His hands drew circles around my eyes, kneaded into my cheeks, and sculpted the contours of my face as I relaxed my muscles, falling into the rhythm of his movements.
Before arriving at Bath Fountain, Jamaica, I never knew hot springs existed on a Caribbean island, but walking up the gravel pathway through lime green leaves and bush, I could smell the odor of lush vegetation mixing with Sulphur. I grinned as the scent recalled hot springs in Iceland, bubbling geysers that made me long for hard boiled eggs. Soaking in warm waters, hand gripping a cold beer as I looked out to white snowy vistas, I couldn’t help but love the rotten egg smell so many cannot stomach.
I waded through the cold river in Bath, Jamaica to reach a man with a homemade watering can- a threeish liter plastic bottle cut in half and peppered with holes at the bottom to enable him to scoop water in, then sprinkle it over his waiting customers.
He began by scooping hot spring water in said watering can and showering me with it. He even dunked my towel in the water and placed it over my head, making me look like some sort of purple masked sprite ready to haunt the spring’s residents.
Then, he motioned me over to a human sized flat stone slab, and instructed me to lay down on it. One by one he lifted my legs, pressing into them and rubbing them with oil. It smelled like eucalyptus, and when I asked him what it was, he included that, olive oil, and pimento in its ingredients, but I strongly suspected cooking oil to be among them. Not caring what he kneaded into my calves and thighs, I closed my eyes and breathed in the sharp scent of eucalyptus.
At random times, he would take a pizza dough sized rock and press it on my stomach and legs, flipping it over to climb up my legs. I still don’t really know why he did this, because though it was warm from the spring water, it felt unnecessary, like he just wanted to show he knew stones should accompany a massage. (Should they? I don’t really get stones in massages…)
Anyway, he continued to massage and knead, rub, and spread oil over the surface of my exposed skin. Finishing with my face, he then asked me to sit up. After a final bucketful of hot spring water showered my face and body, my skin felt and smelled new. I rinsed off under a bamboo shower- the only hot shower I’ve taken in Jamaica- and walked back down the path.
Hot springs exist worldwide, but the remote location of this one, enclosed on all sides by bush, and the simple setup of the plastic watering can and water made me appreciate nature’s power to nurture. Sandals has spas at its resorts, I’m sure, but I’d much rather sit in the water I’m seeking, surrounded by palm filtered sun and bubbling brooks, not white washed walls and made-up attendants.
If you want to get away from it all, leave the goose down pillows and never ending margaritas, walk down a path you might trip on, and smell the scents you can never bottle. That’s a getaway!