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We all take risks.  When we take a new job, we face the uncertainties of meeting new people and expectations.  When we show up at a party, we hope it will be fun, and that we won’t be the only one that actually wore an ugly sweater (happened) or the only one not wearing an ugly sweater (also happened.  Same event, following year).

Ugly Sweater NonUglyMe

We weigh what we know against the unknown and decide whether or not we’re going to jump in.  The same is absolutely true of travel.  Travel is all about uncertainty.  Will I catch my flight?  Will my bags make it?  How will I find my hotel?  What if I lose my passport, or my wallet?

 

On our most recent trip to the Dominican Republic, I found myself at the crest of the Cascada El Limon.  We had just finished hiking nearly 45 minutes through lush greenery, past hidden horses and unbelievably teal jungle rivers.  And finally, we caught a glimpse of the falls from above… we’d made it!

 

We step out onto the rock ledge and behold the majesty.  We’ve found an oasis in the heart of the Dominican countryside.  The waterfalls are perfectly clear and multitudes of men, mostly fully clothed local guides, are bathing in the natural pool.  A few ladies roll around in the runoff while a friend snaps glamour shots with his iPhone.  Some elderly folk sit on the benches made from fallen trees and observe from the safety of their hiking shoes as children sit on the rocks, wanting so badly to jump in, but so scared of the unknown.

 

I identify with the children.  Eyes so wide, hearts so full, legs so shaky.  We put our belongings down, and before I have time to take it all in, Mark’s in up to his ears and doggy paddling towards the falls.  I stand on a rock at the edge of the pool, feeling oh-so-excited, but also oh-so-naked and oh-so-terrified of what might lurking in the waters unseen.  I look to see what others are doing – she’s found a great rock to sit on, he’s found something to hold on as he steps gingerly across the slick, mossy dam.

 

I decide to try to ease my way in.  The water is pretty cold, and I always fear the chest tightening that comes with a quick dive in cold water.  It doesn’t seem to help.  The mist from the falls is gorgeous – but keeps my upper body from providing the warm balance to my cold lower body.  I ease in, step at a time, and finally I’m submerged and paddling towards Mark in the center of the basin.  Can fish live here?

 

Goddamn it, why is he so at ease?!

 

When I finally reach him, he’s staying afloat by gripping an underwater log with his legs.  My fear of something lurking has turned into his floatation device.  We snap a couple photos and take it all in.  The sun, the falls, the fact that we’d struggled to even find a way to get to the falls, and yet here we are – soaking in every bit of it!

 

And then they start jumping.  First, a boy, from a ledge about 15 feet above the water.  Then another, who has managed to climb the rock face, and jumps from his perch 40 feet up.  And suddenly, Mark’s eyes are on fire.  He’s enraptured with the idea and begins studying the best route.  He settles on a potential path and before I know it, he’s up there, with the local boys showing him the best areas for launching and landing.

 

As I secure my grip of the log, and prepare to take photos of Mark, another guide has ascended the rock face.  He’s flexing for the crowd, nearly 60 feet in the air, socks soaking , grinning from ear to ear.  He fakes a slip, regains his footing, and gives us all a thumbs up with his one free hand before backflipping off the wall and splitting the surface gracefully.

 

And then it happens.  I feel the pinch on my toe, and then multiple repeated pinches the length of my foot.  I gasp and kick wildly.

 

The fearless diver pops up, inches from my face, winks proudly, loving every second of it, and swims off.

 

And now it’s Mark’s turn.  Ever the adventurer, he immediately launches from the make-shift platform, and cannonballs into the unknown below.  The crowd cheers.

Mark Jumps

Mark jumping in to the waterfalls at Cascada El Limon!

After reveling in the experience, he convinces me to swim past the falls and into a grotto.  I feel the anxiety and fear dominating my brain, and yet it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  Our tiny cave is illuminated from below and shines a dynamic harlequin green.  We rest, and enjoy the sensation of being alone in a waterfall grotto.

 

And that’s why we jump.  Time and time again.  Because we hope that once we do, what we find will be better than anything we could have imagined.

Under El Limon

Under the falls at Cascada El Limon

By the way…when you get to El Limon?  Head straight in between the two large rocks in the center of the lagoon.  There’s another underwater rock directly ahead – be careful.  Swim to either side or just stick your leg out and be ready for it.   Swim to the back of the falls and to the right you’ll find your grotto.  Climb up to the left and have a seat.  Enjoy.

 

Other articles you may be interested in:

 

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