My near-death experience with a stingray

September 7, 2006

Not to be outdone by all the macho adventurers who can claim to have tussled with anacondas, here is my modest contribution to the genre. A few years ago I was traveling in the Guajira, a remote part of Colombia noted mainly for its lawlessness and drug-smuggling with my own family plus that of a guy who I can only describe as a disaster waiting to happen. If he strung his hammock under a tree, a coconut would fall on him, if he put it away from trees, a cobra would get in it. When we were stopped at night by armed police on a mountain road because there was a state of emergency and a national curfew, he refused to give them a bribe as he said it offended his principles. Anyway, we found this pristine beach, not a human being or sign of human habitation as far as the eye could see and all set off, kids and wives included, in a line to wade out into the sea. Andy had only gone a few steps when he suddenly let out a cry. ‘Ouch, that was a ***** big crab’ then he looked down at the water and saw a large flat shape gliding off into the ocean. A few seconds later he was writhing on the sand in agony, his face turning blue, various limbs swelling up. We hoisted him into the Jeep and I set off was fast as I could over the sand (there were no roads) with Andy alternately moaning and gasping for breath and his wife yelling ‘drive faster, drive faster’. After what seemed an eternity we encountered a fisherman who told us there was a Puesto de Salud in a village about 5 kilometres further on. There was- and it was closed. Fortunately one of the guys lounging in the street, presumably a drug smuggler with a sick note, said there was an old woman who could heal things in a nearby backstreet. We found the house and carried Andy, who by now was practically comatose into a bare sitting room and laid him on a couch. The old lady came in, took one look and said ‘raya venenosa’ or the local equivalent and began stroking Andy’s leg. After a few moments, Andy suddenly lurched bolt upright and said ‘Gosh, that feels better, anyone got any coffee?’ I never went anywhere with him again.

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