The first portion of the trip to Cinchona Botanical Garden is a ride maneuvering winding roads before hiking from Content Gap. This was my first time joining a group hike excursion, the day’s group was about 20 – 30 persons. Fitness is immediately tested, with a steep incline covering most of the journey. My t-shirt’s sentiment to ‘Move My Ass’ (big up Swolemate Apparel!) was decent motivation.
Scenic View in the Blue Mountains
A number of streams divided the road, and were crossed by bridges of planks or bamboo. After almost losing my shoe (and possibly whole leg) in two deep beds of mud, those streams were eventually used to clean sneakers and keep feet cool during the demanding journey. The 360 scenic view along the way makes the journey worthwhile, and because of that it reminded me of the 1.5hr hike to a beautiful hidden waterfall. There are so many vibrant plants I’ve never seen before, plus the occasional inhabiting critter. Before this, I wasn’t aware of the presence of peaches and raspberries (and cheeseberries???) in Jamaica, nor the existence of pink pineapple flowers!
Clydesdale National Forest Park
The first [intended] stop was an old coffee estate, known as Clydesdale plantation and great house. It is said to be one of the first commercial coffee estates in Jamaica, birthed in the 1800s, with slavery as a driving force to its business. The main things to see include the ruins of the estate, an overseer house, barbecues to dry coffee beans, and a giant water wheel. Overgrown grass stalks are maneuvered to connect the continuing path on the “road” to Cinchona Botantical Garden.
Cinchona Botanical Gardens
Many steps, picked berries, and clouds of fog later, a wooden sign will point you in the direction of your destination. Following what was a 4-hour hike for me, the heavens opened and released rain forcing us to seek shelter in what was left of the property’s building. There was apparently a great house on the grounds at some point but all was left of it was the fireplace and accompanying chimney.
History of Cinchona Gardens
According to Jamaica National Heritage Trust, 40 acres of Cinchona, Asian Tea, and a garden of European crops were planted here. The Cinchona trees were used for the production of quinine to treat malaria. Now much reduced in size and in semi-abandoned condition, the garden consists of a collection of trees and shrubs from all over the world. I was told there is now only 1 Cinchona tree there.
Many of the plants can’t flourish at lower altitudes, some being endemic. I was disappointed most plants weren’t labeled so I could learn more about each, even if only a name. There were a few bare flower beds, which I’m hoping is a start to the Ministry of Agriculture’s mentioned plan to redevelop the attraction.
With the sky still rumbling and grey, anticipating the lengthy walk back, only an hour was spent at the garden. The return leg started on a now well-moisturized terrain, decorated with slips and even a few falls. The journey from Cinchona Botanical Garden was reached in ~3 hours, with an aching body and sheer relief.
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