Still a little queasy from the night before, I rolled over and tried to go back to sleep after my normal 6:00am wakeup. I cracked a sleep-laden eye over at Mary and saw that she had come in sometime during the night and seemed to be sleeping soundly as well. Satisfied that a few hours sleep would do more good than a cold shower, I chose the former and drifted back to sleep. Somewhere in dreamland the phone started to ring. Phone? Yes, the phone in the room was ringing! I jumped up too late to answer but decided to get dressed and go down to the office to see what the call was all about. Andrea saw me coming towards the office and motioned me towards the phone as the caller was still on the line. It was Shereth. Ian had called her to cancel our trip to Roaring River, as he is also a welder and had a big job to finish that day. I could tell she was very disappointed but I was determined to go anyways. I told her to hang loose at her home and that I would find a driver and pick her up on the way. I told Andrea that I would need a driver but that Mary and I would be having our Jamaican breakfast over at Alfred’s and would get with her on our return. Mary was shuffling my way so I greeted her and off we went to breakfast.
As it was our last day in Negril, Mary stopped to get a last souvenir at a vendor’s stand located near Arthur’s Beach Club. I proceeded back to the Bird and Andrea’s husband Alton greeted me near the office. He offered a good price for the Day Trip to Roaring River and I accepted. We would be leaving in an hour. We picked up Shereth and off we went!
Now, the decision to go to Roaring River was a difficult one. First, I had always heard about the idlers and hustlers who hassled tourists for money near the tour entrance. Shereth told me she had a good friend, Dr. Scott, who was a massage therapist and guide at the caves. She assured me that we could go around that problem and she was very anxious to have Mary and I go there. Secondly, both Mary and I have been to quite a few places and, although I have been to the Blue Hole up the river apiece, neither of us had been in the caves before. I have learned to follow Shereth’s lead as rarely has she taken me anywhere I didn’t really love.
The ride up to Roaring River is a scenically beautiful slice of the Jamaican countryside. Another interesting part of the trip was listening to Shereth and Alton talk about where they were from. Shereth was from the Bog Walk area and Alton just down the road in Linstead. You really get a good picture of how close Jamaicans are to each other when you hear them talk about the same people each had know while growing up. The roads were quite good for country roads and about an hour or so later we pulled into the parking lot.
Shereth called out to a youth who was approaching the vehicle to go get Dr. Scott. Boy! Was I surprised when I saw him coming across the road towards the van. I had met Dr. Scott at the January 6th Celebration in Accompong Town earlier this year! Small world! Dr. Scott told us to give the youth $1200 J ($10 US entrance fee for both Mary and I) as Alton and Shereth would not have to pay. We grabbed out towels and cameras and off we went to the top of the hill.
We walked up the road over a small bridge where a tributary came across a cane field into the annual flow coming from the Blue Hole. Dr. Scott explained that this part of the river only ran about nine months out of the year. Going up just a few meters further we saw the confluence of the two streams and a foot bridge next to a huge 200+ year old cottonwood tree where the trail began on the far side going up to the cave entrance.
The asphalt path with some steps in a slow, gentle climb was an easy walk and the surrounding trees and plants were gorgeous. There was something to stop and see at every turn. Finally, we reached the top of the trail at the irongate where the trail leads down into the depths of the earth. I turned around for a final picture before the spelunking adventure begins!
Dr. Scott turned on his flashlight and escorted us one-by-one through the entrance and down the rather steep steps to a voluminous cavern below. “Keep looking down and go slow”, he admonished. “No reason to hurry, man.” “You are my guest for the day”, he smiled and held out a hand to each of us as we took the last step to the floor below. “Now, look up”, he said as he suddenly shined his light on the walls and ceiling of the cave. The light beam stopped at various places along the way. “See that?” “That is an elephant and that is his trunk” or “That is a profile of a Maroon woman” and more and more as his suggestion of what we were viewing began to crystallize in our mind’s eye.
I decided to hand Alton my camera and asked him to take a few pictures as he saw fit. With only a few instructions, he unveiled an artistic side and took some fabulous pictures. “Let’s have a group picture” he ordered as he used his hand signals to group us together. Dr. Scott led us through the laborynth of openings framed by stalactites and stalagmites and water-worn channels. “See that opening there?” he said as he illuminated an opening. “That cave leads about 2 miles down to a neighboring town.” “Slaves used to escape capture by traversing this particular trail.” The caverns were very nicely backlit with electric lights put in strategic locations along the way. We kept passing by openings that led to other chambers that Dr. Scott would advise we would explore on our way out. We entered a chamber where a 3-man Mento band was crouching in silence. Dr. Scott asked them to play us a couple of tunes.
The man on the left was beating a section of bamboo like a drum with a stick and the lady on the right was rhythmically playing a set of stalactites like a marimba! The effect was beautiful and moving! We tipped them for their time and moved around the corner to a chamber that contained a small pool. Dr. Scott told us to get in the water for a real treat. I was first to get in the water. While I was getting settled in a nice spot, Dr. Scott continued to shine the flashlight around the chamber illuminating the animal and human shapes that the shadow of the light helped to highlight. He explained that this was a cold mineral spring and that the waters had healing properties. I was starting to feel better and better as each moment passed! I was feeling very happy that we had followed Shereth’s advice to come to this very special place!
The current was just enough that I had a little difficulty reclining across the flow while putting my head into a naturally eroded bowl-shaped indentation in the wall of the pool to relax. Finally, with a little help from Shereth I was in a sort of equilibrium with all the forces of nature and feeling as one with my surroundings. I must have been reclining there for twenty minutes or so when Dr. Scott’s voice entered my semi-conscious state. “Bill, come over here”, he gestured as he stood at the entrance of a small cave opening. Dutifully I responded by pulling myself across the pool’s outcroppings until I was next to him.
I glanced into the opening and saw that there was no way I could follow him into such a tight passageway. “Face away from me Bill and float on your back!” he commanded in a low voice. His control over me was complete and I had decided not to put up any resistance to his lead, as I was confident in his decision-making ability. I felt his hands on my shoulders as he pushed me deeper into the water until only my head was above water and carefully he pulled me deeper into the opening. “Turn a little sideways to your right” and “Tilt your head a little to the left” later and suddenly I was afloat in a dark chamber appropriately called the “Meditation Chamber” where Dr. Scott guided me to a seat on a rock outcropping and then left me alone with my thoughts.
At first I tried to be funny and began hooting like an apparition to a smattering of giggles from the distant chamber but soon I just closed my eyes and enjoyed the moment. Those moments became minutes and nearly an hour later Dr. Scott suddenly re-emerged from seemingly out of nowhere and grabbed my right calf and ankle. Shereth had told Dr. Scott about my circulation and pain problem in that appendage so I just relaxed as his kneading fingers and soothing touch do it’s magic. I will not exaggerate and say that I was miraculously cured but I honestly feel the combination of the chilly water and the stimulation of the tissues together resulted in a reduction of the ever-present swelling and aching pain. Next it was Mary’s turn as Dr. Scott eased me back through the opening and back into my rock-shaped pillow.
About a half hour or so later, Mary emerged from the opening and Dr. Scott was calling Shereth for her treatment. Now Shereth, like a good percentage of Jamaicans, is not a swimmer so to allow herself to be taken backwards into the chamber was a real leap of faith. She dutifully followed Dr. Scott’s lead and instructions but, a few minutes after entering the Meditation Chamber, she was asking to come out into the pool. We got out of the pool and toweled off before Dr. Scott began to lead us back towards the caverns we had passed on the way in and promised we would explore later. Nearing the entrance stairway, Dr. Scott led us into a final cavern. The opening was so low that it required me to get down on the ground and scoot my way under the rock overhang. We emerged into a cavern with a large pool Dr. Scott said was nearly 200 feet deep. He asked if we wanted to swim one last time and I couldn’t resist and emphatic, “YES!” I climbed down the steep iron-piped ladder and stood on the partially submerged bottom step before diving into the beautiful water. Mary was right behind me! We knew that the caving adventure was ending so we took our time swimming in this last vestige of tranquility!
Sadly, we climbed the steps out through the gated opening into the natural sunlight. I really didn’t know what I was feeling but I did understand on some level that this was a special place and that somehow I will forever be connected to the place, the people and the feeling. I have been in the caves in Catadupa, Nonesuch in Port Antonio, Wondrus outside Elderslie and the Green Grotto Caves and all were very nice in their own way but this place was on another level completely. Dr. Scott was part of the reason I feel that way and of that, I am sure. We gathered at the top of the path and waited while everyone put on street shoes and packed away their wet clothes and towels. Suddenly Dr. Scott touched my shoulder and asked to have my picture taken with him and for me to send it when I got back. I was honored and told him it would be my pleasure and honor to do so.
The view on the way down was nothing short of spectacular! We took our time and Dr. Scott pointed out this plant and that herb and generally described the area and the history that brought it all together. Shereth collects herbs and plants wherever she goes so she was in heaven with all the varieties that lived within a few feet of the path. This was a fitting end to an Adventure Tour. I couldn’t absorb enough of Dr. Scott’s stories and knowledge so I know I will be back soon for another healing session!
We took our time in the light rain driving through the countryside going into Savanna La Mar for a Juicy Patty or two for our lunch. We decided not to eat a big meal somewhere that evening and to get our regular Jamaican Breakfast at Alfred’s before leaving for Irie Rest in Billy’s Bay, Treasure Beach.
When we returned to Whistling Bird, we played a few games of dominoes. Shereth left about 9:00pm to go home to pack, as she would be accompanying us for the next four days as we visited Treasure Beach and Accompong Town. I called my old friend, Eric, in Treasure Beach and made arrangements for him to pick us up at around 11:00am the next morning for our sojourn to the South Coast. I always feel torn between leaving some place I love and the pull that the place I am going to exerts on my wandering soul. I love this place but I love Treasure Beach too! I would love to break Newton’s Law and be in two places at the same time!
Tomorrow we travel!
Alton Headley (Driver} Give him a call at: (876)340-1082 or Email at [email protected]. An excellent Tour Guide.
Tour Guide/Massage Therapist, Dr. Scott Call him at 876-365-6173 for a Special Tour and Massage!
Need help in planning your adventure travel while in Jamaica? Feel free to email me at the following address: [email protected] See other articles written by Bill Evans at: http://www.jamaicans.com/tourist/jletters/index.htm#bill