Climbing the Falls



Continuing Lori's visit to Jamaica — extract




   Joe said he would be our guide up the falls as he had climbed it many times.   Auntie Candi decided that she would not do the climb, but walk along the stairs and take pictures of us. Some of Maya’s friends wanted to join us.

   “No barefoot, and no slippers” Joe warned. “It’s too slippery.” We waited while they went for their sneakers, which he said would be okay. Then, as we had seen other parties doing, about eight of us, boys and girls held hands and formed a human chain, like rock climbers, to go up the steep waterway.

   As I stood at the foot of the falls, staring up at the tumbling, noisy, foaming water I felt a bit afraid. I was holding Joe’s hand, but I remembered the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Since I was always a klutz at sports, I feared I might be that weak link. I would have preferred being last, but Joe insisted. He wanted me near him, just in case.

   “Is it dangerous?” I asked.

   “Not really. But don’t try anything foolish. And that goes for all of you,” he told the rest of our chain. Not that they were noticing him. They were all busy talking and laughing and deciding who would hold whose hands. 

   Climbing was tricky. We had to go along the paths where the water was not rushing down too strongly. It was cold and a bit scary in places. We had to choose each step carefully. Every now and then I slipped and lost hold of Joe’s hand. He helped me to get up and we continued climbing. Sometimes we had to pull strongly to help each other over a tricky patch. It was exciting, but I was glad when we reached a calm area where we could rest in the pool.

   A tourist party was ahead of us, but we were climbing faster than they were, so we overtook them and wove in and out of their long chain. It was a large party with about 30 persons. They had come to the beach by boat and they were having a ball. There was a guy with a camera taking shots of them and he would shout, "How you feeling?” and they would answer very loudly, “Hot! Hot! Hot! It seemed that was how they were expected to answer — meaning they were enjoying themselves.

   While we were still passing them, one of Maya’s friends answered "Wet! Wet! Wet! The tourists laughingly took up that as their response. Then they started to shout different response words like "Cold! Cold! Cold!" and "Hungry! Hungry! Hungry!" They all seemed to find it funny, but I don't think their guide was too happy about it.

   Occasionally, we glimpsed Auntie Candi on the steps which ran beside the falls. She was calling to us, laughing and taking pictures.

We were climbing so fast that by the time we reached the second pool where we could rest, I was quite tired. Maya said that she too was tired, so we decided to end our climb at that point and join Auntie Candi who was looking on from the little pavilion overlooking the water. I guess it must be an exit point for tired climbers as there was a little opening for us to get up the steps to the pavilion.

Maya's friends wanted to continue the climb, so they went and joined the tourist group. Auntie Candi had our bags and I was able to towel dry and put on my tee shirt. Joe left us and returned with some bottled coconut water, which we sat an enjoyed as we watched other climbers going up the falls.

What a day! Nowhere in my nearly thirteen years of life, rooted in a small town, USA could I ever have imagined the kinds of fabulous experiences I was having on this vacation in Jamaica. I smiled as I imagined what my friends back home would say if they could see me now. I was glad Auntie Candi was taking so many pictures, for I know they would not believe me.

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