Cuhna Cuhna

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This past weekend, as a student planned excursion, we went to hike the Cuhna Cuhna trail. Thus far, hiking Cuhna Cuhna has been the hardest thing I have experienced while here in Jamaica. In fact, it is possibly the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. We left early Saturday morning and took a taxi to the town of Bath (about an hour from Yallahs). In Bath, we met with our guide for the hike, Shaggy. Shaggy explained that we would take another taxi about four miles up the mountain to Hayfield, where the hike would officially start. Now, one thing I have noticed during this entire trip is the poor quality of the roads in Yallahs. What is really interesting though, is that the taxi drivers speed anyway…and when I say speed…I mean really SPEED. But somehow, they avoid accidents and seem like pretty efficient drivers. The quality of the roads up to Hayfield were even worse than Yallahs, bumpy roads, sharp curves, potholes everywhere, and it was totally up hill. The roadway was so skinny that if two cars met each other going opposite directions, one would have to back up until it found a spot wide enough to wait while the other car passed. The drive up that hill was an adventure enough. At some point, we had officially arrived at the trail. I had no idea until the moment I looked at the dark green foliage in front of me that I was in for quite a unique hiking experience. This first half of Cuhna Cuhna was a five mile hike down to a small, rural cabin area. The hike down took us about 3.5 hours, and as I mentioned before, it was tough! Physically, Cuhna Cuhna was exhausting: I had trouble catching my breath from the high elevation, I was drenched in sweat from the 90 some degree weather (plus humidity), I fell or slipped many times from the wet, muddy trail, and I was hungryyy! Beyond that, the trail required a great deal of focus and care. It was extremely high above sea level and on the edge of the mountain. It was pretty terrifying. I have always considered myself a bit of a hiker, but the mountains of Colorado, Utah, etc. that I have encountered before are nothing compared to the deep mountain jungles of Jamaica. Honestly, while doing it, I was miserable. When we finally finished, many of the girls and I decided we had to take a taxi back; it was just too much, but things changed when we spoke with Miss Wilkes. Miss Wilkes, manager of the cabins at the bottom of Cuhna Cuhna, explained that the trail held a heavy amount of history for the Jamaican people. It was place where Maroons fled to escape; and in their time the trail did not even exist. They would wander up the mountain, hacking stray foliage with machetes, in hopes of freedom. In addition, the trail area served as land allotment for war veterans. All these stories put some things in perspective for me. I realized that I was lucky to be experiencing such an important part of Jamaican life and history. Of course the trail was hard, it was awful, but that was what made it so great. We quickly decided to walk the second five miles back up the mountain. This time however, I decided to take the second half of the walk in a different light. I put my iPod in and zoned out, experiencing the hike without complaining this time and enjoying it by myself really. I embraced how tough it was, thinking about all the people who had walked it before me in even much worse conditions. With each step, I imagined the Maroons fleeing British Colonizers. I fed off of their energy and story, seeing the Cuhna Cuhna hike in an entirely different way than I had the first half. I took two important lessons from the hike. The first was that I should complain less and be more patient in life. I realized that just because some things in life are tough does not mean I should immediately put negative feelings towards them, rather that these experiences can be really positive, and great learning experiences. The second lesson I learned was to value and appreciate my life back home. The cabin area we stayed at had no electricity and barely any running water. There were just five lodging areas, an open area for meals and hanging out, a bathroom, and a kitchen. I kept thinking about how bored people living there must be sometimes. Miss Wilkes had explained that when people got bored they would go explore nature or walk down to the river; they lived happily in their environment the best they could. Still, I could never imagine a life like that. After Cunha Cunha, I have this strong sense of gratitude for the life I have been given. Beyond that, I have a great desire to stop wasting things (or experiences for that matter). I want to work on approaching things with a more open heart, and enjoying everything, even the things that get hard.

 

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