A Jamaican jungle adventure! – GUEST POST
This week's guest post comes to you from Janiel Green, the creative behind 'Gypsy Soul Adventure'. A fantastic blog focusing on stripping your fears and insecurities in order to have not only the best travel experiences, but the best life. In this post she retells the story of her trip trekking through the Jamaican Jungle and how it opened her eyes. For more great content hit the link above to visit her blog!
Before going on my cruise, I specifically asked my friend Patricia if we could choose islands that I have never been to before. I wanted to get as many pins on my world map as I could so that when my friends came over I'd get a surge of dopamine hearing them exclaim, "Wow! Look at all the places you have been! I'm so jealous" Then I would smile with an air of pride & respond, "Yeah, I have been really lucky to travel to THAT many places" It wasn't that I wanted to make them feel smaller for my having traveled so much, but more because I have my own insecurities about SEVERAL different things that seem to constantly hold me back. So to get this type of response from visitors is a powerful rush & makes me feel like one of the cool kids.
Jamaica changed me. I am not one who likes to follow the herd. I wanted a unique and private adventure where Patricia and I could bond, enjoy nature and take lots of cool pictures.
We met up with Carolyn, from Barrett Adventures the companies tag line "off the beaten path" caught my eye, that was exactly the type of trip I was after. I LOVED this, her, and the adventures she had in store for us. So I talked with Patricia who was very hesitant in doing anything that didn't involve an overly priced shore excursion with 80 other people photo bombing you throughout your expensive trip. Through my negotiating powers and alot of begging she agreed to go with Barret Adventures but said I would be held personally responsible by her husband if anything should happen to her. She said she was only half joking (insert large gulp)
When we got to Jamaica Carolyn was there waiting for us with a sign and she quickly whisked us away from the main town center ahead of the crowd. We started winding up the hills, were taken through the small beachside towns, and would stop frequently to see the different plants that were so abundant on the island for anyone to eat.
One of my favourites was the Cocoa plant. The sticky outer shell has a slimy texture but is so sweet you think you just ate a piece of candy! and then the slightly powdery bitter center is the chocolate bean itself. It was the part she said next that really got me, "now you see how it has that bitter taste? Think of how much sugar they are actually putting inside chocolate to make it taste so sweet - something to think about".
We continued on our journey, Carolyn told us about how she ended up in Jamaica. She was actually one of the only female divers that was accepted into her diving school. When she told her parents they nearly disowned her and chained her to her bed. But Carolyn's adventurous and strong willed nature propelled her to her life today. She left the East Coast with all its stuffy over cramped buildings and headed to the ocean, where she was a young woman keeping company with... well... roughens of her time. Guys who had more than likely just been released from prison and a diving job was all they could get. She put up a good fight, learned how to swear like a sailor, sail like the best of them, got her own boat and toured around the islands of the Caribbean. She actually met her husband in Jamaica, as a chance meeting. He was so enamored with her that he came to the place where she was staying, knocked on the door and pronounced, "I would like to marry you, and I'm not leaving until you say yes". Well he stayed out there for about a week or so, and Carolyn decided that if he was that determined, why not. So they got hitched and started 'Barrett Adventures' which is now one of the top rated tours on Trip advisor
We came to Mayfield Falls entrance, walked down the slippery entrance, while the locals were just walking down barefoot and fancy free--- literally --- yes this did include exuberant singing and conversations with all the strangers who were walking along the same path. One such fellow decided to befriend me, can't think of his name at the moment because I was kind of crushing on him. Sue me! I have a thing for foreign guys, something about the accent makes me swoon.
He ended up being our guide, and it was so fun! He helped us over the harder spots when we were hiking up the river, then he'd sneak ahead and jump into the water. Having worked at the Trauma 2 Hospital at night I pictured one of the more terrible cases I'd helped with. I was sure that I was going to watch it happen right before my eyes into this shallow riverbed. Well like all magic tricks, and to my shock...wonder....awe....there was no mangled body, he just disappeared below the water & came up smiling like a little kid at our shocked faces. At one point I even joined him. As afraid of heights as I am, I climbed up a precariously built ladder onto a tree that had been cut in half as my landing pad. Patricia was yelling, "BE CAREFUL!" and then, "JUST DO IT!" while laughing the whole time. I was hyperventilating because I'm so scared of heights, well more of what happens after you fall as I have seen the worst of the worse in my day--- but I did it. The feeling of being weightless for about 10 seconds, everyone holds their breath hoping you jumped out far enough to save them from seeing what the inside of your skull looks like, and then the rush of the water as it swallows your toes then legs then shoulders like a hungry boa constrictor; only to emerge victorious & giddy with Adrenaline. Ahhhhh... I love the adrenaline rush, and it is kind of like you won the talent show as everyone claps & laughs. Bonding... isn't it great.
Where are the pictures of this amazing adventure you ask? In a cruel twist of fate my camera battery died about 20 minutes into the trip! Yes you can all groan and cry a little for me, I was devastated! How would everyone know how much fun I had?! Well, as they say the show must go on--- and dare I say that I think I enjoyed my time more than I would have if my camera was in working order. I actually looked around, smelled things, laughed more, stressed less about how I looked & who would notice my rolls and cottage cheese on my legs. Who cares! I think this is when I really started to appreciate that I had a body that was working, I could do the hiking, I could keep up (relatively well) and my memories of connecting with the people I was traveling with actually is what made it all so worth it. We got to Mayfield Falls & we were the only ones there. It was SO BEAUTIFUL with four cascading waterfalls one after the other, gurgling, swirling and spinning like a dance under the bamboo canopy of the Jamaican Jungle with four unlikely people enjoying God's green earth & this hidden gem, off the beaten path.
In order to keep schedule and not be stranded in Jamaica without our passports we quickly moved on to the hike through villages and the Jungle. This is where we met Harry, the mysterious man with the unspoken rough past, standing there in his tank top, phanny pack, shorts that were far to big for him & emblazoned with (what should be the countries official plant) Marijuana leaf. I was a little nervous at first seeing him but as soon as he started speaking I relaxed and his jovial infectious nature & positive vibes just had us all laughing and really enjoying our time.
He took us through the Jungle and pointed out all the plants. There was one plant that when Slavery was present was planted around fields for its ability to close its leaves rapidly at the slightest touch. The plant will remain closed for about 20 minutes so if the slaves tried to run the 'owners' could easily catch them by following the clear path of closed leaves. When I saw this suddenly I became quiet and wanted to cry, I felt a glimmer of how trapped these people had felt, and for so long. The cruelty that humans are capable of against their own species makes the strongest of us cry. People may think this sort of thing doesn't happen today, or are just blind to it, just like they were in that time period. Excusing it as "it's just how it is here" but thank God above for those who had the courage to stop the atrocities that happened on this beautiful island.
We literally bushwhacked our way through thick vines, wound around massive bamboo shoots, went slipping and sliding over the humidity coated palm and banana leaves. We came upon a village where Harry secretly showed us some Marijuana plants, how they grow etc. Being a Physician Assistant I have never actually tried the stuff and I care too much about my license to try it for recreational purposes; but again, I was amazed at how humans fight over this unique leafed plant that only stands about 12 inches tall. I was beginning to feel the weight of how humanity is so backwards.
There is abundance in Jamaica, someone from the States may come to Jamaica and think, "look how poor they are with their tin roofs collecting the unsanitary water from the rain. Look at the terrible life they have" but in reality the people here have more than anything I have experienced within the USA. We may be the greatest nation in military and monetary value but sometimes I feel we traded that for things which have far greater importance. I will leave you to think of your own ideas in that respect.
In the end, this trip humbled me in ways that were very surprising. I realized that i was more selfish than I thought, how much beauty and quality of life is really in the eye of the beholder, how much the media contributes to skewed images of what the 'perfect' life is because of how lucrative commercialism is. I know some may disagree with me but living a life of luxury and showing off my amazing trips all of a sudden became less important. The stories of the people I met, their lives, their hopes, their fears and what drives them to get up everyday are the things that I vowed I would cherish the most from this trip.
Author: Janiel Green. Founder of Gyspy Soul Adventure