Saturday, April 20, 2024

DANGER ZONE: Hard roads to travel


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by TONI YARDEThe early warning signs gave notice of what lay ahead. One sign read Dangerous Bends, Steep Roads Ahead, Drive With Caution. Another: Danger, Steep Road Ahead, Check Brakes, Drive With Caution.The signs could not have been more accurate. When the Weekend Nation team ventured to the hilly parish  of St Andrew that wet Tuesday morning this week, we were greeted by trying roadways.Although I had travelled two of the three roads numerous times before, I had never done  so in the driver’s seat. In the pouring rain we moved through Hillaby, making our way to Turner’s Hall to observe traffic traversing the two parallel roads that meander to Bawdens. On seeing the signs, we braced ourselves for what would surely turn out to be a heart-rending experience. The hills were long, winding and very steep. There were times when we wondered what our fate would be had our vehicle’s brakes failed. With both roads in a state of disrepair, we also wondered if our car suspension could withstand the jerking.  In the end we fared well. As we parked well away from the hills, we couldn’t miss the magnificence of the famous Scotland District, and might have been lured by nature’s beauty. But duty called. We exited the vehicle to tackle the hills by foot. It was as taxing  to walk as it was to drive. By 7:50 a.m. we were in place. Of course, there was not the heavy build-up of traffic  or mayhem we are used  to in urban districts. We tried blocking out the loud moos of the cows grazing on the lush banks, and being all ears for the sound of distant running engines. Just then an Alleyne School bus passed slowly  by loaded with students. Hollows and erosionThe driver took his time, avoiding each pothole and crack in the road with due care and diligence. He did so as if he had memorised the exact spots of the hollows and erosion. Next, a sand truck came struggling up, with it’s onerous load. It swayed from side to side, attempting to escape the several warps in the road. Sand spilled as he strove on. We stayed for some time watching as vehicles of all kinds inched through. It took one over four minutes to make its way up. Lighter vehicles, like cars and SUVs, had an easier time, but were not danger-free. They too had to travel with great caution, both up and down the two treacherous hills. And although they got it done in faster time, the wet ways kept posing  serious challenges.A police patrol vehicle came by. The officers stopped to enquire of our purpose for being in the secluded area. We explained. Advising that we were indeed in a danger zone, the police asked that we be careful.We soon moved on, headed through Shorey Village to the popular Farley Hill National Park, area. With the St Peter park being a tourist attraction and in proximity to the Wildlife Reserve, visitors in hired vehicles were in abundance. As we arrived there, the road warning signs were equally evident. A curious truck driver stopped – in the middle of Cleland Hill, St Andrew – and pointed us to an area he described as even “more deadly” than wherewe were standing. We stood at three different trouble points in the hill;  and couldn’t help but feel  the eeriness.  Motorists at all three points displayed excellent driving skills –  with steady hand and strong heart. Hats off to the drivers who travel these spots daily without loss or life or limb! There are some, though, who have not been that lucky travelling through these steep winding hills. As we left, other places with the same physical make-up came to mind. I couldn’t help but think of the deadly July 29, 2007  mass casualty at Joe’s River  in St Joseph. No matter the amount of road signage, or the tip-top condition of your vehicle, the slightest miscalculation in such places could put you on the proverbial slippery slope.


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