Lisa’s Country Side

Jamaican TreasuresLisa’s Country Side

Visiting the Country Side

One of the best trips I love taking is the one with my Dad driving through the hills to Maggoty. He was born in Mandeville in 1932 and the family had a small little house on the hill in Maggoty, St Elizabeth when he was around the age of four years old. That was buggy-and-cart days. He would recount the stories of the good old days. This area is located near the Appleton Rum Factory, surrounded by hundreds of acres of cane fields and embedded with so much history of Jamaica. Even my grandfather worked there at some stage. We start out in Montego Bay and we go over the majestic mountains and the winding roads that pass through small little towns, country stores and small colorful vendor stalls selling mangoes. My Dad recalls the days when his Dad used to ride along the same roads some 100-plus years ago and he recounts stories of yester-year that I try to imagine.
Along the way we always stop to buy the mangoes whether they are “Julie, Bombay, Blackie, Indian, Stringy” mangoes. We buy them all. They are part of the hidden treats of the trip. We eat some of the mangoes there on the road while having a chat with the vendor. “How’s the day going?” We have a simple chat that means so much – nothing complicated, nothing economic or nothing relating to stocks, mortgages or interest rates. Those things don’t matter at this mango stall. We just small-talk and laugh about old times, the weather and, somehow, after so much laughter and reminiscing, I climb back on the bus with a tear in my eye. I think it is what you call “the simple life”. It’s hard to find that today. We wave goodbye to the vendor as we drive out and wish him the best for the day. I look back and see him tidying up his small table adding more mangoes and his day carries on.
Another stop we have to make is in Middle Quarters. We have to buy the “Hot Pepper Shrimps”. We see the freshly caught shrimps cooking in large pots on a fire made of sticks and charcoal, a dose of special magic “Middle Quarters” spices and with all the colors of the Scotch Bonnet Peppers that Jamaica has to offer! And, yes, this dish takes a whole lot of peppers. It’s a requirement!

Bamboo Avenue. Since I was a little girl (and that is decades ago!) we have always driven through the memorable “Bamboo Avenue”. It is a two-and-a-half-mile stretch of gentle swaying giant bamboo plants which tower above the road. It provides a shady tunnel of bamboo with the sun streaking through at intermittent breaks to give a wonderful green canopy of bamboo. It is the longest, by far, in Jamaica and the most picturesque. I think these bamboo trees have a lot of stories to tell.
When we finally reach our destination (the small town of Maggoty) my Dad always says, “It hasn’t changed much in 80 years.” It has a long winding river through the town and the town seems to look as if it has been locked in time from the 1940’s. It’s a special and beautiful place. I gaze at my Dad’s face as he looks over the gardens of this small backyard of Grandma’s and Grandad’s house that overlooks the town of Maggoty and the river beyond and I see him recounting the memories he spent here so long ago. He would say, “The backyard looks so much smaller today as this is where I played cricket with my brother every day” and “The living room looked so much bigger in those days.” It’s a trip down memory lane that I am happy to take with my Dad when we come to Maggoty.
About a 5-minute drive from Maggoty and across the cane fields is the famous Appleton Rum Factory. We have taken this tour ourselves and we enjoyed it immensely. The Appleton Estate is the oldest sugar estate and distillery in Jamaica. It is world-renowned for one of the finest rums in the world and it’s amazing to know it actually started right here. My grandfather actually used to work here in the 1930s, so the history of this estate means more to me than just a Jamaican rum! Well, this is just a one-day tour that I love to take when I go home. It is my Jamaica.

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