November 28, 2007
For Les’ birthday weekend we all rented some dirt bikes – Yamaha 225’s for a weekend full of exploration on and off-road. That weekend would include a short trip to Little Bay and a long trip, to an “Aqua Park” newly opened at Venture River.
Saturday morning we jumped on the bikes and headed out to this “new” find located somewhere between Roaring River and Mayfield Falls. That day we rode on the road. We headed out West End Road and stopped briefly for a chat and tour with our friend Juve at the place he care-takes – Tingalaya. Juve always takes great pride in showing us what’s been done on the property.
The seaside is all groomed and gardened with some nice beach area and this great sea-pool – you sit in the pool that is filled by sea water and is perched practically in the sea itself. We move over to the other side of the property and take a look at the new Great House – beautifully done, large with a huge bathroom that is elegantly tiled. Juve’s pride and joy though is his garden – he grows cabbage – LOTS of cabbage, as well as Sorrel, cucumbers, tomatoes and calalloo. The property is abundant with all kinds of lush and cool plants and flowers, it’s quite beautiful.
We zipped out West End Road and head out the back way to avoid as much traffic as possible – through Revival, Orange Hill and joining the Sav Road at the Ice Factory. Riding through traffic, through Sav La Mar and beyond is a little white knuckling but we made it through without incident. When we turn off and head into the hills I know we are approaching river country – the smell in the air is different and the cane fields surrounded us on both sides. The countryside alternates between cane fields and neatly manicured lawns, donkey carts trot beside us and folks are doing their day-to-day. We rambled along eventually finding the road that leads us to “Steve’s Place” on the Venture River.
Bill and Elmer turned Ron and Peg on to this place and they were there when we got there. One of the lovely things about hanging out with expats is they truly come up with the most off the beaten path stuff to do. Venture River was a well-kept secret and at that point hardly any tourists knew about it. Steve was our host and greeted us – we got off the bikes and took a walk around the property a bit. His place is right at the river’s head – fresh, clear and abundant water is gushing out the side of a mountain – it’s brand new water and it’s crystal clear. He’s got a big piece of property that has been in his family for generations – he showed us the house his grandfather built. He’s got some horses, a bunch of pineapple plants and rolling green lawns. The water development agency leases some of his land and has run pipes and fenced off part of the river to bring its water into the surrounding communities. He’s got a lovely dammed off area that serves as a swimming hole. I sat on the edge and put my feet in the cool clear water and hundreds of Mullets surrounded me! Steve threw some cheese doodles in and those fish are literally jumping out of the water to eat them. He then tells us that we have about another 10 minutes to enjoy this part of the river but then a baptism will be taking place.
A baptism? Really? Now, I’ve never seen one of these and I asked Steve if it would be ok to watch and he said sure. I was excited – in my religion coming of age and religious entry involved the cutting off of body parts and the memorization of ancient scripture and talking in tongues. Getting dunked in a crystal clear river ritually was just fascinating and exciting to me.
We went up to the store at the top of the property and ordered our lunch – fried chicken, ackee and rice. As we are waiting for our food to be prepared the church folks descended down the hill. It was an unbelievable sight – everyone was dressed to the nines – bright and colorful hats and dresses, men in long sleeves and ties…some carry umbrellas to shield themselves from the afternoon sun. It was a proud parade of the faithful from the very young to the very old, walking down to the river to welcome four of their young men to their fold.
They gathered by the river – one of the young men in a yellow shirt got in the water up to his waist, a boy, probably about twelve years old, joined him. Peg & I stood at the other end of the bank so as not to be intrusive – the roar of the river somewhat obscured the sound of the baptism and we were not able to hear the preacher too well. He raised his hand above his head and said something like “in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost”, then covered the young man’s mouth with a towel and dipped him backwards into the glassy waters. The congregation erupts into song – tambourines tapping and this we can hear pretty clearly – praising the Lord, “thank God I’m born again”.
The entire ceremony took no longer than a half-hour – I had chills, I felt completely invigorated by the experience. I was moved almost to tears watching this colorful crowd soulful and sincere songs of faith. There is nothing in this life as beautiful as unadulterated spirituality no matter what form it takes. The air was filled with love and faith – I wanted to shout “Mazel Tov!” with each dunk, but I didn’t. I tried my best to be as much of a fly on the wall as I could. When it was all over the congregation reversed it’s parade, back up the hill, no doubt to enjoy food and drink and celebration. As they are left we bade them farewell and thanked them for letting us share this special moment with them. They are happy to – what better to share than the love of Jesus Christ.
I inhaled my chicken and ackee, it was quite good. After lunch we took a dip finally. The water was cold. Not Pacific Ocean cold but cold enough. I managed to shimmy in, it was not as simple as say getting in the pool at the yard and getting used to the cool water temperature in a moment. Adjustment took a few minutes but the water felt so good. Like I said, this is brand new unspoiled water and no matter where I went in that swimming hole I could clearly see my feet below. The waters in the hills are chock full of minerals too and I got that feeling that on my skin – it was refreshing and tingling and made my skin feel great.
Our day at Venture River would have been wonderful no matter what but that baptism just made the whole thing so special. I was told this rarely happens – and this is one of the things I love about this place – these types of things just happen – you can’t plan it or it gets all screwed up. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time. I felt so lucky to have been on the banks of the Venture River that Saturday, taking it’s waters, enjoying it’s beauty and bearing witness to such a pure and wonderful event.
We rode back – asses on fire. That’s what happens when you take an hour and half ride on a dirt bike. They are built to do shorter rides, preferably in, well, dirt. By the time we got to Negril our butts HURT. We didn’t go straight home, instead we stop by Ivan’s Bar at Catcha Falling Star we know owners and management there; it was new, and wanted to check it out.
It’s a really nice bar, very mellow, beautifully done and appointed. The dinner menu looked great but we didn’t eat there that evening– we were not quite ready for dinner yet. Ivans wins for most comfortable bar seating….the stools are high but you have a place to put your feet and best of all they have nice cushions on them. The drinks are good and not too expensive and the bartender was nice and attentive. One by one different friends arrived; the manager, a friend who is a massage therapist there for an appointment, and a few others to have a drink and take in the scenery. We ended our day with this lovely “expat reunion” in a nice setting over a few cocktails.