|Tour # 1 : Mavis Bank area : half a day, or more|
This tour really begins in Papine, rather than Mavis Bank. The 30-minutes drive from Papine takes the visitor directly into the hills, following the Hope River to Gordon Town where a right turn at the Police Station leads steadily upwards to Guava Ridge, before dropping down again to Mavis Bank.
You will need your own vehicle - car or small mini-bus - but we can meet you at Papine (by the gas station) if you prefer, rather than at Mavis Bank. A maximum of 12 visitors can be accommodated on this tour - you will need space in your vehicle for the tour guide.
The scenery is both lush and spectacular, with Blue Mountain Peak itself dominating the vista as one nears Mavis Bank, rising to 7402 feet above sea level. Looking back from Guava Ridge, Kingston is far away, set on the Liguanea Plain which stretches in the distance towards Spanish Town and upwards past Jacks Hill and Peters Rock to Newcastle Camp and Catherine's Peak.
1. The first stop of the tour is at Louise Jacob's residence. The best way to find it is to look out for the Coffee Factory, which is a mile before you reach Mavis Bank. Turn around there and go back about 200m - its then the first house on the right, next to a large boulder which sticks out into the main road!
Louise will usually be your tour guide for the day. You will be served with a light snack and you can stretch your legs right there by the river, or relax with your Gleaner on the verandah!
Thereafter the choice is largely yours (by prior arrangement), and that of your vehicle and driver. Some of the roads are rough, but you don't really need four-wheel drive. Let us see the choices, many of which show aspects of Jamaican agriculture.
2. Daley's Horticultural Farm (30 minute tour):As you drive back towards Mount Charles from Mavis Bank, you can turn into Mr.Rudolph Daley's impressive plant nursery. Two large shade houses contain all the tropical foliage you could ever imagine, and the grounds around are similarly filled with scents and sights to touch the sensibilities of even those who are not already plant-lovers.
The smaller plants are sold in Kingston, whilst the larger ones are hired-out to grace many elegant occasions across Jamaica.
Further on, beyond Mount Charles, you will soon reach the Yallahs River fording, which leads on up to Hagley Gap and towards the Blue Mountain Peak trail. Or you could take a rather rough road on another day back to the St.Thomas coast.
3. McGann's Chicken and Pig Farm (30 minute tour): Near the river crossing, this large facility is very well kept, producing eggs and pork meat in spacious surroundings. A fascinating place to visit, and you'll be made very welcome.
On the way there, about 10 minutes drive from Mavis Bank (the last portion of the road being quite rough), you will pass the Black Bridge at Mahogany Vale. This landmark was standing firm until the passage of Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004/5 - the power of the rushing waters of the Yallahs River is there for all to see, with the heavy bridge columns now tipped to one side. For those who may later venture along the St.Thomas coast to Yallahs itself will see more evidence of mother nature reminding us of man's place in the larger scheme of things.
4. Mavis Bank Square (15 minute stop): ready for a cool drink, ready to hit 'the town'? Back in Mavis Bank itself, take in the relaxed atmosphere, buy a soda or better still a real Jamaican fruit juice... meet some more local people, pop into the library... or just rest up.
5. Mr. Graham's Mixed Farm (30 minute tour): A few minutes drive from the square to the end of Top Road will have you wondering how Mr.Graham does so well, growing such a variety of foodstuffs and raising livestock, without the benefit of large flat fields, or mechanisation... but such are the skills of our small farmers in Jamaica, growing organic products which help Jamaicans live long and healthy lives...
6. Mavis Bank Coffee Factory (45 minute tour): Nestled in the hills, this factory takes ripe coffee berries from the surrounding districts and processes them into 'green' beans, largely for export - the world-reknown 'Blue Mountain Coffee'. Some is roasted on site, selling under the 'Jablum' label. Take a factory tour and see how its done - not open on Sundays.
7. A Short Hike by the river (30 minute walk): For those who would like a short stroll, there is an easy path leading down from the Methodist Church to a cool, shady river. Give those legs a little exercise and enjoy the lushness that will surround you.
8. A Longer Hike by the river (60 minute walk): For those with more energy, and more time, you can be dropped off at Mount Charles (perhaps on the way back from McGann's farm) and follow the path up the river to Mavis Bank. Jump the river stones, get your feet wet... feel the cool breeze as it rustles through the tall bamboos, swaying in a lazy harmony with nature's gentle mood..
9. Picnic by the Yallahs River (60 minute stop): If you would prefer to sit and take in the grandeur of the Blue Mountains whilst enjoying a picnic by the river, perhaps we need to go by the Yallahs River for a while. When not gushing with hurricane waters, it is a wide expanse which allows views of the surrounding hillsides, and chance to run around for the younger ones...
10. Forres Park Guest House and Coffee Farm (30 - 60 minute stop/tour): Back in Mavis Bank, you could also visit this picturesque and well-kept guest house, which looks across to Blue Mountain Peak itself. Arrange for a meal, or drop in for a refreshing fruit drink, or a taste of that Blue Mountain Coffee. Whilst there, why not take the short walking tour of the coffee farm which adjoins the guest house - learn about other plants too. And if you are really taken, its somwhere to stay on your next visit. Forres Park arranges tours in the hills and birding for those so inclinded. Check out their website at: http://www.neilmar.com/forres/forres_test.php
11. Flamstead Lookout (75 minute drive/stop): Finally, if you can handle a few more bumps, take the 25 minute drive up to Flamstead, which at nearly 4000 feet above sea level, commands breathtaking views - looking east towards the Grand Ridge of the Blue Mountains, to the west the city of Kingston, Palisaedoes and as far as the parish of Clarendon. From this superb look-out, Nelson watched the approaches to the harbour two hundred years ago... and on the hilltop, there was a Great House up until the 1980s, a large and well appointed residence - only the foundations now remain. But don't be too disappointed - you'll enjoy the quietness of being (almost) on top of the world - you might even find some wild cheeseberries to eat!
If you are interested in arranging a tour of the Mavis Bank area, please contact
Louise Jacobs: Tel (876) 977 8093 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
At least one week's notice will be required.