St. Toolis is a district in Porus on the border of Clarendon and Manchester, in which a gorgeous free watering hole can be found. The residents call it Blue Hole but this river is actually a tributary of the Milk River in Clarendon, Jamaica’s longest river. Porus was founded by Baptist missionary James Phillippo and became the sixth free village in Jamaica for ex-slaves after emancipation. Porus was originally named Vale Lionel after then governor of Jamaica Sir Lionel Smith, but the name eventually changed to Porus because of the porous nature of the district’s soil.
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The turn off for St. Toolis is pretty easy to find. If driving from Kingston, it’s a left turn from the main road (A2) shortly after passing Juici in Clarendon Park at the sign for “St. Toolis New Testament Church of God.” If coming from the direction of Mandeville, it’ll be a right turn instead not far after passing the parish signs which welcome you to Clarendon and after passing the roadside fruit stalls in Porus. Once you make the turn, you’ll drive over an old rail track then take a slight left. Continue until you pass this Rasta gate and shop pictured below, then eventually you’ll see a bar on the right side of the road. Park somewhere safe, and then cross the road as the river is located on the left. You’ll pass more old train tracks and some stones covered by mesh, after which you should be able to see and hear the river. You’ve arrived! The entire drive from the main road to destination takes roughly 5 minutes. No hiking is involved either. If you’re approaching the river via public transport, the route taxi may let you off at the entrance to the community. Feel free to grab a bike taxi which you can obtain at the front of the community if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, a brisk fifteen minutes’ walk will get you there in no time. The road has quite a few potholes but an average car will manage nicely.
St. Toolis Blue Hole
It seems every resident of St. Toolis was at the river when I went a few Sundays ago, perhaps because the ban on free rivers and beaches was recently lifted. I tried to get shots without the crowds, but trust me.. the river was crowded. Most people were on the river banks though enjoying a drink or smoke, so we found our own corner in the river for a quick dip. The river had a nice vibe and we found a youngster not much older than six or seven who would dive into the water from high above, even from a tree. He gave the adult divers a run for their money.
St. Toolis is that perfect locals’ spot for enjoying a quick river dip. The water is clean, crystal clear and not too cold. The best time to visit would perhaps be on a weekday morning before midday. Nothing like a cool invigorating morning dip. There weren’t any waterfalls in this section of the river, but the current is powerful enough for one to leave the water feeling refreshed and energized.
I think St. Toolis could become my river. I can’t believe this spot was hiding not even 5 minutes from the main road in Porus, Manchester. Again, I hesitate to make these spots popular because too many visitors could ruin them, but this also has the potential to bring revenue to a community that gets its main source of income from farming. Please keep St. Toolis clean, and support the community’s shops and bars. Let’s put money into the hands of residents from grassroots communities during this pandemic.
‘Til next time.
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