Friday, August 6, 2010

Stay Away From the Caves

Magnet # 311:  Jamaican Landscape

Material:  Resin

Purchased By:  Amy

Jamaica celebrates its Independence Day today, when it was freed from the United Kingdom in 1962.  While Christopher Columbus originally claimed the island for Spain after becoming the first European to land there in 1494, the Spanish were eventually driven out by the British in 1655.  Both nations imported a number of slaves to the area and they eventually outnumbered the Europeans living there.  Thanks in major part to their hard work, the island became a major sugar production center.  But with time, Britain began to ease its hold on Jamaica, although somewhat slowly.  By 1958, it became part of the Federation of the West Indies, a British federation that they were able to leave just four years later when they achieved independence.  Jamaicans celebrate this occasion by throwing parades, including a particularly large one in Kingston, featuring performers in ethnic costume dancing to local music, such as calypso and reggae.  And they'll indulge in traditional cuisines of the island, such as jerk chicken, rice n'peas, and plantain chips.  To top it off, they might even top it off with red stripe rum.  Considering that the Jamaicans are known for their laid-back, party loving attitudes, I imagine they're having quite a bit of fun down there today.

When Anthony Bourdain visited Jamaica on his show No Reservations, I certainly learned plenty about the island, including one place I never want to go there. Bourdain has a habit of trying to avoid the usual tourist destinations and try for a more authentic visit, perhaps in places the locals frequent. And this time, it came back to bite him - hard. He and his crew decided to visit a Jamaican cave during their trip there. I was a little surprised - I had never heard about the caves there. It turned out, there was a good reason why. The trip there was an ordeal through 2 miles of muddy jungle during which they couldn't rest on the ground for fear that parasites might enter their bodies. They also had to cross a flimsy string rope over waters contaminated from a nearby manufacturing plant.  And when they got to the cave, their journey only became worse.  They were told there were more cockroaches in it than they had seen (Bourdain pointed out he is a New Yorker).  And the sludge that covered inches of the cave's floor, making it a slippery mess?  Well, it wasn't mud - it came from the giant, aforementioned cockroaches and bats.  While their guides weren't exactly trained professionals, they gave them ropes to use to climb down, no safety equipment whatsoever.  And as they headed down into the Earth, they curiously got warmer, not cooler.  Apparently, that was thanks to the bats' body heat.  And they never even saw one incredible view during their ordeal, after which they still had to hike to miles back before they could throw away everything they wore at their hotel.  Bourdain has since called it the worst experience of his television career.  And the kicker?  That's supposed to be the best of the Jamaican caves.  Stay away from them - you've been warned!

Jamaica is certainly a popular tourist destination, packed with all sorts of lovely locales, like the one featured on this magnet.  Be smart - stick to the beaches, perhaps with a drink that has an umbrella in it.  And if I ever make it to this island nation where so many people have so much fun, I'll be sure to learn from Bordain's big mistake.


  1. When my wife was in seminary her class took a mission trip to Jamaica. The experience was cut short after the group was robbed of everything they owned by armed bandits. Thankfully my wife had canceled due to illness and avoided the hospitality of that particular island. Eeep!

  2. Well that certainly didn't happen to Bourdain. I'm glad your wife wasn't there when that happened. I guess anybody going there really ought to sitck with the beaches!