When Mount Rosser Ruled King

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Only months ago, the most traversed route between Jamaica’s North Coast and the South East through to Kingston was through the hills of St. Catherine. It was a treacherously thin road that wriggled and writhed around winding bends and sharp turns that forced you to navigate between dangerously steep cliffs and the potential rock tumbling down from the mountain rising above.

It was the highlight of the two-hour drive that began at the celebrated Fern Gully; a thick rainforest home to local art stalls baring provocative dreadlocked statues and Jamaican themed towels and sundresses. Afterwards, it winds through Walkerswood, home to some of our famous bottled Jerk Sauce where countless visitors stop at Lyming to wash up and maybe indulge in local cuisine.

You’d then continue through to Moneague, a beautifully lush countryside with sprawling hills and grazing cows where the Jamaica Defence Force has a rigorous training facility. It will be hard not to stop for pictures against the backdrop of the softly rolling fields and quaint country homes. It leads you into Faith’s Pen, known for Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica’s national dish popular for breakfast, but served throughout the day. You’ll get it with fried dumplings, festivals, or ground provisions like yams and potatoes, roasted or boiled. Jerk chicken and pork, fish, various soups and sides are all offered at this roadside rest stop lined with colorful shops competing to satisfy your taste buds.

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It was upon leaving here that the climb up Mount Rosser began. If you got caught behind a truck, woe is you as there’s very little opportunity to pass a truck on Mount Rosser. As you twist and turn on these roads, you’ll see houses perched precariously off the cliffs and wonder in amazement that it sits there. You’ll see bars lining the corner's offering rum and dominoes to anyone with a few minutes or an afternoon to spare. You’ll see children walking along the roadside that is devoid of sidewalks and dangerously narrow, and you’ll clutch your heart as you make the turns and look down into the valley below.

When in season, there are vendors selling fresh pineapples that are ready to eat. You may have to stop at a corner or two to allow a truck heading in the opposite direction to come around the corner. When you finally get out of Mount Rosser, you’d say a silent prayer and prepare to do the flat version through the Bog Walk Gorge. This time, along a river that often rises high to flood the roads. Here, you’ll meet the flat bridge, a single-lane bridge that has no rails and goes over the river only a few feet below.

Driving in Jamaica’s hilly interior is an adventure, but it’s not for those in a hurry or who don’t like to walk on the wild side. However, there’s now a new highway. The first leg has replaced the need to climb Mount Rosser and cuts the two-hour trip down to an hour and 15 minutes. The next leg will eliminate the need to go through the Bog Walk Gorge. It’s a welcomed highway for the visitors who aren’t used to our frighteningly charming country roads. The old roads are still open and much less travelled, so take a ride on a bright sunny day. See the sights and indulge in some fresh fruit and fresh air.

 

- by Monique Solomon