As you’re river rafting silently, you sigh with content. There are only a few more enjoyable ways to spend a day in Port Antonio than river rafting on the Rio Grande with Onestop Vacations. Sitting back on the 30-foot raft’s single seat, you feel the stress fall away, while the quiet natural beauty of the surroundings uplifts you. Low-hanging bamboos cast a dappled shade over the river, and the only sounds are birds chirping in the trees and critters scurrying around in the undergrowth.
You meander downstream swiftly yet soundlessly past ever-changing scenery. One moment you’re in the midst of thick, impenetrable rain forest, where vines appear to hang down from the heavens, tree trunks are covered by a tangle of creepers, and plants have leaves so large and so green you wonder if they can be real. The next moment, the vegetation has thinned out and you’re passing banana and mango plantations and working farms. The bamboo raft you’re traveling on was once the preferred mode of transport for moving agricultural produce down to the coast.
Seated toward the rear of the raft, you watch your guide standing at the bow. Rhythmically, he bends his knees as he digs his pole firmly into the river bed, and in one lithe movement straightens up and pushes away, propelling you gently and smoothly downriver. He turns to you and grins, offering you the pole. It’s your turn to steer the bamboo raft.
You feel a little wobbly to start with, but as your captain regales you with tales of life on the river and teaches you traditional Jamaican proverbs, you stop trying so hard, and fall into an easy rhythm. He takes the helm again to navigate through a series of gentle rapids when suddenly the river widens and seems to slow down. It’s the perfect place to go for a dip. The water is cool after the heat of the midday sun, so you swim out into the middle of the river and then let the current carry you gently back to shore. Refreshed and reinvigorated, you climb back on the raft and carry on downstream.
Rural life on the river proceeds at its gentle pace. Women scrub their laundry against flat rocks in the river, children splash each other in the shallows, and men cast their fishing lines out into the middle of the river, time and again. Rounding a bend in the river, your guide announces there’s a lunch stop up ahead, and steers the raft in towards a gray sand beach. Belinda’s isn’t your average restaurant. It’s little more than a few rustic tables and benches, shaded by palm fronds. Belinda meets you on arrival, and you walk over to peek at her outdoor kitchen. Several large pots sit bubbling over an open fire, the aromas emanating from them making your taste buds tingle. There’s time for one more quick dip in the river before lunch is served. Rice and beans, breadfruit, johnny cakes, and coconut curried crayfish (fresh from the Rio Grande) are all on the menu. The presentation and setting is deceptively simple; the flavors, however, are out of this world. As you savor each mouthful, looking around you at the verdant countryside and enjoying the quality of the silence, you know this is one river rafting adventure you will remember for a very long time.