Our friends have a new vehicle. They bought a “Shadow” motorcycle this year so for the first time since they moved to Jamaica they are mobile at will. It inspires them, and therefore inspires us, to get out of the yard and hit the road.
So we go ahead and rent the same type of motorcycle and head off for adventure. Today’s destination: Abeokuta.
Abeokuta Park is named for the town in Nigeria where the slaves came from that were first brought to Westmoreland Parish – to that exact spot that was once a Plantation. To this day you can see the remains of this plantation – remains of the Great House, various steps and stones and of course the swimming pool – the oldest in Jamaica at about 300 years old.
The natural beauty of this place is incredible and upon dismounting from the bike I feel serenity overcome me. Brother Man runs the place: He greets us, letting us know that if we are hungry he can prepare an Ital meal for us. He collects the admission fee of 500JMD each and we go on our way.
We spend the day sitting by the magnificent Olympic sized and mineral spring fed pool. The water is as sweet as it is cold, too cold for any of us to try. There is a boy there though that is just having a ball, taking the rope swing in hand, flying through the air, flipping and diving into the pool, over and over and over again. We applaud each trip he makes with great enthusiasm while at the same time taking in the grand views from the top of this hill. The boy and I take a walk around – he shows me a collection of exotic birds and one tortoise that belongs to a Chinese man who lives on the property part-time. The birds are beautiful and are from all over the world, the guy even has some Jamaican Green Parrots in a cage. They all look healthy but it still makes me sad to see caged birds, it always has.
When I join up with our friends again we hear what we think might be a trumpet in the distance. Looking down we see a marching band first tuning up, then forming and beginning to march down the road. It is followed by a hearse, then a bunch of folks dressed to the nines. Brother Man tells us that this is the funeral of a wealthy person – with enough money the family can hire a marching band to lead the funeral procession to the cemetery. None of us had ever seen this in Jamaica so we are all quite captivated by the scene.
We finish up our drinks and get back on the bikes. We have a small discussion and decide to go and check out Paradise Park. Paradise Park, particularly the river section, has been on my wish list for a while. Ron and Peg have been there and are eager to turn us on to it. It is apparently a beautiful place to sit and relax, with a wide and full river, back in the bush.
We ride up a long driveway lined with Palm Trees, passing some fields and horses and approaching the gate that you open to get into the river section of the park. When we just about get there though some guy comes running down the hill, stopping us and demanding a 500JMD admission fee from each of us. What? Ron and Peg don’t remember an admission fee…Ron asks to speak to the man he knows to be the caretaker. Well, of course that guy doesn’t work there anymore but this guy…who is this guy? We decide not to go ahead but we don’t leave. We hang out in the area in front of the gate and I am particularly enthralled with the ruins of buildings and swimming pool and such so I go out to explore those.
Paradise Park was a prosperous sugar plantation in the 18th Century and the property consists of 19 acres that includes sea front and white sand beach. It was acquired in 1952 by the Clarke family and run as a Country Club until the early 1970’s. In addition to a swimming pool, restaurant and clubhouse, it also had its own 9 hole golf course.
Evidence of the country club is all about the immediate area we are hanging out in. There’s the now empty swimming pool, decaying wooden structures that might have been cabanas or part of the clubhouse, and cement structures, one of which is the entry gate, the price of admission and club policies still painted on it, fading in the sun. There are steps to nowhere, fine stonework and even large sections that are tiled. I am picturing that pool full of screaming children while the Grand Dames of Westmoreland Parish sat on loungers and sipped cocktails while their kids played and their husbands golfed.
The surrounding area is all meadow and there is a couple of horses out there grazing. A peacock struts about but no matter what we do he will not flaunt his feathers. We sit on makeshift benches beneath a large shade tree for a while.
We head home, going through Sav la Mar but turning up Mango Hall Road heading west. By taking this route we will drive through Little Bay and Homers Cove. We like to go this way – less busy, quite scenic and the view of the West End coming down the hill from Revival is breathtaking, quite literally.
We arrive home safe and in one piece. I can get used to having a motorcycle handy, getting on that road less traveled in search of all things off the beaten path.