A visit to the Priestly Order of Rastafari community (Nyahbinghi Order) in Irish Town, St. Andrew, Blue Mountains.
In the early afternoon the three women of our house decided to take a trip to a Rasta camp in the mountains. We didn’t have much to go on in way of directions save the Lonely Planet guide (which turned out to not be the best guide for this trip) and instructions from a former tenant of our house. We walked down to Sovereign and took a route taxi to Papine Square where we would catch a coaster (Juta) bus up to Red Light. Of course the first bus we found was filled so we waited about 40 min or so until the next bus was ready to leave. Although the sticker inside the bus said MAX 12 there were at least 18 people squished in. We stopped at a grocery store where we had to pick up someone’s shop supplies and then we were off. The winding road up the rock mountain road made from a bumpy yet beautiful ride. The higher we got the cooler and fresher the air. After about 35 min on the coaster bus we were let off at Red Light where a fellow passenger directed us to the man’s shop indicating that is where we should go to find out how to get a ride up the rest of the mountain. After speaking with the man he got a woman to call their friend to come pick us up and take us up to the camp. He pointed to where the camp was up the mountain and there was no way we could walk. Not with what we were wearing (long dresses, sandals and without food/water). We were picked up and driven up most of the way until he dropped us off a dirt path. He pointed down the path and said when we got to a left turn we were to take the stairs from there up to camp.
Meeting the stairs we knew by this point that perhaps Lonely Planet Guide authors had not actually been to this camp. The steep climb and loose rocky terrain was not mean for flip flops and long dresses. Nevertheless we trekked on.
As traversed the switchbacks and ascended higher up the mountain the view became more and more beautiful ( we could see all the way out to the ocean and Kingston seemed so far away) and the drumming became louder and louder ( we knew were going in the right direction!).
When we reached the camp and a young boy came to meet us. He looked about 13 or so. He greeted us and introduced himself to us individually. He told us to enjoy ourselves and go on up.
Walking into the camp we were greeted by a pungent odour of burning wood, incense and marijuana. A man said hello and told us to wait there while he went to grab an empress. She came out and told us that we were appropriately dressed, the rest of the rules (we could take photos, and visitors were charged $500 JA each) and that we could go into the temple structure.
Inside children and adults were dancing and singing; men were banging on large drums as well as hand drums. It was a very joyous ceremony. Babies seemed to be everywhere and there was no way to tell whose child was whose as everyone seem to hold all the children.
At the end of the ceremony we went out to take in the last views from the mountain. The sun was beginning to set behind the mountain but looking down at Kingston you could tell that it was just beginning to awaken: the pulsing of lights ushering in another Saturday night.
The empress asked one of the men in the camp to drive us home and for a small fee he took us all the way to our doorstep. We were really very blessed that night as it would have taken hours to get down the mountain in the dark.
Driving home I contemplated the life they lived up in the mountain. I don’t know if I could do it. Someone asked me if they lived in “poverty” and I didn’t know how to answer them but to say “well, I don’t think they think they live in poverty. So no, I guess they don’t live in poverty.” Although poverty discourse can often be eye roll inducing with its arbitrariness I still spent most of the day thinking about the question.