(Part 1 here : in which Mike and Dave leave the boat on a flat day to go bushwacking through the jungle at Treasure Island, and two hours later we see Mike running down the beach, waving his t-shirt)
“Dave’s hurt bad,” Mike said. “He climbed a tree and fell. A broken leg, probably has a concussion. I had to leave him there. We have to go get him.”
Surf charter boats generally do not have stretchers as part of their first aid emergency kit. The only thing we had to carry him with any reasonable degree of stability was my new Channel Island’s Waterhog 8-foot mini-mal surfboard. I don’t think Al Merrick had this use in mind when he made that shape.
We put on our shoes and got into the dinghy with the board — Mike, Rob, me, and the local Indonesian deckhand. The Aussie chef zoomed through the channel and to the beach. We hiked a couple hundred meters along the shore, which wasn’t all easy-going sand. We navigated around rocky outcrops, me carrying the surfboard. As we hiked, Mike explained that Dave had climbed a tree to get a photo of the Bohemian at anchor. Being a construction worker, Dave was used to heights and had Tarzaned his way a hundred feet up the tree. At that height, he jumped from one branch to another, but his hands slipped and he plummeted straight down, bouncing off the rocks at the bottom. Mike reckoned the steep slope of the hill had broken his fall, which was why he wasn’t killed on impact.
When Mike and Dave had started their bushwacking trek, they’d made their way through the jungle from the channel bay. With Dave badly injured, Mike gotten him as comfortable as he could and then had zeroed straight for the beach. We turned into the jungle at the landmark he remembered. This was virgin rain forest as it had been for millennia, before large-brained bipeds arrived on the scene. The primal rain forest is not scented by the perfume of flowers, but something a lot darker and danker, of mold and rot and gloom and poison and fangs, of nature red in tooth and claw. It’s also a surprisingly spacious place, because the melded canopy of the tree foliage blocks out the sun, leaving little light available for bushes and smaller trees.
It was also one damn steep hill, mostly of mossy granite rocks and boulders. Rattan sapling with vicious barbs snagged at clothes and skin. We all got cut up pretty bad. We panted up the hill, being steam-cooked in the broiling humidity. We hiked about five hundred meters inland, and most of that a 35 to 45-degree slope.
Dave lay semi-conscious at the foot of a large tree, in shock and pain. We got him on his back on the mini-mal. I’d had the foresight to remove the fins on the boat. So basically the four of us surfed him down that hill over those rocks. We got cut up even worse by the rattan barbs. Our clothes were ripped to shreds. The rocks gouged deep into the board, chewing through the fiberglass and into the foam. Sometimes we had to lift the board over an obstacle. At steeper parts, one of us had to go below and hold the nose of the board so it wouldn’t tumble out of control.
All these years later, what I remember about this was that it was hardest, most taxing thing I’d ever done—I think we’d ever done—in our lives, but we did it together, with only one thought of getting Dave to safety. Even in his shock and pain, Dave was part of the team, staying alert, keeping his head up and gripping the rails as hard as he could to stay centered.
We finally got him to the beach, but it wasn’t over yet.
Some people were asking about my first novel The Flame Tree published by Simon and Schuster. The story is set in Java against the backdrop of the events of 9/11 in the US. It’s available for Kindle. Click on the blue link below the image.