Jamaican Caving Notes
June 4, 2006
Team: RS Stewart, J Pauel, A Haiduk
Notes: Jan Pauel
Sunday morning, and it’s still overcast and raining. It’s the day after the very tough and exciting excursion into St. Clair Cave, and today Andreas Haiduk, Stefan Stewart and I are off to find Riverhead cave.
It is about a 10 minute drive from the lodging to a small bridge which we parked next to. Stefan parked on the South side of the bridge and Andreas and I on the North side just inside a gate at the start of a seldom used ‘motorable path’. We set off heading West ( I think) walking along the footpath with the still brown, sweet smelling and quite fast moving river on our right. After a couple hundred yards, Andreas and Stefan, both knowledgeable about the general hydrology of the area, begin to discuss our route, and they decide to get closer to the river and follow along the bank, as the path is veering off in another direction. The river bank is 3-4 feet high above the water level, and is covered with thick vegetation. So we are quickly forced down into the river.
Now, all clothes, boots, and backpacks are still wet from the day before wading through the same river not too far away, so it’s no big deal, but today it feels a lot colder. Also, this section is a lot deeper - waist deep at the bank, so it’s also a little calmer. The footing is a little easier, and we plod along very slowly stepping over and around fallen trees and rocks. We stick as close to the bank, as it’s over chest deep in the middle, and continue like this for at least 15 minutes.
The river gets slightly wider in places, and has quite a roar to it up ahead. We soon come upon what looks to me like a man made raised concrete ‘canal’ running along the bank on the opposite side from us. I wondered if there was an old Plantation Great house nearby that had built this structure a long time ago to harness the water for the property. The land on that side is somewhat cleared for farming, but not on a large commercial scale; it appeared to be small farmers just planting various crops for food.
The roaring sounded like a waterfall and got progressively louder as we pushed on, and the river widened a bit and became shallower. We crossed over to the side with the canal, and were able to walk along it for a little bit.
Finally, it came to a sharp ninety degree bend to the right, and as soon as we turned the corner a most beautiful sight beheld us. A cave opening at the base of cliff, about 30 ft wide and maybe 15 feet high. Water was gushing out of the mouth, and this was the source of the river we’d been wading in.
It looked somewhat too orderly though. As we got up to it, we could see that there was indeed man made infrastructure at the very base of the entrance, a dam someone said, and the remains to one side of what used to be the origin of the mysterious canal. The roar from the water was very loud, indeed, amplified by the cave behind it. We walked up to the entrance and stood on the wall looking around and marveling at the sight and sound.
Just inside the entrance was a steep slope climbing up about 30 - 40 feet, strewn with small boulders and silt/mud. This seemed to be where the curve of the river left deposits. Continuing inwards, the water made a turn into a passage where it got dark.
We climbed up the steep slope to see if it had any exits, but it didn’t. It was quite treacherous walking there too, very slippery. We could smell the familiar sweetness as at St. Clair, and after I pushed a few yards into the passage, Stefan called me back saying we weren’t going to push it with the heavy flow of water in there, and the chance of running into foul air again.
So, we stood at the entrance and took some photos and discussed the origin of the water. The outside of the cave is littered with numerous Rose Apple and Star Apple fruit trees.
With no further exploration possible that day, we decided to push on to the area that was the source for all this water - Worthy Park, and the three caves there.
On the return, we decided to walk along on top of the ‘canal’ and were very perplexed to see that it had barriers built into it, as if it were making small adjacent pools in the trench?? No explanations for this.
We walked along this wall for about 20 yards, before overgrowth covered it completely, and so we climbed up the bank to find ourselves on a trail which led us back to the car park area! We could’ve walked from where we parked the cars. So next time no river trekking.
A pleasant walk back to the cars followed. The rain was still falling but the sun was trying to peek out, and it made the walk very pleasant as we passed through patches of citrus; guava; cassava; coffee and the usual yams and bananas. The conversation was upbeat but there was no sign of any people. The wise farmers know better than to be out in weather like this. After about 20 minutes we reached the cars, and loaded up to head off to our next cave.
I look forward to returning there in the dry season, when hopefully the river will be calm if not dry, and we may explore the cave with no worries about drowning or breathing dangerous air.
Will tell you all about it then.
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