Return to Strawberry Fields, St. Mary (part two) (April 2010)

So I last left this story with us hitting the road from Portland headed to Strawberry Fields/Robins Bay, where we’d made arrangements to meet Sata and Peter when we were there the day before.

I fee like I should clarify something. There is no Strawberry Fields on any map I have seen. There is a RESORT with that name very near where we were, and there is a town called Robins Bay just down the road.   Google map shows the bay where the Robins Bay hotel is located as “Mahoe Bay”. The Esso road map shows that bay’s edge as “Don Cristophers Point”, and the nearest town is labeled Green Castle. There is a Green Castle estate pretty close to the turnoff (and i am told it is a lovely place to stay), but it’s not by the coast.  When I asked Sata what he called the community he lives in, he said “Strawberry Fields”. So that is what I call it.

Here’s the area as it appears on the Esso map. The road we were on was not significant enough to make that map but we were in the area between what is labeled “Green Castle” and “Salt Bay”.  As near as I can tell, Salt Bay is just west of the black sand beach we went to by boat. But i get ahead of myself.

One day, when I have a high clearance 4WD vehicle, I may try the “back way” from Port Maria. But as it was, we took the turnoff that on this map leads to Green Castle, but kept going along the coast.

Nene had been watching me drive all this time and asked if she might try it. The road to S-Fields is rough but it is Q-U-I-E-T – we passed maybe one car each way out by the coast. So I said sure and she drove the last bit.

When we arrived at Sata’s, he and Peter had made lunch…and what a lunch it was. Fish, fry chicken, breadfruit, plantains, nutty sweet things, some veggies….we all sat down and joined by Charlie (the fisherman in the photo from part one), we finished almost all of it.  I didn’t take any photos but we had this lunch at a table under an open roof maybe 10 feet from the edge of a cliff down to the sea.  It is a breathtaking setting.

A friend, fishing.

Full and ready for some adventure, we walked as a group along the road and on down to the beach to wait for Lion. Their beach has these awesome bamboo swings on it….

And we waited for Lion to get  his boat ready. (Sata had reached him the evening before when he returned from fishing, so he was ready for us).

As you can see, the beaches are dark here and have lots of shells and little pebbles and driftwood.  It’s a change from the manicured beach at Frenchman’s we were at that morning – not better or worse, just different and beautiful in its way.

You can see one of Sata’s cottages in this photo, at the end of the cliff, with the red roof.

Maybe you get a sense of what this place is like from these photos. I didn’t take as many as I’d have liked, or video…when I return i will try. There are people living here, and some houses, and farms, but by and large the coast is natural and wild. That’s what i hoped to experience here, and I got it.

But where we were going by boat…now THAT would be wild…

We set off in some pretty wavy seas that made us squeal…bouncing  in big surf is FUN 🙂

 The whole coast looks like this…no houses, hotels, nada. Beautiful and wild.

We picked up one more person…while Charlie, Sata, Peter, Nene and I would hike to the falls, Lion and the guy in this photo (name forgotten, maybe Nene remembers…) would be fishing.  In fact we all fished on the way over, Nene and I even held lines…but we didn’t catch anything.

Here is a shot from our half hour or so ride….Nene took this (and many of the photos I include in this part of the report, actually), I was scared to get out my camera because we were getting pretty wet from the waves.

After a bit, we arrive at the black sand beach where we will get off the boat and begin our hike.

I assure you, it was even prettier in person.  Calm water, a dark blue because of the black sand, no rocks, no people.

Sata says they sometimes cook out and chill here for a whole day…I could totally do that when I return, this trip we just didn’t have much time.

Lion said goodbye, he’d be fishing out a ways and watch for us to arrive back at the beach when we were ready to be picked up.  Watching him pull away I remember thinking here we are, no people around, no roads, no houses, no nothing but us and our new friends…and I was fine with it.

We splashed around a little bit but I wanted to get up to the falls so we set off. Sata took the lead and he is FAST. I’m in pretty good shape and so is Nene, but hiking in the stream, following the river up, having done it since he was little he said…I guess he was just better at it. Plus he’s really tall, long legs help 🙂   It was still VERY buggy, and we didn’t stop much on the hike up because the mosquitoes were fierce. Sata said they just came two days before.  We had bug juice and it helped some, but it was still best to keep moving.

When I come back, maybe it won’t be a buggy time and I can stop and appreciate the hike more…because it WAS beautiful.

Nene took this one photo of a tree that Sata wanted us to photograph along the trail, because it is so big.  I assume it’s a cottonwood, I’ve never seen any other kind get huge like that. Very cool.

We hiked sometimes on a trail, sometimes in the river itself, which was fairly low. At one point in the hike, Sata, Peter and I continued up the river on a route that took us chest deep in the water while Charlie took Nene up and around on a path through the jungle as she didn’t want to go through the deep part…they arrived at the falls maybe 5 minutes after we did.

And here is Kwame Falls.

and here I am looking back down the river that we hiked through to get here.

There were still a lot of mosquitoes around so I got in the water ASAP…I love to swim anyhow, if you’ve read this blog at all you know i live to be in water, no matter where or what kind 🙂

Nene can swim but she is, as she puts it, “not a strong swimmer”.  The guys got the idea to grab a big piece of old bamboo to make a floaty for her so she could come out into the deep part.  It worked perfectly…when she held on, anyhow 😉

Here is Charlie helping her out…

We swam and hung out for a couple of hours. We were, of course, the only people around. I am told Strawberry Fields resort does an ATV trip up here using the trails from there to near here, and while that sounds cool, I am glad we did it this way (and didn’t run into them).

When I knew we had to, we hiked back down to the beach and waited just a couple of minutes before Lion’s boat came into view.  I know he was watching for us from where he was fishing, though we all had cell phones too, if needed.  You’d think there’d be some issue with cell phone reception in a remote area like this but no….my Digicel phone worked just fine. I find it works in the Blue Mountains too…funny.

One last look around at the beach where I WILL return and spend a lot more time….

We had an exciting ride back to the Fields, and walked up to the shop by Sata’s. We all got drinks and I found myself wishing I could plunk down my stuff at River Lodge after all, I really didn’t want to go. But this was my last day in Jamaica and we needed to get back to Duncans Bay to sleep and get up for our flight home the next day.  So we had to say goodbye.

Many thanks to Sata, Peter and Charlie, and Lion too for sharing their favorite places with us and showing us such a great time.We had a GREAT day and look forward to returning soon.

(Before we left I asked Sata if I could put my story and photos about our day on the internet, and he was fine with it. I also asked him if anyone wanted to reach him to go on this trip or camp at his place, if I could give them his number, and he also said yes. So comment here if you’d like to reach him and I’ll get you in touch. Update 2013: Sata’s Reef yard has a Facebook page! )

An update: a few months after I was here, a group of photographers who live in Jamaica took a trip here. They hiked, didn’t take a boat, and apparently it was quite the trip 🙂 I think it’s expressed best in this blog by Ryan Lue-Clark.   Don’t miss his video, it is hilarious!

Continue reading this series:

16 Replies to “Return to Strawberry Fields, St. Mary (part two) (April 2010)”

  1. Nice to see you hanging with my Jamaican family. I've known most of those guys since dem was pickney…

    Good to see you enjoyed your stay and plan to go back.

    I am planning a trip to Jamaica for NY and Maroon Festival 2011!



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