Great Huts: Where Africa meets the Caribbean
So here I was, lying on my back, munching on the coconut I bought from a youngster who thought I was an African tourist. I was tired, but couldn't sleep, I didn't want to.
Outside, rainwater was dripping from leaf to leaf, and there was a symphony of crickets and whistling frogs accompanied by the rush of waves several feet below. I just could not shut my eyes on such earthly bliss.
On the bottom floor of the almond tree house, between two huge almond tree trunks was my stone-based bed. The trunks rise through the wooden ceiling into the top room and through the roof. The floor is made of smooth stones embedded in concrete. On the bamboo walls are mud cloths depicting African lifestyles and artistry.
On the eastern side is a spacious concrete bathtub near a cliff that drops many feet on to the beach. Where was I? In one of the huts, where Africa meets the Caribbean Sea, Paradise on the edge, they call it. Located just down the road from Boston Jerk Centre in Portland, Great Huts is the official name.
This idyllic getaway comprises a jungle, a meadow, cliffs and a beach. It's like a little piece of rural Africa, which I stumbled upon about two years ago, but didn't get a chance to explore. So when the opportunity called recently, I heeded. And I could not imagine what I was missing.
The entire property actually looks like a jungle with a great variety of plants including palm, almond and bamboo, and flowering trees. From them, vines descend to the ground in abundance, and on whose lichen-decorated trunks, creepers and other parasitic plants pasted themselves.
PLENTY NATURAL ARTEFACTS
Thickets are everywhere, and there is also an extensive bush canopy, a bamboo garden, and the Marcus Garvey Memorial Garden, in which there are massive earthenware jars, on one of which a clay bust of Garvey rests. The sights and sounds of exotic birds and other creatures in their protective mesh enclosures add to the allure of the place where there are several goldfish and turtle ponds. In addition to the living creatures are sculpted ones located at strategic points. The growling lions are a standout.
Among the trees, huts of various sizes and shapes are scattered. Each has its own essence and charm, but they are all influenced by the artistry, sensibilities, stories and history of black Africa. The 'Tabernacle', however, is inspired by the Jewish exile. They are mostly made of bamboo and other types of wood, and have gravel, stones and wooden floors. The artistic African-themed furniture and decor are also made of natural material.
The most captivating of the huts to me is the African Sunrise, which is a three-tiered tower near a cliff. The ground section, which is a walk-through, is dedicated to the African ancestors who crossed the Middle Passage. Their stories are depicted on murals therein.
A wooden ladder leads to the second level which has a swing chair and a kitchenette. Another ladder leads to the bedroom at the top, and from there, one has an expansive view of the blue sea. On the roof is a roaring lion with its head raised towards the sky.
To the west of African Sunrise is the meadow, which is a shrubbery open space with chairs, a gazebo, a canopied bed for outside romantic encounters, perhaps, among other things. The meadow is partly surrounded by clusters of sea grape trees, not too far from a section of the very high and rugged cliffs.
Looking over was gut-wrenching, yet I liked the view of the sea, and the sudsy waves dashing against huge jagged boulders. But the walk along the serpentine boardwalk that snakes along the cliff edge is not for the faint-hearted. The cliff-edge bathing pool is no less scary. An outdoor grill and the classy Cliff Bar Rocks Café are some of the other interesting cliff-side features.
There was so much to see and absorb, so I decided to make some more tours after settling in. A late evening walk up to the jerk centre ended up with me chatting with some local folks. As I was about to return to the Great Huts, the Portland rain came in torrents. When it was finished with its unheralded excitement I headed back.
Not long after, night covered the jungle with a black blanket, and the orchestra therein knew it was time to play. The jungle was now alive with the sound of music. And it was this acoustic delight that I couldn't resist, but which eventually lulled me to sleep.
At daybreak, I walked down several steps to the beach to meet and greet the rushing waves. The sky was overcast, and it was raining on the horizon. The gloom didn't overshadow the sight of the stone bridge with bamboo rails that arches from a boulder to the top of a much bigger and higher one.
Then I saw two small pools into which the waves rushed after they crashed against jagged rocks. I sat in a concrete chair etched into a piece of rock. There was another one to my left. I closed my eyes and wished I could stay all day, but raindrops bid me go. I would, and did, return twice.
From the beach, I attempted to embark upon my second tour of the property, but rain aborted it. Back in the tree house on whose roof the rain dropped moderately, I spent the most blissful Monday morning ever. But alas, there was work to be done, things to see, things to write about.
Touring the jungle under an umbrella was so otherworldly. The unpaved paths, the raindrops, the glistening leaves, the chirps, the rush of water into the fish ponds, the dreary view of the deep, blue sea - so surreal.
There were to be more tours, more walks, more gawking, more reflection, after which came the big letdown - the return to 'Sin City', to Kingston, far from the great place that Great Huts is.