TBLTB Presents: Freedom Friday, Chasing Waterfalls edition


Dunn's River Falls, Jamaica
Image by caribb via Flickr

I climbed a waterfall. Yeah, a waterfall.  Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica  is billed as an easy trek, led by a guide, that is a fun activity at any age. It’s 1,000 feet high, in the middle of a forest, and begins at beach level.  Actually, if you’ve ever seen Cocktails or Dr. No then you’ve seen the waterfall I climbed.

It’s basically the only thing to do in Ocho Rios, so my cousin and I signed up to do it on our cruise last week.  Jamaica, I’ll be honest, wasn’t my favorite port of call, but we rode the bus over to the park, dodged our way through vendors, and met up with a guy named Pete Rose (yeah, really).  I’m fairly certain Pete Rose had smoked a joint mere moments before agreeing to take us up the mountain, but I wasn’t sure there was anything I could do about it.  We grouped up with about 15 other people and stored our goods in a locker.  The guide took my camera, I strapped on my watershoes, and we marched down the side of the waterfall to the beach to begin the climb up.

Just looking over the side of the falls worried me.  Human chains were climbing the waterfall slowly, unsteadily.  A lady actually tumbled a few rocks down, and it caught my attention.  Immediately my heart raced and I started to sweat nervously.  I looked at my cousin with the “Seriously?” face.  We had already paid, were already walking…what could we do?  We made it to the beach and the guide began explaining the climb.  “Brown rocks are slick rocks. They’re dangerous.  Watch me, trust the chain”.  All I could do is nod.

We stepped into the water, instantly up to our hips, and began climbing.  The terrain is uneven.  Stepping is difficult, as sometimes you have to take a step off into the unknown and it’s ankle-deep; other times it’s nearly neck-deep.  Within the first five moves, I fell.  I shook it off, but it definitely make me even more uneasy.  Three or four minutes later, one of my shoes broke.  Here I am, in the middle of a human chain about 300 feet up a waterfall in a foreign country with one shoe.

I wanted to quit.  In fact, I didn’t even want to climb this waterfall in the first place, but here I was, with no options to get out.  It was too high and slick to climb down alone, and there are no exits on the sides.  The only way out is up.

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to cry in that panicky way that I used to cry when faced with something I didn’t want to do.  I tried to stir myself up into a frenzy, I looked down to see the height I had reached. I looked up to see what was left. But I couldn’t get myself to panic. There was no one to cry to.  Nobody there was going to coddle me and figure out a way to get me out of the situation.  There wasn’t a way out.  Nobody was there to listen to me complain.  So I decided I would have to be as careful as possible, make the best choices I could, and keep going.

I just kept climbing.  I slipped a thousand times. I fell a lot, but got up as quick as I could to keep the chain from being affected.  The bottom of my foot was hurting, but I kept going. My other shoe broke, too, and I found that more helpful actually.  I was more balanced and I knew what to expect. The rocks definitely hurt my feet, and I have a lot of cuts.  But suddenly I looked and was halfway up the waterfall.  At the midpoint, the guide has you ‘trust fall’ into a pool behind you.  Most everyone was scared to try it, but I went first.  What could be worse than climbing a waterfall barefooted and already having blood knees?  I fell backward to the cheers of my human chain.

It was still a scary experience after the trust fall, and I slipped probably a million more times.  I was more than glad to see the top of that waterfall and can promise you I probably won’t ever climb that thing again.

I am super proud of several things.  First and foremost, I’m proud of myself for even attempting to climb the waterfall with two perfectly good shoes.  That is definitely not something I would have attempted before I lost weight and became more active.  I’m thankful that I am the size and shape I am in that a) I was physically able to climb the falls and b) I was physically able to help myself once I became handicapped with the lost shoes.  Second, I’m proud of myself for not letting myself freak out halfway up.

The old Blonde would have cried.  Screamed.  Pitched a fit.  And for what?  For nothing.  I would have been miserable and still climbing a waterfall.  I would have embarrassed myself and anyone with me with a childish temper tantrum.  I wondered in my head as I was climbing where I got these coping skills.  But after some thought I think I got them when I became single again.  I thought my world was ending, and I did panic.  But I have pulled myself through so much and done so many things that I said I would or could never do.  I am living life without fear and without doubt.  So climbing a waterfall with no shoes was just one more than I had to do, not by choice, but by chance.

See, I’m not sure I would ever choose the hard way to do something.  I’m not sure anyone would.  But how often do we get a choice between the easy way and the hard way? I’m not sure I can recall a situation where I got a choice.  Anyway, my point is this:  Sometimes you get dealt a hard hand.  Sometimes things don’t do your way.  But all you can do is keep climbing.  You have to be careful, you have to  make the best choice you can…and then just hope for the best.  There is no way out and you can’t go back.  You just have to keep going.

I know it’s cheesy, but honestly…I wouldn’t have learned this lesson, nor kept my dignity and sanity in that waterfall situation had I not grown up so much in the past two years.  I’m thankful, really thankful, that I’ve grown up, despite it being the hard way.  I’m free now..to challenge myself, to succeed on my own.  I don’t have to depend on anyone to ‘rescue’ me. I’m strong and capable.  I always was, I just know it for myself now.

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3 thoughts on “TBLTB Presents: Freedom Friday, Chasing Waterfalls edition

  1. When I visited Ocho Rios several years ago my friends wanted me to go with them to climb the falls. My response was not just “No”, but “Hell effing no”. I take vacations to relax, not to risk death or injury (especially on a poverty-stricken third world island with minimal modern medical care). While they were busting their butts climbing the falls I was back at the resort, floating back and forth to the swim-up bar at the pool. I then laughed at my friends complaints of bruises and cuts when they got back, much to their chagrin. But good for you on conquering your fear and sticking it out!

    1. I’m not sure that it was such a great idea, in the end! Resorting-it-up would been a primary choice for me! I still have bruises, cuts, and Jamaican mud in my toes (seriously, I wash them EVERY NIGHT and even a pumice stone won’t make it go away…sigh…)

      Ocho Rios is not a place I’ll likely visit again. Did you visit the Sandals there?

  2. Yep we stayed at the Sandals Grande Ocho Rios. It’s true that Ocho Rios itself is nothing great, but the Sandals Grande was absolutely paradise. We had our own private villa with our own private pool, and if you didn’t feel like going to one of their dozen or so fabulous restaurants on a given night, they would send someone to cook dinner for you out on your balcony at the villa. Now that’s living – and no cuts, bruises, or mud!

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