Debut author Haddad recounts the story of when he and four other teenagers became stranded in the Blue Mountains of his native Jamaica.
In 1967, the author, then a high school student at prestigious Jamaica College in Kingston, overheard that a group of his classmates were planning a hike to Blue Mountain Peak, and he quickly asked to join them. He wasn’t bothered by the fact that George Hussey, the group leader, was planning “a non-traditional hike” to the summit. “Non-traditional” turned out to be an understatement. After setting out on a Saturday, the boys soon lost track of their unmarked trail and went adrift in a wilderness of fog, hills, and jungle. Their supplies started to run out, and soon it was Wednesday, the planned day of their return—and they were nowhere near home. They wandered helplessly as their parents back home began to worry, and soon a rescue effort was launched to locate them. In addition to dealing with animals and the elements, the five boys—weak from exposure and hunger—contended with a deteriorating group dynamic. What’s more, Haddad was haunted by his knowledge of a similar event from 30 years before, when five other Jamaica College students became lost among the Blue Mountains. Haddad tells his story with thoroughness and care, including the recollections of his friends and accounts from contemporary newspaper articles as well as copious endnotes for each chapter. His narrative is perhaps not as dramatic or brutal as some other tales of hikers stranded in the wild, but he tells it in a way that maximizes its tension. A quiet sense of dread builds as readers move through each successive chapter, for although we know that Haddad will eventually come back down from the mountains, we don’t know at what cost. With the wisdom that comes with a half-century of hindsight, the author dissects the minutiae of the trip—the rations, the routes—as well as the psyches of the teenagers who walked the miles. By the end, the hills of Jamaica seem as imposing and remote as the Himalayas.
An engaging memoir of mishaps and survival in the Caribbean.