I am sitting in my "digs" outside of San Jose, and I have a bottle of Bacardi 151 Rum, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a pair of stainless steel tweezers, that I have heated to "red hot", so as to sterilize them. I am looking to remove bullet fragments that are in the flesh of my right shoulder and upper arm. I have pulled two, very small, lead fragments out already, and I am probing around to see if there are any others. I will, soon, pour hydrogen peroxide on the raw flesh from which I have dug out the fragments, and will follow this with the 151 rum. Not a fun day for sure. Today is Thursday. It all started at around 5 AM on Tuesday.
March, being summer in Costa Rica, Tuesday morning started out with a temperature of around 66 degrees F. When I got myself out of bed, I grabbed a banana, and went into my spare bedroom-office; Turned on the computer and checked my email. Among the 300 plus emails, I found one from an old school chum, Gordon Salisbury-Reed. Gordon wrote that he had come upon my email address through my postings at: freedomfiles.blogspot.com. He further stated that a friend of his had seen several of my posting in the Daily Mail, and had mentioned that Lord Howard Hurts seemed an interesting chap, if not some "mongrel", impersonating British "upper crust". And so Gordon "said" that he began to read all my past postings, and decided to contact me as he was going to be on Holiday in Costa Rica, at the El Silencio, a spa, retreat, in Bajos del Toro, on March 6, and stay until March 9. This email was over a week old. He further mentioned that he would like to see me if I could find the time to come up to the El Silencio, and that we could spend a day exploring the Poas Volcano that is nearby, and renewing the past.
My memory of Gordon was of a tall, lanky, intelligent kid, who was always hunting for gold. And I remember as kids, our talking about his belief that volcanoes were a good place to find gold as they would do all the work bringing it up from deep inside the earth. My only "vision" of Gordon was the one my mind dug up from the past.....school kids dreaming, and now I wondered just how different he would look today, some 30 years past. I immediately sent him an email confirming that he was in fact in contact with his former school chum, Lord Howard Hurts (of course then, in our youth, I was not a Lord, but that did not stop me from including my British title in the missive), and told him that I would meet him at El Silencio, on the next Wednesday, March 8. I also communicated that he would need to give me further directions on how to get there, as I had never heard of the place.
Later that day, I received another email from Gordon. He said that he was pleased that we had connected, and that he had no idea about directions to the retreat, but that he would in fact be there starting on March 6.......that all the information, pertaining to directions, could be gathered by looking at the web site he had included for El Silencio. He also mentioned that Wednesday would be perfect as he would be rested and ready to explore the volcano. The email was short and to the point, and I was feeling that time had not been good to us as he did not mention our childhood conversations about volcano's and gold, or even mentioning his idea of using sheep skins weighted down, on the bottom of a fast flowing creek, to catch gold......... An idea he had gathered from Greek mythology...... Jason and the golden fleece......... I am sure. I then thought that he just might not be much of a writer, and that we would be able to reconnect with the past when we met. So I did look up the web site for the retreat, and found that it was less than 2 hours away from San Jose, and thus an hour, more or less, from my "digs" here outside the capital city.
From my reading I found that the Poas Volcano, was on some rugged trails near the Cloud Forest, not far from the El Silencio retreat; That the retreat has some really good food available; That yoga and stress relief was the idea behind the retreat; And that the retreat was designed by one of Costa Rica’s most prominent architects, Ronald Zurcher. I also read that it was on land overlooking a "valley", so I decided that as the roads were narrow and winding, and at elevations that probably had no guard rails, I would take my red, 2012, Honda CRF 250 enduro. I use this cycle, quite frequently, to "buzz" into San Jose, and in doing so, avoid getting tangled in all the downtown traffic....and I can always find a place to park, rather than circle around, and around, looking for a space large enough for a car. I had purchased this "bike" several weeks previous, and had not taken it off road as yet, so the trip to the volcano might be something we could do on this cycle rather than renting a car and driver. I was "geared up" for the trip, and looking forward to making contact with an old friend from years past.
The ride on Wednesday was going to be quite fun. I was looking forward to traveling through the mountains, rain forest, and the farmlands. My Internet directions said that I should leave my rental house and head towards the International Airport, follow the sign to San Ramon, go about 14 miles, and look for a red church on the left. Make a left turn about 3 or 4 blocks before the church........I would now be in the town of Grecia. I was to look for a bus station...... make a left turn, and proceed down the hill for 5 blocks. And when I "hit" the intersection, I was to take another left, and go about 3 miles...... and then I would be in Sarchi. Once in Sarchi, I needed to go slow, and make a right turn in front of the famous Ox Cart factory.....and then to follow the road to Bajos del Toro.
The trip started well, the traffic was light, but the directions I had written up were not the easiest to follow. The rough part of the trip, I surmised, would come after Sarchi, a small town, where it's claim to fame is the custom furniture factories, and the hand painted, Ox Carts. When I finally got to Sarchi, I saw a most wondrous sight. In front of a church stood a huge, and I mean really huge, brightly colored, Ox Cart. Apparently these carts are in demand by buyers because I saw many of them throughout the town, and I even saw one on the road outside of town, being pulled by a cow, or maybe it was an ox. As I continued to look for the Ox Cart factory, my next turn, my Honda was "breezing" along without a glitch, but I still had doubts about "finding" my way back to San Jose should I lose the paper with these vague directions, I had written.
After making a right turn at the Ox Cart factory, and leaving Sarchi, I found myself in "another world". The road was narrow and twisting, and there were no guard rails to keep errant vehicles from going over the edge. As I drove, some of the more twisting parts of the road, the drop off from the roads edge to the 'bottom', seemed thousands of feet down. And at some places 'clouds' kept me from seeing the land at the 'bottom', giving the impression that there was no end to the drop off. The Toro river was also in sight much of the way, and at times I could see 'white water' blasting against the rocks blocking its path. As I drove on, the humidity became very high, and it gave, once in a while, the impression that I was driving through clouds. Traffic after Sarchi was nearly non existent. I passed many small farms, and coffee plantations. My altimeter showed that I was near 6,000 feet. The red Honda was 'breathing' a little harder than I thought it should, but with only 250cc's of displacement, and at this high elevation, should I expect different? I can not begin to describe the beauty of these highlands. As I neared the 'peak' of the ride, I assume that I was looking down..... into the Amarillo Valley........ the valley that 'harbours' the small community of Bajos del Toro, but don't quote me on this......as I never made it down into the valley.
I had stopped at the top of the hill, just before the long downward ride to Bajos del Toro because I was surprised to see a huge, maybe 12 foot tall, stand of ganja. It was a stand that was at least 5 foot in diameter, and it crowded the road with its dark green foliage and pungent smell. I pulled up to it thinking that I should have brought along a camera......when suddenly I was 'stung' in my right shoulder and upper arm. Then, milliseconds later, came the distinct sound of a rifle letting off 3 rounds in a quick burst. My shoulder and upper arm, suddenly, was 'burning hot'. I knew I had been hit....but I also knew it could not be serious, as I had total control over my shoulder and arm, although they had then begun to turn from a 'hot burn', to an intense stinging sensation.
Moving on instinct I 'clicked' the Honda into first gear and spun it around, and at the same time I twisted the throttle to the stop. The little machine spun its rear wheel, grabbed traction, and then the front wheel picked up slightly. Backing off the throttle, for an instant, the front end nosed down.....and I was in second, and third, and then fourth gear..... the throttle was once again twisted to the stop. Even though I had been hit by a bullet, or bullets, from some rifle, there was little blood showing so I knew that it was not a serious wound. On the ride back to San Jose, my mind tried to make sense out of what had happened. I thought about my school chum, and suddenly, I thought: Why had he not asked in the email for my phone number or some contact number? That did not make sense. No. We had not talked for over 30 years, and nobody would have just sent a short email. And why did I not ask him for a phone number?
The time frame, to the meeting, had been so short that I had not given these questions any real thought. I decided now, that upon returning to the house, I would look for an email from Gordon, asking why I had not showed up..... Tetanus.....tetanus.......did I need a tetanus shot? Was I shot because I was looking at the ganja, or was it someone waiting for me? I continued to retrace my route back to San Jose, and made it in nearly half the time it took to go out.
Upon getting to my rental house, I parked the Honda, and heard my two Cocker Spinals whinnying for me to release them from their outside pen, but instead, I just said, "Sassy......Archie. I will get to you later. I have something to deal with now"..........did I believe that they really understood what I was telling them? Of course not. I was just nervous. Once in the house, I got a bottle of Bacardi 151 Rum, a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a pair of stainless steel tweezers. I heated the twisters to 'red hot', so as to sterilize them.
In all, I pulled four small bullet fragments out of my shoulder and upper arm, and only one of them had been of sufficient depth to even make me think about a tetanus shot. After pouring on the hydrogen peroxide, I followed with a cloth soaked in the 151 rum, and found some duct tape to wrap over the soaked cloth, to keep it over the 'wounded areas'.
I do not have a clear opinion about why I was shot at. It could be that I was too close to a ganja growing area, and the owners sent me a warning, or it could have been a planed attack. I 'lean' to it being a planned attack because after not hearing from Gordon for over 24 hours, I began to look on Face Book for a clue. I found, in a posting from our old Ramsgate, Kent, school; a note that Gordon Salisbury-Reed had passed away in 2008, at age 62....... A disclosure that really hit me hard. And armed with this information I was very sure that this had been a planned attack.
But then how had I only sustained the minor wounds? I think that the weapon that was used fired a .223 round, and being a hunting bullet rather than a military round, that the bullet, or bullets, had hit parts of the ganja plant, and as the bullet, or bullets were traveling at nearly 4,000 fps, they fragmented after striking the shrub. And then it was just unfortunate, for me, that part of my body was in the way of those exploded fragments. Another coincidence? Maybe.
I had thought that I could 'sit out' the 2012 Presidential election in this third world paradise...... I mean, just sit back, and watch the 'riots' after Obama is once again elected by these government workers, union thugs, students, and regular Democrats, who produce nothing of value, but who demand, that those American citizens who work and play by the rules, pay more in taxes to support them.....And then "Atlas Shrugged".
Lord Howard Hurts