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TOURS - St. Thomas | Hills of Kingston | Spanish Town | Hellshire Hills | Port Royal

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Tour II - From Kingston into the Hills

Adapted from the book, Tour Jamaica, by Margaret Morris

"Kingston is one of the few large cities in the world where you can go from sea-level to mountain peak in less than an hour. The mountains rise from the coastal plain to an altitude of over 7000 feet in less than 10 miles. A gradient almost without parallel anywhere else in the world."


Leaving PAPINE the road follows the HOPE RIVER valley passing left behind the high wall of the celebrated BLUE MOUNTAIN INN to a junction at THE COOPERAGE. The name is literal: there was once a workshop here that produced barrels for the export of rum. The coopers, rowdy Irish labourers, were quartered some miles up the mountain road at a place that came to be known as IRISH TOWN. Turn left along the narrow road that winds along the hillside above the Mammee River. Across the gorge you can see the imposing backsides of mansions along Skyline Drive. In the valley you may glimpse a small Disneyworld castle that used to be the Little Glyndebourne Theatre. Built by the late opera singer Roma Presano and her architect son the open ampitheatre has a magnificent setting and fine acoustics but was seldom used.

One of the many fine houses along this road is Bellencita, the last home of National Hero, the Rt. Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante and remained until recently, occupied by his widow Lady Bustamante, now deceased (see) Their idyll began when Ms. Gladys Longbridge applied for a job as one of Busta's secretaries and quickly became his most valuable political aide. Lady B. remained a power in the Jamaica Labour Party. Bamboo Lodge, now a private estate and hidden from the road because of the thick foliage and trees, was settled in 1730 as "Cottage Farm" and may have been the first coffee plantation on the island. The great house subsequently became a naval recuperation station. Admiral Lord Nelson, then a 20 year old naval officer, came here suffering from fever and dysentery and was nursed by a beautiful free black woman, Couba Cornwallis, noted healer and herbalist and mistress of the Earl of Cornwallis. It is reported the grounds of Bamboo Lodge are haunted by her still and that locals refuse to step foot on the property after sundown.

"On April 24th, Nelson was recalled to the fleet headquarters at Jamaica, upon his appointment to the Janus, 'an effect which providentially withdrew him, when in a most precarious state of health, from a scene of death.' He was so ill on the arrival of the ship at Port Royal, near Kingston, where the fleet was stationed, that 'they were obliged to take him on shore in his cot; and in this manner he was conveyed to the lodging-house of his former black nurse, Couba Cornwallis, a well known and respectable shamaness, who had saved the lives of many naval officers." (source)

The long winding mountain road as it makes the steep climb up from the
Cooperage toward Bamboo Lodge, Irish Town, Red Light & Newcastle.

Kingston, the harbor, and --Port Royal as viewed from several thousand
feet up the mountain, slightly to the west and well below Bamboo Lodge

After the steep winding climb from The Cooperage the road levels off for a very short distance as it passes just below the secluded Bamboo Lodge. A few minutes later is IRISH TOWN, a sprinkling of homes and a bar or two, including Mr. Hall's infamous rum bar with the fantastic cliffside view of the Caribbean. Turn left up an unpredictable road to STRAWBERRY HILL where Island Records impresario Chris Blackwell has created an unique small hotel. Timber frame cottages set on pillars encircling the hill, restaurant and pub crowning the small plateau, a grotto swimming pool and extravagant gardens. Blackwell, whose planter family went from riches to rags, recouped the family fortunes in a big way as an insightful music promoter who discovered and marketed Bob Marley.

Shortly after IRISH TOWN the road continues to wind and climb up toward the little village of RED LIGHT, named that for just that reason, as it sits just below the former British military installation called NEWCASTLE, now part of the Jamaica Defense Force. Beyond Newcastle is HARDWAR GAP and HOLLYWELL with access to BLUE MOUNTAIN PEAK. The most pristine montane forest area is found in the Hardwar Gap region where eucalyptus, pine, mahoe and tree ferns are abundant along with many species of ferns, bromeliads and orchids. The north eastern slopes along with the JOHN CROW MOUNTAINS in the east, affectionally named after what the Jamaican locals call the high flying, thermal-gliding turkey vulture, Cathartes Aura, comprise Jamaica's last remaining rainforest and is home to Papilo homerus, the world's second largest butterfly. Trails in the higher elevations of the Blue Mountains, above three to four thousand feet, are steep, extremly rugged or non-existent and many areas remain uncharted wilderness to this day.





Copyright The Gleaner Company Limited, all rights reserved.


Author: Margaret Morris
ISBN: 9766120129

The guide that introduces an island of infinite variety full of interesting and warmhearted people. Jamaica is a place of misty mountains and sunburnt plains, rain forest, jade-green rivers and iridescent waterfalls. Tour Jamaica is an indispensable guide for those travellers who want to discover the heart and soul of Jamaica. Covering six regions, it provides the real 'souse' on places of interest and local personalities, and is packed with historical and topical anecdotes for all of its 19 recommended tours.

To illustrate how strong and powerful the shamaness Couba Cornwallis, "noted healer and herbalist"abilities were, please note the following:

Nelson contracted a very serious illness just afterwards on the excursion against the castle of San Juan in April 1780. Nelson fell a victim to the disease, which was playing havoc among the men during the siege of the castle. The devastating climate, together with the most insanitary and primitive conditions of the place, caused the death-roll both among the men and the natives to be disastrous. Hitherto the disease had always been regarded as dysentery. But, at the time, the germ theory of disease was undeveloped, and every affection which was associated with persistent diarrhoea was called dysentery. On considering the available data in the light of modern knowledge, the disease was most certainly typhoid fever. Here are Nelson's own words:

"The fever which destroyed the army and navy attached to that expedition, was invariably from twenty to thirty days before it attacked the new comers; and I cannot give a stronger instance, than that in the Hinchinbrook, with a complement of two hundred men, eighty-seven took to their beds in one night and of the two hundred, one hundred and forty-five were buried in mine, and Captain, now Admiral, Collingwood's time; and I believe very few, not more than ten, survived of all that ship's crew."

Bacillary dysentery has an incubation period of from two to five days; it is rarely more than three days. In amoebic dysentery there is no definite incubation period. In both recovery from the acute stage is usual, and the mortality is comparatively low; nothing like that described by Nelson. Cholera, too, has an incubation period of but a few days. On the other hand, the period of twenty to thirty days before the onset of symptoms fits in with typhoid, and the high mortality under adverse conditions is in full keeping with the disease. Up to the time of the late war, when effective inoculation against the disease was first universally carried out, typhoid fever had always been a terrible menace to armies. On the day before the castle surrendered, on April 24th, Nelson was recalled to the fleet headquarters at Jamaica, upon his appointment to the Janus, 'an effect which providentially withdrew him, when in a most precarious state of health, from a scene of death '. He was so ill on the arrival of the ship at Port Royal, near Kingston, where the fleet was stationed, that 'they were obliged to take him on shore in his cot; and in this manner he was conveyed to the lodging-house of his former black nurse, Cuba Cornwallis, a well known and respectable shamaness, who had saved the lives of many naval officers.(source)

Nelson returned to England and in 1781 was given command of the Albermarle and charged with escorting the young Prince William Henry (who later became King William IV) to the West Indies. It is interesting to note that Cubah Cornwallis ALSO saved the Prince's life when, as a midshipman on this journey visiting Jamaica he fell ill. He was the first member of the British Royal family to visit Jamaica. Cubah was later thanked by King William's wife who sent her a fancy gown. She saved it for her funeral in 1848.(source)

According to island lore and biographers, British playwright and author William Somerset Maugham is known to have stayed at Bamboo Lodge, re the following:

"In 1934, Maugham traveled to the West Indies, visiting the notorious French penal colony Devil's Island. His encounters with the prisoners resulted in the Ned Preston stories. His visit to Devil's Island was followed by a quick trip to the nearly as notorious old pirate haunt, Port Royal, Jamaica, that had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1692 with, according to local history, an overnighter at the great house at Bamboo Lodge, known to have been frequented by Admiral Lord Nelson." (source)

The present owners are R. D. Williams and his wife. They purchased Bamboo Lodge from the late Robert Lake who changed the name from it's previous name, "Cottage Farm" to "Bamboo Lodge." Lake purchased the property from the Nobel family who had purchased it from Arthur NoŽl Stiebel Jackson (1891- 1968). Jackson's grandfather, George Stiebel, was Jamaica's first black millionaire who had made his fortune mining gold in Venezuela. He ultimately built Devon House which is today a museum in the heart of Kingston.

NOTE: the spelling of Cornwallis' first name Couba, Cubah, Cuba, are as used by the various sources cited.


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