Monday, December 11, 2017

Another Stab At The Jab Jab

A very Jab Jab Christmas event high in the hills above Woburn offered us a chance to redeem ourselves after the previous event held there left me feeling like I was missing the point of travel.  Well let me tell you folks... If the point of travel is to immerse oneself in the culture and learn about the places we visit, there are tons of opportunity to do that here in Grenada!

I still have no idea where this place is.  We get on a bus, ride up and down over hills and valleys and eventually we arrive at the top of the property looking down into a valley toward the Caribbean Sea.  The view is breathtaking and the property is very private.  Perfect for a noisy party like the one getting started here today!

Once again, Niki and Jaime joined forces with Slum and Sperry to bring us closer to the people of Grenada through food!  This time they were ready for the crowd!  If last time was a learning opportunity... it was not squandered!    They were ready for us this time!

Upon arrival we were ushered straight over to a table laden with traditional foods, including the intriguing Black Cake.  Unfortunately, Bruce and I ate a big lunch just before catching the van, so we really weren't hungry, but I did have some of the cake!

Our host and hostess together!  Difficult to get them in one frame for long!
I was skeptical.  I've heard this cake compared to the Fruitcakes we have back home... and I don't care for Fruitcake.  But it isn't like that at ALL! The flavour is difficult to describe because when you take a bite, the cake seems to change as you chew it.  There is a strong rum flavour but also something else.  Something like cherry maybe.  It's like a cherry brownie that is super moist and soaked with liquor.  It tastes sort of like red velvet cake, but with alcohol.  That's the best I can do.  It tasted great and I'm sorry that I only got one piece before it was GONE!

Setting out along a very nice road...
Last time we were here, I spent the day cutting veggies (which was a lot of fun!) and missed the hike through the forrest.  This time, most of the preparations were done in advance so there was no choice to make!  I jumped at the chance to do the hike!  Bruce stayed at the Camp with Deb and many others, while our friends Cheri, Alan, and Paul were among the group that took the hike.

Let me be clear.  It's more of a scramble than a hike - at least to begin with.  Last time the hikers returned covered in mud and sweat.  But there has been less rain recently and the trail should be less muddy. Right?  Wrong!  First, there IS no trail for the scramble up the hill!  But I'm getting ahead of my story here... let me go back to the beginning.

We set off happily down the very nice dirt road.  It led along the rim of a valley with a grand view off to our right.

First of MANY Millipedes
Not far down the trail, we found this millipede!  All I could remember about them was that they were deadly poisonous and that I should not touch them.  This set the tone for my adventure as there were dozens of them, both on the ground AND on the trees!  (later back at the boat, I looked them up and found that the were indeed NOT poisonous, but harmless creatures that are actually good for the forrest as they participate in the process of decay)  But that didn't help me for today!!!

Very soon we left this nice road and set off at a steep angle.  The forrest was dappled in tiny patches of sunlight that played havoc with my camera's ability to focus, so there aren't a lot of good photos from the hike.

I followed the pack toward the back, but was able to keep up nicely... at first.  But soon I fell further and further behind.

My shoe choice was an unfortunate one.  It seems that my favorite hiking shoes, normally great for jumping around on rocks at the water's edge, were not great for muddy trails.  I kept slipping out of them and had to really concentrate about setting my foot in a place where it wouldn't slip.

One of the guides cut me a fresh walking stick which helped immensely.  I think I would never have made it all the way to the top without it.

You can get an idea of how steep the climb was looking down!

And looking up!  I could reach the ground in front of my face in less than arm's length

Of course I stopped to see the lichen growing

During this first leg of the climb, the pack was still together.  Everyone stopped on a ledge near a HUGE boulder to take a breath and gather the stragglers before continuing on up and past this rock!

I was breathless from the climb - and it WAS a climb!  With the use of my walking stick to hoist my weight up in the absence of any other hand-hold, I was getting a real workout!  There were stretches where I deviated from the path others had taken by going from tree-to-tree, using the young saplings to pull up as well as placing a foot at the base to keep from sliding down on the slippery, muddy hillside.  It was tricky and I was soon way behind.  It was almost like a puzzle, figuring out where my next hand-hold or foothold was to be.

Cheri has a walking stick like the one they made for me!
All too soon the group moved on.  I had only just caught my breath when it was time to press on.
Sometimes a hand on the rump is the best way to go!

During the next part of the climb, my thoughts that it was almost over were soon dashed.  I fell further and further behind the group.  For a while, one of the Frenchmen returned to help me by either pulling me up with my walking stick, or reaching down a hand for me to grab.  We couldn't communicate verbally but a hand held out is universal and I DO know the word Merci!

At some point I felt too much of a burden to them and waived them away.  I'll make it on my own and didn't want to ruin their experience.  The forrest grew quiet as the voices of the group faded into the distance.  I could see millipedes crawling on the trees and the thought that with each blind grab of a tree - I could be reaching around to place my hand right on top of one of these bad boys.  I had to push that thought from my mind or I would never get up this damn hill!

Much better that I take a rest and look around.  It was really very beautiful and surreal.  How did I get to be here, crouching on the side of a steep hillside alone?  It's really when there are no other people around that I can most appreciate the experience.  No sound but the gentle sigh of the breeze as it rustles the treetops.  Maybe a lizard (or worse?) scampering in the layer of damp, dead leaves.

Sometimes those leaves were my friend and provided me with a barrier between my shoe and the slippery mud.  Other times those leaves acted like a snow sled, giving me a rapid reversal of progress made.  Each footstep had to be deliberately considered and tested before transferring my weight.  Somewhere I must find something to grab onto, or use my stick to support my weight.  Many times my choice was a bad one and the vine or stick I grabbed gave way.  Many times I almost fell backward.  And many times I had to resort to crawling on my hands and knees if there was a stretch with nothing to hold onto.  It was just me and the mountain and I have to tell you... crawling on one's hands and knees really makes it "personal"!

Eventually I identified a return to civilization as my eyes recognized the orderly pattern of man-made steps.  And while I still couldn't hear the voices of my group, I knew that they must be close.  I also realized that these steps went both up... AND down!

There was another route to the top of this hill!  A more civilized route!  An easier route!!!  But with the end of this challenge within my grasp, I was happy to have taken the path of MORE resistance!  Because with the challenge almost behind me, I felt a sense of accomplishment.  The fact that it was ALMOST more than I could do, but not quite gave me an unexpected sense of achievement.

I sat there on those steps for a while, straining to hear sounds of life.  I could just make out the laughter of my group.  They must be close but just around the side of the hill.  I was almost there!  I was so thirsty - my mouth so dry - I could hardly close my lips.  I couldn't wait to get to the top and find something to drink!

When I finally did arrive, the party was in full swing.  The Jug-O-Rum was pouring shots and Coca-Cola chasers followed!  But I took a moment to stare out at my reward.  The view was truly stunning and the photo does not do it justice.

My tired legs were beginning to shake so I found a place to sit down and watch the shenanigans.


Did I partake in the Jug-O-Rum?  Of course I did!  I made it to the top!  I earned the right to a shot of this stuff that literally took my breath away!

It's rocket-fuel infused with natural flavours found in the forrest and it's about as close to tasting the land we just climbed as one can get.

I limited my shot to one small one and I knocked it back!  My eyes must have been wide as I reached out for the bottle of Coca-Cola while gasping for breath.  It felt like I had been knocked in the chest!  The cola gave my throat the opportunity to return to normalcy but I wasn't taking another hit of rum - no way!

Others in our group DID, however and it was evident that they were poorly prepared for its potency as we began our walk back down the hill.

Thankfully we went down the mountain by the civilized trail, which was more of an actual road most of the way.

Remember those rum drinkers I mentioned?
Well it caught up with them about half-way down!
Some might even say "surpassed" a few...  In his defence, it WAS muddy in that spot!

This route allowed a better appreciation of the view!

The sun was setting by the time we returned to the Jab Jab Camp
The party was in full swing when we returned!  The horns came out and the music was lively!

Food smells wafted through the crowd and I found my appetite had returned!  Thankfully there were more hors d'oeuvres!

This had nothing to do with RUM!
I swear these were not rum-induced!  I was just so thrilled to have accomplished that hike!  My blood sang and the music kept the energy bubbling for long enough to power a brief conga-line!  No photos of that because I was IN IT!  And these are terrible! My camera was confused...

Darkness fell and they brought out torches to light the party
Something was cooking on the fire!
Stuffed Breadfruit waiting to be roasted

Last minute preparations!

Ahhh finally!  Dinner is served!  We had a tangy red cabbage salad, fried plantains, breadfruit AND potato salad and a lovely roast pork shoulder that was done to perfection!

I wish I had picked up more of the little plantains because they were the best I've ever had.  I would LOVE to know what was in the cabbage salad because it was divine!  I love tangy dishes!

The breadfruit salad was the same as the potato salad, but with breadfruit!  It was difficult to tell the difference between them and what better test than to do a side-by-side comparison.  It was all very delicious and a LOT of work!  Our hosts have outdone themselves!

There were two choices of Callaloo soup, one thin, and the other more thick.  I took a dollop of the thicker soup and it was very good.  Later when I went back to the table it was GONE!

We filled our plates and ate happily, unaware that there was MORE!  A stewed pork was served while I ate what I had, and by the time I got back over there, it was gone as well! Bruce did get some of it though and said it was very tasty!

My nose told me that there was still something roasting... I found the stuffed breadfruit on the fire looking all dark and crusty!

What a marvellous opportunity to taste all of these uniques and traditional, local dishes!
A glowing fire roasting the stuffed breadfruit
Being at the vegetarian table has its perks!  When the breadfruit was served, they brought the first one over to our table.

Cy removed the top revealing the inside that had been scraped out and refilled with pumpkin cubes and a whole lot of other goodies.

He was just showing us how to slice the orb open, done best with a large knife and cut from the inside out to avoid getting the charred outsides on the tender flesh inside...

The night was winding to a close.  Our tummies were full and it was way past our bedtime.

Bruce and I couldn't hold another bite and when I saw that the van was loading for the early trip back to the boats, we said our goodbyes and took our tired bodies home.

My legs and arms were beginning to feel like they were made of jello from my earlier exertions.  My full tummy caused me to feel like I was drugged.  I swear I had only water after that rum shot!  We were just dog-tired!

What a resounding success this party was!  Our hosts should all be proud that the enormous effort it took to pull off this Shindig was such a triumph!  We are thankful for the opportunity to take part in unique experiences such as these, and we look forward to many more here in Southern Grenada!

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