• Angella Berarey

Hiking up to Rasta Village above Irish Town, Jamaica

Having been told by everyone who has done it before, that the climb is steep and it is not easy.

Still scarred by my first attempt at climbing the Blue Mountain peak, I take on each hike with all seriousness and was sitting in the vehicle trying to dispel my nerves.

Not one to give up, I knew I would get there, but the added pressure of the guide saying it would be 35mins tops, meant, in my head, he made his calculations from our previous hikes when I was more used to hiking!

My guide, probably born up a mountain and certainly grew up here, was soon out of sight of me as I took my time getting used to the terrain. In some areas, the steps are about double the height of an ordinary staircase and so my eyes were concentrated downwards for much of the time. My rest stops were dual purpose in that I could rest and gaze in awe of what nature creates all by herself. Not only the stunning background views making up my vista, but in the immediate vicinity were fruit trees of all kinds, coffee plants and vegetables being grown on the steep sides.

The path is well made and the use of old tyres and wood maintain areas prone to erosion.

On arrival at the summit, where the Sabbath Service was taking place, I was given a warm welcome by a Rastafarian gentleman and then a very beautiful young lady, dressed in an incredibly flamboyant yet simple, predominantly white outfit with a beautiful head dress. She looked befitting of a queen and her children were so incredibly full of love.

I covered my hair and put on a wrap and was considered suitably attired to enter the house of worship. A round structure with 2/3 height walls, housed a round concrete fire that had been painted white, burning wood, incense & ganja. White wooden benches were set out along the interior walls and were sat upon by the congregation consisting mainly of Mum, Dad and two children, listening to the sermon being preached. The rest of the structure was painted in the distinct Rastafarian colours of red, green & gold. A small piece of carpet on the sand floor was used for sparing the clothes when kneeling to recite scriptures.

The preacher was a very strong character and at first, I was unsure of my welcome but that turned out to be just his style. He is passionate about the subjects he stands for and it was interesting to listen to what he had to say.

He periodically stopped preaching to allow for a reading of the scriptures and whilst that was taking place, he stoked the fire intermittently with incense, or buds of ganja.

The children of the beautiful ‘Queen' scrunched up and offered me a seat and I took it, being mindful to keep smiling as all eyes were on me as the incoming visitor. I took my place and after a few minutes began to relax. It felt much like listening to any other Church sermon, with the preacher giving an interpretation of what they believe to be the ‘correct’ way to conduct yourself during life here on earth.

I didn’t go with any expectations and when the guide asked me how long I planned to stay, I had no idea of an hour or five. Turns out, you could stay for any length of time and get what you want from the experience. I was there on a Saturday, so had the benefit of the Sabbath service. Even if you don’t make it on the Sabbath, they will do their best to let you have an experience of the hearing the drumming and you can walk around and catch a vibe from the place.

I didn’t stay for the drumming on this occasion as I had other adventures to experience that day. One could have happily spent a good few hours more, interacting with the friendly people and learning of how they live from the land as much as they can, keeping things as natural as they are able. The organic ingredients, along with the methods of cooking their food, natural medicinal remedies and being out in nature are ensuring a very healthy & thriving community.

My observations on attending religious ceremonies up to now, has been that the women outnumber the men, but I think the men tipped the scales on this occasion.

On my way down from the village, I saw a couple picking from a tree. I ask what the fruit was and the lady says, “these are blueberries". Now, I must be careful with eating fruit, but blueberries and my body are a happy combo. So, when the man stretched out his hand, I was surprised to see a blue coloured berry but not a blueberry!

I felt too far into the conversation and certainly didn’t want to turn my nose up at the offering, so I picked one out and said a quiet prayer. The first one I had was a bit sour and I did wonder why they wound be picking such sour tasting fruit but the second one was divine. Looking more like a raspberry although blue in colour. The taste was similar to a blackberry although sweeter (apart from that first one). The fruit is red in colour before it ripens to blue.

The lady told me how she was going to make jam with what the tree had produced and I am sure it will be very tasty.

Encounters like this are fleeting and special and I didn’t want to interrupt that by introducing a camera. I prefer to just enjoy the moment!

Photography up at the service was not encouraged although they do appreciate that visitors like to record their experience. They encourage only a few photographs and ask that you do not use videography.

Peace, love & freedom from Jamaica💚

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