Xavi and Mata have a close encounter of the hungry kind
|Highs:||The power of music|
Xavi’s parents knew people. The right people. Who they were I never found out, but they pulled strings that opened doors that revealed paths that led us to a secret and much protected part of South America.
Xavi flew 2000 miles north east from her parents’ home in Lima. I flew 4000 miles south west, from London. We met in a dusty town at the foot of a huge, flat-topped mountain.
Our accommodation was basic but clean. It had a lounge that doubled as a bar. We ordered rum cocktails and went outside to wait under the veranda for our guide.
There was a man sitting there. He was small, tanned, wiry and bald. Grey stubble peppered his chin. He wore pale brown cargo pants and a khaki muscle top. He had the muscles to go with it. He stood when he saw us and held out his right hand for us to shake. It was missing two fingers.
“Good evening”, he said. “I’m Carlos.” He looked like a Carlos, so his English public school accent was unexpected. “Are you sure you know what you’re letting yourselves in for?”
Xavi nodded enthusiastically. “Sure. Ever since I learned that the Lost World was real, I have wanted to go there.”
Carlos smiled. “I was the same. I’ve been there five times now. On my first trip, I was terrified. By my third trip I was beginning to relax.” He held up his mangled hand. “That’s when I lost my fingers. Never relax.”
The next day Carlos flew us by helicopter to the top of the nearby mountain. A thin green line of tree ferns and cycads fringed the top of it. We cleared the vegetation and found ourselves looking down at a plateau. In the distance were huge, long-necked creatures. I pointed excitedly.
“Are they really dinosaurs?” I asked.
Xavi nodded. “Sure are. Isn’t it wonderful?”
Immediately beneath us was a row of wooden huts surrounded by a high fence. Carlos brought the helicopter down within the enclosure, away from the huts.
“We’re safe here” he explained. “That fence is electric and the local wildlife is afraid of it. We also have movement sensors at all the approaches so we know if anything big is on its way.”
He got out of the helicopter and jogged towards one of the huts. He entered. We walked behind him carrying our Look-in-the-Bag jholas. They contained the small amount of luggage that Carlos had allowed us.
I smelled the danger before I heard it. I caught the stench of putrid flesh, then there was a crash as something broke through the fence. Carlos stepped out of the hut. I saw the expression of horror on his face and looked behind me.
“Everything’s down”, I heard him say. “Something chewed through the wiring.”
Coming towards us were huge things with teeth and claws and the reek of death. To reach the helicopter we would have to run towards them. All directions away from them led to a sheer drop.
I once heard a Buddhist tale about a man who faces several dangers at once. Any one of them will lead to his death. Within his reach is a ripe fruit. He has no choice that will let him live, but he can choose to enjoy the fruit before he dies. We were now in a clearing being approached by some of the most terrifying predators that have ever lived. I had no ripe fruit to hand, but I did have my grandfather’s flute. Before I died, I would have one last tune. I pulled it from my jhola bag, shut my eyes, and began to play.
I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder and opened my eyes. “Keep playing!” whispered Xavi.
The beasts were sitting still, watching me in silence. I played on.
“Quick!” said Carlos. “She can’t play for ever.”
He rooted in his bag and brought out a portable music player. Xavi did the same. All I can say is, thank God for the iPod. We had two centuries of music between us. Carlos bluetoothed everything onto one player, sneaked past my terrifying audience and set the iPod on shuffle. I stopped playing. The dinosaurs turned to face the music.
The music played and the dinosaurs began to dance. We walked quietly to the helicopter, watching as we went. The different dinosaurs clearly had different musical tastes. The velociraptors had a penchant for punk, while the allosaurus preferred Wagner. What surprised us all though, was the Tyrannosaurus Rex. Most of its relatives had been dead for over sixty million years, so “I Will Survive” and “Staying Alive” were understandable choices. But “Dancing Queen”?
Even the sound of the helicopter taking off failed to distract them. My last memory of the Lost World was of T.Rex strutting its seven tonnes of carnivorous stuff to the strains of Abba. Somehow, after that, it didn’t seem so frightening.