The community of Cascade, situated on the peripheries of Portland, is home to a crown jewel. The humble district boasts one of Jamaica’s best kept secrets – a secret we have deemed to be worth sharing. Borrowing its name from the community in which it is housed, the breathtaking Cascade Falls spews over 100 feet down the mountainside. Visible from as far as the main road, pictures rarely do this towering giant justice. Fortunately, we managed to capture a few ‘worthwhile’ photos (thank God for Don’s ability to masterfully maneuver a camera). On that note, let us now delve deeper into why this aquatic titan is an invaluable treasure.
Our journey started where ‘overly-patriotic Portmorians’ dub as the modern-day hub of Jamaica. If you guessed Portmore, then you guessed right. We abandoned the Sunshine City, adamant to defy TLC’s advise to refrain from chasing waterfalls. Don, having to only gather himself and his camera, was ready in no time. I, however, needed more time to pack a wanderer’s essentials… times two. Thankfully, by 9am, we were on our way.
Did Tash really just use a TLC reference? Talk about corny. Also, despite what she would have you believe, I am not only the camera man, I am also ALWAYS the designated driver. I am sure this counts for something!
The journey to Cascade was quite normal until we got to Papine. Once there, everything changed. The air was suddenly fresher and books like Jean DaCosta’s “Sprat Morrison” evoked pure nostalgia (the book is based in Papine). We then took the left at the round-a-bout in Papine Square, which led us pass the famed Skyline Drive, home of Dub Club. On the right was the winding Hope River and the road meandered along its course. We passed the old home of the coffee factory before taking the left turn leading into the Blue and John Crow Mountains (the left turn is at the government sign which demarcates that the left goes to Holywell while the right leads to Blue Mountain Peak).
My advice here? Windows down… AC off… Bask in the cool, fresh air. It is also very important to turn down whatever music you are sure to have playing in the background. The reason for this is twofold. One: to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the mountains. Two: the roads are treacherously winding and the local drivers are ‘experts’ on these roads; so, let’s just say they are not so mindful of others plying the route.
Why am I not surprised that Don ever so subtly forgot to mention how cold it can get along the journey? But if you are anything like me, I would recommend taking along a sweater for the ride; especially in the latter months. Also, I think the onus is on me to over-exaggerate how scary the route can be. The view is breathtaking. Literally! I stopped my breath countless times as I “stared death in the face”. The narrow road, coupled with a ‘raas’ precipice, was enough to cause me to panic. Nonetheless, it was completely worth it. Our sense organs were completely consumed by nature. The hypnotic songs of birds filled our hearing devices; the damp air playfully caressed our skin; the smell of trees and a hint of rain etched themselves to our nostrils; our eyes greedily drank the mesmerizing scenery; and our taste buds danced at the taste of good ol’ country food. I couldn’t ask for more!
The journey is pretty simple from here as there are no turn offs. Drive straight into New Castle training grounds and keep going until you pass Holywell. Continue into Hardware Gap, until the little district of Cascade presents itself. Be sure to be on the look out for the bridge pictured below (unlike us, it is impossible for you to miss it). The waterfall will be visible from the road as indicated by the picture. Next on the agenda? Find suitable parking along the bridge, as this is where the journey on foot begins.
Being strangers in the area, we opted to ask a local, a more than capable guide who went by the alias ‘Buju’, to accompany us to the falls. The trail was not so obvious as it is overgrown, and frankly, not much of a trail again. Buju’s familiarity with the area came in handy as he led us through the shortest and most navigable route. The ‘hike’ was short-lived as it took us roughly five minutes to climb the hill, settling at the base of the fall.
Those five minute genuinely felt like five hours as the terrain was certainly not the easiest to maneuver. We mostly found ourselves down on all fours as we combated the steep and slippery rocks. Buju informed us that a safer and more pliable route previously existed, but was unfortunately destroyed. All in all, just proceed with caution and you will be fine.
The mist from the cascading falls (see what I did there?) dampened the surrounding atmosphere, making it almost palatable. The water’s volume was somewhat low, which we were appreciative of, as this meant that all parts of the waterfall could be explored without fear. We were however advised that this could change in a heartbeat, with water levels rising drastically with rain. So, if you have an affinity for drowning (like me), I suggest you inquire about the weather conditions beforehand. Also, this non-commercialized natural wonder is not yet on the radars of many, so chances of you having it all to yourself are quite great.
And on that note…
The water is everything you expect from a waterfall and more! Beguiled by its beauty, you are immediately pulled in. The temperature then plays an integral role, as the coldness masterfully caresses your every muscle. This free massage therapy session is then topped off by the falls itself, whose force is the perfect technique for soothing one’s muscles. Notwithstanding, whether you choose to take a dive in its waters, or take a seat directly under the falls, or just simply take a pic; you are guaranteed satisfaction!
Despite Don’s (somewhat warped) account of the journey, as it relates to the destination, I share similar sentiments. Fear of heights, extremely narrow roads and coldness are forgotten once you are face to face with the majestic falls. I was intoxicated by its appearance and welcoming embrace; losing all sense of time. Upon arrival, all my anxiety and uneasiness were replaced by sheer admiration and excitement. Upon leaving, my appetite for excitement and adventure was filled; leaving me with a lifetime of memories.
Every new trip, every new destination and every new adventure, is a reminder of the splendor of nature and the Creator. So don’t be afraid to escape the urban hustle and bustle every now and again, and indulge in the gifts of the Earth.