The Cockpit Country
|Another Maroon outpost. The people are as tough as their land.
A tough hiking terrain similar to the John Crow Mountains, the Cockpit Country is a high plateau southeast of Montego Bay in the remote center of the island.
It was a Maroon refuge in the 1600s and their descendants still reside here. The region is considered impassible except on foot. Not even 4WD vehicles attempt the Cockpits, which is largely unchartered.
It takes about a day to cross the Cockpit Country. You need to backpack overnight or have someone to pick you up at the other end. This can be quite warm walking, very humid with jungly rain forest; take lots of water. There is none available outside of the villages. A bromeliad called "wine pine" contains as much as a pint of water if you run seriously short.
The most comfortable time for walking is in the winter months, also the driest part of the year for a region with an annual rainfall of 100-150 inches.
Mist often rolls in early and late. Ants and mosquitoes can be a bother and do be careful of your footing, not to break through the limestone crust.
The Cockpit Country is surrounded by mountains and limestone hills shaped like cones, some rugged but mostly round. Known technically as Karst formations (a relatively rare phenomenon in the Caribbean ) the landscape appears like the bottom of an egg carton, all steep ups and downs
This Karst topography results when the limestone surface dissolves from rainfall while at the same time underground water forms caverns and caves.
Because only a thin layer of limestone covers many of the deep caverns formed by such erosion, a single misstep could send you falling into some underground pit with obvious, serious consequences.
A guide is a must. It's easy to get hurt in the Cockpits.
This strange looking land of caves and ravines and thick, thorny vegetation also has typical lowland rain forest with a canopy of 80-100 feet. Broadleaf, mahogany, silk cotton and mahoe trees all grow here.