I found myself in the Land of Wood and Water, as the locals call it. I hopped onto a catamaran on the south side of the island that exerted an energy that promised a good time. Music played, drinks were served, even a little dancing happened. –The cupid shuffle is excruciatingly difficult while travelling at twenty knots– I knocked back a few local concoctions, most involving the island favorite, rum, before we came to a stop near a coral reef in the Atlantic.
Snorkeling gear was distributed to each person as we slid down a convenient slide at the stern of the boat. Snorkeling can only be described as the most painful, beautiful, and adventurous experience you can encounter without oxygen tanks. A breath too soon leaves your lungs full of seawater, producing a cough that feels like your lungs are being ripped from your and leave your voice sounding like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade. Dive too deep, and feel the water pressure attempting to crush your skull into oblivion. In between the hacking, headaches, and harsh coral scraping my thighs, my plastic shielded eyes witnessed a marvelous eco-system. Extravagantly bright neon fish dash across my peripherals, a small spotted stingray came to investigate the strange creatures that invaded his home, and plants so vivid it put Planet Earth on Blu-ray to shame. In that moment I truly understood the phrase, no pain, no gain.
Once I made the mile long swim back to the catamaran, the captain scolded us for straying from the guide, but thanked us for returning in a timely manner. Apparently, these natives have the ability to hear underwater, as I can’t recall any instruction other than ‘here’s your mask, have at it, mon.’ I may have missed the instruction in my eagerness to explore the ocean depths as I slid down the waterslide, but who could blame me?
When we had all finally clamored back onto the boat the music began and the party resumed. The catamaran crew started singing along to a rather inappropriate, but hilarious, song about ‘the big bamboo’. You can probably infer that it wasn’t about bamboo. Drinks were poured, joints were lit and everyone was living the dream.
We docked where Dunn’s river met the ocean in a splendiferous waterfall that towered 960 feet and stretched nearly a half-mile. We then, had the glorious experience of climbing this beautiful landscape. Never have I felt something as exhilarating as the water-blinding climb. Sight and hearing were removed from the equation as the deafening water assaulted my eyes. The only sense that mattered was touch. The slippery algae covered rock beneath my feet, or the stream of water bounding across my chest, persistent in its attempt to carry me downstream towards the raging ocean below. The occasional tropic air graced my nostrils, if not submerged by the relentless waves. Fresh water filled my mouth, a pleasant refresher from Poseidon’s saltwater below. For forty-five minutes I climbed this majestic wonder. I struggled. I slipped. I fell into an underwater hole. At one point, I was clenching to a rock with my right hand, the water beat against my body as I hung ten feet above the closest horizontal plane. I began to slip, still blinded by the raging water I threw my left arm out in desperation. Hoping to find a notch in the wall. Instead, I felt my hand clasp with another and with one swift motion I was yanked to the top of the wall. This man, which I can only assume was a superman reincarnate, towered over me wrapped his arm that was the size of my torso around me and smiled.
“That was a close one, man!” he shouted over the fall’s roar. I smiled back and nodded, genuinely thankful for what he had done. We sat there for a few moments taking in the view and waiting for our ladies, who had elected to take the easier route with the tour guide, to reach the top. I felt, alive.
That quarter of an hour will be emblazoned into my memory forever. Assuming I manage to retain memories indefinitely, of course. Although, I think that experience has rooted its way into my genetic code. Perhaps my offspring with have the inherent ability to traverse a waterfall. There was an easier route to climb as with all facets of life, but I hope my child has the ability and courage to climb upon the other side. Not in a sense of manhood or ‘machoness,” and not for the ‘I’m better than you moment,’ but as an experience. After all, what are we but the sum of our experiences? The value of an experience is too grand to settle for mediocrity, and the reward was truly that much sweeter.