So I was feeling a bit under the weather until my friend sent a text to find out if I wanted to go to the river. The words “Road Trip” went off in my head and maybe it was my imagination but I could feel the remnants of the nasty flu that had plagued me all weak leaving my body almost immediately. Before I could reply yes I started gathering my things to go.
We headed to Wag Water River which flows through the Castleton Botanical Gardens in St. Mary. Divided by the Junction main road in St. Mary and located less than 30km from Half Way Tree in Kingston, the Gardens date back to 1862 making it one of the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The Botanical Gardens in St. Vincent & the Grenadines is the oldest (1765), followed by Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas (1779). Castleton Gardens was developed to relocate the garden in St.Thomas due to its constant flooding. Castleton Gardens at one time boasted one of the largest varieties of exotic plants in the Caribbean including the over 400 specimens of flora that was transplanted from Kew Gardens in London. According to a feature in the Pieces of the Past segment of the Jamaica Gleaner, the island’s first tangerine, navel orange, Bombay mango, and the Poinciana tree was first planted here.
Due to months of drought, the tide appeared a bit low but it still provided a cool dip and escape from the glaring afternoon sun.
The spot is also perfect for an afternoon picnic with friends and family under one of the gazebos or a blanket on the grass. If you fail to bring food as we did , you can always patronize local vendors on the main road by purchasing janga (crayfish) soup, cold jelly coconuts, or various snacks and beverages.
The Gardens are open every day from 5:30- 6 pm and are free to enter.
Getting There via Public Transportation
If you are backpacking and don’t have access to a private vehicle , Castleton Botanic Gardens are easily accessible by public transport. You can catch a bus heading to Annotto Bay /Port Antonio from Half Way Tree. The Coaster buses are parked outside of the Half Way Tree Transport Centre and are hard to miss as you will see a couple men shouting out the destination. Real Jamaican style upon entering the bus just ask the driver or conductor for a “let off ” at Castleton Gardens about 15-20 minutes into the journey you can remind them again just in case they forget . If you are a foreigner it’s highly unlikely that they will forget where you are going. The drive from Half Way Tree takes about 30 minutes and the fare should be under Ja$300 (US$3) . Public Transportation is less frequent and slower on a Sunday but still doable nonetheless.
Driver Look Out
Drivers, look out for the Police Man with the Speed Gun standing in front of the station. His purpose is for you to check your speed or maybe to give you a heart attack. Whatever his purpose when you see him tell him I said hello. We are now BFF’s as you can clearly see.