Saturday, November 19, 2016

Rafting the Rio Grande, Jamaica

This is a Jamaican pastime that Errol Flynn made popular. Rafting of people, that is; the bamboo rafts were already used to ferry bananas from the foothills of the Blue Mountains down the river to the ocean. Our guide was Garfield, a fellow we met in Port Antonio. He grew up alongside the Rio Grande and has been plying its waters for years, so he knew all the history and nature of the area. One particular point of interest for us were the broad, low stone banks that we passed on occasion – apparently the river changes course from one side to the other depending on flow and such. We set out for a morning run, and a beautiful day it was. The river was sometimes a mere couple of feet deep (or less!), and other times deep and sharp-sided. There were some gentle rapids, and sometimes we bumped over the rocks, but it was a mostly smooth ride. We pulled over on one dry bank for a swim and to grab a bite to eat and drink. A man sat beneath a canopy with a cooler of cold drinks. Beneath the trees, a woman had set up an entire wood-burning cooking space with multiple pots. She was just getting started, so we got some dumplings and not a whole lunch. The water was brisk upon entering (it is from the mountains), then delightfully cool as we swam. Back on the water, we continued until signs of civilization appeared: hilltop houses, a bridge at the river mouth. A lovely way to go down river. Of course, what comes down must go back up… We passed several men walking in the shallows up the river, towing empty rafts. Garfield says that this towing back to the starting point is kind of part of the apprenticeship for eventually captaining a raft downstream. A tough slog. All in all, we highly recommend a rafting trip along the Rio Grande.

Captain Garfield

Seats are on a second tier of bamboo so you butt doesn't get wet

Cooking up lunch on a wood-burning fire

Steep rocky shelves in the deep portion of the river

End of the rafting line at the river's mouth

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