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Dunn's River Fall tubing shore excursion Jamaica
Today we were going tubing in Jamaica! We were on a NCL cruise, and having a great time. This was the first shore excursion and we were pretty excited. We met our tour guide in the foyer and were led down the gangplank onto the dock. The sun was shining but it looked ominously cloudy up in the mountains where we were headed. We lined up for the bus which was old and rickety. The tour guide was a local named Jamal who was happy and friendly. He told us interesting facts about the area whilst the bus chugged along through the downtown area until the road got more rugged. (They drive on the left hand side of the road in Jamaica and the roads are small and zigzag this way and that).
The driver swung the bus around curves and bends as though he were wrestling a bull! Oftentimes the roads were barely big enough for one car, and the driver had to toot his horn to warn anyone coming the other way. It was a hair-raising experience! Most of the passengers were gripping their seats white-knuckled, but we thought it was fun. We passed shanty houses made of corrugated roofs leaning up against brick walls, and rows of fresh laundry hung from washing lines tied to trees. We passed beautiful school children in their uniforms; their white teeth shining as they waved and smiled broadly at the occupants in the bus.
The roads narrowed as we began to climb. Up roads, more like dust tracks and round S bends that double back on themselves, revealing breathtaking views of the lush valley below. It grew darker and cooler with each mile as we went higher up the mountain. At last we arrived at the top to find a shanty restaurant, a changing and parking area and some beautiful gardens. We got out of the bus and were shown into the changing area where we had to put on a life-jacket. Four more friendly Jamaican tour guides accompanied our group; they would be tubing down the river with us.
Smiling and joking, the guides led us to the river where the empty tubes were waiting; at this point it was raining heavily. They were huge black inner tires. Jamal showed us how to sit (with your legs over the front of the tire, leaning back with your arms over the sides). We got into the tires and trailed our legs and arms into the cool water. My son James and his friend Mike shivered as the cold water splashed around their legs. “It’s freezing!” they cried. Jamal told us all to hold onto each other’s tube so we didn’t set off without the others. James and Mike tried to grab hold, but the pull of the current was too strong. They hooted with laughter as they began to move quite swiftly down the river. The tubes bobbed this way and that with a mind of their own. “You have to use your hands to steer!” called out one of the tour guides.
Meanwhile the rest of us set of in unison and were having an easy ride.“The rapids are around the next corner so get ready!” the guide warned James and Mike who were ahead. James went first; the waves bobbed him through the boiling rapids and spun his tube around and around. He whooped with laughter as his tube continued to spin. Mike was next. Whoosh! The swirling waves took his tube down into the rapids and catapulted it into the bank where he got caught by his T. shirt on one of the over-hanging branches. He was laughing so hard, he couldn’t move. His tube was pulled off down the river as he was suspended by his t-shirt, with his feet and legs dangling in the water. James looked back and screamed with laughter at Mike caught up in the branches. I obviously was worried how he would get out of this particular predicament. But one of the guides helped him get untangled, gave him his tube and all was well ~ doubled-up with laughter, he set off back down river.
Finally, soaked and exhausted from laughing and steering, we came to the end of the three mile trip and landed with a bump into the small wooden jetty at the side of the river. It was a wonderful experience gently bobbing down the slow parts of the river and then being buffeted by the eddying rapids. There to meet us at the landing was a cheerful Rastafarian wearing a bright red 'island' shirt and large woolly tam; his matted dreadlocks pushed inside. He sang and played his guitar in the rain. When we asked him to remove his tam, his dreadlocks fell to his waist (see photo above). He had no front teeth and bright, laughing eyes. He serenaded us back to the changing area where we had beer and ate burgers and fries. What an experience!