Since my last post, we’ve been several places and seen lots of things, but none of the areas we’ve visited have been so naturally “post-worthy” as the Cinchona Botanical Gardens above Westphalia, in the mountains of St. Andrew Parish. Somehow we had gathered from several people’s hearsay that we should practically expect ancient ruins, with perhaps some scattered floral gems growing feral among old dilapidated structures and a few exotic trees towering over the grounds. As you can see from the photo below, these vague rumors were partially true.
Although the structure above is clearly in quite poor condition, the gardens themselves appear to be pretty well-maintained and a team of five or six gardeners work on pruning, raking, weeding and so on. From a few of these employees we learned that Cinchona had been founded back in the British days of the island, when malaria was so bad in the coastal areas that a highland hideout and quinine-producing base was established (Cinchona is at between 4,500 and 5,500ft).
We camped out on the Garden grounds for three nights, using it as a base to hike the environs and look for the Golden Swallow, three specimens of which were actually collected at Cinchona by a D. Morris one hundred and thirty-five years ago this week. Unfortunately we had nowhere near as much contact with the species as Morris, and we failed to see any swallows of any sort in the area – though we did see a large group of White-collared Swifts and a couple Antillean Palm-Swifts.
The scenery in the Cinchona vicinity is amazing and John, Justin and I agree that it very quickly made the shortlist of best camp-sites so far, with all the flowers, trees, and mountains coming together to comprise quite the aesthetic alpine attraction.
Even though the winds blew the hardest we’d ever experienced in Jamaica – well over thirty miles an hour above the tree line at night, we’re guessing – and there were a few drizzly hours during our ambulatory explorations, we still got to see both ends of the rainbow stretching over the valley below, and highly encourage any future visitors to Jamaica amongst our readers to visit the Cinchona Botanical Gardens for a short day-trip.