the descent and the blazing hot sun that I would eventually encounter back in Kingston.
But I had one thing left to do before packing up and heading home. I had to have a shower. I already knew that the water would be freezing, so I said a prayer before heading to the zinc fence structure.
But nothing could have prepared me for the cascading icy waters that hit my body. I screamed out, eliciting fits of laughter from my colleagues. I was done in less than two minutes.
As I reminisced on all the laughter, joy, and camaraderie we enjoyed, I decided that I would try to incorporate camping at least twice per year into my schedule. And who knows, maybe next time I'll make it to the peak.