A Day at the Centre of Jamaica

Destination: Bull Head Mountain, Clarendon. The reputed site of the centre of Jamaica.

Having already been to the easternmost and westernmost points of the island, it presented an attractive opportunity to discover another landmark. I’d intended to go before, but the trip just didn’t come together, so hearing there was to be a festival and hike on Ash Wednesday, I did everything to ensure the trip happened.

This trip, like most others, started with me having no clue about how to get to the destination. It was going to be another day of asking around and going with the flow.

Armed with the names of several communities through which we were expected to pass, my friend Traci and I set out from Kingston at 9 a.m. to catch the 11 a.m. start of a 5K hike (we were off to a bad start leaving that late). We took Highway 2000 all the way to May Pen, then drove on to Chapelton. After this, we relied on directions from people we passed and panicked calls to a work colleague.

It’s a mostly uphill drive, passing through communities such as Summerfield, Pennants, Pumpkin and Red Land. The countryside is lush, roads winding, but good for the most part, and the communities make you want to use words like ‘village’. It’s idyllic and the drive alone through that section of the island is worth the trip, especially if you have the added bonus of saying you visited a place called Pumpkin.

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Frolicking in Pumpkin

From Chapelton, it’s just a matter of remaining on the main road, until you get to Pumpkin, where you make a right, crossing a Bailey Bridge. We managed to miss the turn, while congratulating ourselves on not getting lost, but realised the mistake less than a kilometre away. We also missed the right turn up the mountain when we got to Recford, again because we weren’t paying attention. Again we caught the slip-up almost immediately. So, I’d say it’s a relatively straightforward and smooth drive to Recford. However, going up the mountain in a Subaru Impreza, was not the best idea. There was some skidding and a whole lot of misgiving, but we had come this far, so we persevered. I’d recommend some kind of SUV or other sturdy vehicle, although many cars did make it up the mountain.

Once there, we realised much to our pleasure that the event was taking place on Jamaican Time and so while about 20 minutes late, we were among the first at the venue. However, friendly chit chat from other early birds kept us entertained until the 5K which started close to the top of the mountain and required us to go halfway down the mountain and back. I was the first woman to return. Oh, by the way Traci says I should ensure I add that she was second.

While there was some entertainment on the stage and many festival-like activities taking place, my primary interest was in seeing the mountain. A guided tour by a very knowledgeable policeman, helped us to know more about the area. Bull Head mountain is a watershed under threat from frequent fires. It’s mainly a pine forest, with the pines planted by the Forestry Department to protect the watershed, however, there were signs of several fires. A very moderate walk took us to the peak, from the location of the festival in less than 20 minutes. The greatest area of difficulty was just at the peak.

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The hike: signs of fire
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Pictures could never do the view justice

The views are panoramic, you can see into Kingston, Manchester and St. Catherine. It was a bit overcast on our visit, but was still breathtaking, especially at the peak where it is practically a 360 degree view. There’s a monument there to mark the peak.

Bull Head Mountain also has a second monument, marking the centre of Jamaica. So, while I have not been to the centre of the earth, I have proof I’ve been to the centre of Jamaica…and it was beautiful.

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