Wed | May 24, 2017

Enjoying The Jamaican Outdoors: Exploring Bowden Hill Waterfall, St Andrew, Jamaica

Published:Sunday | February 1, 2015 | 2:00 AM

To get to Bowden Hill Waterfall just outside of Stony Hill, can be challenging, as it may require walking some distance through heavy overgrowth, but it is worth the effort.

For those of us who ride, the challenge starts with riding up Long Lane to Red Gal Ring from where one can either take the road behind the gas station or proceed to the Airy Castle road just east of Stony Hill Square. This route is far more challenging as it requires slogging up the steep Bowden Hill road where you can spend more time pushing up steep hills rather than riding. And as for the creaking, ageing bridge on this road, it is only a matter of time before it collapses, as it is being used, so be warned.

route advantage

The only advantage to using that route is that you only have to hike for about half the time that you do if you take the other routes.

So using our preferred route behind the gas station at Red Gal Ring, you end up on the Hermitage Dam Road, which is far more scenic, and for riders, far less dangerous, as there is very little motorised traffic. This road is unpaved and uneven, but the beauty, peace and tranquility of the area helps you to forget the difficulties very quickly. Along this route, you often run into farmers who are only too happy to help you quench your thirst with soft, sweet sugar cane and fruits.

The 150-foot high Hermitage Dam, which was built in 1927, remains one of the major sources of water supply to Kingston and suburbs, but to people living in the area, it is a popular fishing ground. In fact, on one occasion, we discovered that some of the 'fishermen' had actually built bamboo rafts which they pole out on the dam to set and retrieve their fish nets. The popular fish they catch in the dam are black perch and grass carp, some of which they told us grows to up to 15lb and which they say are very tasty.

As the dam was sensibly constructed in an area with extremely high rainfall, the foliage is thick, lush and beautiful with a wide variety of bamboos, ferns and exotic shrubs and trees and, of course, where you find trees and a good level of tranquility, you find a profusion of birds which are happy to have a peaceful haven for nesting and raising their young.

Once you get to the dam, you have three possible routes up to the waterfall, one walking up in the Wag Water River itself, which because it has its source in the Blue Mountain range, tends to be quite cold.

The other two routes are on dry land. One, hiking on the well-defined trail up to Bowden Hill Primary School then trying to find your way through the thick bushes; or two, picking your way carefully on a track beside the dam. While this is the shorter route, when it is wet, it can be quite precarious, for the path is very narrow and the profusion of leaves on the ground makes it very slippery, and if you fall, you could very well end up in the dam as fish food or come through a pipe as part of someone's water supply!

The safer route from the school requires about a 20- to 30-minute hike through a thick overgrowth of tall, elegant trees, but the disadvantage is that because the local residents prefer to use the path beside the dam, this track becomes quickly overgrown and difficult to manoeuvre in parts during the rainy weather.

This path also usually causes a real challenge for us, for although we have visited that waterfall four or five times, once we leave the school and head into the thick undergrowth, we inevitably take a wrong turn and have to retrace our steps. Up to now, we just can't get it right, although on the first occasion that we visited the waterfall, Mr Mayne from the Bowden Hill Primary School was kind enough to lead us all the way there, even pointing out all the landmarks so we wouldn't get lost on subsequent visits. But we always seem to defy the odds and take the wrong turn every time, but what the heck, getting lost is part of the fun, and once you get under the water, that's the real reward.

And if there are people who think Jamaica does not have winter season, I have news for them! Under that waterfall, sometimes between November and February, it can feel like one has fallen into a frozen lake! Remember, the Wag Water river which creates this waterfall, rises in the Blue and John Crow mountain range!

Some feedback to last month's article, 'Carolling in Lauristan'

nickyk87@yahoo.com:Thank you Joan for your positive article about Lauriston. A big thank you to Mr Nain, the organisers, cooks and our community members for the support. I hope peace, love and cleanliness continue, and our Jamaican communities can adapt this togetherness - Kerr's family.

sail7@hotmail.com: Carolling in Jamaica? I thought that was one of the old-time traditions that we do not practice anymore because of the crime. Kudos to the people of Lauriston for continuing this great tradition.

chad@yahoo.com:

That tradition of carolling and community breakfast where everyone brings something, no matter how humble, is really nice. The breakfast looked so good that I justmight come home next Christmas just to get some.