January 6 is the date of the annual Accompong Maroon Festival in the mountains, celebrating the victory over the British by the Maroon led by Colonel Kudjoe. Read more of the fascinating history here:
It was an adventurous ride up into the hills of Coptic Country (or Cockpit Country: look it up) on one-lane country “roads” with frequent two-way traffic, but worth the trip.
Though not as colorful nor well-presented as Sam remembered, Accompong provides a look into a singular independent culture preserved in a clean, lovely town. The Maroons paraded to music of drums and horns from the sacred burial grounds to the kindah tree, then up to a crowded street fair.
The drive back to Culloden was a big misadventure including two delays near the festival (one to move parked cars so the bus in front of us could pass through; another due to a wrong – way bus disabled by a busted clutch, and blocking all traffic).
But the highlight was what Sam termed “a right turn at the wrong time,” which led us on a winding, trying, rutted-road trip north (i.e. wrong way) across all the mountains of St. James to ….. Montego Bay. It took us a total of 4.5 hours to get back “home” via this scenic route, but we mostly took it gamely.
We are on vacation, mon, and every ting is every ting.
This was so special. We drove up the hill to Brumpton to meetsome of Sam’s family, including his mother, several sisters, a brother, and nieces and nephews. They were so happy to see Sam and welcomed us warmly. We will visit again later this week.
Black River is the capital city of St. Elizabeth parish and a must forJA South Coast visitors. We stopped on the main street to do some cell phone, CD (gospel), and flip flop shopping. Then we headed to Paradise Dock for lunch and our Black River boat tour.
From our pontoon boat we explored the brackish waterway with narrated highlights from our guide Elvin. We saw crocodiles big and small, 3 types of egrets, heron and osprey. We glided past lily ponds, through a mangrove alley, and into broad waters where two rivers meet. The mountains were visible in the distance beyond.
In 85 degree heat, the breeze on the water was refreshing, too. We ate lunch outdoors under a thatched roof, enjoying curry and jerk chicken, festival (bread), and a very tasty roti veggie wrap. Cold soft drinks with names like Island Flava and Ting, allong with bottled water (Wata) also helped keep us cool.
We hsd a nice talk with our chef Andre Brown (search for him on Facebook). He is pictured here at left, with his assistants Tamika and Hamilton.
From here we ventured up the hill to Brumpton to meet Sam’s family. More on that to follow.
We celebrated Wendy’s birthday tonight with a candle among fresh mango and a Gandhi birthday card.
On the way to Black River we stopped at a roadside food vendor village where naturally Sam knew lots of the ladies who came right up to the van. But his trusted pals were not there. So all we bought was some Bammy
From the moment we left the airport in our Avis minivan (later dubbed “Red Emma,”), Sam has narrated our journey. He knows the history of every parish, the name of every type of tree, the flavor of every fruit.
We stopped at a shack on Linda’s Hill and Sam picked out ripe avocados, nesberry (sic), and sweet sapp. Once we arrived on the South Coast, he has greeted several folks by name. Even the lovely proprietress of Natania’s, is an old acquaintance from Brumpton, is a family friend.
We enjoyed the sweet sapp with dinner, the nesberry this morning along with fine guava, mango; jerk chicken, rice with pigeon peas, and wondrous fresh juices at our candlelit dinner on the patio last night.
Today is Wendy’s birthday, and we are planning to visit Black River and Sam’s home in Brumpton.
We are at BWI about to board Southwest to Montego Bay!
Yes, we are. On Sunday January 4, 2015, a group of six student potters and our Baltimore Clayworks teacher, Sam Wallace, will set out on a visit to Sam’s native Jamaica. We’re going to enjoy a week-long vacation on the South Shore, do some touring, visit some pottery studios, meet some of Sam’s family, and who knows what else.
The six of us have planned this outing for a few years, talking it over in our regular Thursday night classes. We’ll be missing a few of the other regulars of “Sam’s Club,” (work obligations. other family trips, even a recent wedding have interfered), but they will be with us in spirit. We hope that these posts and photos will help bring them along for the trip.
We also hope that our friends and pottery pals will follow our progress via this blog or via the Baltimore Clayworks Facebook page. We leave this Sunday (Southwest Airlines non-stop from BWI to Montego Bay), and will be staying at Natania’s Guesthouse.
Look for our next post on Sunday. Enjoy!