The other day we ventured off to the parish of St. Thomas to visit the legendary Bath mineral springs. The two-hour drive east from Kingston is treacherous in terms of potholed roads, although it is a beautiful drive along the coast. The ocean seems to change colours to a lighter turquoise, the air seems sweeter and cleaner and the atmosphere more peaceful.
Apparently these mineral springs, tucked away between a tiny valley, were discovered by a runaway slave in the 1690s. The hotel reflects the colonial influence. To me, it looked like a Caribbean version of the hotel in the Shining (the horror movie with Jack Nicholson). We toured the hotel briefly, visiting the small rooms where you can soak in a tub that channels in water directly from the hot springs. We were then ushered up a hill and Tom and BigFoot immediately proceeded to give us the full treatment. The masseurs are not formally trained nor recognized as massage therapists, rather they seem to have developed a system that satisfies customers, many of whom are repeat locals. The treatment these young men have created seems to have been centred more on intuition and epitomizes the Jamaican entrepreneurial spirit.
It consisted of wrapping us in our towels, (which were dunked in the hot water and it really was hot, like a bath you have just run and have to ease yourself into), slapping our backs and bellies, massaging us, blessing us with the hot water, giving us a mask with the mud taken directly from the river and then having us lie in the cool water of the river.
It was an extraordinary experience, I might even venture to say it was healing somehow. It was definitely magical, sitting under the bamboo trees and feeling the contrasts between the hot and cold water of the mineral springs. After about half-an-hour, we were released by Tom and Bigfoot, our bodies somehow more limber and less tense. We then got some lunch and drove back to Kingston as the sun set.