Clydesdale to Cinchona
|You can overnight in a forestry camp, then trek on to the Cinchona Gardens.|
Time: 2 hours. Difficulty: 2-3. Trailhead: The town camp at Clydesdale near St. Peters .
Clydesdale is the name of both a town and one of the several forestry camps welcoming hikers to set up tents. Located on the River Clyde, about 1.5 miles up a bumpy road near St. Peters, the forestry camp (a former coffee plantation) rents a 2-bedroom house.
No bedding or other essentials are supplied. Advance reservations must be made through the forestry department in Kingston: 876/924-2667.
The Cinchona Botanical Gardens was originally established in 1868 to cultivate Assam tea and the cinchona, a tree native to the high Andes whose bark supplies quinine for the treatment of malaria.
The project was profitable only for a short time because large-scale production in India undercut the market. The operation was then turned into a botanical garden, 1 of 3 on the island that collected and studied exotic trees and plants from other continents.
Many trees are from Australia, including the Caribbean's largest collection of eucalyptus trees, some over 150 feet high. Orchids, lilies, azaleas and many others make this a distinctive garden set at 5,000 feet. For information, call 876/927-1257.
The walk to Cinchona is a fairly easy one, along a sometimes steep road that connects Clydesdale with the gardens.
At the town of Clydesdale follow the descending road on the right that passes the old wooden coffee mill house. About 100 yards later the road divides. Go right and travel up to the junction at Top Mountain where the road becomes fit only for 4WD.
Follow the left track to Cinchona Gardens. This last section is the steepest. You'll ascend 1,000 feet in less than 2 miles.
But the trek is worth it because of the panoramic view in all directions. The John Crow and St. John's Peak are to the north, Kingston to the south and the main ridge of the Blue Mountains off to the east.
A half-dozen other hiking trails also end up here, making this a popular destination. From Cinchona you can hike to Westphalia, across the Green River to Penlyne Castle and to venerable Whitfield Hall, starting point for Blue Mountain Peak hikes.