Rivers Are The New Beaches

In retrospect, as a child growing up, Rivers and or the various other fishing holes such as Ponds, ‘Lakes’, were off-limits to us, as our parents forbade us, accompanied by the Threat of bodily injury, if we dared to be so bold to accompany the other kids who would sneak off and head for the neighbourhood rivers and ponds, to swim and chill during the summer.

Needless to say, the threats only added to the mystique, and whenever we could my older brother and I, and sometimes my younger sister, would sneak out and venture to the river, where we almost never swam, but would sit at the river’s bank and soak our feet, amuse ourselves by watching the fish scurrying in the water, and or make a splash or two, before we would make our way back home before our parents got wise to our outing.

Rio Grande , Portland

The beauty of those sneaky visits to the river was made that more interesting, due to the fact that invariable, the older boys and the few girls who accompanied them, would ‘run a boat’, and as the boat usually consisted of food that was never served at home, we were always in, as all you had to do back then was contribute a few cents and you were guaranteed at least one Cartwheel Dumpling, and whatever the ‘Salt-thing’ du-jour was.
On the good days, the ‘salt-thing’ could have been salted mackerel, cod, ackee stewed, sans codfish, or even Chicken. Or Beef or Goat from the Butcher’s slaughter house, which was just around the corner, from the river. Can’t remember rice ever being prepared, but I do recall that sometimes there were ‘ground provisions such as Yam, Co-co, Green-bananas, and breadfruit, most of the ‘provision’, I now suspect, were stolen from neighbouring farms to the river. The meal was topped by a ‘wash’, prepared in half of a Zincpan, made with Sour Oranges or Limes, Cool-aid, and Sugar. But there were the Special occasions when one of the braver older boys would literally scamper up a coconut tree, and unload a bunch of Jellies, to do the trick, And as the jelly-water was said to wash the heart, this was always a very special treat.
The funny thing about going to the river to hang back in those Summers was the fact that except for a few of the hardcore ‘delinquents’, like my siblings and I, most of the others who did the same, were also breaking their Parents rules, and so the river visits, became a conspiracy of sorts, as a well-kept secret between the delinquents and the others. So much so, that the delinquents became the guardians of those who were there defying their parents, To the point that they would chase away other would-be swimmers, that they suspected would have gone on blabbed about the presence of those who were not supposed to be there.
Now, back then, there was no sexual hanky-Pankey involved, no ganja-smoking, and no liquor. Our high was the freshness of being outdoors away from our parents’ supervision and the protocols they brought to bear on our young lives.
Looking back, I don’t think our parents were acting as ‘Kill-Joys’, or were concerned about the influence of the delinquents, we might hook up with, as they were, about our well-being and safety, As indeed, there were always reports of Summer drownings back then.

White River – Ocho Rios

But, those drownings were not confined to the known Rivers and or swimming holes; there were drownings associated with the more posh Summer outings to the North Coast beaches as well.
Now these excursions were the crowning moments of the summers, as Churches, and Schools, would plan and supervise an excursion, to the North Coast, to spots such as Dunns River Beach and Falls; Puerto Seco; Doctor’s Cave, and I recall there was at least one trip to Gunboat beach in Kingston (but that was before Kingston became a bad place overrun by marauding thugs). And another to the Rockfort Mineral Baths.
Now these beach outings were the summer’s treat, as the parents almost never accompanied their children, and lunch and other snacks and drinks were prepared and packed by our parents for our enjoyment, on location. Plus there was the added bonus of some pocket money to cover incidentals along the way or back when the Coaches would stop at Faith’s Pen, and one other popular top, whose name eludes me now. But these Summer beach trips were the very acme of our summer’s fun, entertainment and enjoyment, and we all looked forward to them. And with the parental threat of not being allowed to go, if anyone misbehaved, most of us were on our best behaviour, all summer, leading up to excursion time.


The Lovely Gabi McDowell, Chillin By The River, (River Bueno, Trelawny).


Well this was a ritual in Linstead, back in the day, when the Methodist Church and the late Rose Duncan, would plan and supervise these summer trips that became our reason for living, until one summer, one of my neighbours, a young girl, and a nice girl too, never made it back home, as she drowned, in St. Ann, at a popular beach, that we all had gone to, as our excursion.
Now, this tragedy left the Linstead community, completely traumatised, as the community mourned with her parents and siblings, and it was such s deeply felt loss and tragedy, that Summer Excursions were suspended for at least three years.
Now, during this time when the excursions were suspended, I would routinely save my chores money and monetary gifts from my dad, and head to Ocho Rios and the Beaches of Mallards Beach Hyatt, and Dunns River, most weekends of the summer. This went well for a few weekends until my sister decided that I should not have all the fun, so she too would be coming along. Well, after her first weekend of living the high life, she invited a whole group of her friends to accompany us, on our weekend escapades. And so it kind of became an official thing, sanctioned by our parents, who placed me in charge.
So here I was, instead of being free to lap up the beach and secretly consume the occasional Rum-Punch, I was made into a lifeguard, event planner, transport director and big brother and protector, to my sister and her friends.
And so it was for a number of years, it was all about the beaches of the North Coast, until one Summer, I decided I would join some friends, who said they would be hiking to Blue Mountain Peak, This was a new adventure, but still away from parental control as I would be going with friends from a Church, who would be meeting up with Friends from another Church in Kingston, that included the beautiful back-up singers to David Keane and the Sunshine Singers.
Well, what do you know, my Sister, decided that she would be coming as well, and so, off we went a-hiking, destination Blue Mountains, and this we did for a number of years until we returned to weekending on the beaches of the North Coast, for our Summers.
Fast Forward to adulthood, and today, with most of the beaches we enjoyed as children, having been transformed into gated enclaves, hostile to ‘Natives’, as the hustle is on to get the almighty US Dollar, the pendulum has swung, and beaches are no longer the rave of fun-loving will party at the drop of a hat crowd, The Nation’s Rivers, have become the new beaches, in that they are the go-to places for the thrill-seeking young at heart, who have migrated from the beaches, leaving them to the old-fogeys and overbearing Tourists, Touts, Pimps and Weed-sellers.
Save and except for the orgy of annual high-profile beach parties that caters to the equivalent of lager louts, and middle-class delinquents, who spend a fortune to show how cool and down-to-earth they think they are, the majority of Jamaicans have left the beaches, opting instead to enjoy in the beauty of the nation’s rivers, usually away from the beaten track, and offers some seclusion and party=friendly atmosphere, that is refreshingly absent the stress of the urbanized features of today’s beaches.
The rivers are more family-friendly, picnic-friendly and wholesome as the waters are hydrating instead of dehydrating and the spaces more conducive to conversational discourses, instead of drunken brawls and or ego-centric posturing.
From Port Antonio to Negril, The Rivers are being rediscovered and enjoyed with the gusto of a new Pentecostal convert, by the young and restless; the fashionable and the party-hearty crowd, who are discovering the joys of river lyming, and the camaraderie shared in ‘running a boat’ whilst on the river, and it is making for a fabulous new industry, as the savvy property owners. whose properties encompass rivers are now dressing up their spaces to welcome River-Revellers, and how!
Favoured Rivers: Dunns River Beach and Falls (Ocho Rios)
Little Dunns River (Next Door to Dunns River)
Cranbrook (St. Ann)
Laughing Water( St. Ann) Very Bougie.

White River. (Ocho Rios and St Mary)
Spanish Bridge. (St. Mary)
Rio Nuevo (St. Mary)
Martha Brae (Trelawny)
Rio Bueno (Trelawny)
Castleton (S. Andrew).
Caymanas Estates (St. Catherine).
The Rio Grande (Portland).
YS Falls (St. Elizabeth)

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