I love hiking! I had heard of the Blue Mountains even before I visited Jamaica. Its highest point was 7,402 feet (2,256 metres). I determined that I wanted to climb to that peak. The route is the Blue Mountain Peak Trail which is a distance of about 6 miles over steep terrain. It is a very intense hike with various rest stops for persons who couldn’t make the peak in one go. Additionally, if one had respiratory challenges, they were advised to stop at a certain point since the air thinned the higher the climb.
My opportunity came to climb the peak when I pursued postgraduate studies at the Mona Campus of The UWI. Advent Fellowship, the Seventh-day Adventist Student organisation on the campus, organised several social events, one of which was the hike to the Blue Mountains.
We began the hike at night. I was told that the classic way to experience the hike was to begin the ascent just after midnight to meet the dawn of the new day at the Blue Mountain Peak. Jamaicans prefer to reach the peak at sunrise, thus the 3- to 4-hour hike is usually undertaken in darkness. Since the sky is usually very clear in the mornings, Cuba can be seen in the distance.
After Sabbath ended we left Kingston to begin the 11mile drive to the base in preparation for beginning the hike after midnight. I believe we took the Papine to Mavis Bank road, which was about 11 miles. (Jamaicans may correct me in the comments section if my direction is wrong; as it usually is. lol) Now, it was a bus that took us up to about 698m / 2290 feet to Mavis Bank from where we would hike the rest of the 5000 feet to Blue Mountain. The thought was scary. The journey was even scarier as the bus climbed the incline
We came upon a sight in the road. A group gathered. We asked what had happened and was told that a hiker was dying or had died. He had continued the high and steep ascent despite being warned not to hike beyond a certain point because of his respiratory challenges, more specifically asthma, It seemed this particular hiker disobeyed the rule, and he paid the ultimate price….with his life
For a while after everyone was silent and pensive as the bus continued the upward climb up the dark bushy mountainous terrain. The bus went up and up, tilting and swaying. A precipice was our constant companion on the right side of the terrain. I looked around. The students all seemed ok with the bus swaying precariously.
After a while, one person who had done the trail before, muttered, “I don’t think we are supposed to be driving this long.”
Another echoed “I don’t remember this being the trail, either.”
.Having already been lost in the hills in Trinidad, I just kept getting a sense of deja- vous.
I kept saying, “Don’t tell me I come quite Jamaica to lose in the hills again,”
A few students laughed. They asked me about my experience. I told them the story of how we were lost in the hills in Trinidad; how we prayed; how God delivered us; how we slept in the hills for a night… on a log…in a terrain known for wild monkeys, the macajuel snake and tiger cats; how God sent an angel, which one of the hikers saw standing over us in the thick black of night, protecting us. She saw the white form just standing staring at us. But, you have to read Lost In The Hills for that story.
Suddenly a student looked out the window over the dark, dismal, scary precipice. Immediately she blurted out “Stop!” But the driver kept driving.
“Driver I said stop!” She frantically screamed
The driver suddenly stopped. She scrambled out of the bus. The leader followed her. She ran around to the front with a few of the leaders of the group. They returned to us in the bus.
“Everybody come out now!” An urgent bark.
We scrambled out. I went to where the girl was standing. My heart throbbed. My breath stuck in my throat. A hollow feeling ran down my stomach. The wheel of the bus was on the edge of a landslide! If the bus had not stopped we would have plummeted over the precipice! The driver exited the bus to see what the alarm was all about.
We were stuck. We could not reverse down a muddy track. We were thousands of feet in the mountain. There was no place to turn. We could not go back, we could not go forward, we could not turn. We were trapped! There was no way out!
“Let us Pray” the leader said.
It was the only option we had. We were all in a line on the narrow track. What should we pray for? We didn’t even know. The driver got back in the bus after we prayed.
“He is a mad man,” someone muttered.
We stared aghast.
“I will drive over it,” he said in a matter of fact tone.
“You cant” the leader tried to discourage him.
“I can’t go back either’” he shrugged.
“The bus will topple over!” By now everyone was trying to get him to change his mind.
I looked at the wheel; the landslide; the road was narrower than the bus; there was no way it would go over. The bus would plummet; the driver would die! He started the bus. I prayed with my eyes on the wheel
Well…God must have sent an angel again to lie across the landslide because the wheel drove over space! I kid you not! I watched it with my own two eyes. I cannot tell when or how but the wheel drove over nothing!
We got back in the bus and continued on the journey. We stopped at an army base high in the mountain. The soldiers looked at us as though they had seen a ghost
“How did you get here?” They enquired of us. “Where did you pass?”
When we pointed in the direction we came from their response was:
“That is impossible! There is a landslip leading down a precipice! No vehicle could pass there! That road has been impassible for months now. Vehicles come from the other direction and stop here; not from the direction you came.”
They looked at us agape. It was reinforced to me then. God had either sent an angel to lie across the road, or lifted the bus himself, because I had looked at it with my own eyes. It was impossible for the bus to pass without plummeting over the precipice.
God’s mighty hand was at work in this situation!
Truly His eyes were on us and He heard our prayer (Psalm 34:15)
We did eventually make it to the Blue Mountain Peak that morning!