Ben, thanks to his French upbringing has, as many of you know, strong opinions on gastronomy. One of his “I haven’t had ……(insert one of many favorites) in so long..” foods is “Raye au Beurre noir”, which is stingray with butter and capers.
Why is this all germane? The stingrays got their revenge today – karmic return for all the times when the stingray didn’t stand a chance. Today they fought back, and won.
As we walk out of the ocean on a gloriously perfect day, Ben screams “%#@ Fuck!, something bit me!” – we look at his foot as we exit and see that it is bleeding profusely.
Ben is shortly after in a lot of pain — not from the wound, but more from the feeling of poison that has entered his body and is going up his leg. We quickly use Ben’s shirt as a makeshift bandage to apply pressure to stop the bleeding and I start to run towards the beach entrance which is some distance away. A few young travellers, are walking on the beach in our direction and I send them to Ben’s aid, while I run with Mango to the Fish Taco stand where I know the locals will probably know WHAT bit/stung Ben and importantly whether or not this is life threatening.
Breathlessly in as focused Spanish as I can muster I ask for help and explain what has happened. “Ahhh… rayas. Duelle MUCHO!” (Ahhh… sting ray. Hurts like HELL!). No, not life threatening.
I remember the important and only real treatment for a stingray “attack”: immersion in extremely hot water. A pot is put on the little camping stove for water to heat up ready for Ben’s exit from the beach.
Serendipitously, one of the guys in the group of German travellers who are with Ben works as an ambulance driver in Germany. He pulls a first aid kit out of his backpack and cleans and wraps Ben’s foot like a pro. I help a very pale Ben to hobble off the beach, not easily, as the pain is intense (as described on a google search later, as “excruciating”). I inform him he is going to live, most important criteria, and that bad as the pain is, it is temporary. Stingrays apparently hover around at low tide in warm waters and are typically passive, but if stepped on will attempt to protect themselves by using their barbed tail to jab the victim with venom.
Our friends at the Fish taco stand, local Nicaraguans go into “rayas” gear.. pots of boiling water appear at twenty minute intervals and a one of them goes to find pain killers and shows Ben his own scars on his foot from stepping on a stingray. Is it the same pain as from a scorpion sting I ask? Much worse he replies. How long will it last? About nine hours he says….!
After two hours of off and on submersion into almost boiling water, relaxation techniques and yogic breathing and the pain finally starts to subside. Interestingly we now realize how Mango appeared to be warning us of something earlier when we were swimming. He has an additional layer of his usual protective Aussie character with Ben now that Ben was at his side when HE almost died a week earlier. Mango was so bothered by us swimming that he tried to come after us and was clearly distressed, so we used a scarf to tie him to a tree while we swam. He was so agitated that he broke free from the tree and was minutes later running around with my scarf and a long piece of branch attached. He clearly (in retrospect) had not wanted us to go swimming.
Scary and painful as it is, we are both very clear that our lifestyle choice (as with that for our dogs) is inherently fraught with some exotic risks. To experience an adventurous life one must accept an occasional adventurous cost. (For me, Peta, riding on the back of a motorcycle through the streets of Port au Prince, Haiti, dodging in and out of traffic, avoiding incoming Trucks, I had a heightened sense and acceptance of imminent danger.)
We can’t choose to live in a country like Nicaragua and/or Haiti and choose to work in post disaster reconstruction and be woosies! So there you go, one more good story of exotic encounters of la vida Nicaraguense!