Grenadian River Tubing… OF DEATH!!

This is the “near death” river tubing story… (there may or may not be some embellishment)…

St George’s harbour on the dinghy ride to Customs.

First of all, Grenada is proving to be a WONDERFUL place, for many reasons.

1) We are south of the hurricane zone! Yes, I know hurricane season is nearly over, but every day I do the happy-dance that we don’t have to dodge another stupid storm any time soon.
2) Because Grenada is out of the hurricane zone, there is a very lively cruising (boating) community here, all year long. Cruising in the hurricane zone during the season, as we have found out, is a bit lonely. Not only are there very few cruising vessels tempting fate like we do, but many of the businesses simply shut down for 6-8 weeks. In some ways this is lovely, having entire bays and beaches to ourselves. But it also means our cultural explorations on land are more limited, and the chance to meet new people is slim. It is fabulous to be in a place that has multiple events, in multiple locations, every day.
3) GRENADA IS SO GREEN!! I am certain this excites me far more than it does Butch, but he likes that I like it, so there’s that.
4) There is a LOT to explore on land. Mountains, waterfalls, rivers, chocolate factories, rum distilleries, we have SO much to see!
5) There seems to be a lot better infrastructure here than on many of the islands we’ve visited. We have explored only about 1/4 of the island so far, but that is definitely my impression. Not to say we haven’t loved many of the islands with less than awesome infrastructure, but it is nice to drive for 30 minutes and not have your fillings rattled loose from the potholes.
6) “It’s really just the vibe of the thing.” We really dig it here.

Moss everywhere, just like Oregon <3
I think this is a begonia, the bush was huge.
Giant timber bamboo. Eat your heart out, Steve!

A lively cruising community usually includes a cool information service called “The Cruisers Net”, and the one here in Grenada does not disappoint. All boaters have VHF radios, and use them to contact other boaters, and businesses on land. The Cruisers Net here is every morning at 7:30, when a volunteer boater hosts on VHF Channel 66, and we get all kinds of excellent info. Weather, arriving, and departing vessels, parts and services, local business specials like where to dine and drink, and daily activities, like yoga or boot camp on the beach. It is really cool.

Our first Grenadian beach party!

Listening to the net one morning, a few days after we arrived, Shade Man (one of the local cab drivers who caters to cruisers) announced a river tubing excursion in a few days, and we jumped right on it.

Tubing day arrived, and I was so excited I actually had trouble sleeping the night before. We did the coffee thing, donned the swimmers, packed a dry-bag with essentials, and took Killer to our pick up location. I think we had a total of about 11 of us for this little adventure, so we got to know those sitting near us, as the little van climbed up into the Grenadian rainforest. (By the way, THERE ARE MONKEYS HERE!! We actually saw one on the drive up!) We arrived at the tubing put-in location, then were told the river was way too high, too fast, and too full of debris because of the recent heavy rainfall we’ve had. There was some disappointment (and ponderings, like, “why did we not know this before we drove all the way up?”), but the little restaurant had already prepared lunch for us, so we all stayed to eat, and chatted about an alternative activity we could do. All but two decided it would be fun to do the hike to the Seven Sisters Waterfalls.

Our chocolate river, complete with rapids!

The two who didn’t join us had already done the Seven Sisters hike before, and let us know it was definitely worth the trip, and they parted ways once we arrived at the falls trail. Being in a rainforest during the rainy season is indeed wet. And muddy. A few of us definitely had on less than optimal shoes for the occasion, mine being Toms knockoffs I got at Target the last time we were in the US. I almost lost a shoe to the mud several times. It was about a 45 minute hike all the way in, with steep inclines, and declines, and plenty of slippery rocks. And mud. Did I mention the mud? We all made it in one piece, even the two adventuresome kiddos (nine year old Zoe and her seven year old brother Jackson) did an amazing job getting there. Rainforests are steamy, too, so most of us were dripping from sweat and eagerly got into the big pool to cool off. For most of us, this was the coolest water we had been submerged in for a very long time, and it felt fabulous!

Two of the falls at Seven Sisters. We were told we could hike to see more.
The cool pool.

Once we were all refreshed, one of the couples wanted to do the next-level hike to the upper falls. About 5 of us decided to go for it, me being one, and Butch happy to slowly make his way back to the trail head with the others, along with a group of women from Chicago who had made it to the falls ahead of us.

Crazy vertical climb on tree roots.

This next part of the hike was pretty rough. It started with a near vertical climb up the roots of some trees, before finally becoming a normal hiking incline again. Boy, I thought the first part of the trail was muddy, but this part had mud three times as deep as that. The lost shoe danger definitely increased. After about 30 minutes of vaguely marked, deep mud, steep, slippery trail, we all decided that we should head back so everyone else didn’t have to wait too long for us. We did an about face, and began the long trek back. I’m not sure what distance we covered, but it was about an hour and fifteen minutes each way. I can honestly say I loved every muddy minute of it, and can’t wait to do another. But that isn’t the end of the day’s adventures. Oh no!

Half of the crew, with our fearless leader Shade Man (left), waiting for a pause in the rain.

We finally emerged from the rainforest to find a few of our crew stopped at the little tiki bar waiting for us, and having a refreshing beverage. Butch and his new best friend, Michelle, who was part of the Chicago women’s retreat, were all smiles as we arrived, and let me know I missed seeing a wild monkey and a hummingbird on the trail, and they were petting an adorable little kitten they made friends with, too. As we all climbed the last hill to the trail head, it started to rain. At the top, it began to rain a lot! We all stood under a little shelter, intending to wait for it to let up a bit, before heading to the van. Shade Man had managed to keep completely dry so far, and he was determined to keep it that way. Finally, after about 15 minutes of a full deluge, it lets up just a bit, and we make a break for the van. Off we go, down the windy mountain road. But wait, what is that? I look out to see a river flowing across the road that hadn’t been there before. It was precisely the kind of flash flooding the Weather Channel always scolds foolish people for driving through. Shade Man didn’t even hesitate, he went for it! We got smack into the middle of the flow, then the van died and wouldn’t restart.

My view out of the window of the stalled van.

We were looking out the window, all of us realizing we were in the middle of rushing floodwaters, and it seemed to be growing. Though everyone in the van did a fabulous job of jumping into action and keeping it all lighthearted for the sake of the two kiddos onboard, I am sure we were all thinking the same thing… “OH SHIT, OH SHIT, OH SHIT!!” In fact, Jeff, who was sitting in the front with Shade Man, said that’s exactly what Shade Man was not only thinking, but saying!

We slid open the van door and the water was already over the step. Most of the adults got out to push, so we could get the van out of the flow. It took a couple of tries, since we were on an incline, but we managed to get the van out of harm’s way. We found out later that our first attempt didn’t work because there was a huge tree trunk across the front wheels. Two of our fellow adventurers had to yank that out of the way first. After many sighs of relief, now safely through the river of death, Shade Man managed to get the van started again, we all cheered, and piled back in the van.

Butch with a sprig of bamboo that had washed into the van during the near-death part of the ride.

Soon, we reached another flash flood rushing over the road in front of us. This time, Shade Man decided to let a couple of other cars try to cross it first, and see how they did. They emerged unscathed, so we followed suit, though much more cautiously than the first time. It was fascinating seeing just how crazy that rain was on such steep mountainsides on the rest of the drive down. Most of the roads are built with a deep trench on one side to try to funnel the water safely off of the roads. I think they work well most of the time, but this amount of rain is just impossible to keep up with. Once we finally got to our first drop off point, we all noticed a “hot” smell, and Shade Man let us know we’d overheated the van, and should all go into the Yacht Club to enjoy a beer while it cooled down.

The second flash flood we had to plow through.

I must say, boaters are pretty awesome people. Not only did we all laugh our way through this crazy adventure, we also made a lot of new friends that day. I think my favorite moment was our new friend Jackson (he’s 7 years old) yelling “FULL SPEED AHEAD!!” when we paused to consider the second flood. I think he may be my spirit animal.

Mr. “Full Speed Ahead” Jackson, and Mom, Jenn.

We still haven’t done any actual tubing yet, as the rains keep coming, but I look forward to another Shade Man adventure soon with some other adventurous souls!

Fierce Zoe, embracing her inner Amazonian Warrior.

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