Attack of the Sea Urchin

Stephanie kind of minimized the events of my devastating sea urchin attack, but here’s what really happened…

We were SCUBA diving off La Digue in the Seychelles, and we were about 90 feet down. I was so enthralled looking at the reef that I failed to notice a giant, man-eating, killer sea urchin sneaking up on me. This thing had to be at least three feet across!!!

giant sea urchin.jpg

Giant, Killer Sea Urchin

Stephanie tried to signal me, but it was too late. Suddenly, the sea urchin grabbed me in its tentacles, and started jabbing me with its venomous spines – at least 60 or 70 puncture wounds!! Meanwhile, Stephanie was having none of this. She unsheathed her diving knife, and saved my life by killing the sea urchin.

It was too late to fend off the worst of the attack, however. The venom was affecting my central nervous system, and I was beginning to black out. Thinking quickly, Stephanie fashioned a makeshift tourniquet out of her bikini top to prevent the venom from completing its fatal work. It was then that she brought me slowly to the surface making sure I didn’t get the bends. Once on land, she hoisted me up in a fireman’s hold and carried me the 19 miles to the hospital.

The clinic turned out to be in some guy’s garage, so I was grateful that I didn’t actually need surgery. Instead, they prescribed fresh lemon juice to break up the spines still stuck in me. As much as I wanted to take the lemon juice orally in the form of a cooling (possibly alcoholic) beverage, it was to be applied topically.  I spent the next two weeks in traction recuperating while Stephanie tried to get me on “Good Morning, America.”  (Note: They weren’t interested.)

All in all, it was a lucky break for all involved except for Stephanie’s bikini top which was never seen again. 😦

bikini top

All Sorts of Activity and a Little Tragedy on La Digue, Seychelles

When we hitchhiked one afternoon on Praslin (there was a three hour gap between buses that we hadn’t realized, so we decided to try something new), I mentioned to our driver that we liked the island of Praslin in the Seychelles even more than we had liked Mahe.  A native of Praslin, he assured me that once we got to La Digue, we’d like it even better than Praslin!  Each island got smaller, more remote, and more beautiful, he told us.  It didn’t take us long after arriving on La Digue to decide he was right!  In addition to several stunning beaches, we found plenty of additional fun and adventure.

 

L’Union Estate, La Digue

We had to pass through L’Union Estate to access Anse Source D’Argent – the most beautiful beach in the world, in my opinion.  There is an entrance fee required to walk through the estate, so we decided to spend some time there and see what it had to offer before going to the beach at the end.  It turned out it had a lot to offer!

We first walked through the La Digue Cemetery, which was a private burial place for some of La Digue’s first settlers in the 1800’s, the Mellons.  Mrs. Louise Mellon was the first owner of the estate.

 

Once upon a time, the main industry on LaDigue was coconut farming, and its center was the L’Union Estate.  Today, the estate still grows coconuts, and is home to a traditional copra mill.  (Copra is the dried meat used to extract the coconut oil.)  We watched a bull turn the mechanism that crushes the copra and presses it into oil.  After we watched some fresh coconut oil being made, the woman there bottled it up and sold it to us!

 

Watch the ox make us coconut oil!

Next we came upon the plantation house, so we took a look around, and marveled at the view from inside.

 

Soon we came upon the giant land tortoises we had heard about.  These tortoises were penned, not free like the ones we saw on Curieuse, which made us a little sad!  Our sadness turned to smiles quickly when we saw the piles of lettuce the estate had put out for us to feed them though.    (Even though one of the tortoises was quite snappy!)

 

The last area we came upon before finding the beach was full of plants, and our favorite was the vanilla.

 

 

Belle Vue

All of the tourist information we had on La Digue said we had to go here for the scenic view.  In fact, I believe we were promised “cardiac-arresting views from the terrace.”  Hmmm.  It was a good climb indeed.  At the top, however, we found a café, and a lot of clouds.  Luckily they started clearing as we hiked back down.

 

 

Anse Severe and the Sea Urchin Tragedy

“Anse Severe is a quiet spot, well suited for sunbathing and swimming.”  More false advertising?  It looked harmless enough, we thought, as we walked to the north of the island one morning and came upon it.  (We saw some interesting sites along the way.)

 

We had dragged our snorkel gear along, and despite warnings from the tourist office to go to several of the beaches only at high tide, we were determined to go.  Okay, true, it looked very shallow, for hundreds of feet out, and there were a lot of rocks for those hundreds of feet, but it had to get deeper at some point, right?

 

I started to walk out slowly, trying not to hurt myself on all the small granite rocks I was stepping on, or more likely by tripping over their slippery curves.  Elliott got ahead of me, and was apparently determined to prove he was adventurous on this morning.  All of a sudden, as he was getting ready to jump over a wave into a deeper part, I realized the rocks were about to turn into a coral reef, and thought better of this idea.  But it was too late – he had already made the jump!  “How are you going to get back?” I asked.

“Just ride a wave back up onto the reef I guess,” he said, shrugging.  “Do you think this was a bad idea?”  And just as he said that and started to ride his wave in, the same wave knocked me over on my back, onto those rocks.

Ouch.  Only his pain was much worse, as I could deduce from the screams and language coming out of his mouth.  It was a sea urchin sting, and my babio was in serious pain.  I tried to stand up to help him, only to realize that if I didn’t sit back down, I was going to faint from my own back pain and the site of his bloodied, swollen, black and blue finger.

At some point I was able to stand back up and walk back to the beach with him, gather our things, and go ask the woman at a nearby bar where to get help.  And during these few minutes it occurred to me that 1) we had never had a medical emergency while traveling before 2) we had no means to get anywhere other than our feet, and 3) I had not a clue about the severity of a sea urchin sting!

With no transportation, we had no choice but to start walking into town. We asked several locals – including a pharmacist, and everyone told us we needed the hospital. Needless to say Elliott was flipping out imagining them cutting open his finger to extract the embedded spines. Luckily after obtaining the advice of the hospital clinic on the island, we learned the sting would not end his life.  A little lime juice, along with much pain and suffering, and a few days time, would heal all wounds.  (You’re lucky we didn’t take a photo of the lot of spines in his finger!)

We eventually made it back to Anse Severe that day, and we stayed far away from the site of the sea urchin sting.

 

 

Bikeride and Anniversary dinner

On our last full day on La Digue, we did as the locals do, and took to bicycles.  We had an awesome, super-scenic ride around the north of the island, and then all the way down the road on the east side of the island, to its end.  We stopped at a few beaches on the way back, resting on the sand and frolicking in the waves wherever we could.

 

Wouldn’t you know it though – somehow at the end of the day we ended up back on Anse Severe?  With the help of a local this time, I found my way to an actual deep area of the water where I went snorkeling.

 

Elliott, scarred from events of the previous day, happily rested on the beach.  And later when it rained, we sat in the shallow water, taking it all in, treasuring our last moments of our last day on this wonderful island.

 

160a Heading home

Biking home after a great day.

That night was Erev (Hebrew for the evening before) our wedding anniversary, so we rode our bikes to Zerof Restaurant, where we had made reservations for a special buffet and live music.  To our surprise, the restaurant workers had gone out of their way to make this occasion special for us, placing white fabric covers with silver bows over our chair backs, and a vase of flowers (ginger!) on the table. But that wasn’t all; there were pink and silver hearts and confetti on the table, they brought us a complimentary bottle of champagne, and after dinner, a decorated, homemade anniversary cake!  It even had a huge sparkler/candle on top for us to blow out!  It was indeed special, and I’m not sure I can recall a time when complete strangers went so out of their way for us, without asking or prodding:)

 

173 This cake was fabulous (and handmade)

The next morning, on our ferry ride back to Mahe, we enjoyed a little post-celebration leftover cake.  It was our actual anniversary, after all!