15 May 2010 Port Antonio, Portland Parrish
This was billed as a Sr. couples getaway and bonding but could have been called the most amazing day of the year. We started at a launch site 8 miles up the Rio Grande river for a float trip down to the Carribean Ocean on rafts made by lashing banboo poles together with a seat for two (that would be E& S Andersen). They are about 25-30 feet long and the seat is about 2/3 of the way back and the captain stands way up front to pole us down the river. The captain makes and owns his own rafts and works as an apprentice for yeaars, has to pass a test to get his license, and then gets a captainship only when another captain dies. The rafts were originally used to transport banannas down river but Errol Flynn thought they would make great pleasure vessels.
The river was clear and cool and the sun was blazing. We dangled our feet in the water and took dozens of pictures.The scenery was high, jungle vegetation covered hills with big boulders along the banks where women were doing their laundry and the children were playing in and out of the water.
About 2/3 of the way down river we pulled onto a bank where a woman had her cook pots set up and had fixed lunch. The trouble was that 6 or 8 sailors had arrived before us and had bought all she had but two plates of food - a little rice with red beans, a couple of small pieces of chicken and some dumplings. She was charming and we took her name in case any of you come to visit we can phone her to make sure she has enough. Her name is Belinda and every morning she walks from her home, over the mountain, wades across the river all with her supplies on her head and sets up her "cafe". She stores her pots and utensils under a tarp in the jungle.
After the float we had watermelon and then off to a once in a lifetime experience. Bro and Sis Bradley, the couple from Ocho Rios, had arranged for us to meet with a man from their branch who is a trusted and beloved friend of the Maroon people. (I'll explain later) Chris was a Danish army officer, attached to the American Embassy in Copenhagen where he met an American/Jamican woman. They fell in love , married, and had a baby but she longed to go back to Jamaica to the warmth and light.
Chris eventually became involved in community affairs and politics. That is where her became acquainted and involved with the Maroon people. The Maroons were Spanish slaves, left behing when the Brits conquered the Spanairds. and they (the Maroons) escaped into the hills. For years they harassed the Brits who wanted them for their own slaves and killed many, many British soldiers. (Look up Jamaican Maroons on the internet for the full story. It is fascinating.) The Brits finally called for a truce and the Maroons ended up with all the land in the hills where they had lived and fought for years, tax free. They had their own governance, their own schools, their own militia. They live pretty much apart but do sent representatives to government councils.
Chris had arranged for us to go into their main village, Mooretown, and meet their commander-in-chief. He and others were delighted to see Chris and their leader was so gracious. He stood in the street and told us the history of his people and then answered questions. The ride up in a 12 passenger van was absolutely hair-raising. Nothing much more than a goat trail, really. Up and down steep, deeply rutted, water filled roads . But the whole experience was one that so few people would ever get to have and Chris was so very delightful. Some years back Errol Flynn's widow had retained him for some business affairs and he said the only trouble was that he, himself, looked so much like Errol Flynn that it was confusing for many people. (See the last picture.)
Just a quick explanation of the following picutres. 1. All of the sr. couples on the island ready for our float trip. As soon as we were on our rafts we shed the life jackets. 2. River view. 3. Going through Lover's Lane. 4. Belinda, our lunch provider. 5. This is out of sequence - this is actually a view of the river from the van on the way to Mooretown. 6. The Mooretown cemetary. 7. The village. 8. A picture of Nanny Maroon painted on the side of the library. (See internet) 9. Jack beside a picture painted on the side of the school. 9. Fran with the colonel (never was told his name) and Chris.