The Rich Red Earth of St. Elizabeth

I saved this for last.  For a moment when the stress of real life returned in full force so that I could go back to my photos and take a deep deep breath of beautiful St. Elizabeth in snapshot.

In the cool of the morning in St. Elizabeth my cousin Mac would take me down to the Lookout.  We walked 20 minutes down and 40 minutes back up a red dirt road through the hills pregnant with crops taking pictures along the way.

Red dirt road to Lookout

We would pass the odd field, freshly ploughed and waiting for seed, smelling of bauxite (or what I would imagine bauxite to smell like) and the broken stems of plants.

Ploughed field waiting for seed

The tomato fields are bedded with straw and on one of our walks we saw a man weeding, using his machete to slide under the straw and break up running roots of creeping weed.  As they start to change colour the tomatoes are picked because once the ripening begins it is a quick run to red.

Tomato and mellon often grow side by side.

Mac and I climbed to the Lookout point around rocks and cactus flowers to see the breathtaking view of the coast of South St. Elizabeth.

Climb to our favourite spot at the Lookout

CONQUEROR

From this perch the view is AMAZING!  To the West is Treasure Beach.

Treasure Beach from Lookout

Much of the coast is uninhabited and anyone who has survived a hurricane can well imagine why.  The wind against the face of these mountains can destroy like no force of man.

To the East of the Lookout we are able to see Lover’s Leap.  The place is named for two slaves who loved each other very much but whose masters intended to separate them.  They jumped from the place marked with the lighthouse at the top of the mountain.

Lighthouse at Lover's Leap

To the South we see the far fall or steep hike down to the Caribbean Sea.

Far fall to the Caribbean

On the way to and from the Lookout we would pass friendly neighbours and their animals.  This little guy got my heart, bucking and bucking at his mom to let him near enough to get some milk.

Baby Billy getting his milk

And this dainty little one came pushing up toward me.

Curious Kid

We would also pass papaya trees,

Papaya tree loaded

gungo peas,

The Gungo Pea, also known as a Congo Pea, and closely related to the Pigeon Pea

rows of corn,

A row of corn by a tomato patch

carrots,

Carrot head just out of my shadow

rosemary,

Rosemary grown but not often used in St. Elizabeth

and thyme.

Used to cook just about everything in Jamaica, the Thyme plant is a must have in every St. Elizabeth garden.

There is always something small to snack on like the little tomatoes,

Little hands full of snacky tomatoes

and Star Apples, sticky and sweet in their tropical richness,

Star apple, not to be confused with the Carambola known as Star Fruit. Both are grown in St. Elizabeth.

and Strawberries.  Who would have thought, right?

St. Elizabeth strawberries. There are two varieties in the family garden - these are the smaller ones.

What comes to the table depends very much on the season.  In another season it would be Ortaniques (a unique orange variety), Star Fruit, Mangoes of every variety, Naseberries, Sweet Sops, oh my goodness I could go on but not without getting very hungry.

Aunty makes Bammy, a Jamaican cassava bread rich in fibre and mild in taste, to go with my lunch, a simple variation of the Jamaican national dish of Ackee and Saltfish – without the Ackee.

Handmade Bammy - I am truly blessed!

At the end of a blissful morning with a long walk to get my blood flowing, fresh air to fill my lungs, the sight and smell of crops and animals to give me a sense of peace, I sit down to a lunch of traditional Jamaican food, fresh off the land and out of the pot.

Lunch off the fat of the land

Lunch off the fat of the land

I hope you’ve lived vicariously and enjoyed my time in St. Elizabeth with me.  It won’t be long before I’m back there in another season with other fruits and learning new things.

Related Posts:

  1. First day in Kingston
  2. Journey to St. Elizabeth
  3. Flowers of St. Elizabeth
  4. Life in St. Elizabeth

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Journey to St. Elizabeth

For once I took pictures on my way to St. Elizabeth, home of one of my grandparents and where one of my roots is planted deep in rich red earth. We travelled by car out of Kingston and St. Andrew, through St. Catherine, Clarendon, Porus, Royal Flat and Mandeville as I clicked and clicked out the window indiscriminately hoping for some good shots… and boy oh boy was I rewarded!

Moving out of the lowlands to the mountains

You can see the mountains in the distance and the air gets cooler and cleaner the longer you drive.  In Jamaica one misses out on the experience by driving with the windows up – our windows are always down and we never miss the smell of a bush fire, a scallion truck, the chicken farms or the ganja burning as we ride hard through the towns and villages.

The mountains of Manchester loom ahead as we pass through Clarendon

We have been gradually climbing for some time but the mountains of Manchester loom high and dark.  Every day in this season and in the summer rain falls in Mandeville, the main town in Manchester.  This parish and St. Ann compete for the reputation of being the coolest parish in the country.

Rastaman and his goat

I almost didn’t catch him! Driver was flying at this point.

Riding behind a fast-moving truck packed tight with sugar cane headed to the rum factory

This brought back memories of me as a child riding with my daddy and my uncle to visit my grandfather.  They used to call it the Rasta Truck because the cane looked so much like dreadlocks coming off the truck.   My grandfather is on my mind every time I travel this way.  I miss being his girl.

A Jamaican Sports Bar!

Not sure how many flat screens they claim to have but I’m sure West Indies Cricket is NEVER MISSED in this particular watering hole.

Typical roadside shop/bar

Rastaman not supposed to be drinking fire water or eating pork!  What’s THIS?!

A place called Pon Di River - I kid you not

I had to take a stop and get this little Oasis.  At this point we are very near Porus and Royal Flat.

P.O.N. D.I. R.I.V.E.R. See?

Fruit Stand - one of many on this route

I was to find out that the season for certain fruits has come early this year.  Mango trees have ripe fruit, oranges and star apples (the purple round ones) are everywhere, and bananas are on sale.

Road Food

The Jamaican Patty is known worldwide for it’s flaky crust and juicy meat in the middle.  I used to find this particular piece of home in England, take it to my flat and stick it in the oven for a warm and familiar meal.  Here in the heart of JA the patty is enjoyed sandwiched inside a Cocoa-bread.  Hours into our trip to St. Bess we had to make a pit stop.

Spur Tree Hill

This is my favourite hill in the WORLD!  It’s actually not a hill but a mountain and marks the border between the parishes of St. Elizabeth and Manchester.  It has at least three miles of road zigzagging down across the mountain face to the bottom.  It is one of the most dangerous driving roads especially when wet.  In his youth, my dad would fly down this bad boy on a bicycle!

Sunset over the mountains of South St. Elizabeth

Breathing fresh relief and thanking God for travelling mercies as I look over the bauxite-rich valley to the proud mountains of South Saint Elizabeth.  Almost at my place of rest.

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