Jamaica, horse swimming and natural highs
Jamaica is one of those islands which steals your heart away – green, lush and beautiful, stunning beaches, wonderful people and amazing food. The last time I was there was about eight years ago, so I was very excited to be given the chance to go back on the second port of call on our Royal Caribbean cruise.
When you arrive in a cruise port, it’s a good idea to have an excursion booked, unless you know the place really well. The last time I rode a horse was in Jamaica, so when someone suggested we choose an excursion that involved horse-riding, I wasn’t overly keen, because at the back of my mind was that awful fear: will I remember how to get on and off? I may be the granddaughter of a jockey, but I’m really not very coordinated.
I needn’t have worried though because the stable lads had steps to help us on and off the horses, and it was like a scene straight out of National Velvet. Or not.
We enjoyed a one-hour trek and a paddle through the sea and I remembered exactly why riding is such good exercise (particularly for the inner thighs, ouch) before changing steeds for the real challenge. Horse swimming.
No, I’m not kidding. The horse is bareback except for a pad, you climb on – no stirrups, only reins – and the horse wades out into the sea and basically, swims. The horses make an unearthly noise as they breathe in a different way when they’re out in the water. I hope they enjoy it, because it’s a very strange sensation to feel their legs moving in the water (you have to put your legs back so they don’t kick you, which feels very unnatural), and to be honest, it was incredibly nerve-wracking. In fact, a few of our party fell off and got a good dunking, but when the instructor tried to get my horse to canter towards the shore I just clung on for dear life, my arms wrapped around my poor horse’s throat – there was no way I was going under. (Unfortunately no photos exist of this particular experience.)
Did I enjoy it? Well, let’s just say it was very different. I’m glad I did it, but it’s not something I’d be in a rush to do again.
Anyway, all, mostly in one piece, after a simple but delicious lunch of jerk chicken, rice and peas we got back into our mini bus for a patois-fuelled trip to Dunn’s River Falls. Irie, mon, or something.
Dunn’s River Falls is absolutely breathtaking – and when we’d visited before we hadn’t had time to climb up the Falls. So it seemed like a good idea. Take it from me though, climbing a waterfall, even when the stones are well worn with footprints, is not easy – it’s slippery and cold and after a while it starts to feel like something you just need to push through to get to the top. And every so often you have to hold hands with anyone near by to stop yourself from falling in and onto the hidden rocks in the water. A good way to make friends with total strangers.
But… it’s totally worth it. I’m not sure whether it was being with a group of friends which gave me the courage and stamina to challenge myself physically, but getting to the top of those 180ft high Falls was completely exhilarating, and as we stood there while the man taking our photo kept splashing us with icy-cold water for a laugh, it really felt as though we’d achieved something. And that we’d burned off some of the calories from the cocktails and steak we’d been consuming all week.
As our mini-bus took us back to Falmouth to board Liberty of the Seas, we sang along to Bob Marley: ‘Don’t worry, ’bout a thing, ‘cos every little thing, is going to be alright.‘ Even with bruised and battered limbs, aching thighs and VERY sore buttocks, it was impossible not to feel incredibly contented and happy – and for that alone, Jamaica, you will always have a special place in my heart.