|JCO Guidance for Cavers in Jamaica
|PART I - LOGISTICS||PART II - LOCATION||PART III - CAVING||PART IV - CULTURE|
The Jamaican Caves Organisation is an independent non-profit organisation supported by donations, tourism, map sales, and sponsorship. Please visit one of our major sponsors to learn more about Jamaica culture.
Caving in Jamaica can be a magnificent experience or it can be a complete nightmare. On these pages we hope to pass along advice that will make the first outcome more likely. The challenges faced are sometimes of a physical nature, sometimes cultural, often logistical, and very often it can be a challenge just finding the desired cave in the first place.
On this final page we will address Cultural factors involved in Jamaican caving.
Giving respect and getting respect
If you live in Jamaica, you can skip the next part. If not, please continue.
Although many people visit Jamaica and never see anything other than a resort, for you things will be different. You'll get to see the real Jamaica, the one that the resort bunch will never experience. This is a good thing.
If possible, don't stay on the coast; find a good base in the hills. This has two advantages: First, you'll be closer to the caves. Secondly, you'll be away from the riff-raff that congregates outside the hotels waiting to rush any tourists who are bold enough to venture outside of the compound. Many visitors to the island don't realize, that other than hotel employees, they are usually meeting the worst that Jamaica has to offer.
The people who live in the hills of Jamaica are much like rural inhabitants anywhere. They live close to the land and know its ways and rhythms. The pace of life is less frenetic. They say Good Morning and wave if they know you when you pass them. They know the names of the birds and trees and flowers that surround them. All in all, they're great folks to spend time with. In the evenings, after a day of caving, don't be shy, get out and meet them. You won't be robbed or chopped despite what the hoteliers, in hopes of keeping you a money-spending captive, might tell you.
Visitors who are on the island for the first time, those who come from tightly controlled "proper" countries, are sometimes taken aback by the boisterousness and joie de vivre of the Jamaicans they meet. The one sure-fire cure for this is to drop some of your reservedness and let them teach you how they have a good time. This is best done over Red Stripe, with music and dancing, and as long as you drink enough water before you go to sleep to avoid a hangover, will be very rewarding.
Special conditions apply during the day when you're out caving. Don't expect something for nothing. If you ask for information be prepared to offer something in return. This need not be a great amount: cigarettes, a beer or soft drink, a hundred Jamaican dollars, any of these will usually be enough payment. If someone tries to rush you for 20 US$, walk away and ask someone else. An older gentleman will often be your best source for important information but youths can sometimes be knowledgeable and trustworthy.
Be conscious of the fact that at times you will be on private property. Try to get permission to cross people's land or yards when getting to a cave. If they ask for something in return, negotiate but be fair. It will be rare that this will hinder your trek to the cave, but have respect for other people's property in the pursuit of your goal and always ask first if at all possible.
Most of the foregoing has involved your need for respect for the people you meet while caving. As it goes most places, in Jamaica, if you show respect you will get it in return. You will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly they will come to appreciate what you do when they see you sliding down a rope into a dread cave that most of them, like people everywhere, would never consider entering. You might at times have an audience. Make it absolutely clear that rigging and ropes must not be touched, and that no objects should be tossed into the cave. You can consider hiring someone for a small amount to safe-guard things up top for you. This is an especially good idea when removal of a rope from outside will cause you to be trapped. Ropes are very inviting to people who have livestock that needs to be tied up.
Before closing this section, it is important to remind you that even though you might be comparatively poor at home, you will still have much more than many in the hills that you'll meet. Don't give away all of your money in a fit of guilt, or let yourself be constantly rushed like a bumba-clot, but at the same time don't be afraid to buy someone a beer or shot of rum occasionally, especially if they're a friend and you're downing your fifth Red Stripe as they get thirstier and thirstier watching you.
(It must always be remembered that caving is inherently dangerous. Proper precautions can greatly reduce the likelihood of injury or death, but there is a definite risk involved and this cannot be forgotten.)
(Look before you leap.)
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Advisory for Maroon Town
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|Introduction to Jamaican Caves and Sinkholes|