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One of the world's most amazing, unexplained healing springs is Firewater. This still somewhat secret healing spring is located in the hills of St. Anns in a small rasta community. Firewater was diiscovered around 80 years ago by the 107 year old woman called Aunty or Granny May. Her birth name is Mehala Smith and she will proudly tell you that she was born on March 8, and that she is 107 years old. Granny May
lives at the top of a hill overlooking the community and loves visitors. Be prepared to sit for a long time as Granny May enjoys retelling the story of how she discovered the spring, as well as her work for years on a plantation and as a healer.
I enjoyed listening to Granny May as she talked about the 20 years that she worked at the Drax Hall estate plantation. Every afternoon she would get only a short break to go find coconuts to eat and to drink some water. She explained in a thick patois accent that she found the spring after hearing a few birds come to her in a dream. She found the spring and was fascinated to see that the salty, sulpher water was mixed with several different streams of water that ran together from the top of a mountain. She heard a voice telling her that the spring had healing powers.
The next day, a paralyzed woman riding on the back of a truck saw Granny May and shouted, "You can heal me! Please, bring me to the water; heal me!" At first Granny May resisted, but finally agreed to show the woman the spring.
The spring is mixed with natural gases and the sulpher in the water is what appears to be what causes the healing powers. This hidden mystery is said to be able to cure cataracts, athritis, infertility and even cancer. A normally skeptical New Yorker, I hesitated before covering my face, arms and chest with the clay I scraped from under the cave-like rocks behind me as instructed by the guides. I had to admit that my hair and skin did feel shiny and my complexion exceptionally clear, and a scar and bruises that I had before entering the spring disappeared by the time I got out an hour later. Once I relaxed and stopped worrying about the too-close for comfort flames that became higher the more I tried to push them away, I felt like I was in a hot tub or jacuzzi. The hot towel massage that the men offer relieved any pains I had.
I have been returning to Firewater each year since I first found the spring wondering how long it would be before it is turned into a tourist spot or taken over by the government, selfishly wanting to keep the place an untouched secret, but this year I was disappointed to see that the nephews and other men from the community have covered the area with a bamboo fence and giant, ugly torn pieces of tarp. They explained that the visitors want privacy as each group is brought to the spring, and that in the future when they have saved enough from the donations of visitors, they will build a more attractive gated spring.
Since it is off the grid, there is no actual address for Firewater, located in St. Ann's Runaway Bay roundabout, about a half hour from Ocho Rios. Few locals and practically no tourists are aware of Firewater, so it is difficult to locate. If you're willing to take an afternoon adventure, try to convince a driver to help you find it. It will be well worth the trip. There is an extremely narrow dirt road behind the Norman Manley Training grounds. If you can find the mechanic garage behind the main highway past the training grounds, you'll see a lot filled with old fishing boats. If you haven't given up when the road becomes even more narrow as you drive on the edge of a steep cliff overlooking a shallow river, continue down the road until you reach a small shanty town. You'll know when you get there when the friendly rastafarians greet you and guide you to the parking area. They will give you the history of the mysterious healing waters, and if you are willing to climb a small mountain, you may get to meet the healer, "Aunty." You may even be invited to share a vegetarean meal cooked directly over the flames shooting out from the water.
This magical place was kept a secret for years, but is now open to a few visitors each day. Since the shanty town has very little income other than a less than bountiful farm, donations are accepted from visitors. The money helps to buy clothing, school supplies and food for the struggling families in the community. Whether or not you believe in the natural healing abilities of Firewater, a hot towel massage, a clay mud-bath, and a long soak in the spring of flaming fires is a wonderful way to relax and give a prayer of gratitude and praise to The Father. Firewater is the perfect place to end your vacation before returning to the pressures and struggles of life while living in the world.
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