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A former Durban solo adventurer is in intensive care in Lima, Peru, after being shot several times by tribesmen while kayaking down the Amazon.
Badly wounded, Davey du Plessis, 24, stumbled through the jungle for 4km on Saturday in search of help with bullet and shrapnel wounds in his neck, skull, face and arm.
Du Plessis, who grew up in Durban and matriculated at Michaelhouse, was on a “source to sea” three-stage journey which began with a gruelling cycle ride and a hike through the Peruvian Andes.
He was two weeks into the |5 700km paddle by kayak down the Amazon to its outlet on the Brazilian coast when he was shot, despite being introduced by the military to the chief of local people to ensure he had safe passage through the Urubamba region of the river.
On Saturday, after being delayed by two tropical storms, he set off. Later the same day, he was attacked.
After falling wounded into the river and unable to pull himself back into his kayak, Du Plessis had thought “it was the end”, said his mother, Robyn Spence Wolff, a Durban trauma counsellor. “But something said ‘run’ – he had to drag his leg because of the wounds.”
Du Plessis was eventually found by some indigenous people who were initially reluctant to help as he had no money, and instead haggled among themselves for hours about what to do.
Spence Wolff said it was only when he started coughing up blood, “that they got scared and wrapped him in plastic and blankets and placed him in a boat”.
Details are sketchy as to how – 10 hours after he was shot – he eventually got to the small town of Pucallpa. It is believed local Indians found him and carried him for hours to a post in the jungle which provides basic medical care. From there, he was taken to hospital in Pucallpa.
Here a local man, Darwin Sanchez Escobar, found him after his sister, who lives in a community in the jungle, phoned him and told him that a man who did not speak Spanish had been brought to the hospital after being shot.
“I knew he was alone. I knew he needed help so I went to find him,” Escobar said.
He managed to get Spence Wolff’s contact details and called her, telling her in broken English that there “has been an accident”.
“It was terrible. I could not understand him. I told him I could not speak Spanish, but I would send my e-mail address and he must find someone who can communicate with me,” said Spence Wolff.
In the interim, Du Plessis’s stepfather, Curt Wolff, a landscaper in Umhlanga, contacted his Joburg-based brother, Andrew Wolff, a senior executive at SA Breweries (SAB), which has a strong presence in South America.
“I just had the right contacts,” said Andrew. “I remembered we had a brewery in that area, but had no idea if it was near Davey.”
The brewery was in Pucallpa and within half an hour of the MD of SABMiller in Peru, Mauricio Levya, being contacted, SAB personnel were at Du Plessis’s bedside ensuring he got the necessary medical care.
Once Du Plessis was stabilised, the brewing company arranged for him to be flown to Lima. An ambulance took him to the Anglo American Hospital.
Last night, Spence Wolff said that Du Plessis’s father, Louis, had arrived at the hospital and doctors had told him there was a bullet close to his heart and throat.