Rafting down the Rio Grande

23 Feb

Dear Errol Fans,

     I thought I would tell you-all a nice story about a rafting trip myself and my wife Debbie took down the much heralded Rio Grande river in Jamaica. After all, there seems to be lots of pomp, history and romance connected with this excursion, never mind the 'Errol' aspect of it all.

     I want to set a few things straight before we get into the meat of the subject. First of all, Errol did not invent this mode of transportation.(although he resurrected it and brought it back into fashion) The prize goes to Lorenzo Dow Baker who thought it would amuse his guests to see the process that the bananas went through to get from the upper-most reaches of the Mtn. plantations to a point where they could be loaded onto one of Baker's steamships to make the outrageous profits that kept the banana trade flourishing.( there are photos taken of folks rafting down the Rio Grande at the turn of the century)

     On this particular trip, I decided to take Debbie my wife on a lavish trip starting at Negril and ending up at Port Antonio. This trip lasted a month. I wanted to show Debbie 'everything',(since she had never been to JA) so we went from one side of the island to the other. I was not planning to take the rafting trip at the outset because, having 'been there and done that', I thought it was just a little too “touristy”, and being a tourist is like a dirty word in my vocabulary. As usual, I was dead wrong. I had never been on that trip and had my own pre-conceived notions. (wrong again) But when I saw Debbie's enthusiasm about the trip, I gave in.

      Well, first off, it was cheaper than I thought at $35 US Dollars for both of us. Hmm, a good start. We then bundled into the taxi for the ride to Berriedale (which is a short drive from Port Antonio) for the starting point. The ride was breathtaking, with the Blue Mtn's in full regalia and lush jungle just eye-poppingly everywhere. We arrived at Berriedale where there is a dedicated cement staircase over the breakwater on both sides to ease the entry to the rafts. There we were introduced to our boat Capt. (Paul) and after settling in, we were off!

      Now my first mistake was assuming that the trip would be shaded by tropical ferns, plants, etc. WRONG. The tropical vegetation ended at the waters edge and the tropical sun was brutal, especially after being reflected off the water. The stream was calm and cool though and a splash of cooling water was just what the Dr. ordered when it got too hot. You could see where the river was a raging torrent in the rainy season.(Fall and Spring) and downright life-threatening. We went in the winter, and actually spent Christmas in Port Antonio. (The 'dry' season) We were poled to what Errol called 'Lovers lane'(303.jpg) where, as the legend goes, the raft Capt. would take a break and a swim whilst the overheated couple would do their damnedest to make the earth move. Paul poled us around it but I guess the magic just wasn't there, so we continued on.

       Debbie will kill me for revealing this, but about halfway through the trip, she said, “You know, this water is as pure as spring water. I think I'll take a sip” And before I could react, she had done just that. I shuddered to think of the potential 'bugs' in the sip, but I kept quiet. Well, lo and behold, about 5 minutes later, Debbie said, “I feel a little queasy” and then proceeded to projectile 'hurl' over the side. I tried to catch the fast action with my camera, (bastard that I am) but it was all over by then. Even to this day, it is still a touchy subject, and never fails to generate a grin, or more. (from me, that is.)

     The rest of the trip was very scenic and calming, and the overall trip was one not to be overlooked. It took about 2 1/2 Hrs. and I'm glad I did it. If you go there, you would be very much amiss not to take advantage of the experience. I got away with a raging sunburn and a very good memory. Debbie thought she had died and gone to heaven though and still talks about it to this day. I most enjoyed the scenery.

    At the end of the trip, we careened at a stopping off point where the taxi gathered the two hapless sun-burned tourists for the short ride back to the hotel for a brief shower and a long, long nap. Afterwards we look at the photos and Debbie thinks how romantic it was. I think of how sunburned my bald-spot got. Oh well, I never professed to be a romantic.

                             Thank You All,    JOHN

— john


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  1. Anonymous

    February 26, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Hi John;
    You sure have the most interesting stories about Jamaica! You are obviously in love with the place as Errol was and rightly so, it is a very gorgeous island! Keep bringing us these wonderful stories!
    Errol would have loved them too!
    I think it is appropriate to mention that Errol had a very special skill, a great gift of how to describe a scene, a place, a plant or anything he observed. When hearing his descriptions one could feel to be right there with him at any place and see what he is seeing at that present moment. He had the capability to see far more than even a trained eye ever would observe – he had a vision beyond!