I want to hold your hand

Have you ever had to depend on a stranger? Like really put your life in the hands of someone you don’t know at all? I don’t make a habit of it, but every once in a while there is an instance where it’s required.

I went to Jamaica in 2010 on a cruise with my company. My mom was my travel buddy because my husband was in a wedding. We stopped at a few destinations on that 7-day cruise, but Jamaica was the only one were we desired to venture out on an excursion. When I’m on vacation, I tend to gravitate towards some down time at the beach. Note: To me, there is a difference between “vacation” and “travel.” Vacation means beach time, travel means adventure. Some trips have a healthy balance of both. This was one of those trips.

So every single one of the excursions leaving from the dock in Jamaica the day we were in port all ended up at Dunn’s River Falls at one point or another during the day. Our particular excursion- that is to say, the one we ended up purchasing- went first to a plantation in Jamaica, where we were able to learn about and sample the crops, as well as tour the Great House. Then we went on to a Jamaican buffet- complete with the infamous Jerk Chicken- and then alas, we ended our afternoon at Dunn’s River Falls.

Now when I originally read about all the excursions and realized that most of the excursions went to this location, I figured that it was one of those tourist ‘must see’s’ and we would be able to climb some rocks and be done with it. Maybe take a dip if it was hot enough… but truly, it’s never that hot for me.

I don’t like the water. I’m not even really one for a swimming pool. But the ocean or a jungle river- yep, count me out thanks. I’ll pass.

When we purchased our excursion and they told us that water shoes were recommended… even then I thought that perhaps they were just covering their bases. They didn’t want us to get hurt romping around in the water. I did not anticipate getting that wet, I honestly thought it was more of a hike than a water activity. You’ve hiked to a waterfall before, right? That doesn’t ever mean that you’re IN the waterfall or that you MUST go swimming.

When we got off the bus on Wednesday in Jamaica, I still had no idea as to what I had gotten myself into. When the old, German man in front of me took off both his shorts AND his underwear AND THEN bent down to pull up his swim shorts, exposing not only his bare behind but also his… well, it was his ball sack- I’m just not sure how else to say it- only then did I realize that this might not be what I thought it was going to be

We all got wrist bands as we headed into the “Dunn’s River Fall’s Park”. They asked us to get into two lines… those who were climbing the falls and those who were not. Of course I was going to climb the falls. What else was there? At this point I was beginning to wonder if this was some sort of seriously advanced hike… I mean, wrist bands?? I still wasn’t really thinking we’d be wet, I was now just more intimidated by the potentially treacherous climb.

Readers, the line of people forming in the ‘don’t want to climb’ line was a little unnerving. Did I miss a paragraph in the brochure?

So we headed into the park, and those of us who were climbing the falls headed down this winding path down and down and down. Farther and farther away from the parking lot and deeper into the jungle. And all the while I could hear the sounds of rushing water. I couldn’t see it… but I was painfully aware of it. Water. So much water.

Once at the bottom of the winding cement path, we were introduced to our guide. He was a very enthusiastic gentleman. A very enthusiastic and very WET gentleman.

Son of a bee-sting.

He led us even farther still… all the way out into the dang ocean. Knee deep in the warm, Caribbean sea I began to worry. What was about to happen to me? I mean, by that point I could see the tail end of what I could tell was an enormous water fall coming down the rocks and emptying into the ocean, but certainly there was no way of climbing up it. I mean, clearly that was a death sentence. Who climbs UP a water fall?

But climb we did. Right up the front. Just like they said we would. I just couldn’t believe what was happening…

Our guide told us all to join hands. I grabbed my mom’s hand no problem, but the guy standing next to me was the very same German man whose balls I had just seen only 15 minutes earlier. I was a little less willing to grab onto him. But alas, the guides insisted. And the guides were quite frankly, a little too chipper for the impending doom that I could hear right around the corner.

So off we went, hand in hand… one long line of about 20 unstable tourists from all around the world. And we were all headed towards the sound… towards the water… towards a very unique experience.

At first I didn’t have a lot of time to realize what was happening. The line was moving forward and we had no choice but to continue along with them- we were all linked after all- but that didn’t help my anxiety. As we began to climb I noticed that we seemed to be moving away from deep water, and mostly sticking to wet rocks where the water had found it’s way around, but that didn’t last long. Before I knew it, I was placing my foot in the center of a jet of water rushing past me, challenging my footing. Water shoes… yea, would have been a good call. My converses weren’t exactly what they had in mind I’m guessing. It was all I could do to keep my foot planted on the rocks, let alone keep my hands in the grasp of someone else.

But you know what…

The people above me pulled me up before I even had the chance to fall… and the people below me were there when I began to falter there way. We were absolutely a co-dependent chain, and I couldn’t have made my way without the help of both my mom, who I knew, and the German man with the balls, who I didn’t.

It was truly an amazing team building activity. It’s really profound how when your life is hanging in the balance you’re really more willing to bond with a stranger, even if they don’t speak your language. Danger is universal.

Before we knew it, my mom and I were laughing, and climbing and although I don’t know when it happened… we didn’t need the help of the guy in front of us all the time anymore. But when we were about to fall… it was there; that helping hand. Just out of no where, someone would grab my elbow and prevent a wipe out. Parallel to God? Yea, I’ll go with you on that one.

And after 960 feet, we were in fact wet. At points we were chest deep in water. I even slid down a rock into a pool if you can believe that.

I know that picture makes it look totally un-scary, but trust me… it was terrible when it was happening. Sure my head stayed dry, but that’s hardly the measure of terror. And no, I’m not in that picture so don’t get confused.

Needless to say… my mother and I climbed the front of a 960 foot water fall… right up the face of it. I can’t say that I overcame my fear of the water that day, but I will say that covered a lot of ground in the direction of trust. In a world where we lock our doors and don’t know our neighbors, it’s refreshing- and not just because of the water- to participate in an activity where you’re really dependent upon the other humans you share the planet with. And even though this was years ago now, it is still a strange glimmer of hope in my memory. It reminds me that people are largely good, and willing to help you, even when you don’t know you need it.

Even if they don’t have normal privacy boundaries.

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