Clarendon is not a parish which comes to mind when one thinks of a Jamaican adventure, but it’s a parish which has been on my mind to explore for nearly two years as an adventurous nature lover. Clarendon is a parish on Jamaica’s south coast in the centre of the island and has a population of 246,000 people, most of whom reside in and around May Pen on the Vere Plains. Clarendon is bordered by St. Catherine to the east, Manchester to the west and St. Ann to the north. The parish, like all 14 parishes of Jamaica, is washed by the Caribbean Sea and has attractions like Milk River Bath and the recently crash-landed plane at Rocky Point on its south coast. Up north is mountainous with rivers, a nature reserve and the geographic centre of Jamaica at Bull Head Mountain Peak. It’s surprising that the area isn’t marketed for ecotourism, but again Jamaica is a country which is full of unmarketed potential. This is the first time I’ve ever ventured into this side of Jamaica and it didn’t disappoint. The waterfalls in Brae Head are often listed as being located in the neighbouring communities of Crooked River or Trout Hall, just because Brae Head isn’t on the map of Jamaica! Here’s how to find this remote corner of Jamaica.
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Getting To Brae Head
Brae Head can be approached from Christiana for visitors coming from the western end of Jamaica. If so, you’ll reach Trout Hall first and have to drive a bit more eastward to reach Brae Head. However, today my trip started from May Pen where I drove up through Chapelton, Summerfield then Crooked River.
I’m not the only Jamaican with a love for waterfalls. One of my main local travel inspirations is Lilli from Nature’s Sweet Escapes, another local travel blogger like myself who blogs, vlogs and travels for the love of it, not for money nor hype. She has a penchant for off-the-beaten-path gems and waterfalls too. She visited this waterfall several months ago and had negotiated a guide from the community, so I got the contact number of her guide from her website and gave him a ring (Ryan– (876) 862-1803). That made my day so much easier. He directed my friends and I from the Crooked River district square, and we picked him up at home then parked by the home of this sweet elderly lady– with her permission of course. Her home is located walking distance from the first of three waterfalls in the community. The road was good up to Clarendon College then gradually worsened until it eventually became a dirt track.. not the sort of place one wants to get car trouble at all. A SUV would be better suited for the area but I managed nonetheless.
Johnson Crawle Waterfall
We passed the first waterfall since it was nearer to where we parked, opting to explore the furthest cascade first. The trail to this waterfall is steadily uphill, roughly 20 minutes long and meanders through stunning open farmlands, tall bamboo, ferns, pine trees and wide sweeping views of the Mocho Mountains. The area had not received rainfall in a while but everything was still so lush and green. Most of my hikes before this have been in the Blue Mountains. This was my first time hiking in central Jamaica and it left me already daydreaming of a return trip. The only downside to the trail was the humidity. It wasn’t quite that hot but the humid environment prevented sweat from evaporating and left me feeling hotter, sticky and miserable.
Interestingly enough, we encountered a small family or perhaps group of friends halfway there who said they were lost, so they were relieved to see us. I don’t see why a group of outsiders would take up themselves venturing into a community past people’s houses and farms without a resident as guide, but to each their own. I wouldn’t advise anyone to do this.
The waterfall was not as strong as during the rainy season but was still a beauty in its own right. The delicate water droplets tumbled over the edge of the rock like raindrops and instantly cooled and refreshed my small hiking group. The water downstream was too muddy and stagnant to swim in, but the waterfall was enough to enjoy ourselves. In fact, sitting or standing on a rock to the left of the falls allowed us to see a perfect rainbow within the waterfall, created by the ethereal water droplets which act as a prism to bend the sun’s rays which filtered down through the trees. The sunlight was playing hide-and-seek with us at the falls, allowing me to get totally different shots of the waterfall in just half-hour.
This waterfall is the only named cascade in the community, but as to how it got the name Johnson Crawle I have no idea. I’d love to learn more about the history of the area so feel free to fill me in if you know.
The Other Two Waterfalls in Brae Head
We ditched the other people and set off for the third waterfall. This one took us back to where we parked and led us on a trail in the opposite direction which was mostly downhill. This trail was very narrow with a steep drop-off– certainly not a trail for anyone with a fear of heights and not ideal for children either. This trail isn’t as beautiful as the one to Johnson Crawle but was still lush and green. The hike to this waterfall from where we parked (near waterfall #1) was about 15 minutes long. We spent more time here since we didn’t have company, and had a blast. There isn’t any swimming hole but who needs a swimming hole when you’re showering under Mother Nature’s rain shower. The water was very cold and delicious (yes I drank some) and refreshing.
As soon as we noticed a change in the weather we headed back to the car and then decided to check out the first waterfall we had passed earlier next to the road. We didn’t spend much time here as it began to drizzle and we wanted to be on our way back to town before it began to pour. Nonetheless, I don’t think we would have wanted to spend much time there anyway. It was obvious that this waterfall was the community hang-out spot since it was more accessible. There was quite a bit of litter next to this one, along with a bit of animal poop.
There’s always an adventure around the corner in Jamaica, and I love that so much. I didn’t expect this hike to be so beautiful, and to think that I drive through Clarendon all the time and seldom stop unless I’m getting gasoline or food! I hope my next Clarendon adventure is either at its other waterfall in Sanguinetti, or hiking to the geographical centre of Jamaica at Bull Head Mountain Peak, an area of Jamaica which is shrouded in as much mystery as cloud forest. Make sure you don’t miss the next adventure by subscribing below and checking out my social media pages. 🙂
Written by Rochelle Knight
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‘Til next time!