People have been asking me, “How was your trip to Jamaica?!?!” I struggle to come up with the proper response. It was much like my trip to New Zealand last year. Fly in and get whisked to a remote location far from the known tourist attractions. Jump into a mad project that, by all standards, should not be doable in the time allowed. Finish it anyhow in time for a quick river trip. And fly home. So I answer, “Awesome.”
Tom had sent me a postcard of a wacky-looking bamboo raft trip years ago. When he asked what I might want to do on my visit, I said I wanted to play with the mosaic stuff and do that goofy trip. Check. Check.
We have Paco pick us up and drive us through a few hours of drizzling rain to the Martha Brae River. It is running high, fast, and orange with run-off from the storm. Could be interesting.
Here is the construction site at the put-in. It needs a few more cross struts to flatten it out, and it needs the chaise lounge for the two passengers.
We are told that due to high run-off, launches have been suspended until a couple guys can raft through and check things out, clear debris, etc. Maybe an hour or two. As a longtime raft guide, this meant to me that they really didn’t know if they should do this, but they hated to turn away any money. Paco advises us against going. Cool. I’m in.
Here are the rules for boatmen. Among them–own at least two rafts, wear your captain’s tee-shirt, and refrain from bad language. Getting as bad as Grand Canyon.
We wait in the bar, which has the following sign posted. Tom points out that a lot of bars have run signs like this for decades. Apparently the Spirit License Authority Session has not happened yet.
The test pod apparently made it down the river. The boatmen prepare to launch. The Martha Brea has dropped a bit and is somewhat less orange by now.
Oh oh. This couple must be a bit too heavy. The raft begins to sink.
The next couple boards the sinker with visible qualms and is dispatched.
You have to pay for a whole raft whether you are a party of one or two. I go solo. Somehow I won the lottery and got the old man of the river. Derik, an aging Rastafarian, who has been guiding raft trips since he was a teenager, is my guide. We bond instantly and trade tales and philosophy.
Food for thought. A wrecked raft wrapped on a rock. Derik assures me it probably got away in the night.
I take it about a mile and hand it back. I could get into this, I tell him. You wouldn’t like the pay, he says, and laughs a big Rasta laugh.
They serve to locally concocted favorite.
Sigh. The journey ends after only about an hour and a half. The boatmen all supplement their income by selling passengers carved calabash cups. Derik inscribes mine and, after a long, smiling handshake, heads into the loading zone.
Just upstream are the last green Mexican fields before the river is sucked dry.
To the north, the Imperial Valley and Salton Sea.
Into Los Angeles, then back to Phoenix where a large sign greets me. Oh boy–it’s gonna be a busy summer at Diamond Creek take-out.