(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)
(Part 2 here: in which the we rescue Dave, using a mini-mal surfboard as a makeshift stretcher, to surf him down the hill to the beach)
So at this point of the story, we’ve surfed Dave a kilometer (or more) down the steep hill and its rocks on a mini-mal as a make-shift stretcher. We’re out off the rotten stinking jungle. The chef’s waiting just off the beach in the ship’s dinghy.
But there’s another hurdle. Even though there are no waves breaking on the island’s surfing reefs, there’s still enough swell in the water for consistent waist-high shore dump on the fringing reef. Normally you wouldn’t think twice about wading out to the dinghy, except perhaps for getting a pocket camera wet.
But Dave’s got a broken upper thigh, the leg already swollen plump. He’s hanging in there, but getting him through the shore dump and then up into the dingy is not going to be fun and pleasant all. Somehow we manage. My memory is pretty hazy. We were all physically fit getting Dave down that hill through that jungle was the most taxing, exhausting thing I’d ever done, and I think this was true for all us. We were drenched in sweat, our bodies melding around the edges into the humid tropical heat. Our muscles ached, some we didn’t know we had. Our clothes were torn, our skin latticed and bleeding with rattan thorn slices.
Not enough room in the dinghy for us all, so I hike along the shore line again back to the main beach. When I finally get on board the Bohemian, it’s late afternoon. Dave’s on the salon cushion, gritting it through. Mike happened to bring along a satellite phone with him to stay in touch with family and business so he’s already on the phone trying to organize a medevac from anywhere close to anywhere with a decent hospital. He finally gets an oil company’s (I think it was an oil company) helicopter to meet us the next morning at Singkil, on Sumatra mainland.
We got delayed when at midnight or so the Bohemian ran right into an unmarked fishing net. That took an hour or so to untangle and get sorted out.
We make it to Singkil and anchor up as the helicopter descends on the wharf area there, attracting a crowd. Mike and Rob escort Dave on the helicopter to Medan, Sumatra’s largest and most modern city, and Dave is rushed to the emergency room Gleneagles Hospital.
I go the slow route, by chartered van with all our surfboards and gear. When I get to Medan the next day, I find out that first thing the ER doc had done was slice open Dave’s thigh from hip to knee to relieve the pressure, as the leg was dangerously and grotesquely swollen. The upper thigh bone was more than broken, it was pulverized into bits, beyond the skills of ordinary orthopedic surgeons. Dave will need somebody specializing in in accident and war trauma injuries. The hospital surgeon inserts a pin to stabilize the leg, but Dave will have to remain in hospital for several days before he can travel back to California. Mike and Rob have flights back to the States, but because I live in Bali, I stay longer in Medan.
Now I’m getting to the point of this (multiple) blog post. The news of this incident had spread at the speed of light, in the form of radio chatter among the surf charter boats out there in the Mentawais. Remember those Brazilian surfers I mentioned in the first blog post, the ones in their surf camp at Hinkao Island? The ones I grumbled about, with their “my wave is my wave and your wave is my wave too” mentality?
Late one morning as I went to visit Dave in his hospital room, who should I find already in there and chatting with him but one of those very same Brazilian surfers. Nobody else had come visit, but this guy had taken the trouble to find out where Dave was and dropped in to say hi and ask what he could do.
Now this was not great light-shaft of revelation where I dropped to my knees in repentance of my earlier griping. At the moment I thought it was a very thoughtful and kind thing for the guy to do. But yet somehow this has always stuck with me over the years. I’m not so sure that if I was in a strange city in a strange country that I would have taken the trouble to visit a sick surfer I’d happened by chance to meet a week earlier. I would have wished him well in my thoughts, but a visit in person?
So these days, when I’m griping about the crowds here in Bali, I pull out the memory of this guy, whose name I don’t even know. I think to myself, I should be more like him.
And it so happens that the last few months have been particularly trying to your blog correspondent, involving authorities and blatant jaw-dropping corruption in a country where it seems that corruption empowers and absolute corruption empowers absolutely (I’ll have to write a novel about it). But friends (and family) have stepped forward to help. Which brings to mind this Brazilian surfer all over again.
May God bless him. In fact, may God bless all Brazilian surfers.
Oh, my Waterhog mini-mal that was used as a stretcher got thoroughly chewed up and thrashed. So years later I got another for another Bohemian surf trip to the same region and this is what happened: