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Making the Mark
The path to the camp is steep, narrow, and physically challenging.

Trek to Rasta camp - Paul H. Williams Hospitality Jamaica Writer

FROM ACROSS oceans and seas they travel, over lands, islands, and isles, sometimes for hours, connecting flights and delays ... destination ... Jamaica. Within their luggage is no swimwear. On the sundrenched, white-sand beaches they intend not to bask, and in the cool waters, frolic.

To the east they are heading from Montego Bay and to the north from the Palisadoes. And just as they leave Papine, there is a change of scene, the roads get narrower, and the air smells clean. Vistas of lofty mountain peaks, cloud-covered ridges, deep river valleys, and interlocking spurs appear.

On narrow roads, bumpy at points, along the edge of precipices, around hairpin bends they go. Pine trees like sentinels stand tall on steep inclines, watching the passers-by. At Irish Town and Redlight, they start to hear the drums calling, drawing them as magnets would. The hypnotic vocabularies of the gongs obliterate all fears of falling.

And then the turn-off from the main road comes at the district of Middleton. Down and down they go into a valley of ghostlike plumes of fog floating over trees. The land is green, and the feeling is liberating. They want to shout with glee, glad to be embraced in the bosom of nature they are. But the path gets steeper and narrower.

Their vehicle stops. They alight. On foot, down and down they continue to go, no more gas to burn, only a calorie or two. Beads of sweat now gather on their faces, an arrow points
to the foot of a mountainside just as they reach the sign that says, ‘HIM (His Imperial Majesty) Selassie I Rasta Camp’.

They start the climb, up manmade steps etched into the hillside, on to a winding path among the trees. Salubrious mountain breezes fill lungs with air so clean, making the ascent less laborious. And suddenly appears the Rastafarian camp.

It is not an arbitrary get-up to be taken down and be reestablished. It is the home of many Rastafarians. Several of the younger ones were born here, away from the decadence and drudgery of life in the city. The mainly board houses were cleverly constructed, taking into consideration the contours and steepness of the mountainside.

The views from above are quite enthralling, and might not be for the faint-hearted, especially at points where it is just a wideopen space, which seems to be pulling them in, just like the drums, the sounds of which can be heard from way down in the valley and echoing from the other hillsides.

The drums are integral to the rituals in the HIM School of Vision, which is a temple of worship at the camp, to which overseas visitors trek up the hillside to witness and absorb the Nyahbinghi chanting and drumming amid the worshipping. It’s a fascinating colourful scene full of flare and symbolisms.

For they who had travelled from far, they could not have seen anything like this before. So it is worth all the hassle of travel. It is all about a set of people who have created their own religious space in the heart of nature, away from public scrutiny and persecution. And should they want to stay a night or two, there is the guest house consisting of rooms with views of the city and the mountains from balconies.

At the HIM School of Vision there is Sabbath worship every Saturday and special observances on January 7 (Jesus Christ’s birthday); March 1 (Battle of Adowa); April 21 (anniversary of Haile Selassie I’s visit to Jamaica); July 23 (Selassie I’s birthday); and November 2 (anniversary of the coronation of Selassie I).

These events are grand affairs for the Rasta camp, pulling locals and foreigners to its mountaintop sanctuary.


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