Beat COVID Stress at Holywell

Jamaica is not on lockdown, but we might as well be. Daily curfew starts at 7:00 pm, gatherings are limited to 15, visits to family and friends are prohibited, socialising after Church is forbidden, and if you are over seventy, you’d better stay home! … Stay home and do what though, that is, if you’re not working from home, another atrocity for many!

So, after reading and gardening and cooking and tending to the family (if you’re so lucky to have one) you watch a lot of TV news to keep abreast of the pandemic and to be in touch with the world. But guess what? Stress! The daily surfeit of that world out there – our world - replete with unmitigated natural and human disasters, is fodder for depression. The suicide rate in the time of Covid-19 is the highest in human history!

How to keep your sanity? Take a hike. Literally. Make hiking in the numerous trails in this our breathtakingly luxuriant land of wood and water part of your weekly routine! A good place to start for the newbie is at Holywell in the Blue Mountains, the only national park in Jamaica to date, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whatever your starting point on the way to Holywell you are bound to see lush, verdant scenery – no matter the time of year. That, in itself, is stress-relieving.

With expansive picnic areas, five trails, three cabins, and a Visitors’ Centre and Ranger Station, Holywell offers a low-budget recreational adventure that is equal to none. Pack your food and utensils and head up to the hills. Spread out in one of the picnic areas and inhale the expansive mountain and distant city views. Visit the Visitors’ Centre and Museum and discover the history of the Blue and John Crow Mountains and our Maroon ancestors who established hideouts there from colonial oppression. Walk one of the trails (with or without a guide – they charge $500) that lead to soothing mountain springs and rivulets, revealing flora and fauna, many of them endemic to our island.

Perhaps you can stay overnight, or for a few days, in your tent or in a cabin (a $4,000 a night cabin will comfortably house a family of four) and watch spectacular sunsets and sunrises, experience the morning and afternoon fog blanketing the mountains, and explore Hollywell’s vicinities! The treasures and surprises are many. Just outside the Park, for instance, is Dawson Castle (its colonial architecture the same as that of the officers’ houses at Newcastle) – where the mid-19th century naval officers stationed at the Army Base would escape their lowly troops for a weekend. Now it is the ramshackle abode of a coffee farm caretaker.

Surely, it is hard to find a more affordable getaway ($400 entry fee) where you can stay connected with family and friends, even as you practise social distancing and come away
energised. Discover Holywell and re-awake your appetite for our island’s many natural wonders!

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