The Journey

The first portion of the trip to Cinchona Botanical garden was an hour’s bus 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. I found comfort in the middle, with ample space between small groups before and behind me, minimizing pressure to keep up.

Fitness was immediately tested, with an underestimated steep incline covering most of the journey.  My t-shirt’s sentiment to ‘Move My Ass’ (big up Swolemate Apparel!) was decent motivation. I also found myself singing any song that came to mind to keep me going; ? ‘I’m on the Rock’ by Mavado was the most popular.

The Finds

The scenic all-around view along the way made the journey worthwhile. There were so many vibrant plants I’ve never seen before, plus the occasional critter enjoying the surroundings. Before this, I wasn’t aware of the presence of peaches and raspberries (and cheeseberries???) in Jamaica, nor the existence of pink pineapple flowers! 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.  

The first stop along the journey was an old coffee estate, 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. After a quick history lesson, overgrown stalks were maneuvered before connecting the continuing path on the “road” to Cinchona.

The Destination

Many steps, picked berries, and clouds of fog later, we finally reached our destination. Following the 4-hour hike, the heavens opened and released rain forcing us to seek shelter in what was left of the property’s building . The rain was accepted as a part of the day’s adventure. After about 15 minutes, the showers began to cease and allowed touring of the grounds. 

The History

According to Jamaica National Heritage Trust, forty acres of Cinchona, Asian Tea, and a garden of European crops were planted. The Cinchona trees were used for the production of quinine to treat malaria. Now much reduced in size and in semi-abandoned condition, it houses a collection of trees and shrubs from all over the world. I was told there is now only 1 Cinchona tree there.

I was disappointed most plants weren’t labeled so I could learn more about each, even if only a name. Many of the plants can’t flourish at lower altitudes, some being endemic. There were a few bare flower beds, which I’m hoping is a small start of the Ministry of Agriculture’s mentioned plan to redevelop the attraction. There was apparently a great house on the grounds at some point but all was left of it was the fireplace and accompanying chimney. 

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.