Up in the cool cool hills of Jamaica’s St Thomas, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday dirt and grime, just across from the Botanical Gardens, is a magical, mystical place, shrouded in tranquility, where one imagines the flora and fauna have witnessed untold history. In fact, the story goes that the fountain was discovered by a brutally flogged enslaved African in the 1690s who stumbled on the waters which seemed to miraculously heal his deep cuts and bruises.
A rocky climb, whether man-made or cut from the countless feet that have trod the path seeking healing, cleansing or just refreshing, leads to the famed spot – The Mineral Fountain at Bath. As you climb ever upwards a silence descends and the birds and cool breezes provide the most natural accompaniment, you preserve your breath for the steep incline ahead. Crickets, owls, birds and the occasional cock crowing in the distance are the only sounds as you crest the hill and make your descent to the pools and stream in the valley below.
As if out of nowhere, we’re joined by two “guides” who later demonstrate their prowess as masseuses. The water at Bath is reportedly 132 degrees Fahrenheit, (55 degrees Celsius) piping – almost unbearably hot. Towels are soaked with the healing sulphuric water and placed over the body which is then pummeled and massaged.
There is a reverence to the spa treatment that reflects the spiritual aura of the place. The guide chants as the water cascades from head to foot, an ancient blessing and prayer to the creator, giving thanks for life, nature and God. This is where meditation and reasonings naturally occur, there is also license to smoke marijuana if one so desires, but for many, the awesome wonders of the world are manifested at Bath fountain and no external stimulus is necessary.
At the end of the spa treatment, when trying to settle our bill, my companion and I were gently admonished that respect for the healing powers and other-worldly qualities of the water dictate that no money changes hand in the river or near the natural spring, articulating a primeval fear that disrespect of this natural wonder will lead to the source drying up, a fact which our guide pointed out has happened in the past.
Two urban women experienced a little of the mysticism of Jamaica today and stood in awe at the display of spirituality that co-exists with nature.
c Sheron Hamilton-Pearson