I grew up in a community close to Roaring River in the parish of Westmoreland but discovered its underground cave when I was in high school. Back then, it was a local secret. Now, it’s a well-known tourist attraction called Roaring River Park.
For long as I can remember, Roaring River has been known as a very close-knit community. Many of the residents have lived there for generations; some are even related. Visitors go because of the series of limestone caves, mineral springs, blue hole and the river, which supplies water for much of the parish. Even during the dry season, a deep green carpet of wildflowers and grass blankets the area.
Roaring River is located on lands that were once part of the Roaring River Estate. Before sugar lost its importance as Westmoreland’s main crop, much of the lands surrounding the community belonged to the West Indies Sugar Company (WISCO), formerly a major employer in the parish. Now that sugar is no longer ‘king,’ many residents earn much of their income by leading tours of the cave, springs and the blue hole.
We traveled to Roaring River a few weekends ago, not to visit the cave or the blue hole but to see a man (Robbie, a relative) about a goat for a friend of the family. As we drove down its narrow dirt road, the only one into and out of Roaring River, we were greeted warmly by everyone we passed.
Once the goat was purchased and was being prepared, we walked down to the river. The water was so crystal clear, we could see the stones at the bottom. We sat at the river’s edge, watching children frolicking in the shallow part. At one point, three young girls, round 8 or 9 years, raced each other to the edge, stripping off their clothes and jumping in, oblivious to the adults, including a young man, around them.
Walking back to the car, a little boy with two buckets, one almost half his size, caught my eye. I looked around but no adults or older children were nearby. He headed to a spring, caught some water in one of his buckets then with it spilling every which way as he struggled to carry it, he plunked it down in front a horse that was tied nearby. Someone said the horse belonged to his father. When he thought the horse had drunk enough, he splashed the rest on its body, to cool him down, I guessed.
As we were loading up to leave, Robbie came running towards us. Don’t leave yet, he said. They’ve gone to get you some bananas and breadfruit. Shortly after, a few of the older children that we had seen, returned with a bunch of bananas and several breadfruit.
Random photos of Roaring River.
I was thrilled to see this Doctor Bird, our National Bird. He flitted from tree to branch while I fumbled with my camera, hoping he’d sit still long enough for me to take the shot. Thankfully, he did.
Wattle-and-daub, an old tradition of building that used to be quite popular in Jamaica, especially in the rural areas. Here the wattle, interwoven wooden strips, has been set up. Later the daub, which could be made either from a paste of soil, animal dung or sand will be applied.
I will post a follow up when I visit the cave and the blue hole again. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the blue hole at Roaring River from YouTube.