Second Place of Birth: Nevis (Complete)
by Anton Tomazic
Dedicated to my wife Miriam for her trust and support
"fear nothing, for I am with you; be not afraid for I am your God. I strengthen you, I help you, I support you with my victorious right hand . ... For I, The Lord your God, take you by the right hand; I say to you, Do not fear; it is I who help you, ...." ISAIAH 41:10, 13
Copyright © Anton Tomazic 2019, All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this ebook may be changed or sold, but may be freely distributed.
Foreword This is about a true story. As a tourist I tried to climb a vulcano mountain on the Carribean island of Nevis. On my way back I slipped on a moss-covered rock where there had once been a waterfall. I fell a good five metres down into the canyon and was quite seriously injured. It took me 8 days to save myself. My friends in Slovenia and specially in Nevis have asked me to describe my experiences and feelings during that hard time. I felt that also as an obligation to testify how important it is to pray and trust our good Lord in a situation like this. First I have written the book in my native language and was published in Slovenia by Mladinska Knjiga Publishing House in October 2001. This e-book is the first English version. You can buy the Hardcover and Paperback complete version on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1403374317/ref=sr_11_1/102-4863671-5085720?_encoding=UTF8
About the Nevis Island It all started about a million years ago when a volcano erupted out of a turbulent sea on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and added another island to the already existing chain of islands that was much later named the Caribbean Islands. Because the volcano remained dormant, it changed into a tall mountain that provided a barrier to the warm and humid air from the ocean, much more so than the neighbouring islands without such a peak could do. The air then condensed and formed white clouds that for a while lingered at the mountaintop and then poured rain onto the increasingly fertile ground. When much later the wild South American Indian tribes began to settle on the archipelago, they chose this island and also its larger neighbour. Two main tribes, the Caribs and the Arawak, took turns in ruling the island. The former tribe prevailed in the end, largely because of its aggressiveness and fighting skills. Amongst other things they demonstrated their power by the ritual consumption of their defeated enemies and this is why in later times any people who ate the flesh of other human beings were named after them: the cannibals. But who knows what the Caribs called their beautiful island! The island was given its current name, Nevis, in 1493 by the mariner Christopher Columbus (the neighbouring island of St. Kitts is named after him) who discovered the island on his second voyage to the New World. He used the Spanish word for snow, nieves, because the mountaintop covered with white clouds looked like a snow-topped mountain. The Spanish, British, French, Dutch and Portuguese quickly conquered the island population and pushed it to the verge of extinction, then they started fighting each other for the wealth of the islands. In those times the size, speed and the number of guns of the navy determined the outcome of the conflicts. Huge wealth was at stake and the risks were enormous. The country that dared to send its navy to this part of the world during the autumn rainy period met with little resistance and could easily conquer a few islands in a short time. However, if the navy was caught unaware by the regular intruder into the area, the hurricane, then the whole fleet could be destroyed, as once happened to the French, who lost 17 ships and 2000 sailors during one such devastation. In the end the imperial powers shared out their military successes at various peace conferences and in this way their colonies came into being. The island of St. Kitts was either under French or British rule, but Nevis was for most of the time a British colony. Since the British were deeply involved in defence, trading and economy, they didnâ€™t have the time or energy for manual work. For this reason they started to bring a lot of African slaves, the third race to join the islandâ€™s population. The slaves on Nevis mainly worked on the sugar-cane plantations. As the number of original Caribs decreased, though their genes still persisted in the children of mixed couples, the number of the slaves increased and soon 90 percent of the population of 10,000 inhabitants was African. Though the slaves were exploited, they didnâ€™t complain too much. When they compared their lives with the ones on the other islands, especially those ruled by the French, they could see that their lives were comparatively good. When the French attacked Nevis in order to take it from the British, who at that time did not keep the necessary protecting navy nearby, the slaves got themselves barricaded into a fortress and kept defending it even after their masters had already been defeated. By fighting so bravely, they stopped the French from becoming a strong force on Nevis, so that the British, when again in possession of their famous navy, could retrieve the island. The British thanked their slaves for saving the island, but also discretely made it clear that
they should now return the weapons and that life should go back to its old ways. The slaves complied with the demands, but also got new benefits from the British: more time to rest and better food. In this way both sides were satisfied. When Europeans began to replace sugar cane with sugar beet there was an economic crisis on Nevis and many firms went bankrupt. As a consequence the British began to leave the island, some of them moving to the neighbouring United States. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were already very few white inhabitants and the members of the black population were increasingly taking over the important roles in society. With the end of colonialism the territory became independent and since 1983 the two islands have been joined into the state of St. Kitts and Nevis, a member of the United Nations Organisation and also a member of the Commonwealth. Centuries ago the visitors to Nevis called the island “the Queen of the Caribbean” and today we can still use this expression to describe the island. Although tourism is the main industry, the island is far from being ruined by it, and the local people remain “unspoiled”, which is a common feature of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Over recent years some of the other Caribbean islands have become synonymous with mass tourism, including Slovenian tourists, but Nevis has retained its original “innocence”. Such elitist tourism is by no means easily affordable, and if, in addition, you organise your flight on your own, you will pay much more than a tourist agency would charge you. But such a holiday is worth the money; a man of pleasure will be richly rewarded. It isn’t surprising that many retired American millionaires have built beautiful houses in the remote parts of the island and that the largest proportion of the guests, staying in the wonderfully designed hotel complexes, are newly weds. For them the hotels organise special events including romantic suppers on the sandy beaches. However, in the midst of all this beauty, we again find that it is the people who remain the key promoters of successful tourism. The locals are a self-confident and proud people (they don’t want you to take unnecessary photographs of them), however, they are kind to every visitor. One can notice the positive effects of the English colonial tradition, which is quite different from the traditions of some neighbouring islands that were under the rule of other European countries. On other islands you may be bothered by the beggars or even threatened by the criminals, but on Nevis, smartly dressed schoolgirls and schoolboys (wearing uniforms with knee-length, white socks) will always greet you. While on many other journeys begging hands follow you everywhere you go, on Nevis everybody will always give you back your change. When you find yourself walking along a street away from the populated areas, very soon a kind driver, be it one of the many taxi drivers or just a friendly local face, will stop and take you to the nearest town. The long distance from the mainland and the lack of other strong business activities make the island look anything but a rich country. Although all the areas around the dominating mountain of Nevis Peak are connected by roads, these are usually in bad condition, full of pot holes, and sometimes also very dusty. Since the island is of a young volcanic origin, there are no hard rocks, not even enough for the production of high-quality building materials. As a result of this, the tarmac and cement are in bad condition. The traditional houses on Nevis are more like cottages: they are very small, sometimes having just a typical single story. If you happen to be a bit intrusive, you can, while having your evening or early morning stroll, even have a peep into the houses, either through the open doors or through the windows without any glass (the tropical climate allows it).
And there are even more interesting features of the island’s exterior. Nevis is inhabited by an enormous number of domesticated animals. Everywhere you go, sheep and goats will potter around your feet. They look very much alike and you can tell one from the other mainly by the tails. Donkeys graze behind every sizeable bush. In the shade, a fattened pig is tied to a tree and cute piglets run around her. Among the numerous sorts of noisy poultry, the cocks are the most attractive; no day on Nevis starts without their singing. I doubt that anybody lives on stockbreeding only; on the other hand, there can’t be many people who don’t have at least a sheep, a goat or a hen. And they are right in this. Why would they give up their delicious stews and roasted specialities? There isn’t as much fishing on the island as one would expect. The locals and the tourists can indulge in a variety of seafood specialities, but there is nothing left to be exported. There must be many reasons for this, but already the two most obvious ones explain the situation well: a few hundred meters away from the coast there are numerous coral reefs where huge waves roar, and which would very quickly capsize the small boats. In addition, it would be very difficult to protect larger ships against the hurricanes and heavy storms during the rainy season. To get to the sister island of St. Kitts, the locals use sea ferries, but the spoiled tourists usually prefer five-minute flights in attractive little planes called Nevis Express. During the main tourist season, winter and spring, large tourist cruisers often come to Nevis bringing a few hundred visitors every day. It is very difficult to decide what to do in just one day: should you take your camera and head towards the picturesque capital of Charlestown, where you can visit interesting museums, like the one about Lord Nelson? Or should you rather enjoy your day on one of the typical Caribbean beaches whose biggest advantage is that they are far from overcrowded? If you appreciate long walks on pleasant, wet sand, then you can stroll for hours along a peaceful beach discovering it in all directions. It is an ideal place for collecting the shells that the waves throw up on the beach; some are as long as 20 cm. You can watch interesting pairs of animals: the pelican and the sea gull circling above the sea looking for a good fish. The pelican dives down, takes the fish in its beak and returns to the sea’s surface where he wants to swallow the fish. In that moment the sea gull sits down on the pelican’s back and waits for an opportunity to steal his prey. Sometimes they get involved in a psychological war for a few minutes: the pelican wants to hide his fish and pretends he has no prey; the sea gull is waiting for the pelican to open his beak, which he has to do so that the water runs out, and tries to snatch the fish. Various palm trees, some of them bending over the sea’s surface, can be an attractive sight to capture with your camera, but to a resourceful person they can also offer a true delicacy. If you manage to climb the tree, you will be rewarded with a huge coconut. Once you pluck it off the tree, which isn’t all that easy, there are several ways to get to the delicious fruit and milk inside the coconut. It is possible “to stab” the coconut with an ordinary knife, but it is much easier to do it with a machete. Modern nomads can enjoy such adventures on Nevis in a relaxed way because there are no wild animals, poisonous snakes or other dangerous creatures. There are monkeys in the wilderness, but they are unusually shy so that it is difficult to spot them, let alone take a photograph of them. There were times in the past when man used to hunt them for food and it seems that the ancient fear of people still persists in them. Who doesn’t want to feel safe nowadays? When planning a journey, we usually also ask: What about crime? Is there a lot of it? Will I be able to walk alone, even in the evening? The expectation of safety and friendliness is the crucial issue that links all those visitors who go back to Nevis year after year. After the first experiences with the island and following the recommendations of other, more
experienced, tourists, you discover that it is possible to walk alone on Nevis, that you can meet interesting people (and animals), explore, relax, swim, dive, stay out late, drinkâ€Ś In short, it is an ideally safe island where nothing threatening can happen to you. Wellâ€Ś?
The Day Before It really was a dream holiday. My wife Miriam and I had agreed on this over dinner on the terrace of the Great House restaurant: the pride of the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club tourist complex. This was where we were spending our eight-day holiday. I well remembered the restaurant from the year before, due to an amusing misunderstanding when I had not been able to have a look at its interior. For many years I have been introducing some variety into my business activities by going to a conference every year. Of the several hundred possible educational events on offer I always choose one that takes place in an interesting town. In this way I can combine business with pleasure. Several professional publications and the Internet enable me to keep in touch with state-of-the-art legal informatics; however, I feel that meeting the people who are at the forefront of this field is of the utmost importance. In previous years I had attended various fairs in Hanover, Munich, London, San Diego, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago and Honolulu. And for 2000 I chose a conference entitled Lex Cybernatoria, at which the participants would discuss the cross-disciplinary issues of legal practice and the latest in information technology – the area that interests me most. The fact that the conference was organised on Nevis, a small Caribbean island then still unknown to me, didn't make me any less keen on attending the event. On the contrary, I always like to spend the one week per year that I can dedicate to my personal development in a pleasant environment and where I can get acquainted with new places. The conference on Nevis turned out to be very small in terms of the number of participants, but one of the most fruitful and useful I have ever attended. It was attended by various professors, business people, trendsetters and venture capitalists, mainly from the USA. We exchanged information about our work from the first to the last minute of the event, not only during the formal sessions, which were held on the open terrace of the Mount Nevis Hotel, but also beside the swimming pool, during meal times, as well as on our short trips into the surrounding countryside. One day we agreed to have supper in the Nisbet restaurant, which was recommended to us as the best you can find on Nevis. About eight of us set off in two taxis for a gourmet’s adventure. When we turned in to the Nisbet Plantation, where the slaves used to work in the sugar-cane fields, we caught sight of a beautifully arranged area and a traditional restaurant situated on a gentle rise: The Great House. We quickly noticed as we approached the door of the restaurant that most of the tables were free and our mouths began to water at the prospect of Caribbean delicacies and cold cocktails. But we were in for a disappointment: at the entrance a friendly hotel manager approached us and in a sad voice he said: “Sorry, gentlemen – no shorts allowed!” Our pleading was in vain. We tried to explain that we were a group of respectable business people and that “money was no problem”, but the manager – who I now know was a Mr Don Johnson – preferred to forego the evening’s profit in order to maintain a long, originally British tradition, according to which men were only allowed to enter a reputable restaurant in long trousers. As a result, we had to drive to a far-away place where, sitting on an unprotected terrace and being pestered by mosquitoes, we ended up chewing on some sort of pizza. The incident irritated me then, but later it stayed in my memory as something very positive: as a successful way of preserving traditional values. And maybe this particular memory prevailed in my mind when I was later choosing a destination for our family holiday. And now Miriam and I were sitting in this beautiful restaurant, well protected by thick nets from the mosquitoes (though I hardly noticed any this time), and in the cool air under the big, rotating, colonial fans we were being treated like royalty by the friendly hotel staff. To use the expression hotel does not really do it justice: the Nisbet Plantation is a complex that sweeps down from its entrance at the top of the hill to the beach. It starts with the classical, supper-only restaurant; next to
it there are clubs, a reception and a small shop; further down among the well-kept meadows, flowers and palm trees you find the beautifully located bungalows for the guests. On the coast you can make use of a fantastic breakfast bar – raised above ground level, covered with a roof, but otherwise a simple, open area – a kitchen, the “Coconut Restaurant”, which is only open during the day and also includes a small bar, a swimming pool and a wonderful sandy beach. As one would expect, the supper served in the Great House is truly a ritual, an event that you really do not attend in short trousers, on the contrary, you go there in your best suit. For families with small children the ritual starts a few hours earlier. In case you don’t attend afternoon tea at 5 pm – which would be a great shame considering the rich assortment of teas, sandwiches and desserts on offer – a member of the restaurant staff will find you in your bungalow or even on the beach, just to ask you: “And what would your children like to eat this evening? You know how impatient hungry children can be when waiting for their treats. Our children, Toni and Mariansa, first mastered English in the area of food, and after a few days they were already able to order things for themselves: “Fish and mashed potatoes” or “Chicken and french fries.” (These English expressions also slipped out of their mouths at a Sunday lunch one week after our return to Slovenia, when we went to the pilgrimage centre in Brezje and later had our meal in the tourist resort of Lake Bled.) The chosen order was conveyed to the kitchen and when we brought the children to supper at 6 pm, they immediately got their meals, as did the other children whose parents had also decided to have such separated suppers. After the children had finished their food and drinks, a friendly hotel hostess came to collect them – Toni and Mariansa still remember the smiling Rozlyn – and took them to a playroom with lots of children’s games and a big television. (Otherwise there are no televisions in the bungalows, which is considered to be a sign of the highest category of hotel; however, the ordinary hotel rooms on Nevis do have televisions.) The children are happy to spend time in the playroom while their parents can really enjoy the slow and ceremonial supper that starts every day at 6.30 pm. It may seem a bit unusual for the parents and children not to have supper together, but in reality it is an ideal solution. After all, on holidays we spend all day together anyway, we talk to each other and play a lot, so that both sides welcome the evening’s separation. The numerous members of the hotel staff appreciate it as well, because such organisation of the evening meal makes it easier for them to keep every item of cutlery in its place, every plate positioned correctly and every glass kept full at all times. In such moments, even after eight years of marriage, loving hands meet and Miriam and I agreed that life for us couldn’t be better. Health is always our first concern and on Nevis the children got rid of all their runny noses and the other remnants of the unpleasant European winter. The two of us, already middle-aged, occasionally have minor health problems, but, thank God, it is nothing serious. Our other concern is money: apparently we have enough of it, if we can afford a winter holiday including a three-day stay in Miami, an eight-day stay on Nevis and also three-days of fun in Orlando’s Disneyworld. Since we started our new family relatively late – we were both in middle age – we both had plenty of opportunity to get used to feelings of loneliness, with disappointments, a desire for children and the other secret longings of parents. We were lucky to find each other; our characters are very much alike; our values are very similar, especially our enthusiasm for the “happy family” (as we were defined by Mariansa) and our determination never to be separated. Until then our holiday on Nevis had been wonderful, we still had three more days in front of us, and then we should head towards Orlando, the destination to which the children were most looking forward. For quite some time I had been thinking of climbing to the top of Nevis Peak on the following day, and at that restaurant table I even asked the service manager Dave whether there was any path on our side of the island leading to the mountain top. He firmly warned me against climbing the mountain on my own and referred to a dreadful case that occurred a few years previously when a
tourist got lost there and spent three days on the mountain before he was rescued. I thanked him for his advice but I had my own ideas: surely that tourist wasnâ€™t such an experienced climber as I am. Of course Miriam would have preferred for me not to go climbing, but, on the other hand, she wanted me to experience the additional pleasure of seeing the whole of the island from its highest point. And, above all, she knew well my passion for the mountains and knew that I had attempted similar climbs several times before, for example, on our previous summer holiday. On that occasion I had set off from our resort on the Adriatic island of Bol to climb the mountain called Vidova gora and returned home in good time. We also thought that one advantage of this particular adventure would be the fact that after my return I would still have two days to rest in our heavenly complex of Nisbet. We were very much in love that evening. However, I also felt a tinge of bitterness: life was so good that it couldnâ€™t get any better; it could only get worse. But I never could have guessed how dramatically our heavenly feelings would change on the following day.
The First Day – Tony On a lovely morning on the 28th of February 2001 I got up early enough to leave Nisbet before dawn. My wife helped me to finish packing my rucksack, into which we put spare underwear, a digital camera, two half-litre plastic bottles filled with water, a few pieces of bread and a packet of biscuits. I didn't protest when Miriam also “planted” some mosquito repellent in my rucksack. Although I was fully aware that such a modest rucksack would be useless in the case of an emergency, I was at the same time certain that nothing terrible could happen to me. A year before I had also set off early in the morning from the nearby hotel of Mount Nevis and climbed the wonderful Round Hill, which is about 300 metres high. I was misled by the fact that on that occasion I had found a well-worn path leading to the top of a significantly lower peak – I assumed I would also find a similar path leading towards the 970-metre-high Nevis Peak. I knew for sure that there was a path on the other side of the mountain, coming from the settlement of Golden Rock, which we had visited a few days earlier and where I had enquired about the climbing possibilities. Hence, my conclusion was the following: I will surely be able to find a path leading out of the only settlement on this side of the mountain. And where else should it go to if not towards the mountain peak – since the whole of the Nevis island is really just the slope of a dominating mountain of the same name; the only exception is the area of Round Hill, which is separated from Nevis Peak by a flat saddle. This time I will be climbing over it to the left side of the mountain, taking just the opposite direction from the one I took a year ago. Whatever happens, I will stop climbing at midday at the latest. If I don’t manage to reach the top by then, I will turn back and easily return to the hotel taking the same path. Alternatively, I can go down the other side of the mountain until I reach the road, which goes all the way round the island, and there I will hire a taxi to take me to Nisbet. Just before leaving, my caring wife gave me a kiss and I assured her again: “Do not worry! I promise I will be back in good time, for the dinner at six, at the latest.” And then I joked: “If I’m not back by then, you can start the rescue operation.” Of course it never even crossed my mind that I could bring worry and uncertainty to my wife and children. I imagined their day in a completely different way: they will first have a lie in, then enjoy their big breakfast and later swim and sunbathe. In the afternoon they will wait impatiently for me to tell them all about my exciting experience and then we will all get ready for our daily ceremonial dinner. Sunrise followed the daybreak at 6 am (the time interval between these two phenomena is much shorter in the Caribbean than it is in Europe), I was already happily on my way, dressed in short trousers, a tee-shirt and sports shoes. I took the gently rising Upper Round Road, leading towards the saddle between Nevis Peak and Round Hill. For a while I was still walking through the town and I smiled to myself when I heard occasional snoring coming through the glassless windows. My pace quickened once I reached the unpopulated area where a year before I had first seen some shy monkeys in the their natural environment. On this occasion, however, I didn’t see any. When I was passing through the last settlement, situated on the saddle, I noticed that almost everybody was still asleep. At this settlement, called Fountain, I turned left and optimistically went into the jungle. Just like mountaineers and free-climbers who long for the most difficult and technically demanding climbing route, while at the same time eagerly using every foothold and every piton, I also hoped to find a path or at least a narrow track in the jungle. I soon realised that walking was going to be very difficult and progress not as quick as I had imagined. The tropical jungle is very dense, it consists of various plants – from low, thick grass and ferns to very tall trees, palms, creepers, cacti and other
prickly plants. In addition to all these living plants, there are also a lot of remnants of dead plants around. This is because man doesn’t interfere with the workings of the jungle. You make very slow progress on such terrain, and face a lot of difficulties, especially when you walk without protective clothes (long trousers and long sleeves) and without the necessary machete. Initially, I could still find a few signs of a cutout trail where I could walk much faster. I even came across some bits of an old trail-marker that was made of coloured strings tied to tree branches that were already decaying. Such marks are psychologically very encouraging because they fill you with optimism: you believe yourself to be on the right path, seeing that somebody else had walked on it before you. My plan was to follow those signs, because I thought that they would lead me towards the mountaintop and keep me safe. However, my expectations proved to be too optimistic. Readers who have ever walked on tidy, well-marked routes will recall that even there they could get lost very quickly. I used to be a mountain trail marker and whenever I drew the round, red-and-white signs, I had to be especially careful to place them at tricky turns where mountaineers could easily make a mistake and get lost. But in the jungle everything was overgrown and I found it very difficult to find those decaying strings. I gave up in the end, realising that my initial plan had come to nothing. As the slope became steeper I began to get tired and thirsty. The first bottle of water was nearly empty. I began to suspect that I would run out of water, but I hoped that I would already be on my way back when this happened and I would be able to comfort myself with the thought of a cold beer waiting for me in the first settlement at the foot of the mountain. However, it was getting increasingly clear to me that this trip wasn’t going to be as trouble-free as the one I had made a year ago when I climbed Round Hill. My lightweight sports shoes were anything but appropriate; I could have twisted my ankle at any turn. Once I even fell into some sort of hole, which must have been a result of the decaying roots of a large tree. I grabbed hold of the ground at shoulder level, but my legs dangled into emptiness. Then I realised for the first time that a serious accident could happen and that I would find it difficult to get out of it on my own. It was already after ten o’clock and I knew that I probably wouldn’t reach the top of Nevis Peak from this side of the mountain. But I wished to climb at least to the level where the forest thinned out and where I could have some view of the coast. The name Nevis has its origin in the Spanish word for snow: the mountain is, for most of the year surrounded by white clouds that spring up when the hot Atlantic air hits the mountain, cools down and begins to condense. These clouds often bring rain and this is the reason why the mountainous Caribbean islands are more overgrown and fertile than the flatter ones. The top of Nevis Peak is almost always covered with a white hat and photos of the mountain without its white top are very rare. I knew that what looks like a cloud from a distance turns into fog when you approach it. Hence, I never expected to have a good view from the top of the mountain. At about 11am the wild forest began to thin out and I slowly began to get a view of the mountaintop. I found myself standing on a crest that reminded me of Little Triglav (the lowest of the three peaks of Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain), which meant that I was on the peak next to the main Nevis Peak. My plan now was to go down a bit and then climb the bare slope until I got to the top, which was right at the edge of the clouds. But I was mistaken in my assessment of this bare slope because I was thinking about it in a European way. My conclusion went like this: if the slope is green, but without trees or bushes, then it can only be grass. And it should be easy to climb a grassy slope. But already after a few steps I found out that a green surface can be a lot more than just grass, bushes or trees. This was some sort of “quick grass”: a very thick greenery, strongly interwoven and on average up to a metre and a half tall. I was sort of swimming on it, which was very tiring. I first had to pull my leg out of the greenery, lift it as high as possible, push it about a metre forward, throw
forward my whole body and then pull the other leg towards me. I also had to supplement all these gestures with hand movements similar to swimming. The distance of a few hundred metres that separated me from the cloud and the mountaintop was also very steep, so that I was making very slow progress. To make matters worse, I also got several nasty scratches. As the time was getting closer to midday I knew that I wouldn’t get to the top. I still thought I could do it in an hour, but that wouldn’t be keeping to my initial plan to stop climbing at 12 o’clock. I wanted to stand by what I said. So, I thought, let’s go back. However, I didn’t like the path that I was on and because I remembered from the map that on the other side of the crest the beach was closer to the mountain, I decided to make my adventure more interesting by going down that side. In this way I was going to get further from the hotel and wouldn’t be able to walk back to it, but that shouldn’t be a problem: on every Nevis road you can find a taxi or at least a friendly local driver. I thought: Surely somebody will take me back to Nisbet and then…. First I will take a shower. No, first I will go to the beach and get into the sea to disinfect my scratches. No, first I will have a large beer, or maybe I’d rather have one of those delicious Caribbean cocktails? And then off to dinner with my family… There is really something masochistic about mountaineering, especially Alpine climbing: we try to climb a mountain in the most difficult way possible and end up exhausting ourselves. But at the same time we are happy to find a shortcut, level ground, an easy descent and, above all, a mountain hut where we can find shelter and rest. Hence, I found it quite normal that Nevis Peak presented me with so much hardship and inconvenience, but I really enjoyed only the first hour of my walk, that was before I entered the thick jungle – but that’s what mountaineering is all about. And now I only had one goal in mind: to return to the valley as soon as possible and be back in the luxurious hotel complex of Nisbet. So is it strange that I soon found myself in a dry riverbed? Once per year, in the rainy season, heavy storms rush towards Nevis, as well as to the other Caribbean islands, and pour enormous amounts of rain on the ground below. The water first runs in streams; these streams later flow into the canyons and here water begins to demolish everything that is in its way. This is why the canyons are the only places without any long-lasting plants. After the rainy season, only moss, grass, tall ferns and other annual plants begin to grow among the large and small stones of the riverbed. This means that walking along such riverbeds is relatively easy: you don’t have to waste your energy in moving away the branches and creepers or avoiding fallen trees. In the beginning I thought that the riverbed would make my descent into the valley really easy as well as saving me from a lot of effort and scratches. However, it turned out that my conclusions were wrong – and I feel I should share this knowledge with the readers of this book. As you follow the canyons they tend to become increasingly deep and steep. Small waterfalls are replaced by big ones; small pools change into huge basins where, in times of high water, huge rocks and trunks of fallen trees are tossed about. At the beginning of the canyon I was still able to jump easily over the rocks, but later I often had to bend down and use my hands. I had to start climbing again. I became thirsty and hungry so I had the last drink of water from my second (and last) bottle and ate a few pieces of bread. I reckoned I would reach the valley in an hour or so and could keep going without water and food until then….
But then I took a step that changed my life forever. When I noticed another hollow about five metres down from me, I realised that I was standing on a spot that is the top of a medium-sized waterfall during the rainy season. The rock below the water is always the smoothest right at the top of the waterfall, and in my case it was also covered with moss. When I tried to approach the edge of the hollow to assess how I could descend to bypass this barrier, I suddenly slipped on the moss and plummeted into the hollow. As I fell I felt several serious pains, especially in my right leg, then I found myself at the bottom, lying among big rocks and decaying trunks. The wound on my thigh was about 15-cm long and bleeding. Blood was also coming from both my elbows, and I had acquired a few more scratches. The fall was a big shock to me. My first thought was whether my bones were broken. Hence, I immediately, though with some difficulty, got up and thanked God that my bones were still intact. However, my whole body was shaking and I understood that I was in very bad shape. Before the fall I was already very tired, thirsty and hungry – and now all of that was compounded by serious shock. The wound on my leg became very swollen and I was afraid it would become septic because my whole body was very dirty, sweaty as well as being covered with mud, bits of grass and moss. I had no water left with which to clean the wound, so I comforted myself with the thought that the bleeding would soon stop since no large vein was damaged. However, it wasn’t an innocent wound because it later took a very long time to heal; and if I touch the spot now, while writing these lines three months after the accident, it still hurts. What could I do then? The situation definitely demanded a clear and rational analysis. Hence, I sat down again and said an Our Father, the Hail Mary and a Glory be (these three prayers also helped me on all the following days) which calmed me down a great deal. Then I reasoned like this: my Creator is apparently still kind to me because I could easily have been killed during a fall like this one, simply by hitting the hard rocks at a slightly different angle. I hope this was a warning only; maybe a warning against my further pride at having such a good life? However, I accept the warning and will, later, rethink the ways of my life. But now I need to know how to get out of this mess. Let’s see: above me is a five-metre wall from whose top I have just fallen down and I have no intention to go back to it. So, what else is there? In spite of the pain in my leg I walked across the bottom of the hollow, the size of two sitting rooms, and to my horror I found out that at one end it continued into another hollow, at least three times deeper and completely impassable. The side walls of my hollow were in some parts thickly overgrown with plants and 20 to 30 metres high. One wall was completely vertical, the other was even sloping inwardly. My conclusion went like this: I can never get out of this place on my own. I can see I won’t be back in Nisbet by 6 pm. Poor Miriam, she will be sick with worry. I’m really ashamed because she will now have to ask the rescuers to go and find me. But this is the only solution. At least for today. It is after 5 pm now, at 6 pm it gets dark and in these tropical places the night comes very quickly. So I will have to camp here. I didn’t need to check the contents of my rucksack because I knew how little I had taken with me. Only now I realised how careless it was of me not to take at least a knife, a torch, or a telephone. This must have been the so-called “guide’s syndrome”: guides will always tell everybody what necessary equipment to take into the mountains, but when they set off climbing themselves, they aren’t always so consistent. They believe that nothing bad will happen to them, or, in the event that an accident does happen, that they will somehow find a solution to get them out of the tricky situation.
I could guess that the night would be cold, so I immediately started preparing some sort of nest. I tore off several pieces of various plants and made my bed at the bottom of a wall, believing that it would provide me with some shelter. My underwear was very damp, so I took it off and put on my spare shorts and two spare tee shirts. I spread the damp white underwear over the dark rocks in the hope that the rescuers could see it from the air. I knew that I should try to attract their attention in some way. It is interesting to note that the underwear didn’t get dry for several days, so I left it there for the remainder of the time. Then I focused on my biggest problem: a lack of water. I was already noticing significant signs of dehydration caused mainly by exhaustion, but also due to the wounds, pain and stress that I had just experienced. My mouth was completely dry and was getting very sticky; I could feel the pulsing of the vein in my neck and had pains in my heart. I looked around but couldn’t find anything to drink. Even though there was a centimetre-deep puddle of water at the bottom of the hollow, it was all covered with green slime and full of some sort of snails and other small creatures. My plastic bottle was empty; however, I was glad that I had kept at least one empty bottle – I had put the other one on a stick beside my previous path in order to encourage other climbers that would perhaps come this way, as I was encouraged by those coloured stings tied to the tree braches. I felt that without any liquid I wouldn’t be able to hold out for much longer. I remembered that in such cases one’s own urine could be useful. Although I wasn’t quite sure that I would really drink it, I peed into the bottle, closed it and put it away to cool down. I was able to postpone the first consumption of urine for a while because of a pleasant discovery: when I rummaged again through all the rucksack’s pockets, I found a miniature bottle of Jagermeister. Oh, how I enjoyed it! My mood improved a lot, probably also because of the alcohol in the drink. My mood was soon to change again because, to my great horror, I discovered that I had lots of company in my hole: when I moved a decaying trunk a swarm of mosquitoes flew into the air. There were hundreds of them. The last thing I needed then was to be attacked by all those mosquitoes during the night. How grateful I was to my wife for “planting” that mosquito repellent in my rucksack during the last moment before my leaving. First I wanted to apply it on my arms, but that caused a smarting pain because my arms were already all scratched and cut. Instead, I decided to apply it only on my clothes, mainly on my brimmed hat, hoping that the smell would at least keep the mosquitoes away from my face. Later it turned out that they weren’t at all intrusive at night: they were flying around me, I could hear their buzzing, but only very rarely did one of them sting me. As it grew dark I was forced to go “to bed” because it was becoming more difficult to find my way among the big rocks, gaps, and piled up trunks. (I wouldn’t want anybody to think that my hollow, apart from its size, had any other resemblance to a sitting room.) I also decided to sample my urine before it got too dark. I didn’t fancy the prospect at all. On the contrary, I found it utterly repulsive and I was afraid that I would be sick immediately and unable to pour any more of the much-needed liquid into my mouth. I decided to use a psychological trick: I will try to imagine that I am in a lively pub somewhere in Scotland where beer flows like water, then quickly pour it into my mouth and imagine I am drinking the best beer on earth. This is roughly how I actually managed it. It was really good that the urine had cooled down in the mean time (and on subsequent occasions I practiced the same technique). I opened the half-litre bottle, which was almost full, focused on the fictional picture in my mind, brought the bottle to my mouth and, in one go, poured all of its content down my throat. Agghrr. Yuk. Yuk. Disgusting! But I didn’t throw up. And in just a few minutes I felt the beneficial effect of this desperately needed liquid.
I sat down in my nest, put my feet into the rucksack, covered myself as best I could with big leaves and calmed down. I felt then that I really had a lot time for thinking. I can’t say whether I had ever done so much thinking before. To begin with, I said the whole rosary (the Hail Mary, 50 times; and Our Father, 5 times). Again, I can’t say whether I had ever before said the whole rosary on my own (saying it in church, together with other believers, is a different matter). I knew: my life is in Your hands and it is Your will how this will end. At that time I didn’t yet think of death, of not getting rescued. My main concerns were not to cause Miriam too many problems and to get enough rest when back in Nisbet, before our flight to Orlando. And I also felt that my dear family was at that moment praying for me and my safe return: My guardian angel, be always with me… The night then dragged in the same way as all the following ones. I got very little real sleep. Soon I was shaking with cold. The pains were becoming worse. I could feel every stone beneath my body as well as the damp soil. A child of Western civilisation, I didn’t feel comfortable any longer sleeping outdoors and I was sure that the dampness would cause me long-lasting rheumatism. But there was nothing I could do about it, at that moment I had no alternatives. The night drags on and on. I’m cold, I’m shaking… It is very dark and my movements are very limited. I can partly turn around, but only on those parts of my body that haven’t been wounded. I have to remain in my nest where I can still partly cover myself and keep my feet in the rucksack. If I wandered away, I could very quickly step into a gap, fall in and get injured again. But my bottle with its bright top is close to me so that I can feel for it and use it for a call of the nature. The cold bites my bones and maybe only the shaking “warms me up” a bit. I wonder whether I could sleep better if it was warmer? As it is, I now have loads of time on my hands and I can’t help but fill it with a lot of thinking. My mind keeps wandering off to various times and places, but mainly it drills deep into my self. I often switch between the dialogue with myself and a monologue with Him, who is all around me. I have never in my life philosophised so much or seen life from such a completely different perspective. What was, until yesterday, the most important thing in my life? If I had asked myself this question before, I would probably have started listing rather complex social issues like a good marriage, wonderful children and prosperity, which allows us to have such a lovely annual holiday. Well, I would have surely also added good health to the list. We usually say that these are the most important things in life. And I still believe it’s true. Nevertheless, my list of important things has changed today, it has got closer to the values that my ancestors had centuries ago. Food is important! Water even more so! And protection against the cold: clothes and shelter. If I try to imagine the situations of other victims (which I now find easier than ever before), I find there is something even more important than water: the air that we breathe. I could, for example, live without water for many more hours, but buried miners or people caught under the water would be faced with an even bigger problem: a lack of oxygen. They could survive for only a few minutes. These basic needs have been the driving force of any civilisation. However, due to different conditions in various parts of the world, the pace of the progress was also different. The people who wanted to survive in continental climates of harsh winters had to provide themselves with much more than those who were never cold and didn’t even need to wear clothes. Once the basic needs were satisfied – after man had eaten, drunk and rested – then he was able to start planning other
things. As the questions “why” and “how” appear early in a child’s vocabulary, philosophy and religion appeared at the dawn of mankind. No society has ever survived without them. Usually, we perceive the details of everyday life as ordinary and uninteresting, we rush past them without paying any attention to them. However, in a different situation the same details take on a new meaning and become much more important. Take, for example, this five-metre wall, on which I slipped today and which prevents me from going back to my family. The law of gravity functions mercilessly and still threatens me, it might drag me down even further, which could be very painful or even fatal. If the wall was a few degrees less steep, I could easily climb out of this hole, leave the place, and forget it forever. As it is, the wall threateningly stretches above me and has a hugely important role in my life. If by tomorrow I don’t manage to get out of here, or the others do not rescue me, I will really be in big trouble. Then I would surely be prepared to exchange my Volvo for twenty metres of strong climbing rope. Can the accident I have just experienced also be beneficial in some way? Yes, it must serve a purpose. If nothing else, I am in such close contact with nature, closer than I have been for a long time, and I doubt that this year I would otherwise be experiencing any such intensity of feelings. I do sometimes go to the woods with the children (though in Slovenia this has recently become less appealing because of the ticks), but that involves only walking; and it’s not even demanding walking because we usually just follow the well-worn paths. But here I explore every inch of the rocks, the decaying trunks and, above all, the small plants that, to me, are almost like living creatures. I am also getting acquainted with my body in a new way. I had never before suffered such wounds. Neither had I ever before experienced dehydration. And how irrelevant the food seems to me just now! By nature I am more of a bon vivant than an ascetic, and I don’t remember when I last went to bed without my supper. I will find out tomorrow how noisily my stomach will be rumbling. However, this event will surely leave more traces on my mind than on my body. I have always been fully aware of the transient nature of our lives; I felt very strongly about it on several occasions, but those feelings were more the results of my speculation about the issue than of an experience. However, here I had just experienced a brush with death (I can’t say whether it happened yesterday or today, because I can’t check the time in the darkness), and I’m sure that many more interesting, maybe even dangerous, things will again happen to me tomorrow. Our lives are limited by time, a dimension that I will here become more familiar with. Within our civilisation, we constantly play with time and often try to trick it. We possess numerous objects and chemicals with which we attempt either to speed up or slow down the time. But here I have no such aids; no shortcuts are available. I will have to go through every second of this night and if sleep keeps avoiding me, it will be a very long one. Didn’t I have occasional premonitions that something bad might happen to me? Like other happy people, I have often said to myself in the past few years: How wonderful life is! Will it last? Do I have the right to such happiness when so many people are unhappy? Maybe the time has come when the long period of a happy life is over. Questions, questions. What if something really bad is in front of me? Will I be strong enough for it? What a silly question. Of course I will do the best I can to get out of this with the fewest possible consequences. However, there are, of course, only two options: either I will manage get out of here, or I won’t.
The worst thing about the latter option is the fact that I would then lose my beloved ones, not to mention, make them unhappy. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that I would accept death much more easily if I had no children, wife and mother. I remember an incident from Parliament when I uttered some words for which I was later mocked. I didn’t plan those words; they just came out of me spontaneously, while I was standing at the lectern during one of the tense and emotional discussions on the secession of Slovenia. At that time I said: “ I would even give my life for Slovenia!” Now I know that dying isn’t a matter that could be discussed like this, not even during the important historic moments like the ones I have just referred to. Instead of talking, action is needed; and this may sometimes also include the sacrifice of one’s life. Nevertheless, I should emphasize that I didn’t say those words casually: I was prepared to give my life so that my dear Slovenia could finally, after many centuries, become a free and equal member of the international, mainly European, community (then we were still threatened by communism and the Yugoslavian Army). When I analyse the background of that event, I also have to add one crucial fact: I wasn’t married then and had no children. Today, I wouldn’t be prepared to die for my country; and I believe that most other parents feel the same way. In my heart my children come first, my country comes second. It is important how a man dies. Lying in this hollow, I have to think about all the possible outcomes of this situation – the worst of them is surely death. I’m afraid of the form that this dying might take. Will it last very long? Will I suffer a lot of pain? Will I be delirious or will my conscious remain intact? Will death come during my sleep so that I won’t be aware of it, or will I be watching myself passing away until the last breath? So far I have been lucky in my life: apart from a sore, twisted ankle, I have never had any severe and long-lasting pains. How will I survive the whole ordeal? Another silly question, isn’t it? Either I will survive it, or I won’t. I don’t want to scream with the pain, but if it gets too much I may not be able to resist it. I will leave it to my body to set the painthreshold, and focus my mind only on crucial matters – those that can get me out of this situation. Irrespective of what will follow, I already know now that our trip to Nevis has brought a new dimension into my life. This is, by any measure, a big experience (I don’t want to use the expression adventure). I will try to remember as many details as possible so that I can later pass on my experience to other people and, above all, so that I will keep it all in my memory. A lot is still in front of me, and maybe one day I will have to give an account of this. My very thought takes me back to God. I believe that my fall hasn’t been accidental: You wanted to interrupt the flow of my life as it is now and send me a message. Will I be able to understand it? Will I be able to make use of what You are trying to tell me?
The First Day – Miriam For Miriam the day could have been quite pleasant and peaceful, even though Tony went on a solo trip. The hotel complex of Nisbet Plantation Beach Club provided every possible comfort for adults and children. After a luxurious breakfast she could have taken Toni and Mariansa to the clean and safe swimming pool where they so much liked to swim (they even preferred it to the beautiful, sandy and unspoiled beach that was only a few metres away). With the children playing on their own she could have rested on a comfortable poolside lounger and browsed magazines. The lunch would have been only a few metres away from the pool, in the restaurant that is partly on the beach, with its tables on the sandy ground and under the big wooden parasols, and with its excellent waiters and waitresses. In the afternoon they could have taken a rest in our bungalow that had a name: Indian Castle, instead of a number. It was surrounded by exotic bushes, palms and flowers so that it allowed us a peaceful rest. There wouldn’t have been much time left for another swim because at 5 pm they would have gone for the traditional English tea. This ritual wouldn’t be so popular with the children if it only included tea. But when the guests gather around the tables, in the shade in front of the Great House restaurant, they aren’t just offered more than 20 different sorts of tea, but also small sandwiches of various flavours, fresh biscuits, other pastries and cold drinks. It would have been more than enough for the children to keep them going until dinner when their father was expected back and the family would have been together again…. But for Miriam the day turned out differently. A feeling of uncertainty had persisted with her since before 6 am, when Tony had left. The day before she had helped him pack a small number of items into his rucksack (he had refused to take more with him). At night she didn’t sleep well, she heard him wake up several times, checking whether it was time to get up. After he left in the morning, she went back to bed, but couldn’t sleep again. She felt restless, wishing the clock would quickly change to four or five o’clock in the afternoon when they could all be together again. The healthy lifestyle in the middle of winter – lots of walking, swimming, fresh air and lovely food – was very good for the children, so they slept well and long. This is why they didn’t set off for their breakfast before 9 am. On the way from the bungalow towards the breakfast terrace, walking through the palm tree park, they met the waitress Violet who was rushing towards the Great House restaurant. She asked Miriam: ”And where is your husband?” When Miriam told her where Tony had gone, Violet asked in surprise: “Surely he went there with a guide, didn’t he?” Miriam said he hadn’t and Violet’s face suddenly got very serious, as if expressing some ancient fear of the mountain: “What, he went up the mountain on his own? That wasn’t a sensible thing to do. The mountain is dangerous.” These words, of course, increased Miriam’s worries and restlessness. Toni and Mariansa had, by this time, grown very familiar with the workings of the breakfast terrace. Both children really enjoyed having the beautifully folded serviettes ritually spread out on their laps by the restaurant staff. Of course, the serviettes didn’t stay there for long, while their mother was ordering food, they rushed off to the special fruit corner. Although there were many different sorts of fruits, some familiar, others unknown to them, but all neatly peeled and decorated with small flags, Toni filled his plate with strawberries, whereas Mariansa took a few pieces of watermelon. Choosing the cornflakes was much more difficult for them because the choice was much bigger than at home. And from the variety of fresh fruit juices, they chose their favourite apple juice, which they had tried many times before. Right on time, the always smiling waitresses brought a basket full of freshly made, deliciously smelling toast on which the children’s mother spread different sorts of marmalade,
taking it from the cute little jars. Only at the end of this one-hour meal did Miriam finally find time to have her own breakfast that had been served on the warmed up and tastefully decorated plate. Then she also took the time to admire the sea birds diving into the water only a few metres away from where she was sitting. The pleasant breeze on the open terrace provided constant music by moving the special, carved percussion instruments hanging from the ceiling. Their sounds created an atmosphere one can never forget. In such an environment the time passes very quickly and it is by no means your ally when you only have eight short days at your disposal. By the time Miriam and the children got back to the bungalow to brush their teeth, put on their swimming costumes, apply the suntan cream and take all the equipment they would need by the pool, the time was already close to eleven. While the children played in the water, all three of them remembered their father who, they thought, would also surely need to cool down in that heat – he must be really struggling on the way up the mountain, which they can see clearly, even from the swimming pool. Fortunately, he will certainly have a good view from the mountaintop because today only a few small clouds are surrounding Nevis Peak. Miriam also wanted to be in full view of the mountain so she chose a lounger facing Nevis Peak. She was too restless to read a book. Out of sheer habit, she put a magazine on her lap, but her eyes kept wandering towards the mountain, as did her thoughts and worries. She felt that this time Tony didn’t set off on his hike with his usual ease, that he did it more because he had previously decided to do so: to conquer the peak that had attracted him for such a long time. Soon after their arrival on Nevis he got a bit ill, his temperature was higher than normal and he still hadn’t fully recovered from it. If only he could stay safe and out of trouble, she thought. He does have a lot of mountaineering experience, but he has never before gone into the jungle. Fortunately, there are no poisonous snakes on Nevis! Well, he is sensible enough not to take any risks in the jungle, especially now when he is wearing only short trousers and sports shoes. And as far as I know him, he won’t leave us to worry right up until six o’clock. Normally he is punctual and he knows that we would worry a lot if he didn’t return on time. Still, why did he have to say those words: “If I’m not back by six, you can start the rescue operation.” Surely, it was just because he was joking, and also because he was determined not to take any risks and save enough time for his descent. It’s good that such days of our holidays are the exception. Usually, we are together all the time and only rarely does Tony want to do something that takes him away from us for a few hours. A similar thing happened last summer on the Adriatic island of Brač, when he also set off at daybreak towards the Vidova gora mountain. Like today, he left the hotel on foot and without knowing exactly where he would climb. He got back in the morning, even before we had set off towards the beach. He was tired and sweaty, but very happy, bringing us a lot of new impressions and interesting photographs. Well, let’s hope the same will happen today! Water makes you so hungry! As soon as Toni gets tired of constant jumping and diving and Mariansa stops splashing, their mother has to offer them biscuits, which will keep them going until lunchtime. And the drinks are plentiful, served by the numerous hotel staff. One of them is “on guard” at the beach, asking the guests unobtrusively whether they would like a drink. The refreshing orders are then served very quickly, and always with a lot of ice. In order to cheer herself up, at least a little, Miriam joins the children in the swimming pool. Toni and Mariansa accept her with enthusiasm, and immediately they want to show all sorts of new swimming skills and tricks to their beloved mother. Toni’s range of jumps into the pool has grown quite extensively. It is a pleasure to see him so suntanned and healthy while back at home the
weather is probably quite cold and dull. It’s amazing how good the children feel with all this sea air and water. Not only has Toni got rid of his constant colds and sniffing, but his skin has improved a lot as well. Back home, his skin was always very dry. Every evening his father had to apply olive oil to it, yet by the morning the skin would be dry again. But here no trace of this nuisance can be seen. For the first time his skin is smooth, moist and well tanned. Since their father isn’t here today, their lunch will be simpler and served to them on the beach. As soon as his mother allows it, Toni dashes towards the palm trees and finds his favourite round table, the one with a lot of shade. Once he has been joined by his mother and Mariansa, the popular waitress Glendina comes to greet them. At Nisbet the waiters and waitresses not only serve you, they also like to chat and joke, especially with the children. Toni and Mariansa don’t even have to check the menu because by now they already have their favourite dishes. Their English has improved as well, so that they can order for themselves: Toni chooses chicken and french fries whereas Mariansa wishes to have fish and mashed potatoes. And of course, Toni will also have apple juice while Mariansa asks for a coke. After lunch Miriam doesn’t glance so much in the direction of the mountain any longer, but more towards the Indian Castle bungalow. For a few times during their afternoon swim she tells Toni: “ Have a look at our bungalow to see whether daddy has arrived.” Toni has good eyesight, but he can’t spot his father. Miriam tries to comfort herself by thinking: Well, it is still too early. Then she wonders: Still, maybe he has finished his trip a bit early, so that he can have a swim in the sea before dinner. I’m sure he will be very sweaty and dirty. I will prepare fresh clothes for him so that he can immediately take a shower and get changed. After that he will definitely enjoy a cold beer. Like Miriam, the children also become full of expectations, though they don’t yet have any worries. “When will daddy come?” the three of them keep asking and they also have to find their own answers: “He will probably be back by five because he wouldn’t want to miss the tea, or at least before six, so that he can have a shower and dress properly for dinner.” Miriam is getting very restless and as she also wants to prepare everything Tony will need on his arrival, she tells the children they will return to their bungalow earlier than on other days. Toni and Mariansa are looking forward to seeing their father again and telling him all about their progress in the swimming pool that day, so they immediately obey their mother and together they slowly start to carry all their gear towards the bungalow. First they have showers, and then they slowly get ready for the dinner. Mariansa chooses the dress for herself whereas Toni puts on what his mother has chosen for him. Miriam is getting increasingly anxious, she glances nervously through the windows in the hope of spotting her husband. However, he doesn’t appear. Just before six o’clock Miriam decides to tell the hotel staff about her worries. As she meets the waitress Roslyn near their bungalow, Miriam immediately shares her worries with her. The concerned reactions of everybody who she tells that Tony has gone to the mountain on his own, makes her decide to risk her husband’s bad mood at learning that she had panicked unnecessarily in the case he does return before six. She knows that on Nevis it gets dark immediately after six and that Tony hasn’t got a torch or matches. Hence, she will take a risk and make sure that, if needed, the rescue starts as soon as possible.
Roslyn immediately gets in touch with Mr Lynell Nolan, the head of the security service at the Nisbet complex. This tall, black gentleman has been well trained for this post. He was born on Nevis, and after his high-school graduation he joined the police: The Royal St. Christopher – Nevis Police Force, where he stayed for seven years. In 1972 he moved to Canada where he again got a job with the police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force. After serving for 25 years he retired and returned to Nevis. However, he was still too young and energetic for the life of a pensioner, so he opened the Noles Boutique and the Noles Framing Service, a workshop for picture frames. In addition, he also became a columnist with the local newspaper called The Leeward Times, and in February 2001 he took over the post of the chief of the security service at Nisbet. Every morning he takes a group of girls who would like to lose weight on a demanding run, then he spends most of the day in the Nisbet complex; if required, he can also accompany guests to the other parts of Nevis. Nolan takes the information about a missing hotel guest very seriously and decides to start the rescue operation immediately after six in the event that Miriam’s husband hasn’t returned by that time. He knows that on a few occasions in previous years a tourist got lost while trying to climb the mountain, and each time the consequences of the accident were quite alarming. Once the rescue team had to look for a missing person in the jungle for as long as three days. When Miriam returns to the children she is no calmer, but at least she feels a bit better because she has done what she could to start a rescue operation in case Tony did have an accident on the mountain. Later, Miriam and the children have dinner at a table, above which an old clock is hanging. The hands of the clock seem to move very quickly towards seven. It is night outside, but there is still no sign of Tony…. “Where is daddy?” is an expected question. “He hasn’t arrived yet, but he will soon be here,” is the answer Miriam will have to repeat in different ways again and again over the following days to the children whose faces will grow increasingly serious, with gaping mouths and eyes wide open. In the Great House restaurant hardly any of the guests knew that one of the meals wouldn’t be served that evening. The news that one guest, the gentleman with the spectacles and the two lovely children, hadn’t returned from the mountain, spread quickly among the hotel staff, but they acted in a professional manner and continued their individual tasks, leaving other urgent activities to those in charge. The people responsible for this were Don and Kathie Johnson. This friendly couple, an enterprising Canadian and his American wife, took over the management of Nisbet a few years before and today they can be proud of an entirely renewed hotel complex that is beautifully maintained. Their business runs successfully and smoothly, so that now they can themselves enjoy some of the luxury that they offer – at a price – to the most demanding guests. However, they are still heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the hotel. Apart from other responsibilities, they also organise the social activities for the guests (this is mainly Kathie’s task). When the staff are serving meals to the children, Don would sometimes suggest certain specialities to the parents such as chopped-and-fried banana wrapped in bacon. Kathie occasionally joins a table when she feels that the guests would like to talk about Nisbet and Nevis. A lot of the guests visit the hotel year after year, so many are old friends of the Johnsons. Nolan immediately informed the hotel managers that one of the guests, who had set off towards the mountain that morning, had still not returned. They decided to get in touch with the person most capable of giving them advice in these situations: a guide with specialised knowledge of the Nevis
Peak mountain, Jim Johnson. When Jim learned about the problem he knew it might be serious and straight away he jumped in his Jeep and set off for Nisbet. The bridge near the entrance to the Nisbet complex had been badly damaged during the previous rainy season and a new bridge was under construction. As a result, the main road was blocked just a few hundred metres away from Nisbet. In order to avoid taking a long detour, most drivers simply stopped (or turned round) before the bridge and went by foot to the complex. This was why Miriam thought that any taxi that might bring Tony would drop him off before the bridge. During the dinner she often went out, and in the darkness she was watching this temporary parking place. But at this time of the evening very few vehicles arrived and even fewer passengers got out of them. Once she saw a male figure getting out of a taxi, only to be disappointed when she noticed that, unlike her husband, the man was wearing long trousers. Where are you, Tony? Did something bad happen to you? Mariansa sometimes also wanted to go out to check with her mother whether daddy was coming. So they both stood in the darkness… Nothing, nothing… The mosquitoes began to bite them, especially Mariansa, so they turned back towards the hotel. Just then a Jeep arrived. The driver opened the window and Miriam recognised Mr Nolan and the guide Jim. They were going to start searching for her husband, but weren’t sure how to call him over the megaphone. “Should it be Tony, Anton…?” they asked Miriam. The atmosphere was very tense and Miriam was still listening to the sounds coming from the parking place. The windows of the restaurant had no glass, so that she could hear every car that stopped out there. That evening a smallish exhibition of semi-precious stones for sale was on display in the restaurant lobby. The lady who was selling the stones showed a lot of understanding for Miriam’s worries and tried to comfort her. Once Miriam heard the sound of a car door being closed and the voices of the people that were getting out of it; one of the voices sounded just like Tony’s. She jumped to her feet, saying: ” It’s him!” However, when she looked out she realised she was mistaken. After the dinner she took the children back to the bungalow and helped them get ready for bed. Of course, none of them felt like sleeping, but Miriam insisted on their evening habits so that she could keep herself busy, and also because there was nothing else she could have done that evening. When both children were washed and dressed in their pyjamas, they sat down on the bed and prayed solemnly for their daddy. They had said the prayer “my guardian angel, watch over me” several times before, not always with the same personal involvement and intensity, yet, this time Toni and Mariansa clearly spoke every word of it and understood its meaning. On this occasion they repeated the prayer two more times, which calmed the children down so that they soon fell asleep. Miriam made a Sign of the Cross over them then went towards a window with its raised roller blind. She was standing there for a long time staring into the night… Did something happen to Tony? Did he break his leg? She could imagine dozens of other possible accidents. Tony, where are you? What has happened to you? Just before midnight somebody knocked at the door. Miriam jumped up and opened it to find only Mr Nolan who regretfully, though calmly, told her that they hadn’t found any trace of Tony. They were going to continue the search at dawn the following day.
The Second Day – Tony If I began by describing my second day in the hollow from six o'clock in the morning I would be leaving out quite a few long hours of suffering. That first night and every one of the subsequent nights all seemed very long to me. For a few times I maybe dozed off for about 15 minutes, but for the rest of the time I was shaking, thinking, looking into the sky, turning around (though only a little) and waiting, waiting, waiting – for the so-much-desired next day. The daylight also brought with it higher temperatures, and my hopes for salvation were renewed. The main problem was the cold. On Nevis, like anywhere else in the Caribbean, for most of the year the daytime temperature is 27 or 28 degrees Celsius. However, after the nightfall, and especially if the night is windy or rainy, it gets cold, so that even by the coast one has to put on a shirt with long sleeves, or perhaps a warm cardigan. I don't know what the temperature was in my hole, which was at an elevation of about 700 meters, but it must have been much lower than the temperature on the coast. For a few times the cloud encircling the mountain brought with it fog and wind to where I was lying. There wasn't enough level ground around me, so I had made my nest in a smallish hole that was full with stones. I made my bed by putting some greenery over the stones, which meant that I had at least a bit of a base, and used the rest of the leaves for my “blanket”. I always had to lie in a curled-up position, and only on my back because there wasn't enough room for me to stretch out on my front. Sometimes I could turn onto my left side, but never onto my right because my right thigh was still very painful. Every time I turned the leaves fell off me and it took me quite a long time to put them back over my body. The two things that protected me the most from the cold were my rucksack, into which I put my feet, and the tee shirt that I wrapped around my knees. Two or three times a night I had to get up to “replace” the liquid in my plastic bottle. Before nightfall, I had placed my full bottle close to me. Now, the first thing I had to do was to empty it (I no longer had any problem with the taste of the liquid), then I again urinated into it, covered it with the top, and put it back in its place. After the first night, daybreak came at six o’clock, I began by stretching out my sore arms and legs, and then I had a more systematic look around my new “dwelling”. The hollow was spread out in different directions and was very “untidy”; there wasn’t enough level surface to put down a chair (not that I had one). The water had deposited a lot of very smooth rocks, some were huge, a few metres high. Under and between these rocks, tree trunks were decaying and among them various plants were quickly sprouting: from moss and thin grass to palm-like trees that were a few metres high (I later learned they are called ”traveller’s trees”). The fern, exactly the same as we find in Slovenia, was the most suitable for making my bed. The configuration of the ground was very uneven – during the day I could only move around on hands and knees, whereas during the night any moving away from my nest, which was made at the bottom of one side wall, would have been impossible. I checked again the precipice leading towards the other hollow and became convinced that it was completely impassable for somebody without a rope. Just to stand on its edge was dangerous because it was very smooth and covered with moss, like the one above me from which I had slipped the day before. The two sidewalls were partly overgrown, but very steep, even overhanging, so that I couldn’t have tackled them without any protection. This part of the canyon was so narrow that high above me I could see a tree trunk that had crashed down on one side of the canyon and got caught by the wall on the other side. It looked like a footbridge, and I wondered whether the rescuers could perhaps use it to tie a rope to, and then throw the rope down to me. No, I thought, it would be better
if they could come down to me on a rope using the same spot from which I fell, and then help me climb out of the hollow. I doubted that they could save me with a helicopter because the canyon was so narrow that the swinging rope could get caught against a wall, and the helicopter crew would then be in danger. On the other hand, I was sure that the rescuers could use a helicopter to spot me from the air, at least in relatively bright and cloudless conditions. I kept my white (and still wet) underwear spread out on the dark rocks. I also tied a white plastic bag to a long stick with which I would wave to the rescuers. For just one hour, between midday and 1 pm, my hollow was exposed to the sun and for these occasions I prepared a few shiny objects so that I could attract their attention by reflecting the light. I hoped that the rescuers would already be looking for me from the air that day – and that they would find me. I was sorry to think that I had lost another day that I could otherwise use for swimming and enjoying Nisbet, but, I thought, the most important thing was not to miss the reserved flight to Orlando. I decided to have a small breakfast – not so much because of hunger, but simply because I knew I needed to renew my energy. I had brought with me a packet of biscuits and I decided to eat a few. However, my attempt to do so made me panic for the first, and fortunately for the last, time during my compulsory stay in the hollow. When I put a dry biscuit into my parched mouth and started to chew it, the pastry tried to absorb the moisture from my mouth, but there wasn’t any. The food got stuck in my mouth and when I tried to swallow the biscuit, it also got stuck in my throat so that I couldn’t even spit it out. In addition, the dry crumbs entered my windpipe and I found it difficult to breathe. I knew I quickly had to get rid of this lump. I took another biscuit, soak it in urine and then sucked it. By the time I had cleared my throat and windpipe, my desire to eat was gone and a few biscuits remained in the packet until I got out of my hole – and maybe they are still there. I realised that food wasn’t essential. My 78-kg body had enough reserves. A few years before a colleague from the Parliament, Lojze Peterle, had told me about his voluntary fasting that sometimes lasted up to ten days. Then I found it hard to imagine not eating anything for one whole day, let alone for several days. I believed I would suffer from unbearable pains in my empty stomach and I would quickly die. I also remembered Lojze telling me that fasting could be without any harmful consequences, but only when you consume a lot water or other refreshing drinks. While I was waiting to hear the first sounds of the rescuers, I tried to find a way of obtaining a liquid other than my own. The hollow was located at the edge of the rain forest – the clouds encircling the peak sometimes came down to this part of the mountain – so I expected to have some rain soon. Hence, I made myself busy by finding some objects that would help me collect a few extra decilitres of water. I found some very wide and almost metre-long leaves that seemed perfect for this purpose. I placed some of them so that the water from the leaves would run into two plastic bags, and the others in such a way that they would hold the water. Soon I could hear a sound, but it wasn’t coming from the rescuers. There was a plane in the distance, most probably one with a small engine and propeller. Such planes were used for transporting tourists from the nearby airport in Basseterre situated on the neighbouring island of St. Kitts to the New Castle Airport on Nevis. On my first visit to the island I had been surprised to find out that such flights took only five minutes. The Nevis Express is a nice feature of this small island because it saves tourists at least an hour, which they would otherwise need to cover the same distance by ferry. I believe they belong to the category of sports planes, which have only eight seats for the passengers. Being stuck in that hole, I was egocentrically assuming that it would be logical for the rescuers to look for me with those Express planes. However, although I kept hearing the sounds, they never got
close enough for me to grab hold of the long stick and start waving with my improvised flag. Since the sounds repeated at regular intervals, a shadow of doubt was cast over my initial hopes. I began to suspect that I could only hear the planes as they went about their regular daily flights. For the whole day I focused my attention on the sounds coming from the sky. Sometimes I could hear a louder sound, but never one belonging to a helicopter, which I so eagerly wished to hear. I thought I was probably only hearing the bigger passenger planes on their way towards St. Martin, just flying over Nevis in order to approach the airport in Basseterre. Do I have the right to expect the rescuers to look for me with the planes that were needed for other regular services? Is my recklessness a good enough reason for an extensive rescue operation organised by people who have other jobs to do? The answer immediately occurred to me was: Miriam will ask for it and certainly convince them to do so. She must be so worried by now, and she will do everything possible to find me. Yes, I can certainly rely on my wife; if renting a helicopter is needed, she will rent it. It is so comforting to know that in a situation like mine, out there you have somebody you can really rely upon. That day there was nothing else I could do to get rescued and had plenty of time, so I decided to document what then still seemed to be only an adventure. I had with me an excellent Kodak 290 digital camera, which also allowed me to record sound messages (interestingly, these took up much less memory than the pictures). I had first tried it the year before and brought back many beautiful photos from Nevis. I had with me three memory cards: two of them held as much as 32 MB. One was already full, the second was half-full and the third one was still empty. I knew that the battery wouldn’t last long enough to allow me to use all the memory that I had, but I was sure that I could take a few dozen photos and a similar number of sound recordings. So I started: first I took a photo of my wounded leg, which looked quite horrible. Its appearance was even worse than the actual pain: the swelling on my right thigh was at least five centimetres thick, though fortunately it was not septic. Using the automatic shutter release, I next took photos of myself sitting in my nest, which I didn’t even bother to tidy because I was so sure I would leave my “apartment” that day. I also took several photos of the fatal wall to document my accident, which I could later show to everybody. Optimism was still my prevailing mood, so I felt no need to say anything into the camera. I thought I would anyway soon be able to tell the rescuers in person what had happened to me.Well, the rescuers… It is already afternoon and there is still no sign of them. If they are going to be this late, then the rescue operation will continue until late at night. Will I then not be able to enjoy any of Nisbet again, since we already plan to leave for Orlando tomorrow? That would be a great pity… I hope that Miriam hasn’t told my mother, who is back home waiting for us on her own, anything about this accident. The day before my planned climb up this mountain I had talked to her over the phone and told her I wouldn’t call again on the following day, but promised to be in touch again on the day after, which is today. Miriam will certainly call her, but I hope she won’t mention any of this. We can explain everything to her later when the danger has passed. The time passes. I have nothing to do, so I am just lying down and saving my energy. I also watch the rare animals that live here with me. Colibris are frequent visitors: they whiz past me at such high speed that they produce an unusual sound similar to snoring. When I heard them during the night I thought there were some big animals nearby, but now I can see that it is these harmless creatures that produced the sound. The nearby jungle above me is swarming with various other birds, which I can hear better than I can see. On the ground and between the plants there are several insects – all of them are quite harmless. Sometimes I spot those monkeys that I so much wished to see at the
beginning of my climb: here they are also very shy. I have a feeling that they noticed me much earlier than I noticed them and that they are afraid of me. However, in the evening they become very playful and start flinging things around, sometimes these things end up in my “apartment”. It’s growing dark. Does it mean the rescuers won’t find me today and I will have to prolong this compulsory camping? Will my teeth chatter through another night in this nest? It seems likely. In this case I have to gather more leaves and make my bed better than yesterday. To spend two days without food and water in the wilderness is no longer a harmless adventure. Dear God, you saved me from death during my fall, but apparently it is Your will that I remember this event for ever. Is there any other, deep message in all of this? Is there a warning? I am praying. I haven’t prayed this solemnly for a long time. Actually, for a long time I haven’t felt Your almightiness this intensely. You can save me and You can condemn me. I am humble at Your presence. Having so much time on ones hands triggers some strange ideas and various associations in the mind. While pondering my fate, I often unintentionally began to search for my own guilt, which might have caused this misfortune. Since my childhood I have respected the belief that we should never feel too certain about the things to come: on many occasions the very things we claim will never happen to us, do happen in the end. Had I perhaps caused my bad luck the other day by jokingly saying the words: “I hope not to see you again!”? This is what happened: Two days before my unfortunate climb, Toni’s eyes became inflamed and he was crying a lot because of the smarting pain. While crying he also started to rub his eyes and that made the pain even worse so that his tears were pouring down his face. My wife and I first thought that a splinter got stuck behind his eyelid, but it soon became clear to us that his eyes were inflamed due to a lot of diving in the chlorinated swimming-pool water. During the children’s dinner we asked to see the hotel doctor, but we had to wait for him for some time because he had to drive from the faraway city of Charlestown. Dr Jacob Chandy was a very kind and experienced doctor, who brought with him the appropriate medicines (the drops, a cream, as well as the tablets). We gave some of them to Toni immediately and kept the rest to use in accordance with the doctor’s precise instructions. The fee of one hundred dollars didn’t seem too high considering that the doctor had to drive to our hotel in the evening and that it also included the costs of the medicines. When at the end we were courteously saying good-bye to each other, something put a few humorous words into my mouth. I even told the doctor I was going to make a joke and then I said: “I hope not to see you again!” Of course I was referring to Toni, and the doctor understood that I just wished that my children would be well, and not need his help again. Still, how inappropriate the words sound now: “ I hope not to see you again!” Have those very words taken revenge on me? Oh, how badly I need a doctor now! And I shouted out of my terrible hole: “Doctor, I hope to see you again!”
The only luxury I can indulge in while lying in this hollow is on a spiritual level. My thoughts can fly wherever I wish them to go and I can think about anything. I bet millions of slaves and prisoners comforted themselves in the same way while dominating masters or jailors were all around them, able to take away from them almost everything, including life, only their freedom to think remained. In order to forget the cold I make a conscious decision to think about a topic that truly interests me and is also important for my country. I don’t need much time to find out that one such topic important to me is politics. However, in a country in transition the politics are quite different from the politics in other, more established countries. The paradox of all politics is that on the one hand most of the people ignore it, it is unpopular or even despised; on the other hand, it is in the centre of everything that happens in a society and without it not even the smallest local community can exist, let alone the whole state. In general, people can say nothing good about politics, and they constantly criticise politicians. At the same time, they like to watch them every day on the main TV programmes, and a large number of candidates compete for every vacant political post. It is a fact that organised life needs decision-making, and that democracy, as it was developed by the ancient Greeks, is the most appropriate, or the least harmful, frame within which we can take decisions and ensure the best possible role of an individual in society. What I am most interested in, and would now like to play with mentally, is the relationship between the right and the left in politics. Though it is now trendy to deny this division and replace it with completely new terms (and in many countries the political situation really isn’t so simple that we could quickly identify their parties as either left or right), I am convinced that this polarisation is as much a “necessary evil” as is democracy itself. This is really a natural law: whenever we divide a group of people into two parts, one of them will always have a tendency towards the left and the other towards the right. In a society with a free exchange of information and uninhibited social relationships (here I am taking into consideration only the healthy social environments) people will spontaneously opt for one of the political sides: they can do this only in their minds, or alternatively, they can show their loyalty to one side by voting for it, or even by becoming a member of a particular party. The parties, as well as the voters, can also claim to be in the middle, between the two polarised political sides, but even such groups will inevitably consist of their left and right groupings, and will, in the course of time, swing from one direction to the other. Undoubtedly, in a real democracy both sides are equally legitimate. It is ideal if, in a society with a strong democratic culture, the dialogue between the two sides can be carried out tolerantly and within a frame of precisely defined rules. In such a case different parties are opponents, but not enemies. Revolution represents the most serious threat to such democratic societies; in a revolution, violence replaces argument. I remember how puzzled I was at my grammar school (though I wasn’t allowed to express it) when the teachers told us that the proletarian dictatorship was a logical and inevitable change in the history of mankind. There must still be a lot of old textbooks on the subject stored away in old attics, but I still find it as difficult as ever to understand those times. As a teenager I even looked up the word “dictatorship” in various dictionaries, and in all of them I found a negative explanation, based mainly on its rejection of democracy. However, according to our teachers, the proletariat had a right to it.
In my homeland the proletariat seized power in the same way as in many other, mainly Eastern European, countries. To put it bluntly: the political elite, called the communists, claiming to act on behalf of the proletariat, seized power, and in this cunning way gained political control, wealth and fame. The proletariat continued to toil in the factories and in the fields, while its representatives enjoyed their stolen wealth and sailed around on their yachts (as is still the case in Cuba, North Korea and other countries with a similar regime). In Slovenia this hi-jacking of democracy had terrible consequences. From 1945 to 1990 the proletarian dictatorship infringed citizens’ basic rights, prevented free enterprise, hindered normal economic development, suppressed religious practice, destroyed traditional Slovenian values and crippled the up-bringing of children and the education of the young. A whole generation lived and died under this oppression. It is understandable that in all those decades the ruling class, with the help of the education system and the monopolised media, completely changed and distorted the way of thinking and subdued traditional values. Among other things, it also corrupted our notions about the division between the left and right in politics: the left was a synonym for progress, while the right was seen as reactionary and evil. The people on the political left were automatically respected as expert workers; the ones on the right were treated as dilettantes. (The members of the opposition that were elected to the first Slovenian parliament also suffered from being labelled like this when confronted by the experienced “experts”.) Even ten years after our liberation the distorted belief about the superiority of the political left remains. And only about two years ago did certain political groups dare declare themselves as being on the right. I have always been a pronounced, though not an extreme, rightist (I hope to remain one for many more years). An extreme rightist is just as dangerous as an extreme leftist. When, in 1989, I attended an excellent seminar that the (right-wing) European Democratic Union organised in Vienna for the newly emerging political parties in Slovenia, the organisers also prepared for us lectures about the dangers of extremist right-wing politics. The speakers explained the nature of extremism in a way I will always remember: they told us that the line connecting the left and right political poles is not straight, but it takes the form of a circle – if we follow the line from the top of the circle on either the left or the right side, we always end up at the point where the extremes of both sides meet. The same idea was conveyed by a theatrical production called Under Prešeren’s Head that was produced during the time of socialism. During the performance an actor snapped at the contented audience that was applauding in the safe darkness of the dark theatre: “Communists or fascists – you are all the same.” While talking to myself now, in this cold, can I, a convinced rightist, objectively explain the essence of the left and right wings? In doing this, I shouldn’t base my argument on the practices of politics and parties in those countries where, due to certain historic developments and national influence, the left parties behave as the right parties or vice versa. To answer my question I have to consider the basic human values and characteristics of different people. Then I will find out which mutual beliefs join the left- or the right-wing people. A first glance at the different political programmes might suggest that the rightists are more individualistic than the leftists. However, after considering the personal nature of both, I believe that the truth is just the opposite. As a private person, a leftist is much more individualistic; to him the most important issues are personal independence and freedom, and he will always emphasize liberal values. If God is authoritarian, the leftist finds Him inaccessible or even thinks that God rejects and limits him. When a leftist isn’t forced to follow religious hindrances and the society (the nation) isn’t
his most important preoccupation, then he also has more freedom in his personal life and he is more relaxed about various moral dilemmas, like family and sex. As a private person the rightist is more closely connected with other people, he accepts that rules are needed in any human community, and he is also more prepared to give up the rights of an individual so that the community as a whole can function better. To a rightist, religion is more acceptable or even necessary because it includes numerous rules that regulate the behaviour of a society. The rightist can be humble in his relationship with God without having his pride diminished. The society, the nation and God demand consistency that pays him back (or takes revenge on him) by giving him strong moral impediments and a feeling for sin. I think I can guess what political decisions the two different brothers will take in their later life, provided they act on their own free will. The boy who is livelier, who likes to travel around, is pleased with himself when he is a bit naughty, and prefers singing to serious thinking, will probably turn out to be a leftist. On the other hand, the boy who is quieter and more reserved, who respectfully greets his elders and likes to spend his time reading books, will be a rightist. However, the crucial thing here is that both boys are equally valuable and unique. The division between the people with left- or right-wing inclinations can be easily disguised by factors other than individual characteristics – the main one is certainly one’s up-bringing. The parents with strong political beliefs usually bring up their children to have personalities with the same political profiles because they can plant their values into the children at an early stage. So it often happens that after the period of teenage rebellion, the children accept the values of their parents even when they aren’t in line with their own personal inclinations. I admit that I, too, would like to take my children into the direction that I consider to be the right one. While doing this I will even cheat a little by using the ability of Toni’s right hand as a metaphor: as his right hand is slightly more skilful and more useful than his left hand, so is the right wing more efficient in the areas of politics and economy. It is high time, after so many decades, that the Slovenian right-wing politicians find the equal place they are entitled to have. Is it at all normal that after 45 years of the leftist dictatorship, and in a time of free democracy, all our leading politicians are still from the left block (there were only a few short-lasting interruptions to this left-wing dominance)? How many more times in future free elections will Slovenes again elect a left-wing candidate as the President of the Republic? At least for the sake of political culture it should now be the right wing’s turn to hold the presidency. Our boat will capsize if we continue to load it only on the one side. The reasons for the political distortion that we experience in Slovenia are very clear and similar to the situations in other transition countries. In the decades of dictatorship the governing clique subdued the majority of capable young people, brainwashed them, brought up generations of skilful leftist ideologists and recruited them to fill all the important posts in the media. After the introduction of democracy all these people kept their positions (at that time no other people were available) and now they continue to swamp the public with false information. Those rare, capable people who had managed under the previous regime to resist the tempting or threatening ideas of the government and had given up normal careers, appropriate to their capabilities, later became the targets of the mocking media reporters, victims of cleverly planned political traps or sheer media ignorance. And the worst thing of all is that the previous clique, now acting under the cover of new political labels, has managed to smuggle its loyal members into the new political organisations (in particular, the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia called Demos). In this way they could bring about
fights and personal rivalry to undermine the new political parties (in Slovenia these were called the Spring parties). If the Spring parties in Slovenia donâ€™t manage to unite for the purpose of winning the next parliamentary election and offer Slovenian voters a solid right-wing alternative, then, at least at the presidential election, where the candidates are much more transparent, the voters could choose a right-wing candidate. In this way they would set up a minimum political balance, which would coincide well with our imminent entry into the European Union. This event will mark the final transformation of our country into a healthy state, the end of the transition period and the beginning of a new and, I am convinced, prosperous period. I would really like to be alive to experience such important changes, as well as so many other wonderful and interesting things that life can bring to us.
The Second Day – Miriam When Miriam opened her eyes at first light she realised that the dream holiday had changed into something completely different. She knew something terrible must have happened to Tony. Where has he spent the long, cold night? – Miriam wondered. Had he come to a settlement or met somebody, he would surely have phoned so that we wouldn’t be so worried. Since he hasn’t done so, he must have had a serious accident; maybe he has hurt his leg… She felt anything but fresh, yet Miriam got up and got ready for the new day because she expected the rescue operation to start very soon. And so it did: at 6.40 am Mr Nolan came to the bungalow and told her about the meeting he had had at 6.00 am with Steve Tyson and Leon Lescott at which they had divided the first tasks among themselves. Tyson and Lescott had already set off towards Prison Farm, the only state institution of its kind, because its manager, Mr Liburd, offered his help over the telephone. At 6.15 am Nolan also called the local New Castle Police Station and informed the policeman, Glasford, about the failed search on the previous evening and about the plans for that day. Nolan needed Miriam to tell him as much as she could about the route her husband was taking on his way to Nevis Peak, so that the search operation could focus on it. Miriam wasn’t able to give him any precise information, because Tony hadn’t told her much about his plans, neither had she thought of asking him more about his route. She could only remember that a few days before they had visited the highest settlement called Golden Rock, where Tony had enquired about the routes leading to the mountaintop. They had taken a taxi to Golden Rock because the place was on the other side of the island, too far for them to walk there. However, she knew for sure that Tony had planned to start his walk at Nisbet and go past the hotel Mount Nevis, where he had stayed the year before, and from where he had set off one morning on a short trip towards a smallish hill, the one with an aerial on its top. Nolan understood that the hill Miriam referred to could only be Round Hill, which wasn’t a part of the central volcanic mountain of Nevis Peak, but a much smaller, and really the only other, “mountain” on the island. He concluded that if the tourist had headed from Nisbet past the hotel Mount Nevis, he must have chosen the route called Upper Round Road. This would first take him through the settlement and later along the uninhabited terrain towards the saddle stretching between Nevis Peak on his left and Round Hill on his right. Nolan also knew that in the settlement of Fountain Village, situated on the saddle, Tony had had two options: to turn left towards Nevis Peak or to turn right in the direction of Round Hill, as he had apparently done on that short trip the year before. He asked Miriam to check which documents Tony had left in the hotel. He needed the photograph and personal details from Tony’s passport so that the rescuers would know who they should be looking for, and perhaps also for the preparation of a missing-person flyer. Nolan also asked Miriam to give him a few of Tony’s clothes, mainly the ones that hadn’t been washed, so that the sniffer dogs from the Prison Farm would know his smell. Miriam gave him everything he required. When asked whether Tony would choose to climb a well-trodden route or something off the beaten track, Miriam answered that, being a rational man, he would have chosen a well-trodden and marked route. She thought that had he climbed the mountain off the beaten track he would have surely hired a guide, especially as he knew there were a few guides on Nevis. Nolan considered his last question
to be of the utmost importance, so he asked it, in a slightly rephrased form, for a few more times. Since Miriam didn’t have an exact idea about the locations of the places on Nevis, and in particular the distance between the hotel and Golden Rock, and since she mentioned for a few more times how Tony had enquired about a climbing route in Golden Rock, Nolan left with an impression that the search should be started in the area around Golden Rock, especially because there were no marked routes leading from the Nisbet side of the island to the mountain. Nolan informed Steve and Leon about his decision and these two men, together with a group of prisoners who volunteered to help the rescuers (Samuel James, Trevor Hector, James Allen, Philmor Seaton) and ten sniffer dogs went towards the area of Golden Rock where they began the search. On his way towards the hotel reception, Nolan was approached by a Nisbet employee, Leroy Nisbett, who told him that at about 6 am on the previous day he had met a person who matched the description of Mr Tomažič, on the Upper Round Road heading towards Fountain Village. This piece of information made Nolan doubt that Tomažič had really chosen to start his climb from Golden Rock. On a small island like Nevis, alarming events are rare, so Nolan decided at 7.00 am to inform the prime minister, Mr Vance Amory, about the missing person and the actions taken so far. However, when he phoned the prime minister, Mr Amory’s wife answered the phone-call and told Nolan that her husband wasn’t on the island because he was attending a parliamentary session on the neighbouring island of St. Kitts. Mrs Amory also told him that she was expecting her husband to phone her shortly and promised she would pass on the important information to him. As an experienced security officer, Nolan knew that he should get in touch with the officer responsible for dealing with such a crisis, Llewellyn F. A. Newton, a disaster-preparedness coordinator. It is understandable that on Nevis the word disaster mainly refers to disastrous hurricanes that can occur during the rainy season, but at the same time Mr Newton and his team were also in charge in the event of other exceptional situations. Nolan informed Newton about the Tomažič incident at 7.10 am and one hour later Newton phoned him back telling Nolan that he had done everything necessary to start an official rescue operation. He was going to be personally in charge of the operation while cooperating closely with others, mainly the Nisbet employees and the police officers from New Castle and Gingerland. As early as 9.15 am Newton came to Nisbet, where the first meeting of the head rescuers was held in the Coconut Restaurant. Apart from Nolan, the other participants were the guide, Jim Johnson, and the inspector, Austin Lescott, together with three other police officers. They quickly discussed all the urgent matters and decided how to organise the operation that day: apart from searching in the area around Golden Rock, they were also going to search around the settlement of Fountain Village, situated on the saddle. There they would go in both directions: left towards Hog Valley and right towards Spring Hill. In the meanwhile, Miriam started a new day that wasn’t much different from the following seven days. More than anybody else she wanted the search for Tony to be as intense as possible and she would have liked to be involved in it, however, she also had to stay with the children. She even suggested to the head rescuers that she should join them, but they thought it would be better for the children to stay with her instead of being with people they didn’t really know. The other rescuers’ argument was the fact that Miriam didn’t have the experience needed for a search on dangerous terrain. On the one hand, she so much wished to hear the comforting news that her husband had been found, on the other, she got a chill each time the telephone rang, thinking: Will I now hear the worst?
In addition, she had to conceal her enormous worries from the children – had she not done that, the situation for all of them would have been even more difficult. As it was, the children remained unburdened with the problem. Miriam tried her best to continue the lifestyle they had got used to over the previous days. When Toni and Mariansa woke up that morning, their first question was: “Why hasn’t daddy come back yet?” “I don’t know, sweethearts, I really don’t know, but I’m sure he is all right. Maybe he has sprained his ankle and has to wait for the rescuers to come and bring him back on a stretcher…” “Will it be today?” “Yes, your father will surely be back today.” It is interesting to note that on the following days Nolan was comforting Miriam in a very similar way: “Of course it is very likely that your husband is alive. It had happened before that somebody was missing for several days, but in the end the rescuers found him alive.” A few days later he added more details to his account of the previous accidents: “There were cases when people spent a whole week in the jungle and were still rescued in the end.” However, he began to feel increasingly uncomfortable at the end of the first week. He thought that Miriam wouldn’t believe her husband could survive any longer than this in jungle. At the breakfast the waiters and waitresses were specially kind to the Tomažič family because the news about the missing guest had already spread among the staff, though not yet among the other guests. That’s why Toni and Mariansa laughed more than on other such occasions, whereas Miriam only had a few bites of food. She was constantly staring at the silhouette of the mighty mountain stretching right in front of them. Tony is there somewhere, but where? Is he suffering? Is he hungry and thirsty? Maybe wounded? Some thoughts were even darker, but Miriam was pushing them out of her mind. She thought the best thing for the children would be to spend the morning at the swimming pool. So she told everybody that they could always find her either at the pool or in their bungalow. They spend the mornings on all the following days in the same way. Whenever there was an important telephone call for Miriam, the staff came to collect her, or they simply put the call through to the telephone nearest to her. When the children weren’t in the water, they were playing on the sand of the nearby beach or they asked their mother to read to them. It was good that a few days before the children and their father started the second Harry Potter book, which Toni particularly enjoyed listening to. When it was close to 2.00 pm, Miriam became even more nervous because that was the time for her to call Tony’s mother in Slovenia. Her mother-in-law is old and walks with considerable difficulties, so the decision to leave her alone was a difficult one, but they arranged for her to get food and other necessary help while they were away. During previous holidays she got used to the custom of receiving a phone call from her family every day at 7.00 pm Slovenian time. This meant a lot to Tony’s mother and it was good for the family to know that she was well. While on holidays this time, they also phoned her every day; because of the time difference it always had to be at 2.00 pm local time. However, there was an exception: last Tuesday Tony told his mother he wouldn’t call her on the following day because he was planning to go on a trip. Instead, he was going to call her on Thursday. Hence, that day Tony’s mother must have been waiting for the phone call, but Tony
couldn’t phone her and Miriam couldn’t bring herself to do it either – she didn’t want to lie to her, but telling the truth to her mother-in-law was even more difficult. She could even have a heart attack, Miriam thought. I will take some risk and wait until tomorrow when I won’t have to conceal the bad news any longer. Miriam’s mother was much younger and healthier, but still, Miriam couldn’t tell her the bad news either, so she decided not to call Slovenia at all that day. The mothers couldn’t help them in any way, but a phone call would surely make them worry a lot. This decision spared Miriam a lot of painful explaining, but it also increased the burden she was carrying. Had she confided in her mother, she would have probably had a good cry and then perhaps felt a bit better. The Nisbet staff looks after their guests well, among other things they also help them organise their arrival and departure. Hence, that day an employee, Steve, approached Miriam and reminded her that their flights to Orlando, planned for the following day, were uncertain. The decision to cancel the flights wasn’t difficult: even if Tony had been brought back that instant, they still couldn’t have simply packed and left for Orlando on the following morning. So she handed the flight tickets over to Steve to cancel them. The Nisbet management, especially Kathie Johnson, did their best to help Miriam bear the heavy emotional burden. For this purpose they also brought in Dr Judy Sonnenberg, a professor from the neighbouring American medical university, which had just that year been opened on Nevis. Kathie introduced Dr Sonnenberg as her acquaintance and an American compatriot to Miriam over their afternoon tea. A trained psychologist, Judy performed her role so well that Miriam didn’t realise until the end of her stay on Nevis that she was getting the necessary therapeutic help; she simply accepted Judy as a compassionate friend that approached her in an unobtrusive way, making it easy for Miriam to confide in her and giving her a lot of comfort and encouragement. All of this was possible mainly because of Judy’s warm, straightforward personality and her readiness to fully devote herself to another human being. She didn’t find it difficult to sit up with Miriam late into the night, help her put the children to bed or even assist her with some other urgent tasks. In the meanwhile, the search for the missing person continued. The policemen, various volunteers and, above all, many members of the Nisbet staff, were walking in the lower parts of the two mountains, Nevis Peak and Round Hill, calling out the missing person’s name and seeking possible new details about the tourist from the local people. The temporary coordination committee, chaired by Newton, was also trying to find a more efficient way of organising the rescue operation, which would mainly be searching from the air. However, there was no helicopter on Nevis. There were, of course, small planes, but they weren’t suitable for low flying, and were all the time used for regular flights. Newton called the head of the rescue service on St.Kitts, Mr Edmead, and asked him whether it would be possible to get aerial help from the US Coast Guard, the best-equipped organisation of its kind. The officials from St. Kitts did send a request for help, but received a reply that the US Coast Guard did not have the authority to carry out a rescue on the mainland. The French authorities from the island Martinique also refused help. Newton and Nolan then agreed that on the following day they would try to get a helicopter from American authorities. Traditionally, the formal dinner in the Great House restaurant is, on Thursdays, replaced by a barbecue on the beach, so Miriam, Toni and Mariansa were obliged to attend it though they weren’t in the mood for such events. Already at afternoon tea, Judy kept them company, and she stayed with them during the barbecue as well. Considerate restaurant staff – the always-smiling Roslyn was
especially popular with the children – were bringing food to the family as they sat in a quiet corner. On a few occasions they also brought them news about the rescue operation, unfortunately, each time it was bad news. That night there were many more mosquitoes on the beach than usually, and Mariansa seemed to be their favourite target. The family, therefore, soon had to leave the barbecue and seek shelter in their bungalow. Before sleep they all prayed for their father, holding the Rosary that Tony’s mother had given to them just before this journey with a wish that they would use it often and pray for a safe return. At 9.30 pm the children fell asleep and Miriam positioned all the window blinds in such a way that she could see out – she knew that she would be awake for most of the night staring into the direction from which her Tony might come. Her heart trembled when, after 11.00 pm, somebody knocked at the door. But it was only Roslyn, who was finishing her work at the barbecue dinner, and just wished to say a few more comforting words to Miriam. She told her that a lot of people were looking for her husband and that in the morning she had also been looking for him in the area around her village, called Buttlers, crying out: “Anton! Anton!” “Thank you, good Roslyn, thank you, good people.” “Good night. I hope they will find Tony tomorrow.”
The Third Day – Tony The third day also began well before daylight. Since I was lying on my back for most of the time, I can clearly remember my view of the sky surrounded by the silhouettes of both canyon walls. These were, especially towards the top, thickly overgrown, and in some parts the plants grew together over the middle of the canyon, forming interesting shapes in the dark. Right from the beginning the image to me looked like a portrait of a young man, and as time went by this impression became even stronger. My hollow was sometimes quite dark, especially when the passing clouds covered the sky; on other occasions it was very bright with the light coming mainly from the growing moon. When the monkeys were at their most lively and noisy I could occasionally see a moving figure for a split second. The sounds they were making were loud, and close enough to frighten anybody. However, I remained rational and calm, knowing that there were no big animals or beasts on the island, and I didn’t let my imagination scare me with eerie questions about when and why they were so close and mysterious. I preferred to focus on the wonderful singing of the birds and insects. I have to say that the night sounds in the jungle are beautiful and full of mystery. I knew some of them, mainly the sounds of the cicadas and crickets, from the Adriatic coast where I usually spend my summer holidays. But there were also other, very different, sounds coming from the birds, mainly the parrots. I was especially attracted by a sound that, I believe, must be typical of Nevis. I still don’t know which creature makes it, but the sound is surprisingly similar to the sounds that the Nevis musicians produce when playing the steel drums. The Caribbean islands are the world centre of a diverse, ethno-pop music that includes European, African and American elements. The music from Nevis usually isn’t included on the compilation CDs, though it certainly deserves to be. I find the music of Nevis one of the most original features of the Caribbean. One explanation as to why it isn’t so popular around the world may be the fact that it is mainly instrumental music. During the nights I had to spend in that hollow I came to believe that the music must have been created in an attempt to imitate that wonderful and mysterious night sound coming from the Nevis forests. I can’t describe this sound; I can only say that its monotonously nostalgic tune evokes melancholic and romantic feelings in me. It has a calming and comforting effect, and in other circumstances it would probably have sounded like a pleasant lullaby. And how badly I needed the comfort! The third day was breaking and I began to understand that what was happening to me wasn’t a minor accident, but a serious incident that would leave a lasting mark on my life. I thought to myself, if they don’t find me today, I might easily die in this hole. I began to see my situation in a different light: will I have to seek reconciliation with God and take leave from this world? Once again, I started my day with a prayer: Father, for you all things are possible; let this chalice pass from me! How I would welcome the morning sun to warm me up! But I can’t expect it before midday, and even then it will only reach me if there are no clouds above this part of the mountain. No, there won’t be much sun today – I can feel the raindrops. What if my only dry clothes – the two tee shirts and a pair of shorts – get wet? They certainly won’t get dry by the evening, and if I have to sleep out here again tonight I will freeze to death in those wet rags. Logical thinking showed me there was only one way out of this situation: I quickly took all my clothes off, wrapped them in my rucksack, and squeezed the rucksack under a rock. Well, I thought to myself, in a situation when people would normally put on more clothes to keep them warm, I have
to take everything off and expose my body to the rain and wind. How drastically my position in the world has changed in just a few days! And what shall I do now? Shall I stand up, lie down or crouch naked in the rain? Most importantly, I have to stretch out my tongue and catch a few drops of water. Soon the rain is bucketing down on me. I notice that the water is filling the leaves and plastic bags that I have prepared for this purpose. Finally I will have a drink of water again. As the rain falls, I crawl gingerly to one of the plastic bags and have a few sips of water. Oh, how good it feels! This is certainly much better than that brownish liquid that I “recycle” every few hours. However, I soon realise that the collected water isn’t quite clean. At the bottom of my “containers” there is some sort of sediment made up of various bits of plants. I understand that because the canyon is so narrow the rain doesn’t come down in a straight line, but bounces off the tall branches and leaves up there between the two walls. When the raindrops trickle down the leaves, Mother Nature “plants” a few things into the water, mainly the seeds that have to spread around in a variety of ways. I only hope there are no animal “implants” that would upset my bowels. To avoid such a problem, I filter the collected water through my white vest. Each time I pour the water through it, the vest becomes dark with all the bits that get caught on its surface. Something tells me this water will cause me problems. And so it does! When the rain stops after about fifteen minutes I dry up a bit and put on my clothes – but immediately I have to take them off again due to strong cramps in my stomach. I realise I have got serious diarrhoea. This is the last thing I need: to lose the so-much-needed liquid in this way. But it’s exactly that – I have to find a place for my toilet. Should it be in the most distant part of my dwelling? No, I was careful enough to take into account the possibility of a longer stay in my hole and the night-time calls of nature. I knew that in the dark I couldn’t move far from my nest. Hence, I emptied my bowels only a few metres away, into a gap between two rocks. And I certainly did empty my bowels well! The contents were pouring out of me. I knew I was losing a lot more liquid than I had just consumed, and so I decided to stop this practice. That day I focused my attention on the sky and the faraway sounds. Those were suspiciously similar to the sounds I had heard the day before, which made me think that I was hearing only the planes on their regular flights and that the air rescuers weren’t on their way. Maybe they will walk up here, I thought. In my anticipation of their arrival, I often cried out: “Help! Heelp! He-elp! Na pomoč! Hello!” Then I listened to hear if somebody was calling me, but all I could hear were the echoes of my cries. I was puzzled: How come they aren’t here yet? Nevis isn’t that big, and Miriam must be urging them to look for me. Well, maybe the sports planes aren’t suitable for low flights because they would have to avoid mountain ridges and several clouds. Or, maybe there is no helicopter on the island. In this case they will perhaps bring one from a neighbouring island … I thought that in the meantime I could check again to see if it really wasn’t possible to get out of that hole on my own. Can I climb downwards? – I asked myself. Not even in my dreams: the canyon is far too deep and slippery. What about the sidewalls? They are too vertical to climb. Only the part where I fell down is perhaps a possibility. I give it a try, but I soon stop, thinking: Even if I don’t fall off immediately, I will surely fall after the first three or four metres. I’d better wait; they will find me eventually. In the meantime the weather cleared up and at midday a few, much needed, sunrays shone on me. I waited for them on one side of the hollow and then followed them, as they were moving towards the other side. There, I had to take leave of them after just one hour. I could see that the sky above my part of the mountain was still quite clear so that the rescuers could spot me from the air, if they flew
over. I listened hard all the time, even when I dozed off a bit. I had hardly slept at night, which meant that I was far from fresh and rested, and therefore I had a few naps during the day. I became very excited when, at about 2.00 pm, I finally heard a distant sound – this time quite different from the sounds of the planes. I knew it was a helicopter. They are looking for me, I thought. Salvation is close! I jumped to my feet, grabbed hold of my long stick to which a white plastic bag was attached, made sure that everything else was in place and waited, waited … Yes, the sound is coming closer! It is very strong. This must be a very big helicopter. Now, what is this? Is the sound going away? Well, just for a short time, then it grows louder again. Of course, they must be surveying the area. Can I already see it through the narrow opening of the canyon? No, not yet. But it is very loud, so it must be low … I can see it now. Yessss! I see its profile. It is round and has a long tail. I wave and shout though the men in the helicopter can’t possibly hear me: the noise of the engine wouldn’t allow it. Can they see me? – I wonder eagerly. If they look in my direction then they will surely see me as I can see the windows of the helicopter. It is gone … It flies away. Well, it will come back, – I encourage myself. And next time it will come even closer. My excitement reaches a peak. I rest a bit, so that I can later wave and shout again. What will they do once they spot me? I don’t think they can descend into here or attempt to rescue me directly from the helicopter by using a rope. They will probably first make a sign to let me know they have seen me. Maybe they will also throw something to me. It is possible that they have prepared packs of drinking water so that I could first have a good drink. Yes, that would be the best thing. Then they will perhaps inform the other rescuers, so they can reach me on foot, and bring the ropes and to help me climb out of the hollow. But that will take time. Well, I can wait as long as I know they have found me. I only need to know they have found me. But they haven’t found me yet. The helicopter has been away for too long … When will it be back? Nothing. Nothing. I can’t hear any encouraging sound. And the time passes. Did they run out of fuel and go back to fill up? I soon realise that nothing more will happen today. It will soon be 6.00 pm, when night falls. Tomorrow then … I was very disappointed; but I was even more hopeful than before. My thoughts went like this: If they have managed to come so close today, they can do the same tomorrow. However, our trip to Orlando will come to nothing. Will we have to change our plan so that we can at least catch our trans-Atlantic flight home from Miami? Will we do that or am I just kidding myself? Only then I realised that I shouldn’t have any illusions. I was involved in a very serious accident and the situation was extremely dangerous. Maybe I won’t survive this at all. As if I wanted to demonstrate how I was coming to terms with reality, I picked up a sharp stone and started to chisel the words “Day 3” into the wall. I thought that if they found me only after my death they would at least know how long I had survived and that they could have saved me if they had come earlier. Before nightfall I described the past events and my current situation into my digital camera that could make sound recordings. With the automatic shutter release, I also took a photo of myself showing three fingers. When I realised that the stone I had picked up for chiselling was very useful, I approached my fatal wall and started removing the moss from it. I was doing this more out of some kind of vengeance than in any attempt to start climbing that dangerous wall. However, in order to “work” higher up the wall I had to pull myself up a bit; and to ensure that in the event of a fall I wouldn’t hit hard rocks I rolled a few decaying tree trunks to the base of the wall.
Before I could make my bed I had plucked more leaves from all around my hole, but then I began to worry that I would soon run out of fresh leaves if I was going to continue using them up like this. What’s more, my concern for nature awoke in me. I began to think, that each time I should take only a few leaves from the plants instead of pulling them out without any plan. In this way I would leave some fresh leaves for other days and use them then if necessary. Just before nightfall I experienced another small joy. In the thickest part of my dwelling I found a few samples of a very useful, few-metre-high plant, which I named after my Slovenian hometown: Domžale plant. After having had a better look at it, I could see that the lower part of its stalk consisted of special small ventricles in which water was stored. I took one stalk and later, when I turned in for the night, I slowly began to chew it. That night and on the following day, I had to go to the toilet so often that in the end my bowels were completely empty. That night dragged on even more than the other nights. I kept my wristwatch on all the time, but only rarely could I see its hands. In the meantime I was only guessing how much time still separated me from the daylight I longed for so much. I prayed a bit, I thought a bit, I dozed off for a while and had a few dreams, I moved around a bit in my “bed”, got up, “replaced” the liquid in my plastic bottle, went back, covered myself with the leaves, dozed again, later I looked into the sky, rearranged the leaves on my body, dozed off … And look: the day is breaking, soon it will be bright enough for me to tell the time from my watch. What could the time be now? It must be two, maybe even three in the morning. Then the moon appears so that I can finally look at my watch … This can’t be true! It is only a quarter to nine in the evening. This night is going to be very long. I am cold. I don’t try to stop the shaking of my body; on the contrary, I’m even reinforcing it in the hope that the shaking will warm me up, at least a bit. When I wake up once again, I am really quite sorry that I have woken up because in the last fifteen minutes I had the most beautiful dream. In it I could see my relatives and friends in the most wonderful surroundings; and they were all so kind and good. As if I had been in heaven … I believe that many people have died in exceptional circumstances (on the snowy mountains or in the Arctic) with a smile on their faces, just like the little match girl. I would like to fall asleep again and have the same dream, but I can’t do it – the sleep and dreams don’t return to me again. And when I can’t sleep, I think, think … I find this hole, in which I am held against my free will, utterly unpleasant and repulsive. However, the hole is entirely natural and, in spite of all its dangers, innocent and so full of life in the middle of the blooming and sweetly-scented nature. I don’t yet feel the presence of death and I believe that even if I do feel it later, it won’t be as terrifying as it can be in certain circumstances that are manipulated by man. How much more terrifying and utterly unjust it must have been for the tens of thousands of innocent Slovenes who, AFTER the Second World War, were killed in Slovenian hollows. And they weren’t killed by some evil, foreign soldiers, but by their fellow countryman. I can’t help thinking about my poor uncle – my mother’s brother, France Vodlan. We still don’t know in which hollow his bones lie rotting.
My mother hid the truth from me about her brother until I was fifteen-years old. In a similar way, thousands of other Slovenian parents had to hide the truth from their children. Had the children known it and mentioned any of it at school or to their friends, they could have become labelled forever and their lives would have been even more difficult. I know a woman of my age whose mother never told her when, how and why her sister was killed. All her life the mother kept the painful secret to herself and only now the daughter understands why she so often found her mother crying alone. Among her six brothers, France was my mother’s favourite. Of all the boys, he was the most considerate and protective towards his little sister who, as the only girl in the family, always had to fight for her place. He was a trained shoemaker; a keen athlete, he fell desperately in love a few times and was at the peak of his youth when the Second World War broke out. The Germans occupied the part of Slovenia where my mother’s family lived and soon the resistance against them was organised. A few of my mother’s brothers were mobilized to join the German army, others were deported to Austria, but France voluntarily joined the partisan fighters in 1943. (Under the leadership of communists, the partisans fought against the occupying forces and also for the social revolution.) Until the end of the war, France stayed with the Second Company of the so-called Šlander’s Brigade. Since he was stationed in the area around his home, my mother often visited him, bringing him food and clothes. On those occasions they also often got involved in deep conversations, which meant that my mother got an insight into the development of the resistance, as well as into her brother’s moods and beliefs. They both soon understood that the “ordinary” partisans were being badly abused. Their leaders, the well-organised communists, were pulling all the strings and the leaders’ prime aim wasn’t the liberation from the occupying forces: they wanted revolution and to take power. Very early on the communists began to behave in a very arrogant and violent way and didn’t allow any other form of resistance against the occupying forces. Any forms of resistance that weren’t in line with the main strategy were explicitly forbidden, and those fighters that weren’t subordinate to the communist rulers were killed. Hence, during the Second World War there was also a brutal civil war taking place in Slovenia. At the beginning of the war all the partisans were sleeping and eating under the same conditions, but soon differences began to emerge: the meals for the leaders were richer and tastier than the meals prepared for the others. France was becoming increasingly puzzled by all of this; at first he was still naïve, and it took him some time to see through the communist conspiracy. I was deeply moved when, years later, my mother repeated the words France had once said to her: “You know, Mitska, I believe Slovenia will be liberated, only I won’t be able to enjoy its freedom – I feel I will die before that time.” He did live to see the end of the war – but it didn’t bring him liberation, instead it brought him a cruel death. By early spring 1945 he became fully aware of what the communists were plotting and, as a result, he left the partisans. He didn’t want to demonstrate his break with the partisans in a particularly emphatic way, but when he fell ill with malaria he joined the home guard, who looked after him. (The so-called home guard was a group whose main aim was the fight against communism.) Though he had no real wish to join the other side – the home guard was then in anything but an enviable situation – he sought refuge with them in order to save his life (otherwise the partisans would have killed him). However, during those last days of the war, he certainly didn’t hurt, let alone kill, anybody. My mother believes that he never killed anybody during his two-year involvement in the war.
When, at the beginning of May 1945, the country became “liberated”, he was immediately arrested and taken to a camp near Ljubljana, where people were gathered just so that they could later be slaughtered. With the frantic sounds of victory celebrations still coming from the distance, thousands of victims of the Slovenian civil war spent their last days in the inhumane conditions of that camp. My mother kept in touch with France during the month of May and the first half of June. She could send him her regards through some kind acquaintances and got the same in return – none of them dared to say anything else. Soon the slaughtering began, and it can’t be compared with anything else in the history of our nation. During the whole four years of the war there hadn’t been any such large-scale killing as we experienced after the war. The only aim of this horrible act was to exterminate the members of any political opposition, and in this way the communists got rid of most of the people who could prevent them seizing power. Without any legal procedures the new political leaders killed tens of thousand members of the home guard and other political opponents, together with their family members, including a lot of children. The most tragic and ironic part of this story lies in the fact that most of these political opponents initially managed to escape from Slovenia through the tunnel that links our country with Austria. There they surrendered to the victorious western allies, but the British Army, using the pretence of sending them to Italy, packed them into cattle trucks and sent them back to Yugoslavia where they were seized by the partisans. My uncle was spared the “trip” to Austria, however, he was killed, along with other victims, at one of the mass execution sites whose locations are now finally known to the Slovenian public. How inhumanely and brutally did the intoxicated killers treat the desperate prisoners! After the decision to kill them was taken – and that decision must have been made at the highest political level – its execution was treated only as a difficult logistical problem. The main question was where to put thousands of bodies. The executioners remembered that some parts of Slovenia were rich with special geological features, deep sinkholes, into which they could throw the dead bodies. Since the transport of dead bodies is much more complicated than the transport of live ones, they organised special trains and trucks that took tens of thousands of victims, at precisely planned intervals, to the killing sites. Every one of them must have known that they were going to be killed: before getting on a train or truck, they had to take off all their clothes and with sharp wires they were tied together in pairs. Before leaving, the executioners pulled several gold teeth from the mouths of the victims, took from them even the smallest items of their property and humiliated them in various other ways. In the forests of the so-called Kočevski Rog, the soldiers of the new regime drove their fellow countrymen out of the trains or trucks, put them in lines in front of the holes, which were a few tens of metres deep, and machine-gunned them so that the dead or wounded bodies were toppling into the depths of the holes. They were landing on top of each other, many of them still alive. They were gasping for breath, swallowing or throwing up blood and trying to remain at the top of the pile by pushing away other bodies. Every few hours the executioners took a short break to rest and reload their ammunition, and then some of the victims exchanged a few whispered words among each other, careful not to break the deadly silence that was filled with horror.
How is it possible that we know all of this? It’s because, in spite of very strict security measures, some of the captives managed to escape. They went abroad and there they told the story of this atrocious crime. The victims that were lucky and skilful enough managed to dig their way up towards the top of the pile consisting of hundreds of bodies. There they lay low, using the limbs of other bodies to protect themselves so that they could even survive the final evening explosions with which the executioners wanted to cover the bodies and hide forever the evidence of their evil acts. After a few days, when an unbearable stench of decaying flesh and blood spread around in the summer heat, the guards became less attentive. Then, during the night, three or four people managed to climb out of the abyss by using the leaning trunk of a fallen tree. Naked and wounded, they crawled off into the night. Man can be so much more cruel and malicious than nature; and those unfortunate people, though surrounded by hundreds of fellow sufferers and being in the heart of their homeland, must have felt so much more unhappy, deserted and forgotten by the world than I feel now on this small Caribbean island. My suffering has been caused by a series of unfortunate events; theirs was caused by sheer hatred and malice. The present Slovenian leaders haven’t been able to completely conceal these events from our recent history from the people. However, they are trying hard to minimise the importance of these events. I know this because of my own experiences in the area: for a few years I chaired a committee investigating the slaughter that took place after the war in my hometown of Domžale. The members of those parties that continued the politics of the previous regime were constantly trying to hide facts from the committee, or were taking the right to decide who among the dead victims deserved to be remembered and who was a national traitor because of his supposed collaboration with the Germans. Only with great difficulties did we manage to put together a list of about 280 local victims, and during that process I got acquainted with many very tragic stories. I can recall an interesting example that illustrates how merciless the political rulers were even when they decided on the posthumous reverence – a custom that every decent society has respected for thousands of years. I think it was in 1944 that the partisans killed a young man from the village of Dob, next to Domžale, who had right-wing patriotic views, and buried him in a meadow near a forest. After the “liberation” his parents and brothers wished to move his remains to the cemetery in their village, but for several years the local authorities continued to deny them the right to do so. One night, five years after the war, the brothers finally took the courage to dig up the remains of the deceased and hide them in the basement of their home. When a few years later the father of the killed man died, the family made use of the fact that the father had a leg missing and put the remains of the dead brother in the empty place in the coffin. The father and son were then buried together. The family told me that at the meal after the funeral they enjoyed having an extra glass of wine marking, in this way, the occasion when they successfully tricked the authorities that hadn’t allowed them to carry out the most basic customs of any culture. From then onwards the family was much more at peace on the annual All Souls’ Day (even the name of this traditional Catholic holiday was abolished by the new regime and replaced by the Day of the Dead) when standing at the grave which, though bearing only the name of the father, also held the remains of the brother. The ghastly events that took place in the intoxicated euphoria created by the people who, at the end of the war, happened to be on the winning side, are still not sufficiently well known to the rest of the world. Among another things, this is also due to the feelings of guilt of the British authorities that still don’t admit they made a fatal mistake. The President of Yugoslavia, the cunning Marshal Tito, must have already then managed to trick the British, as he later managed for decades to skilfully play
the role of an amiable and enlightened dictator, and whose funeral in 1980 was attended by the cream of international politics. It is a well-known fact that in May and June 1945, Tito already had a firm grip on power throughout the whole of Yugoslavia by forcing the military and civil institutions to submit to a completely centralised form of politics. We can’t even imagine that a very expensive operation, during which tens of thousands of war prisoners were executed, could have been carried out without Tito’s explicit agreement or even his order. We can also be certain that the Slovenian communist leadership, chaired by Edvard Kardelj, was fully aware of, and also in agreement with, the executions organised in Slovenia. And this systematic violence, which denied Slovenian people their basic human rights, wasn’t only a short, turbulent, post-war period, but a process that lasted for many years. Even in the fifties, Tito still maintained a concentration camp – the closest one to Western Europe – situated on the Croatian island of Goli otok (the barren island). There he kept his political opponents and thus, in the middle of the most beautiful Adriatic Gulf, this small island turned into a true hell for its prisoners. It is sad that even today there are still streets and squares in some Slovenian towns that are named after Tito, and that in the capital, Ljubljana, the monument dedicated to Kardelj still boasts in front of its citizens. It is also sad that the new Slovenian state still hasn’t got enough courage to make use of its legitimate legislative institutions – like the courts, prosecutor’s office, police – with which to start, at least symbolically, the charges against the main figures of the previous clique that committed crimes during or after the war, or gave orders for mass killings. Ironically, at the same time, a Slovenian court is successfully leading a case against a member of the wartime home guard, accusing him of killing one person. If he gets convicted – while none of the communists responsible for the war, or post-war, mass murders, is brought to court – it will be an utterly unfair abuse of jurisdiction for political purposes. However, time will find an appropriate place for everything, if not sooner, then a little later. The school textbooks will then place Tito next to Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. I am certain that the Slovenian wartime organisation, the home guard, will one day be rehabilitated. I believe that it was one of the most splendid and noble movements in our history (later Demos bore the same qualities). I understand that on every side of the war there are individuals who use the lawless circumstances to feed their vile inclinations. The crimes spurred by such conditions were committed on both sides: the partisan and the home guard. The post-war propaganda managed to use a few such cases in order to accuse all political opposition of holding distorted and dangerous views. And this attitude has been maintained until the present time. However, the truth about the basic issues is slowly, yet persistently, coming to light. What other movement or idea could be more legitimate and worthy than the home guard? Every individual has the right to protect his or her home, property, loved ones and homeland. This, and only this, was the mission of Slovenian home guard. Its members didn’t follow any other ideology – be it fascist, nazi or multi-ethnic – they were committed to the protection of Slovenia and its traditional values. It is understandable that right from the beginning the members of the home guard saw the communists as their main enemies because they wanted to change the country completely, and made Slovenia join the movement known as the Communist International. Even before the Second World War, the communists represented the main threat to Slovenia. Many far-seeing politicians in Slovenia realised this fact very early on, but they were unable to convince their fellow
countrymen to unite and form a strong political movement to act against the danger that was coming from the east. Time has proved that communism was the biggest threat to Slovenian society. In recent centuries, no other tyranny has enslaved our country so totally and caused so much mental and material damage as communism. If the ideas of the home guard had been put into effect (for which the home-guard members themselves weren’t strong enough), then in 1945 in Slovenia, as in Western Europe, a period of true freedom would have begun: the right-wing political movement would have introduced democracy – not a forty-year-long dictatorship. Today, the members of the home guard are mainly criticised for their collaboration with the occupying forces, as if that had been the focus of the movement. The main motive of the majority of its volunteers was deeply patriotic, others joined for practical reasons: they wanted to fight the increasing violence of the communists and through them also the partisans. One proof of their sincerity can be found in the lyrics of the beautiful home-guard songs that every honest (and religious) patriot would today still enjoy singing. The home guard’s political and military leaders probably also made a few tactical mistakes, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals of the homeguard movement, which remains one of the tragic moments of Slovenian independence. I believe the time will come when the unjust negative labelling of this movement’s big idea will be removed at last after many years. And this will also have to include a solemn national occasion attended by the most senior representatives of the Slovenian state. It may be that because of the tragedy in my family – the unnecessary death of my uncle France – I am not impartial in this matter. However, I can’t prevent myself from thinking how unjust it is that the communists (and now the leftists) have been accusing the home guard of collaboration with the occupying forces when communism itself was all the time synonymous with collaboration. Even before the war, the communists worked exclusively in accordance with the instructions of the Communist International, and during the war they were mainly carrying out the orders that came from Belgrade or Moscow. The traditionally servile attitude of Slovenian politicians towards the Serbian leadership continued into the 1990s, until our new right-wing coalition severed links between the Slovenian politicians and their Belgrade patrons. “Nomen est omen” – the expression “partisan” wasn’t chosen by chance; it means “a party member” and so it is clear that the main aim of the partisan movement wasn’t the fight against the occupying forces but the introduction of a social revolution. If their aim had been different, the partisans could have fought under the traditional Slovenian three-coloured flag, not under the red star of the Russian Revolution. Having said that, I also wish to express my deep respect and admiration for all those honest partisans who, just like my uncle, joined this movement because they believed that they were in this way fighting for the freedom of their nation. It’s been such a long time since I last thought about these issues … Maybe my accidental fall into this hollow hasn’t been such a disaster: here I have the time to reawaken my memories and decide whether, in the future, I would want to share them with anybody else. For now I don’t intend to burden my children with all those atrocities, but when they are old enough to understand I will tell them everything I know. Future generations should be aware of past events, irrespective of how cruel they were. This is the attitude that Germany adopted after the war and it proved to be very useful for the development of the whole society.
Slovenia will also have to bite the bullet.
The Third Day – Miriam On the third day of Tony’s disappearance Miriam knew she should phone Slovenia to tell their close relatives about the accident. She was still hesitant about telling it all to Tony’s mother who couldn’t help them in any way, but could be seriously affected by the news. The first person Miriam decided to call was Zlata Tavčar, the company manager of IUS SOFTWARE, who was, as a co-founder of the company, closest to Tony and most likely to be able to help. Just a week before she had received the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce Award for the best economic performance of a company in 2000. The award had been presented to Zlata at a ceremonial event, which Tony had regretted so much not to be able to attend, and after the ceremony she had left, together with her family, for a much-deserved holiday: skiing in Italy. They were due to be back that very evening; therefore, Miriam decided to phone Zlata at 2.00 pm Nevis time. As on the previous days, the Nisbet staff again did their best to help the concerned family to get through the difficult moments of uncertainty. For Miriam, Nolan was the main source of information; in addition, that day she also received news from Newton, the coordinator of the whole operation, who came to see her in the morning. Newton told Miriam that, in addition to other ways of searching, they were also using a helicopter that day. This important piece of information gave Miriam new hope that the search would be successful this time. Newton also added: “I have already arranged everything necessary in the main hospital of Charlestown, so that its staff will be ready to admit your husband as soon as the rescuers bring him back because he will surely need immediate medical care.” Oh, if only it would really be like this, Miriam thought. Then she waited – hour after hour – to hear the news that Tony had been found. However, no such message reached her. By then the news about the missing tourist had spread all around the island and quite a few people came forward claiming that they had seen Anton Tomažič two days before, on the Wednesday. A few of those claims closely matched the previous reports, according to which, at about 6.00 am, the tourist had been on his way towards the settlement of Fountain Village, situated on the saddle. Some had seen him on the street, others had caught sight of him from their homes (like Leonard Skeete and Joseph Liburd), but none of them was able to say whether, on reaching the saddle, the tourist had turned left or right. However, the information that was crucial to the subsequent search operation – and in comparison with which the reports about Tomažič’s morning direction sounded entirely irrelevant – came from Westbury Village. It was there that the father of Mr Wigley, the policeman, had presumably seen Tomažič on Wednesday AFTERNOON at about 4.30 pm. A black, middle-aged lady, Winnefred Herbert, from Westbury Village, confirmed Mr Wigley’s report. She told the rescuers that on Wednesday afternoon she had met, in front of her house, a white gentleman on his way back from the mountain heading towards the beach. Her description of the tourist was so convincing that even Miriam, after talking to the lady, was sure that Mrs Herbert had seen Tony. The lady described a middle-aged tourist wearing a beard and spectacles, dressed in short trousers and a tee-shirt (in the right colours), carrying a rucksack on his shoulders and a bag, which could have been a camera bag, in his hand. She added that they had even got involved in a longish conversation: jokingly Winny had asked the traveller whether he would marry her, to which he had replied that he was already married with two children and that, in the hotel, the family was waiting for him to come back after his one-day trip. When Miriam asked for more details about the tourist the lady also said that he had several grey hairs in his dark beard, which again corresponded well with Tony’s appearance.
Since Westbury is located to the RIGHT of the saddle at Fountain Village, it seemed logical that any further search operation should focus on Round Hill, which is separated from the main mountain of Nevis Peak by roads and other settlements. Hence, on that day, and for a few more days, even more people were involved in surveying the forests, bushes and the beach area of Cades Bay – all located in the lower part of the island belonging to Round Hill – in an attempt to find any trace of the missing tourist. Who would have focused on the high central area of Nevis Peak after receiving such precise information, confirmed by another person, about Tomažič’s whereabouts in the opposite direction? It seemed obvious that Tomažič had successfully returned from Nevis Peak and had, at the end of the day, been on his way down towards the coast. This was the reason the helicopter, which the Nisbet management was finally able to hire for three hours from the island of Antigua, didn’t spend much time in the air around the dangerously foggy mountaintop. It only made a few circles there, and some around the extinguished volcano crater; it flew as much as the clouds pressing against the mountain allowed, and then moved away to carefully search the area of Round Hill. The lookout in the helicopter was Nikki Johnson, the wife of the guide Jim Johnson; Nikki was also a guide. Back in the hotel, Kathie and Don Johnson arranged for another visit that would help the Tomažič family remain calm under the difficult conditions. That afternoon two Catholic priests came to see them: the local Father George and his colleague who ran the parish on the neighbouring island of St. Kitts. Only three percent of the inhabitants of Nevis are Catholics, and the majority of them are white people. As a result, the hotel managers correctly assumed that a Catholic priest was the right choice for their European guests. And so it was: no one could have given them more comfort than Father George. In an unobtrusive way, this pleasant Irish priest started a conversation with Miriam and in the meantime also got close to the children. Instead of offering a sermon based on theory, he was asking them real questions, then listening carefully to what the family was telling him and occasionally made his own comments about the recent events. He was also interested to know whether Tony was a religious man and Miriam assured him that he certainly was. Because of this they very quickly found that they spoke the same language. Just before leaving father George blessed them and prayed with them for Tony’s safe return. He also told them that the churchgoers of his parish would keep praying to God, asking for a favourable outcome, and he promised to come back to them, which he did do on the following days. After talking to the priest Miriam felt strong enough to phone Slovenia. She decided she would first try to talk to Zlata. She phoned IUS SOFTWARE believing that the experienced and always-friendly business secretary, Mojca Pintarič, would help her find the company manager who, as Miriam knew, was still on her leave. That turned out to be rather difficult because Mojca, too, was on leave. That week, Slovenian schools had winter holidays and a lot of people were away with their children, so Miriam couldn’t even talk to the manager of the partner company, the GV Publishing Group, Slobodan Sibinčič, who was skiing in a Slovenian winter resort. After several attempts, Miriam finally got the number of Mojca’s mobile telephone. Mojca told her that Zlata and her family were due to come home at about 7.00 pm local time and so Miriam decided she would call back later. While waiting for Zlata, Miriam had to make another difficult phone call: she phoned her mother, Slava Kranjac, and told her immediately that Tony had been missing for three days. Naturally, her mother was shocked, and they talked about when and how to tell the news to Tony’s mother, who would, that evening at 7.00 pm, be waiting more eagerly than normally for the telephone call – on the day before she had, for the first time, been waiting in vain, getting increasingly worried about all four travellers. Miriam asked her mother to phone Tony’s mother and tell her that the family couldn’t
get a connection from Nevis to Vir, but that they were alright and would phone her on the following day. Miriam’s mother agreed straight away that this was a better solution than upsetting the frail and lonely, 85-year-old lady with the news that something very serious had happened to her only son, who had been lost in the jungle for three days. Miriam’s mother later did what she and her daughter agreed on, and in this way she also took over some of the heavy load that until then Miriam alone had been carrying. As for Tony’s mother she could spend two more days in the same way she had spent the past two weeks: in anticipation that she would soon be able to hug her two grand-children again and feel free from her usual worries that were with her each time the family went on a journey. However, being deeply religious, the old lady fell asleep each night while praying for the safety of her loved ones. When, soon after 2.00 pm, Miriam was finally able to speak to her friend Zlata, she burst into tears. She told Zlata that something terrible must have happened to Tony because he had gone missing and the rescuers had been looking for him for three days. It was for the first time that Miriam could cry and release some the fear that had accumulated in her. Zlata was as shocked as if the news had been about one of her relatives – in the past 12 years she had been very close to her business partner, Tony. They were together every day: at work, for lunch and often also at gatherings of both families. Together with her husband, Dejan Stančič, who was also employed at IUS SOFTWARE, and two small daughters, they had just returned from a weeklong skiing holiday; even before they could find the time to unpack, the shocking news hit them. Zlata asked Miriam about the mountain that Tony had climbed, then about the rescuers and the way in which the rescue operation was organised. She knew she needed a few minutes to collect her thoughts and talk the matter over with Dejan, so she told Miriam they would soon call her back. Practical as she is, Zlata also asked Miriam whether she had enough money, and told her not to hesitate to spend it on the costs of the rescue operation, and she could even borrow some money if necessary. Zlata was sure that her colleagues would be quick at helping Miriam find the extra funds needed for Tony’s rescue. Miriam thanked her and told her that she had almost no money because she couldn’t cash in the traveller’s cheques that had Tony’s signature. She also added that until then money hadn’t been a problem because she had been simply adding the daily expenses of their stay at Nisbet to the family bill kept by the hotel. She thought, however, that she would probably need the money to hire the helicopter and the other expenses of the rescue operation. Instead of opening the mail and tackling various other household tasks that usually need to be done after returning from a holiday, Zlata and Dejan sat down at their table, tried to collect their thoughts, and decide on what actions they should take. They realised that of the people in Slovenia it would have to be them who would carry the biggest load when it came to handling this critical situation. They also thought of Miriam’s brother, Niko Kranjac, who would also be capable of helping them. They both knew Niko well, as they often met him over lunch. Hence, they phoned him and found out that Niko had also just learned of the shocking news. They all agreed that Niko would come to see them on the following morning so that they could discuss the matter and make plans for the future. In the meantime, the news about the missing tourist spread among other Nisbet guests who were all very kind and considerate towards Miriam and the children. That afternoon Kathie brought another two kind ladies over to Miriam, both from the Nevis Tourist Association. All four women talked in the entrance hall of the bungalow while the two children were playing outside on the grass. By then, Miriam and Kathie had become very close, almost intimate, friends because they had already exchanged several experiences associated with their family lives. That evening Miriam told Kathie about the suggestion that Zlata had made during their telephone conversation. Though Zlata is a very rational person, she had thought that the rescuers might also
want to seek help from a dowser or another person with similar skills. Referring to the Slovenian proverb “when in need, the Devil will even feed on flies”, Zlata had concluded that any technique, including a paranormal one, would be worth trying in order to find Tony. Miriam had promised to ask about such a possibility. Kathie knew about the activities of the American Society of Dowsers and also that some of its members were specialists in searching for missing persons. Without any hesitation she phoned New York, and soon got the names of two such people. One of them was famous for solving several mysteries, especially ones associated with kidnapping and other criminal acts. However, the lady had recently given birth, so she wasn’t available. Nevertheless, one of this lady’s colleagues was able to temporarily take over the matter and asked Kathie to fax a map of Nevis to him. After that, he soon expressed his belief that the missing guest was lost in the area called Eden Brown. Though the area was far from close to the places that Tony had wanted to climb, the Nisbet staff still checked this area, but they never found anything. After several attempts, Kathie finally managed to get in touch with the main dowser of the society, Ginette Matacia-Lucas. During their telephone conversation, the lady said to Kathie that she found the case very interesting and would be happy to deal with it if her involvement in the matter could be organised so that it would suit her maternal duties. Thus, they agreed that, by using Federal Express mail, Kathie would send her a map, a photo of the missing person and 400 dollars. They also agreed to get in touch again on Sunday, at 12.30 pm, provided the mail reached Ginette on the following day. One hour before dinner, the much-liked Roslyn visited the Indian Castle bungalow to find out what the children would like to eat that evening. Their father being away, the family had all their evening meals served at the same time, and in that room of the Great House restaurant that was reserved for the children – only that the family ate there a bit later than the other children. As a result of a lot of exercise and fresh air, the children ate well, but Miriam was glancing sadly towards the central hall of the restaurant where other couples were sitting and where, only a few days before, she and Tony had had such a pleasant (their last?) evening. A little later, there was another sad occasion that stirred the emotion of everybody in the restaurant. When Miriam and the children were leaving the room it seemed that their loneliness had already become a routine, that there was little hope the night might bring a happy end to their unfortunate story. Toni and Mariansa politely said “Good night” to the deeply moved guests. On the way towards the bungalow, they were looking into the sky wondering whether their father was watching the same stars … And in their beds they said their regular prayer: My guardian angel, be always with me …
The Fourth Day - Tony The fourth day starts with an unpleasant surprise, which at least brings some variety to the endless night: I feel the raindrops on my skin. It’s especially important that at night my clothes don’t get wet. I have no other choice but to quickly take off my shorts and two shirts and put them in my rucksack to keep them dry. It is pouring with rain. I open my mouth and hope that this time nothing harmful will find its way into my bowels, which have, by now, settled down a bit. I even joke to myself about the situation by standing like I do when I take a shower. It will do me good to get washed, though I have to be careful not to scratch the wounds that have just healed. While touching my body during this shower I realise that I have already lost quite a bit of weight; however, there are still enough
reserves around my waist and elsewhere. I like being in the rain because it’s a bit warmer than the air. Although when the rain stops and I have to dry myself, I get cold again. I put on my clothes and don’t really know what to do with myself because my nest is now completely soaked with water. The crushed greenery on which I sleep has started to rot and begun to attract various insects, therefore, I decide to air it and renew it that morning. When finally the day breaks at 6.00 am I notice that the leaves of the undamaged plants glitter with the raindrops that cling to them until they fall to the ground or evaporate into the air. They seem so clean that I can’t stop myself from sucking them. Every little drop does so much good to my parched mouth and cracked lips! Again I find that I will have to be more careful when using the plants in my modest habitation. In future I shouldn’t pull out the whole of the plant, but pluck only a few leaves each time to allow the plants to recuperate. If I use up the leaves too quickly, the plants will stop providing me treats like these tasty little raindrops. However, “picking” the drops, which are hanging from the leaves, is quite a demanding task. If I touch a plant too firmly, all the drops immediately fall to the ground. It takes a lot of patience and gentleness – like when approaching a woman. So, here on Nevis, I’m forced to practise gentle kissing. First I steal the drops from the longest leaves or twigs, and then I try to move my head closer to the stalk without touching the other twigs. If I’m not careful, all the drops fall to the ground at once. I begin to talk to the plants. To the most attractive ones I give names – beautiful female names. Will I ever again embrace my wife Miriam? She is so close, only a few kilometres away, yet so far from me. Just now she is taking the children to breakfast. Toni will start it with a plate full of fruits, mainly strawberries. Mariansa will take a long time before she decides which delicious sort of oat flakes she will take. Friendly waitresses will offer them freshly made juices of various flavours. Miriam will order the speciality of the day. Which one is on offer on Saturdays? Knowing the preferences of Toni and Mariansa, the staff will also bring a basket full of toast on which Miriam will spread butter and different marmalades. Enough: I shouldn’t be thinking of food. For me, breakfast time is usually an opportunity to read the morning newspaper that comes to Nisbet by fax from London and New York. But this is now only a dream and I have to face reality. So, let’s see what I’ve got here. First, I chisel the words “Day 4” into the wall. Then I remember that yesterday the rescuers were looking for me from a helicopter, but flew over me only once. Surely, they will continue the search today, but it is not certain that they will notice me. Should I, for all that, try to climb out of here on my own by scaling this wall? Well, at least I can try. After a thorough mental preparation I put on the sports shoes, put on my rucksack and tackle the wall. The first two metres aren’t problematic, especially because I had already removed the moss from that part of the wall. However, only with extreme efforts can I pull myself up another metre, but there I can’t find any handholds and no crevice into which I can put my foot. After a few minutes of uncomfortable and tense pressing against the wall I start to shake. A few centimetres away from my face I can see only the smooth and mossy upper part of the wall. I remove more moss with my hand, but then I realise that I should stop climbing. A fall from here could already be very dangerous, in spite of those decaying trunks lying at the bottom of the wall (or maybe just because of them). Maybe one of the trunks hasn’t yet decayed and I could get impaled on splinters. I must get down; I can never climb this wall. Now that I have already survived three days in the hollow, I prefer to wait
down there for some more time, until the rescuers find me, instead of getting badly hurt or even killed. So, I carefully climb down, take off my rucksack and my shoes, and take a rest. Two or three more times that day I make similar attempts to climb the wall… What else can I do to save myself from the hollow? Of course I could draw the attention of the rescuers with smoke. But how can I light a fire? By rubbing dry wood, by using a flint stone or a lens. With the Scouts we learned how to do it and today I will try it out. There are no suitable stones. The island was a volcano, and the stones are soft rather than hard. So, I decide to use the wood – like I have seen it work in TV documentaries. I have plenty of wood here, but it isn’t very dry. Hence, I split a few biggish trunks so that I can get to the wood that isn’t wet. Next, I find a hard stick and start rubbing it against the wood inside the trunk. Ouch! My hands are wounded and sore, so I can’t do it like this. I have to try something else: I pull a strong string out of my trouser belt to make quite a firm bow. I tie the ends of the string round the stick and start moving the bow backwards and forwards. How simple it seemed in the film, and yet how difficult it is for me. I would need two more healthy hands to do this. I realise that “I can’t make bread from this flour”; in other words, I can’t make any fire or smoke with this wood. Every hour I shout out for help for a while, which exhausts me quite a lot, and by mid-morning I am already very tired. Maybe I should try “plan three” now – making use of the only sunrays that I get in here: I will try to light a fire by using a lens. I failed again and, as a consequence, my morale was pretty low. My ears were pricked all day, but I never heard a sound that could have come from a helicopter. I could only hear those distant sounds that were always the same and were obviously the sounds of the regular flights over the island. I couldn’t understand why the rescuers didn’t fly again in the sky above me; I thought it very likely they would notice me this time. Is it possible that they already stopped the rescue operation? – I wondered. I hope not, as I am still alive, waiting for them. It is true that I am in bad shape, wounded and exhausted, but also still full of hope that I will be saved. I still hope to get my life back! More and more it seemed to me that I would have to find my own way out of the hole, which meant I would have to go back to that awful wall. Since my sports shoes were wet, dirty and worn out, I thought it would be too dangerous to use them for climbing. At the same time I knew I would need them desperately once I got out of the hole because I would then have to continue my way through the jungle. For this reason I threw both my shoes, one by one, up to the ground above the wall. The wall was so high that I had to hurl the shoes up a few times before I succeeded. Then they were waiting for me up there, in case I managed to climb out of the hole. I knew that climbing would be easier if the surface wasn’t mossy, so I decided to remove as much moss as possible and, at the same time, also try to chisel a few small, but useful steps into the wall. Routinely, I climbed the first three metres and started clearing the wall at this point. The work was very tiring and my newly awoken enthusiasm began to fade again. I simply didn’t dare to start climbing the fourth metre of the wall. The instinctive fear of the height was reinforced by the memory of my recent experience of falling off the wall, due to which my bones were still very sore. Again I decided to give up climbing and wait for the rescuers. But as before, a half-hour rest helped me renew my strength and off I went up the wall again, where I stayed for about 15 minutes. The last thing that I tried that day was leaning a decaying trunk against the wall in the hope that it would help me climb out of the hole, but I failed. Some trunks were already too dilapidated to be used for
climbing; others were solid enough, but too heavy for me to move, especially since my strength was on the wane. I was surprised that I was still passing a considerable amount of urine. It was, however, becoming increasingly dark, and after consuming it I no longer had any direct signs of dehydration. Nevertheless, I was thirsty all the time, especially when exerting myself physically. Hence, in the evening I had the last two Domžale plants from my “greenhouse”. I thought I should prepare a stalk before I turn in for the night and later enjoy chewing it while lying on my back. Thus, when I again settled down in my bed, I placed the previously plucked stalk against the wall or a nearby branch, then I bit into it, turned it around and bit again; after that I had to chew it for a while until I was able, with the greatest delight, to suck the liquid out of the plant’s fibres. The water in the root seemed free of any other substances, which I found most agreeable – I didn’t fancy any other tastes or smells. By consuming the water I also cleaned my teeth a bit. Though there can’t have been many traces of food left on my teeth I still felt that I was very dirty and smelly. My wife later admitted that when she first saw me at the hospital she noticed that my teeth were yellow (later the colour vanished). And it didn’t seem odd that, after our first hug, Toni avoided further contacts with me. If for no other reason, I must have had an unpleasant smell because of the consumption of urine that left traces on my beard and shirt. The night fell quickly. Oh, how I hoped it would also end quickly. I positioned my tired body into a slightly renewed nest and looked up at the familiar silhouette. In the darkness, I could again see the contours of the young man’s head. But, look – the picture is changing: more and more it reminds me of a skeleton’s skull … That night, for the first time, I accepted the possibility that I could meet my death in the hole. And with that awareness in my mind, I had to rethink my life again: My soul isn’t burdened with serious sins. I have committed some minor sins, but have already confessed them and repented for them. My life has mostly been good and rich, especially in the last ten years. During that time I was involved in the successful political project of Slovenian independence, together with true friends and good colleagues we created a flourishing and profitable company and, most importantly, I got married, although late in life, and raised a wonderful young family. I couldn’t have found a better wife than Miriam. I could never have had a better boy and a lovelier girl than Toni and Mariansa. We love each other very much and have so much fun together. And my 85-year-old mother is always so good to us – she will die of sorrow over the death of her only son. And yet, maybe it is Your will, oh God, that I leave them all. You must know why. You are almighty and all knowing. You can save me as well. I know that I can’t trick You with my promises. The only thing I can do is beg You, as my loved ones must be begging You, as many other people, mainly here on Nevis, must be begging You. I can feel their prayers. I feel the positive energy they are sending me. My God, I feel You all around me. My faith has never before been so solid and deep. If I live through this I will remember everything I feel now. I will tell others about it. To those who have doubts, I will say get rid of them, because God exists. God is infinitely good and he can do anything. However, his ways are sometimes beyond our comprehension and this difficulty has shaken the faith of many people. But to me, the death, which is perhaps very near now, will bring His light even closer. I accept everything, my dear God, I even accept the fact that you will separate me from my beloved family. Only You know why it has to be like this.
If I live through this I will remember all these thoughts and be assured that God has saved me. If I live through this I will commit myself to special deeds – in thanks, and in memory of my salvation. The night hours are passing very slowly; even the minutes seem very long … Fortunately, the cold doesn’t increase my pains. The wounds to my leg, both hands and on my back are very sore, though they are, thank God, healing well. In addition, all my muscles are sore and numerous scratches and abrasions are smarting. At night, when I start to shake with cold, the pains in my wounds are somehow subdued, “frozen” and postponed until the morning because the cold then becomes the prevailing trouble. Why do I have to be in this awful situation? Is it my punishment for not obeying my mother when she advised me against this journey? I could now say that I am sorry for not obeying her, but that would be just a trite phrase. My mother had also advised me against several other journeys that all ended with my safe return. I understand that she is worried about us all and would prefer us to always stay in the safety of our home. My wife and I, of course, can’t accept that, but we are fully aware of our responsibilities whenever we set off on a journey (which happens very rarely). It would be insincere of me, and utterly unnecessary, to say to myself: “Oh, I’m so sorry to have come to this island of Nevis.” We have to accept the past and take it for what it is. Regretting our past actions can sometimes have a positive, comforting effect, but in most cases it leads to traumatic self-accusation. Being aware of the mistakes we have made in the past is useful only if it helps us avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Speculating about what could have happened differently is completely unproductive; in such cases we just play with our imagination and we can direct our thoughts in any direction we want, either negative or positive. For example, I can choose to say that it was GOOD that the First World War broke out; that the Austro-Hungarian monarchy disintegrated; that Yugoslavia was set up; that this new state, though consisting of several nations, had a single army; that Niko Kranjac came from Dalmatia to serve in the army in Slovenia; that in Rakek he met Slava Pirc; that they got married; that Miriam was born to them; that I met Miriam; that we got married; that I got my son Toni and daughter Mariansa. If the First World War hadn’t broken out and the monarchy hadn’t disintegrated, history would have taken a completely different course. Other people would have met and married each other and perhaps I wouldn’t have been born. Alternatively, I can say that it was BAD that I attended the grammar school; that I met my school mate France Jamnik; that he influenced my decision to study law; that I became a lawyer; that I subscribed to the lawyers’ mailing list; that in this way I learned about an invitation to a conference on Nevis; that I attended the conference a year ago; that I found the island so attractive I wanted to come back a year later with my family; that I was tempted to climb Nevis Peak; that I got stuck in this hole. If I had trained as a carpenter, I would now be at home, trimming my hedge. Bullshit, I wouldn’t trim any hedge! I might have enlisted in a different regiment in the army and not have served in 1975 in Raška, but in 1971 in Slavonski Brod, in that very unit that was, on 22 October, sitting in the truck that was involved in the road accident in which all those soldiers died …
Was I destined to have this accident here on Nevis? Does destiny exist? For Christians the answer to this question is clear, and recorded in the Bible: God gave Man free will and this is incompatible with any predestination. While I am here struggling for my life, I am, more than ever before, aware of the possibility and the importance of personal decisions. When, tomorrow morning, I look again at the mighty wall of my hole, I will freely, and possibly for several times, decide whether I should climb it, risking a dangerous, maybe even fatal, fall, or whether I should be more careful and trust that help is coming. My instincts tell me that I do have the ability to decide for myself, that my future hasn’t been predestined. I quite enjoy this vast freedom. I enjoy knowing that I can act in accordance with my own free will. And if I, being in this very restricted environment, can feel so much personal freedom, how much more freedom is at the disposal of the people out there! If I am right, and I believe I am, then any form of superstition and fortune telling is without foundation. I have never believed in astrology, as I have always found it illogical (mainly because it contradicts the laws of nature) that particular constellations of stars, that are characteristic of our time of birth, could in any way influence our lives in the present, let alone in the distant future. I wonder how this could be done – can every one of the millions of stars send some invisible rays and messages through the universe and through the buildings that man has created and in this way influence a newly born baby? Astrologists say that in the first moments after its birth a child absorbs information that will stay in his or her body for decades and influence his or her character in the years to come. If children are really so sensitive, then I suggest we should worry more about the functioning of the air-conditioning system in the delivery room, the sounds coming from the room next-door or about the number of active mobile telephones that are close to newly born babies. Similarly, I don’t believe in horoscopes because so far nobody has managed to convince me that they can be explained in a logical way. The fact that people born under the same astrological sign presumably have similar characteristics is the closest one can get in an attempt to provide any proof in favour of horoscopes. However, I explain this phenomenon in a different way: I find it logical that the children that were carried and born in the same season possess certain similarities – yet, this can only be true in those parts of the world that are subject to big changes in the weather for the different seasons, like the differences between winter and summer. I do not object to people reading various horoscopes as long as they do it for fun and don’t take the contents too seriously. And since I do not believe in fate or in the possibility of foretelling the future, it is logical that I find every form of fortune-telling morally unacceptable. Those people who do it for money should reconsider their activities and realise how harmful they could be: their customers trust them and, in order to follow the fortune-tellers’ advice, they might make the wrong decisions that will bring negative consequences into their lives. Fortune-tellers should be aware of the big responsibility they take each time they discuss the future with their clients. So why has astrology survived throughout the history of mankind? I think that its existence is a result of peoples’ primary, in modern times often subconscious, need to transcend everyday reality. Those who don’t believe in God want to believe in some other spiritual principle. This shows us that there are really very few absolute atheists: people need some sort of faith. The messages of astrologers and fortune-tellers are normally very general so that they can later be interpreted in various ways. If I had gone to see a fortune-teller before our journey to Nevis and asked her to foretell our future, she would have said something like: “Generally it will be a successful journey, but be aware of poisonous insects and other animals that can bite you and especially your children. You will run into minor problems at one airport, but your return home will be safe.” Since I am rather sceptical about fortune telling, I would have assessed that the lady hadn’t
told me anything important and I would have quickly forgotten about the whole incident. However, if I was susceptible to fortune telling, I would have tried to think of other similar cases in which the actual events had confirmed the predictions of the fortune-teller, and would also have been prepared to discuss the issue with other people. The fortune-teller might also have told me this: “The beginning of the journey will be good, but later the life of one of you will be in danger. Though help will come quickly, the consequences of the event will be with you for a few more months.” If I hadn’t had this accident, I could believe that the fortune-teller had referred to an incident in Miami when, at a set of traffic lights, one of the children ran into the road too quickly. We all got very scared, but I managed to pull the child back at the last moment. If I wanted to agree with the fortune-teller, I would argue that, due to the shock in Miami, the child might wet the bed for a few times in the future months. However, since a serious accident did happen to me, I could now believe that the fortune-teller was absolutely right. People only talk about fortune telling when its predictions have at least partly come true; they don’t mention other occasions, which are much more numerous, when the predictions don’t come true. I have never heard any passionate report that would go like this: “ Imagine, the other day I went to a fortune-teller who told me this and that – and none of it came true.” People quickly forget about wrong predictions and false horoscopes, and in this way they can create an impression that predictions are generally correct. However, if we admit that only some predictions are in accordance with actual events, then we have to conclude that the fortune-tellers are only guessing at the future. As we know, guessing doesn’t provide us with reliable answers, so we shouldn’t take it too seriously. But what can I say about my belief that right at this moment certain people out there are sincerely praying for me? Shouldn’t I, following the same cold logic, deny the possibility of God’s intervention and the impact of a prayer, as I deny astrology? Certainly not, religion is a completely different issue. Almighty God created our world; therefore the laws of nature cannot in any way contradict the will of God and His involvement in everything that surrounds us. I pray again. At first solemnly and aloud, but once I begin to fall asleep, I only now and then whisper some more words of my prayer. The night is so long. Have I been asleep for a while? Probably not more than for about fifteen minutes … What was I thinking about? I remember: I was wondering why I have to be in this awful situation. If I’m not here as a result of fate, is it because God is punishing me? That maybe so, but in that case the punishment isn’t in proportion to my sins. Could it be God’s finger? A warning? By all means, I deserve one. If for nothing else, then certainly for my pride and selfishness – for thinking only about myself and my family. Alright – I accept the warning and humbly admit my vanity. I will remember this experience. I will bear it in mind. I try to be as honest as possible to myself, as well as to God. But what if I will later again forget the resolutions I have made this evening? I have this familiar feeling that Christians always have after confession: we would like to repent sincerely and make a firm decision not to sin again, alas, we also know that we have been through the same experience a hundred times before, and each time have sinned again …
I have to make sure that I will remember these good resolutions in years to come. It will surely be easy to remember the event itself, but more difficult to keep in mind todayâ€™s thoughts and firm decisions. I have to think of some act, which will demonstrate my determination to remember this whole experience. Thus, I decide that, if I survive this accident and if my health permits it, exactly a year from now, and each subsequent year, I will fast for one week in order to remember these moments and have some extra time for the so-much-needed reflections on the world and my place in it.Already now I can tell that I will enjoy fasting â€“ because I will have access to an unlimited quantity of water.
The Fourth Day – Miriam Early on that Saturday morning, Miriam found that the search for Tony was at its most intense, at least as far as the number of people involved in the operation was concerned. Saturday not being a workday, meant more volunteers could respond to the media appeals to join in and help the rescuers. These volunteers were then walking from house to house trying to find more information about the missing tourist. When searching through the wilderness, some of them were also using the dogs that the Prison Farm had lent to them. On that day between 8.00 am and 4.00 pm, the prison volunteers, together with the dogs, searched the whole Hog Valley Trail. In the morning, the two Catholic priests called at the bungalow. Father George was very encouraging and told the family that over 30 soldiers from St. Kitts had also joined the rescue operation. They were members of the St. Kitts Army Reserves, with exactly the right training background: they had been trained for search operations in the jungle. Father George also said that the soldiers were equipped with machetes, which were necessary for making progress through the thick wilderness. Miriam and the priest exchanged several optimistic thoughts, believing that “these expert soldiers will surely find Tony today…” Later, at mid-day, Miriam saw the soldiers, dressed in their camouflage uniforms, taking a rest in the shade in front of the hotel entrance. She understood that it must have been very hard for them to search, in that heat, through the jungle, but seeing them back to Nisbet so soon, she also realised that they couldn’t have looked for Tony on Nevis Peak. The hotel management prepared sandwiches and refreshing drinks for the tired soldiers, while the main rescue operation was still in progress in the area around the village of Westbury and down towards Cades Bay. In the early afternoon, Zlata phoned from Slovenia and told Miriam that, late into the night of the previous day, she and Dejan were trying to plan how to get involved in the rescue operation and help the family in this difficult situation that might be going on for a few more days. She also told Miriam that Niko had decided to fly over to Nevis, as quickly as possible, to see his sister, nephew and niece; and added that Dejan might join Niko as well. Miriam agreed that in a situation that demanded a lot of contacts with the various people responsible for the searching, it would be best to have both men on Nevis. Practical Zlata expressed her doubts about the possibilities of flying to Nevis straight away: on Saturdays the travel agencies were closed and, in addition, it would probably be difficult to book a journey consisting of more than two connecting flights in such a short time. However, Zlata assured Miriam that they would all try their best, mainly relying on the resourcefulness of Mojca, the firm’s business secretary, to find a way of flying to Nevis as soon as possible. They would also prepare the money needed by the family, which they could, if necessary, transfer even before the departure to Nevis. Miriam wished to know whether Zlata thought she had done the right thing, not having told Tony’s mother about the accident. Zlata agreed that Tony’s mother shouldn’t be involved at that point and assured Miriam that no news about the accident had so far reached Slovenia, which meant that Tony’s mother couldn’t hear about it from any other source. In the same way that Zlata comforted her friend, Miriam later tried to comfort her mother. During their telephone conversation Miriam understood that her mother was very upset because of the accident that had happened to her son-in law, with whom she had always been on very good terms. She told Miriam she hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. Miriam had to comfort her by saying:
“Do calm down, mother. The rescuers will find Tony. A lot of people are looking for him and from today onwards a group of specially trained soldiers are involved in the rescue operation. They use machetes and can advance very fast through the jungle.” “But what do you think has happened to him?” asked Miriam’s mother. “I think that he has perhaps broken his leg and can’t walk, so he has to wait for the rescuers to find him and bring him back. Or, maybe he has lost his glasses and is making progress very slowly.” “Could it be that somebody attacked him and robbed him?” “I don’t think so, there is almost no crime on Nevis. There are neither wild animals nor poisonous snake here. In addition, the nights are never so cold that he couldn’t survive them.” When somebody has an accident, even a fatal one, the local newspapers report on it briefly, but after that life goes on and people are no longer interested in the consequences of the tragedy. However, in the event that an accident remains unresolved for a time, during which the tension caused by the uncertainty is increasing, the whole affair will attract a lot of media attention. That also happened with Tony’s accident. The news about the missing tourist spread from Nevis and St. Kitts to other Caribbean islands and soon also reached the international media. More and more, Miriam felt its presence, as the reporters began to phone and visit her. That day at noon she gave her first extensive interview to a reporter, Paula Warner, who was asking Miriam about her family, about Tony’s capabilities and habits, about his behaviour at the time of his departure and about the feelings of the rest of the family while waiting for Tony to return. While Miriam was speaking into the microphone the children were playing by the swimming pool, this time under the supervision of the hotel manager herself, Kathie Johnson. Naturally, Toni and Mariansa were missing their father, but, as children’s hearts fortunately can’t be overwhelmed with sadness and concern for a long a long time, they were also laughing a lot and enjoying themselves. By then, they had already acquired new skills: Toni had learned to dive and swim underwater and Mariansa was well on the way to begin swimming without the help of water wings. When, after breakfast that morning, they had set off from their bungalow towards the swimming pool, Miriam again had to answer the children’s usual questions: “When will daddy come back? Will the rescuers find him soon?” “I think they will bring him back today or tomorrow,” Miriam tried to calm them. “But if they don’t, then you will be a widow …,” Mariansa concluded frankly. Miriam felt as if somebody had slapped her in the face. In Slovenia, Tony’s colleagues and friends were organising themselves so that they could help him and his family. Niko called on Zlata and Dejan, and together they decided that the two men should travel to America together, even though it meant that, at home, Zlata’s work load would be doubled: apart from her job and a lot of organising, she would also have to look after her two daughters. During that weekend Niko also had to get permission to take this sudden leave from work, where his colleagues would miss his daily contributions to the work effort. Dejan looked for possible flights by searching the Internet. He found it quite easy to reserve the flights on the Web, but the problems appeared when he wanted to finalise all the details of the
journey. He realised that he couldn’t do that without the help of a “classical” travel agency. For this he needed Mojca, the business secretary, who had a reliable colleague working at the Kompas travel agency. Mojca also got in touch with her various other contacts to collect information about all the necessary actions – the most urgent one was to find the right people at the Slovenian Foreign Ministry who had to be informed about the accident. Unfortunately, that wasn’t possible until Monday morning. Though the coordinator, Newton, was formally in charge of the rescue operation and several police officials were involved in its organisation, Mr Nolan, the head of the security service in Nisbet, was really the key figure in the search for the missing tourist. He was entrusted with this position because of his long years of professional experience in Canada. He regularly briefed his two employers, Don and Kathie Johnson, about all the important details of the operation, and, if time permitted, he also briefed Miriam. Being aware of the importance of the statement that Winnefred Herbert had given with so much certainty, Nolan called on Miriam to discuss further details with her. Nolan believed that the foreigner that Winny talked to couldn’t have been anybody else but the missing guest Tomažič. Nolan told Miriam about the tourist that Winny had met and asked more questions about Tony’s health: Was he completely healthy? Did he have a tendency to suffer from an infarct? Would he withstand a sudden cooling of his body in case he decided, while being still hot with the exertion, to have a refreshing swim after an exhausting daylong trip? Because of the negative results of the most recent search around Westbury, Nolan focused his attention mainly on the area leading down towards the beach. In spite of that, the coordination committee didn’t entirely give up the search around the central mountain – that day they were especially active in that area because of the increased number of rescuers. Miriam almost envied Nolan for being able to spend some time out there in the search areas. She told him about her feelings and asked if she could help with the search operation. Nolan tactfully refused her, explaining there were plenty of locals who knew the area well and were prepared to help the rescuers. He thought that the best Miriam could do was to look after the children and maintain contacts with Slovenia, which were just then becoming increasingly intense. In order to do something concrete, Miriam turned to Kathie again so that they could try out Zlata’s suggestion to seek help from the dowsers. Kathie told her that she had already got in touch with the lady dowser in New York who was most likely to help them because she had, in the past, successfully helped in several similar cases. Kathie also told Miriam it had already been agreed that, for a small fee, the clairvoyant from New York would try to find Tony’s location on the map of the island and, most importantly, assess whether he was still alive. This is why Kathie had faxed a map of Nevis to New York. The news about the involvement of the dowsers was a topic of conversation over dinner, at which calm Judy had joined Miriam. Like Miriam and Judy, every other rational and well-educated person would have been sceptical about the possibility that somebody could find out (guess), from such a distance and only by using a small swinging object, the location of a missing person. However, a spark of hope, spurred by the New York news, was so strong and refreshing that for the first time Miriam could sleep well – and the sleep brought her wonderful dreams about a reunion of her family …
The Fifth Day - Tony Just like on the fourth day, there was no encouraging sound or any other sign of the rescuers on the morning of the fifth day. I began to reconcile myself to the fact that they wouldn't find me. If I don't get out of here on my own, I will die in this hole, I thought to myself. However, they may find my corpse in this grave at some time in the future. In order to take some revenge on my »rescuers« for being so ineffective I decided to make it clear to them that I didn't die immediately, and that they had had quite a lot of time in which to rescue me, so I chiselled, with a sharp stone, a new and big inscription into the rock: “Day 5”. In addition, I took a photo of myself in my nest with my five fingers stretched out. And as if even that hadn’t been enough, I also recorded a short summery of my recent days into the camera. I didn’t want to use too much of the camera’s battery for this purpose, but, instead, focus on the most important message – my last will, which was meant for my wife, Miriam. I hoped the rescuers would find the memory cards, which were wrapped in PVC and stored in my pocket, and give them to my wife. In that last message I didn’t mention the issues of inheritance at all. In accordance with the law, my wife would inherit half of my property and my two children would each get a quarter of it. I only had one last request for my wife: “I’m asking you to bring up our children to be forthright and devout adults who will attend church regularly.” I never doubted that my wife would bring up the children well, to the best of her abilities, but I also thought that this demanding task would be made easier for her if the children received their education at church lessons, at mass, and at other religious events. I had been brought up in this way; so had numerous generations of my ancestors (as a keen genealogist, I had traced them back as far as 1600), and my children should receive the same upbringing. Civilisation may bring us a lot of technical novelties, but the basic values remain the same; and I think it is good that they do. As there was still some memory left on the card and the batteries weren’t yet flat, I said a few words to the children as well, though I found it difficult to hold back my tears: “Toni, Mariansa, your daddy loves you very much. Be good and honest! Obey your mother! Be kind and pray to the Lord our God…” I didn’t want them to hear me cry, so I stopped talking. Well, this is done. I rest. However, resting always turns to pondering. Now I want to conclude my previous reflections by making solemn vows. If I am rescued, I will fulfil them. If I broke my vows, I would be ashamed of myself. Following an old Slovenian custom, I will make a pilgrimage to Brezje, a popular place for pilgrims, and offer thanks to Mary. As I decided yesterday, once a year I will fast for a week, except that on those occasions I will drink a lot of fluids, and I will pay visits to the relations I have been neglecting until now. In the mornings I will drink healthy water instead of coffee. I will also help Nevis to become better equipped to rescue the victims of accidents similar to the one that has happened to me. However, I have to find a way out of this trap on my own – and with God’s help! So, should I make another attempt to light a fire? It wasn’t difficult for me to conclude that only my Kodak 290 camera lens could serve me for this purpose. So, I knew I had to break the camera, and do it in such a way that the lens would remain undamaged. Before I could do it I had a few technical
problems and one serious scruple. I thought to myself: Isn’t it a pity to damage such a fine and expensive camera that has served me for more than a year and with which I have taken so many beautiful pictures, as well as a few sound recordings? I soon found the answer to my doubts: It is true that I paid more than 900 dollars for the camera, but this price can’t be compared with the price of my life, which I am now trying to save. I had to break the camera because I had no tools with which I could dismantle it. I felt odd about it: since my childhood I had been taught to be very careful when handling complicated technical devices and never to break them. First, I only gently hit it against the rock and the camera remained intact, so I realised I would have to hit much harder. I put the camera on a large rock holding it there with one hand and picked up a big stone with my other hand. I had to hit the camera very hard and several times before it gave way and revealed its insides. Who would have thought that these little boxes are so compact? – I wondered. In addition, I was very surprised when I saw the contents of the camera: it looked like a proper mini computer, full of chips, various boards that were linked together with multilayer wires, small electromotors, a multilayer display but only a few optical parts. I took the display to pieces, which I then placed on the rocks around me hoping that the smooth surfaces of those parts would reflect the light and attract the attention of a helicopter pilot. While I was occupied with the camera, I remembered an interesting event that took place just a few days before my departure to Nevis Peak. The background to that event was – like most of this whole unfortunate affair – my first visit to Nevis, just a year before. Using the same camera, I had then taken some very beautiful pictures that can still be seen on the Internet (some of them were later also chosen as the “Photo of the Day” on the Kodak homepage). I had been as interested in the people as I was in the beautiful landscape. I had found the locals, especially the children, very photogenic, and I could have made several very attractive portraits of them. However, I had soon learned that the Nevisians don’t like tourists to take pictures of them, especially when they do it without their consent. I don’t know whether the reason for this is an understandable whim of these proud people who wouldn’t want to feel that the arrogant visitors see them only as interesting photographic models, or whether their attitudes are the remains of some religious or ethnic prejudices, like the fear that their souls would be stolen from them. Whatever the reason, their view on this matter is entirely legitimate and in line with the current trends that emphasise the importance of civil liberties and privacy, so I had almost always respected it. Whenever I wanted to take a photo, and in most cases I had set my eyes on a small child in knee-high socks with his or her hair braided and gathered up in bunches, I had usually asked permission first. Sometimes I had received a warm and positive answer, but on other occasions it had been cold and negative. During our family visit to the attractive capital of Charlestown I also had my camera ready to shoot. When we were sitting in the shade of an open area, where, together with other passengers, we were waiting for the ferry to St. Kitts, and where Toni and Mariansa were happily chewing their sandwiches and drinking juice, I amused myself by looking through the camera’s lens hoping to find an interesting scene. And so I did! About twenty metres away I noticed a young local lady dressed in an attractive red and very tight dress. The fact that the lady was very plump didn’t matter. In order to take a well-used short cut, she suddenly skilfully straddled a rather high metal fence (her kilograms didn’t hamper her at all). As I already had the lady in my camera’s viewfinder, it was easy for me to press the shutter right at the moment when her dress was up and revealing both her thighs, as she was grasping the fence that she had just mounted. At the moment when the camera clicked I knew two things: first, that I had taken a very interesting picture; and, second, that the lady had noticed me taking a picture of her because she had just then looked in my direction. I quickly took the camera away from my eyes and started to look somewhere else, but that didn’t help me. The young lady rushed towards me and began to scream out loud. Since she wasn’t alone, I suddenly found myself
surrounded by a few tough-looking individuals who were threateningly waving at me (that was the only occasion when I didn’t feel safe and welcome on Nevis), while the upset face of the disgraced lady was still the dominant figure. Though her language was based on English I didn’t understand a word of what she was saying, but her gestures were more than clear. With one hand she tried to grab hold of my valuable camera while, with the other hand, she was making a very familiar gesture, which suggested a throat being cut. She can’t be threatening to kill me, I thought. She probably only wants me to destroy the film. Shall I explain to her that digital cameras don’t have a film? If I show her the memory card she will probably throw it into the water. I realised that I had obviously made a big mistake and I was truly sorry. However, I didn’t want to lose all my numerous pictures, let alone the camera itself. The voice of the angry lady became even louder, her saliva was coming closer to my pale face, and the surrounding crowd of passers-by, who all showed strong sympathies with the lady, was getting bigger and bigger. I can’t recall any longer what excuses I stammered out or how I managed to keep my camera away from her hands. I remember, however, that after about five minutes I managed to calm her down and that the incident took a surprisingly new course. I mentioned her beautiful dress and, when I guessed I had said the right thing, also told her that the snap, I had taken, had been very attractive and that I was sure the picture would also be extremely beautiful. She still wasn’t sure whether I was serious about it, so I also added that I would like to take another picture of her, which I would later send to her. I could tell that my new suggestion had a completely different impact on the lady. She calmed down completely and, together with her girl friends, they started to tidy their hair and their dresses. The whole atmosphere was now entirely different: the girls were happy to pose in front of my camera. I took several snaps while reassuring them all the time that I would later send her the photos. The lady gave me her address and I was firmly determined to fulfil my promise. And all those pictures are now still stored on the memory cards, which I will, without the camera, take with me if only I manage to save myself from this hole. Will I be able to send to the girl, who I now already remember as an amiable lady, the pictures that will remind her of an ordinary winter's day? Is it possible that, by taking a picture without the girl’s consent, I committed a sin, for which I am now being punished? Have I stolen the soul of the girl and will I now have to repay it with my own life? Though I can’t discard this thought completely, I also begin to assure myself that the Creator isn’t petty and wouldn’t want to punish me so severely because of an offence that, at least to me, seems a minor one. It is close to noon, the time when the sun might appear, but I still haven’t got hold of the lenses. I would need a screwdriver to get them out of the firmly fastened case. But where can I find anything that could serve me as a provisional screwdriver? In the camera, of course. I find a small metal stick, with which I undo a few tiny screws. Though it is time for the sun to appear above my hole, that doesn’t happen because of the thick clouds that have gathered right above the canyon. In spite of that, I am still trying to get the lenses ready, hoping that I will catch a few sunrays before 1.00 pm. I also prepare a small pile of dry wood, leaves and other small bits that I can find in my hole. If I manage to light a fire, then I will surely have plenty of smoke as there is so much more wet wood in here than dry. I was faster than the sun: already before 1.00 pm I managed to get the lens out of the camera. But all I could then do with the lens was to look at it and stroke it as the clouds persisted in the sky above me. The lens was relatively small, about two centimetres in diameter, and of the same size as ones
that, in my childhood, I used, together with my friends, when we wanted to light a fire. I put it in my pocket hoping that I would be able to use it on the following day. I used the time between my various attempts to find a way out of my trap in order to rest. In such moments I was back in my nest trying to think of new possibilities. Naturally, I also thought of the ropes that would surely help me climb out of the hollow. If I had had proper climbing ropes I could have simply descended into the canyon from the rock of the other, bigger waterfall. I was sure I still had enough strength to get down a rope. I could also have climbed up the waterfall, but there I would have found it difficult to fasten the ropes tightly enough so that I could have put my weight on them without the fear of falling off. The huge tree trunk that was wedged between the two walls of the hollow high up above me would also have presented an interesting climbing solution. I could have probably thrown a stone, tied to a rope, over the trunk and in this way hung the rope over it. However, I felt I wouldn’t have had enough strength to climb the rope without being able to support myself with the wall at the same time. Without much hope of success, I was, that afternoon, looking carefully at the plants in my “greenhouse” to see if I could use some of the creepers to twist a rope that would be long and firm enough and which I could then use to help me either descend or climb up the canyon. Unfortunately, I didn’t find enough materials for such a rope. I started wondering whether other people before me had had to deal with similar problems. Who knows? God knows … On the one hand, I could see that people hadn’t often ventured to this part of the island – I couldn’t find even the tiniest trace left by human beings in any part of the canyon. Nevertheless, the island must have been inhabited for centuries, maybe even for thousands of years, and a lot must have happened in such a long period of time. I could imagine that at least occasionally a Carib or an Arawak had been tempted to climb the mighty mountain. Maybe he had done it for religious purposes like offering his sacrifices to his god? Centuries later, a fugitive slave or the only survivor of a defeated army had perhaps sought refuge in the mountain. And in the past few decades there must have been a few other adventurous tourists who had wanted to climb Nevis Peak on the same side that I had tried. If they had advanced in a well-organised group and had managed to avoid several hidden traps of the jungle, then it seemed quite likely that they had passed the hole in which I was waiting for the rescuers. However, I didn’t think that anybody had ever spent several days in the hole, like I did … I hoped that at least in the near future people would come to the hole, maybe as part of a late rescue expedition, and find my body before the autumn rains. If they didn't come by then the big waters would wash away any trace of this lost Slovenian, whose fate had brought him to the island on which he had taken one fatal step. As a Christian I believe that a person's soul lives on after their death, and so I didn’t worry so much about my body not being taken away to a more appropriate place and being buried there. However, I was sorry to think that my loved ones would perhaps never learn about my last days. How uncertain my wife and children would feel later in their lives if they never learned about what had happened to me. They would try to guess whether I had had an accident in the jungle, or perhaps a snake had bitten me, whether a bandit had robbed me, abducted me and even taken me off the island. One thing I was sure of was that Miriam would never, not for a moment, think that I had left them of my own free will – we trust each other completely.
Again, I had plenty of time, especially after nightfall. Out of a sense of self-pity, I couldn’t help myself imagining various scenarios as to how my loved ones and my friends in Slovenia would react if the rescuers didn’t find me. I knew that at some point they would have to stop the search and announce me as a missing or dead person. My family and friends would then organise a funeral mass. Where would it be held? Probably it would be at our local cemetery in Dob. Who would attend it? I believed all my friends and colleagues would be there. One of them would also give a speech, in addition to the prayers led by our beloved priest Joze. But, what if all of that has already happened? – I wondered. Is it possible that the search operation has been called off and my family has been sent home? Maybe my symbolic funeral is taking place right this moment? I doubt that Miriam has agreed to stop the search, but what could she have done if the authorities responsible for the search had a convincing reason to believe that the operation had become pointless? All of this doesn’t seem very likely, but the fact is that for two days I haven’t heard the slightest sound of the rescuers … The clouds are passing around the top of Nevis Peak, and when they touch the thick plants above me the fog enters my cave as well. Then the cold bites into my bones. I can feel the difference between my soul and my body. I feel how the mental sensations meet with the pains of my body: The colder it gets the more my body shivers, but the cold doesn’t always affect my mental feelings, especially when I pray and turn my whole inner self towards God. Then I feel his warmth that is stronger than the cold around me. I am infinitely happy that I have a comforter, that I am not alone. Tonight I will be thinking about religion. How natural is the belief that God created heaven and earth, and how arrogant is the denial of God! This is the reason why in the history of mankind there hasn’t been a nation or a period without a religion. The only exceptions to this were the transient periods of repressed freedom, represented by different forms of dictatorship, among which communism has been its latest version. When referring to individuals we can appreciate atheism as well. We can understand that, in particular situations, people can adopt atheism as their view of life. Yet, religion is an integral part of the human mind, and it will remain with us for as long as we exist. However, the role of religious institutions has changed during the different periods of history, though their main aim has always been to preserve religious heritage and knowledge, and pass it on to future generations. Throughout history there have been various organisational forms of religious institutions: some were entirely informal and unobtrusive, others were extremely formal and even authoritarian, especially in cases when they were used for political purposes. Assuming that membership of each religious institution is voluntary, we have to respect the right of every such institution to set its own, even very strict, rules and dogmas as it needs them in order to achieve its mission. Individuals – members of a religious organisation – make free decisions as to whether they will respect the rules and follow the religious teachings, or break them before god and church. One such organisation is the Catholic Church, to which I belong, and which is certainly one of the best-organised institutions when it comes to its relations with its believers. It is also one of the
strictest and most demanding churches because its mission is based on the Bible. The Pope alone has authority over the sacraments that enable the Church to carry out its mission. I myself once broke the vows of a holy sacrament when, after eight years of marriage, I got divorced from my first wife. (It was a case of mutual agreement, done in a friendly way and we even had a festive lunch after the legal proceedings were completed.) At that time I fully accepted the burden of breaking these sacramental vows; and I have carried it with me since then and have never avoided it, not even in this moment. At the time of my divorce I felt that in that particular situation I had the right to disobey the rules of the Church and confront God’s mercy on my own. According to the Church's rules, I have been living in sin ever since, but according to my own feelings (and hopes) my sin won’t bring me eternal damnation. In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, the USA for example, people could, in a case similar to mine, simply change their religion, though they would probably remain within the fold of Christianity, and continue their religious lives within the new community that doesn’t object to divorce. In my case, of course, that isn’t possible, not only because there is no protestant community in my locality, but also because of the basic principle of my belief. In the same way as an individual is intrinsically religious, Slovenia is intrinsically Catholic, though we do respect all the other smaller religious communities, especially the authentic protestant one. Historic developments have led to this specific Slovenian situation. I am bound by my ancestry, both in terms of my nationality and my religion. Since I have been intensely involved in genealogy and managed to trace my great great … (13-times great-) grandfather, I feel rather strongly about the past. I know (and feel) that my forefathers, like Gregorius Thomashiz, (probably born around 1600, as we know that his son Georgius was born in 1625), were dying with the Lord’s prayer on their lips and that my female ancestors, Margaretha Thomashizouka for example, were passionately singing beautiful hymns to Mary. This is the reason why I can only pass on to my children those religious teachings that have been part of the Slovenian tradition. Yes, this is another reason why I have to save myself from here. I would be so sad if Toni and Mariansa wouldn’t accept the same religion that my mother and father planted in me. Even if the Catholic Church excommunicated me I would still make sure that my children attended religious lessons and received all the sacraments, as did so many of their ancestors before them. During their religious education they will constantly absorb all those values that have been verified so many times before and have become part of our national identity. In addition, the Catholic Church isn’t just an organisation; it is also a community whose presence I can enjoy in my parish of Vir. Until a few years ago, Vir had traditionally been part of the parish of Dob, where the worshippers from Vir attended the church services. However, since the number of Vir inhabitants increased significantly and because the access to our church became difficult and dangerous, especially for the children, due to a very busy main road that runs between Vir and Dob, the community in Vir suggested that we should get our own parish. The church authorities were sympathetic to our cause and gave us all the support that we needed to realise our idea. The curate of Dob was assigned to be our priest, and together with him we started the new parish from scratch.
First we rented an ordinary residential house in Vir, which happened to be empty, so that the priest, Joze Tomsic, could move in and start the religious lessons together with modest church services. Naturally, we wanted to build our own church, but first we had to provide for the interim period. After a short time of uncertainty, we simply set up a wooden “chapel” in the garden, squeezed among the neighbouring houses, for which we obtained permission from the owners. We brought the benches into the chapel, decorated its interior, and for the last three years all church services have been regularly held there. We have three masses on Sundays, and one mass on weekdays, either in the morning or in the evening. When attending ceremonies, over three hundred people can squeeze into the chapel. The priest knew how to persuade a lot of, mainly young, believers to become involved in various activities and different forms of social life. So far they have established four choirs, who are about prove how good their performance are by issuing their first music CD (which I hope to be able to listen to). There are also several age-groups of scouts, the Caritas organisation, the theatre-andscripture group, there are also groups of young people and groups for married couples … The Parish Board makes all the important decisions and our main efforts are now focused on collecting sufficient funds to purchase land, obtain the appropriate documentation and build a new church. So far I have been involved in several meetings at which we discussed the plans for the church; hence, the thought that I may not be able to see the completion of the project makes me very sad. The ability to get together in a spontaneous and constructive way is typical of the majority of Slovenian parish communities. Hence, it is very unfair that in spite of all our efforts a section of the media is constantly slurring the Slovenian Catholic Church, trying to show it as a purely clerical organisation and ignoring completely the importance of its social function – with this they insult us the most. I cannot understand the reason for this constant and obsessive anti-Church campaign led by some Slovenian political circles and their media friends. I admire archbishop France Rode, currently their most hated target, for being so firm and determined in carrying out his mission. It is obvious that he could choose to align himself more closely with the expectations of non-Christians or even become a populist figure, but, as a servant of God, he simply can’t afford to play a role that would please either the media people or any other social circle. Archbishop Rode has to fulfil his responsibilities to God and to the Pope, and he is therefore only prepared to answer to them. He cannot use cheap ways of attracting new believers or making himself popular, like politicians often do, as that would require him to disregard the principles of religious teachings and even to break God’s commandments. No matter how unpopular the archbishop is and how lonely he is in his quest, he still has to express his beliefs firmly and clearly, especially when he addresses the basic moral and ethical issues regarding the protection of the sanctity of life. In this he only has to follow the voice of his conscience. How my thoughts wander about! They go wherever I want. I think about anything I fancy. At least at the spiritual level I keep my freedom. There is also a lot of this freedom within the Catholic Church, especially after the important changes that took place in the previous century. I spent my childhood in the time when masses were celebrated only in Latin. The priest would have his back to the congregation; he would be saying incomprehensible, though very familiar words, while the parishioners would be praying and singing in Slovene. How much more profound is our experience of the holy mass now that the priest is turned with his face to us, and we can understand his every word!
I am also grateful to the Church for giving us the freedom to decide for ourselves whether we want to believe in the various miracles that have supposedly happened in recent times, like the various visions of Mary. Personally, I don’t believe in them. I mainly made up my mind about these phenomena on a particular occasion when, together with my mother, we visited a place that was for a while exciting the Slovenian public. A lot of people believed that a statue of Mary, situated in the vicinity of Kamnik, behaved in an unusual and mysterious way: supposedly, Mary’s eyes occasionally moved and sometimes a tear dripped from them. Large crowds of people used to visit the place and a lot of them confirmed seeing these unusual events, so, naturally, I became curious as well, and I wanted to see the statue. My mother and I squeezed to the front of the crowd and, like the others, we began to stare at the statue. Many people were praying or singing hymns to Mary, and just this was creating a special, emotionally charged atmosphere. Suddenly, some of them cried out: “She is moving!” or “Yes, she is turning her eyes!” However, I didn’t see any of that, so I quietly asked my mother whether she could see it. She shook her head and seemed to be quite confused about it. I knew how deeply religious she was and how much she prayed to Mary, so I simply couldn’t believe that if the miracle existed she would be denied the pleasure of seeing it. I became sure that the visions were simply the result of autosuggestion. Those people who were more susceptible could convince themselves that they saw Mary’s eyes moving (they were also getting their belief confirmed by the actions of other people in the crowd), whereas other visitors to the place, like my mother and me, had a more independent mind and were less inclined to be influenced by autosuggestion. I became even more convinced that my initial conclusion was right when I later learned that, according to measurements made at that spot, the area around the chapel had an unusually high level of electromagnetic radiation, which probably encouraged the mental susceptibility of certain people. I seem to remember that at other, similar pilgrimage and “miraculous” places the same high levels of radiation were measured. And why did so many “miracles” happen nearby or inside churches or chapels? Well, I needn’t answer this because the question isn’t phrased correctly. We should ask ourselves why particular spots were chosen as the locations for churches and chapels. I believe they were chosen because, in the past, unusual phenomena, such as visions or the granting of intercessions, had taken place; and such events could only be the result of the collusion of people who were there. If I don’t believe in modern miracles (I do, of course, believe in the miracles performed by Jesus) then I cannot expect, and do not pray for, a miracle that could save me from here. I don’t think that I can, in some mysterious way, simply fly back to Nisbet. But I do believe that my good God can help me or let me save myself, unless he has, in his wisdom and mercy, a reason why he shouldn’t grant me this opportunity. Humbly and sincerely I accept his will.
The Fifth Day – Miriam As soon as Miriam awoke, she got up, put on her clothes and quietly left the bungalow. During all these days she had had an inexplicable feeling that Tony was very close, yet so well hidden that the rescuers couldn’t find him. She didn’t know what to do or where to go… She couldn’t go far anyway because she expected the children to wake up soon. So she only walked around that part of the hotel complex that was enclosed by a fence and by thick tropical bushes. As much as she could, she examined every metre of the bushes, which seemed to her rather mysterious, as if she could find her missing husband in them. The fence took her right to the beach where, just a few days before, all the family had been picking up the beautiful big shells. While she was searching the bushes a group of people who were also looking for Tony came by. “Does this sock belong to your husband?” one of them asked her. “No, this isn’t his sock,” Miriam answered. When she was introduced to a black gentleman, Dr Naser, a lecturer at the new American medical university and a colleague of Dr Judy Sonnenberg, Miriam asked him what, in his opinion, Tony’s chances were of surviving so many days in the wilderness. Dr Naser encouraged her by saying that a healthy man could survive several days in such conditions. This assurance helped Miriam to restore her hope that Tony would be found alive. She went back to the bungalow where the children were still peacefully asleep. Though that Sunday morning brought Miriam the same disappointment as the three preceding mornings, she could now at least share her pain with her closest relatives and friends back in Slovenia. She knew already that her brother would visit her soon, and that perhaps even resourceful Dejan would fly over to Nevis. The children, too, were very much looking forward to the announced visit as they were slowly getting tired of their daily routines; the imminent visit of their uncle was for them an important and exciting event. Whenever the children were in a bad mood they would, more often than in normal circumstances, become stubborn; they would even cry and helplessly call their beloved father. Their mother was of course taking care of them, but her worries prevented her from giving them the same amount of attention or entertaining them with the same games as before when the whole family had still been together. The children reminded their mother that in Slovenia they would attend mass on Sunday mornings. Miriam also knew that on that day each of the three religious communities on Nevis would organise special prayers for the successful rescue of her husband. Later, Father George told her that about 400 believers had attended one such service, mainly the children, and that they had all passionately prayed for Tony. They didn’t know the missing tourist, but just the realisation that he was somewhere near them, and probably in very serious trouble, made them so compassionate. During breakfast Miriam was asked to come to the telephone as the Slovenian diplomat, Andreja Purkart, was calling her from Washington. Ms Purkart had learned about the accident that had happened to a Slovenian citizen, so she got in touch with Miriam and asked her whether she could help the family in any way. Miriam thanked her for her phone call, but couldn’t think of anything concrete to ask her at that moment. So she just said to Ms Purkart that she would surely turn to her should she need help in the future. That morning Don and Kathie Johnson took Miriam and both children in their jeep to the search area so that they could help with the search to the best of their abilities and, above all, so that they would all get an insight into the on-going operation. First they drove along Upper Round Road to Fountain
Village, then they turned right and drove off-road in the area of Round Hill, which is undulating and covered with a lot of gorse and stones. Every now and then they stopped to get out of the vehicle and make a quick search of the area. Toni and Mariansa were almost competing to see which one of them would cry out more loudly: “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” Miriam joined them as well by crying out: “Tony! Tony! Tony!” All three of them sincerely believed that the missing member of their family was still alive and just couldn’t wait for them to find him. Kathie spotted a colourful banknote for 20 Caribbean dollars on the wet ground (a few drops of rain had fallen just a little earlier) and Toni picked it up eagerly. Kathie thought that her find was a good sign. After two hours of searching and calling out they were all very tired and sweaty because of the burning heat, so they returned to Nisbet. On their way back the Johnsons suggested that it would perhaps be worth announcing a reward for the person who would find Tony or at least provide the information that would help the rescuers to find him. Miriam instantly agreed to announce the reward and asked the Johnsons to put the idea into practice straight away. They asked her what sum of money they should offer on the reward leaflet that they were going to put up all around the island. Miriam didn’t have the experience needed for such a decision and therefore asked the Johnsons to decide on an appropriate sum of money. When the couple mentioned a sum of 10,000 dollars Miriam thought it was quite a lot, yet she agreed to it without any hesitation. The Johnsons also explained to her that they were referring to Caribbean dollars, whose value was about one third of American dollars. Immediately after their return to the hotel complex, Don and Kathie ordered the printing of the leaflet, which was prepared by the following day and put up all around Nevis. The leaflet included the title, “Missing Person”, an enlarged colour photo from Tony’s passport, and the following text: REWARD E.C. $10,000 reward for information leading to finding Mr. Anton Tomazic who’s picture is shown above. Persons with any information please call the nearest police station or 911. Kathie impatiently phoned New York and quickly got through to the dowser, Ginette, who told her that Tony was to be found in the area of Barnes Ghaut. Referring to the map of Nevis, which was issued by the Ministry of Tourism, the dowser also gave Kathie the coordinates of Tony’s location: 6 ” E-F. Ginette believed that he was at an altitude of about 420 metres and in some sort of a hole. Since she had also seen the light in her vision, the dowser believed that the rescuers could see Tony from the air and that Tony, too, could see their aircraft. Ginette had also seen a hanging rope, which hadn’t seemed very long. She told Kathie that when she had touched the picture of the missing person she had sensed the heat and stench. Kathie thought the heat meant that Tony had a high temperature and that the stench was a result of the fact that Tony couldn’t wash himself all that time; she was pushing away the thought that the stench could be the result of a decaying body.* The lunch that everybody attended on the beach was dominated by a gloomy atmosphere, which was mainly due to the constant search failures, weariness and stuffy weather. Kathie was additionally upset because of the constant noise coming from the sports planes that took off from the nearby
airport every five minutes and were flying only a few tens of metres above Nisbet. She felt like crying every time she remembered the morning scene when the poor children were crying out at the top of their voice: ”Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” She so much wished to be able to help them. How wonderful it would be if we could finally find Tony, she thought. On that Sunday afternoon, so many different visitors approached Miriam that she could hardly devote her attention to all of them. While Father George was accompanying her on the way back to the bungalow, the police officer, Austin, came over to see Miriam and at the same time there was also a telephone call from Europe. A good family friend from Germany, Maria Keilhauer, who had been for several years married to a German businessman, Joe Keilhauer, phoned Miriam. When Miriam’s mother had told her about the accident Maria had at first found it difficult to understand that something so terrible had happened to skilful Tony, but later, practical as she is, she started wondering what she could do to help her friends. After discussing the matter with her husband, she called Miriam and suggested that the search should be carried out with a special plane equipped with an infrared device that could detect warm objects (all living beings) located anywhere on the ground below. Maria recommended that the rescuers should make a request for such a plane in the USA. She also added that in the event that their request was refused she would be prepared to ask her contacts in the USA to get in touch with their influential contacts that could mediate between the rescuers and the American authorities. Miriam was grateful for Maria’s advice, as she badly needed a new and concrete idea concerning the development of the search. The fact that the policeman, Austin, was patiently waiting for her in front of the bungalow was most convenient. As on all the previous days, the policeman again came to tell her that the search hadn’t been successful. Miriam took the opportunity to tell him about Maria’s suggestion. Policeman Austin listened attentively to her and promised that the authorities on Nevis would use all they had available to cooperate with any such air search. However, he also recommended that Miriam should use Slovenian contacts in order to obtain the specialised plane. Judging from the previous negative experience concerning the hiring of an ordinary helicopter, policeman Austin doubted that the Nevisian authorities would be successful in hiring a plane. Miriam didn’t want to lose any time; she was glad that she finally had an opportunity to do something concrete, something that could add a new and promising element to the rescue operation. Soon after 5.00 pm she phoned Andreja Purkart, but unfortunately she wasn’t in the office. However, Miriam could listen to the voice of the answering machine (speaking in Slovene) and leave a message in which she briefly explained the idea concerning the search using infrared rays, and asked whether the Slovenian diplomats could help her obtain the required technical equipment in the USA. That day Kathie also brought a TV crew that was preparing a news item about the missing tourist for the national TV station. In front of the bungalow they quickly put away the remains of the coconuts that Toni had been eating and playing with and started filming. Kathie made the introduction in which she talked about the unfortunate family with such warmth that the news item, shown that evening, moved all the TV viewers; and that night even more people than before joined the regular evening prayer for a happy ending to the Nevisian drama. In that moment, many kind people were also praying for Tony at the other end of the world – in his homeland, Slovenia. Even though on that Sunday morning only a few of Tony’s relatives and friends knew about the accident that had happened on Nevis, and even though Zlata, Dejan, Niko and Mojca agreed to keep
the matter secret for as long as possible (mainly because they wanted to hide the bad news from Tony’s mother, and also because other people couldn’t help Tony), in the late afternoon, the news reached Slovenia through the usual media channel, Reuters, and quickly spread all over the country. Sunday afternoons are never rich with interesting news, and the editors on duty are grateful for anything exciting they can report on. In addition, Anton Tomazic was still a well-known person, though he had left politics eight years before. Once the afternoon radio stations broadcast the news about the accident, the editors of the evening TV programmes had enough time to dig up photographs and footage of Tomazic (there were certainly enough of them from the time of his parliamentary career). And then, of course, telephones began to ring. Niko learned about the radio news from one of his colleagues and immediately phoned Zlata, who was just then in a busy place where she couldn’t follow their conversation carefully enough. In spite of the tense atmosphere of the past days, or maybe just because of it, Zlata and Dejan decided to fulfil the promise they had given to their two daughters and took them to a circus on that Sunday afternoon. On the following day, Dejan was going to set off on a long journey and Sunday was the last opportunity for the family to spend a relaxed afternoon together. Just when they were queuing for the tickets, Zlata’s mobile rang, and Niko told her that all national media were broadcasting the news about Tony’s disappearance. The same thought flashed through the minds of both friends: Tony’s mother will now learn about it as well! It was already too late to prevent the shock that the poor lady experienced that evening. At the end of another lonely day, full of worries about her son, and even more about her two grandchildren, who were – as she had told them beforehand – on a completely unnecessary journey to far-away places, she was, as was usual at that time, watching the evening news. She had already begun to nod off in front of the television when, all of a sudden, a picture of her son appeared on the TV screen, and she heard the terrible news that something very bad had happened to him. First she just became numb, and then she tried to drag herself towards the telephone. She failed. The only thing she could do was to lean against the nearby sink and cry and cry … Her closest neighbour, Elsa, found her in this state. Elsa herself had just learned about the news and because she knew that Tony’s mother was alone, she immediately headed towards her house to help her and share in her pain. The neighbour had never before seen Tony’s mother so pale and desperate. She helped her to the sofa where Tony’s mother burst into tears again: “Tony, Tony, why didn’t you obey me? Why did you insist on going to that damned island?” Soon, Yelena Mitkovska, from Domzale, who was the main person involved in looking after Tony’s mother while the family was away, came to help as well. She didn’t need to be called either, as, by then, everybody already knew that Tony had had a serious accident. Late into the night, Elsa and Yelena were trying in vain to comfort Tony’s mother. Yelena stayed the night, and remained with the old lady throughout all the following days and nights.
* When Kathie made a circle on the map to mark the area that was supposed to be within the coordinates 6 “ E-F, she made a small mistake by encircling Barnes Ghaut a little bit too much to the left. If she hadn’t made this mistake the encircled area would have actually shown the place where the missing person was located. See the picture of the map with the notes that Kathie put down during her telephone conversations with Ginette.
The Sixth Day - Tony I still can’t say whether it was the position and the shape of the plants at the top of the walls that formed my hole that really changed (they must have changed at least a bit during the storms), or whether it was only my perception of the nighttime silhouette. Whatever the reason, during the night the shape of the skeleton’s skull was becoming frighteningly clear to me, so that I preferred to keep my eyes closed. I was still thinking a lot, though not as clearly as at the beginning. The first signs of hallucinations began to appear. The image that I saw most often was of some sort of a timer that was counting down the seconds; I knew that it symbolised the passing of time. While I tried to think clearly my subconscious was constantly reminding me that my time was running out. No matter what I was doing, there was always an invisible clock ticking away in my mind. Then the day breaks. It is such a beautiful morning! The sounds coming from the jungle are so wonderful. That colibri over there has got used to me and now comes within a yard of me. I would like to give you a biscuit, but I know that you much prefer the sweet juice from the pretty flowers. As for me, I will skip breakfast this morning … – Humour is welcome, even in the gloomiest situations. I have to get up. My wounds are healing well, but I am still very weak. All my ribs are sticking out. A year ago I would have been proud to be so slim … I should stop making excuses for not climbing the wall: I should go back to it and do my best. Now I think it’s a pity I didn’t start removing the moss from it earlier as I have noticed that once I do that the rain washes off the remaining soil and reveals the bare rock, which I can lean on or even stand tiptoe on. Today I will clear the fourth metre of the wall, maybe even the fifth one, but first I have to deepen the lower crevices on which I will stand when clearing the upper half of the wall. I find a better (harder) stone for my work. When I’m beating the rock with it, the stone sometimes slips on the mossy surface and hits my fingers, which are already bloodstained because of my several wounds and scratches. I can’t do this work for more than fifteen minutes as I start shaking after that time and could easily fall off. Hence, I descend regularly, take a rest and then climb up the wall again. I am truly grateful to myself for my mountaineering experience. How well it serves me now! I know, for example, the importance of the rule of three points: climbers should always be able to support themselves with three of their limbs. When they stretch one arm forward, they should be standing on both feet and supporting themselves with the other arm as well. When they make a step forward they should be holding onto the rock with both their arms and be standing on the other foot. Climbers should never let go of the rock with one hand and make a step with a leg at the same time. If we follow this rule we can avoid a fall when we slip. After I have cleared most of the fourth metre I realise that the last part will be the most problematic. There are a few handholds on both the left- and right-hand sides of the wall, but in the middle a very hard and slippery rock is bulging out. I’m not sure on which side I should continue my climb. I wonder if it will be easier to assess the situation from below. I welcome every excuse that allows me to go back to the solid ground of the hollow. There I drink up about two decilitres of cold urine and then I pee again into the bottle. I’m surprised that I can still produce so much urine. The taste doesn’t bother me any longer as I have got used to it by now; it is just a different sort of beer …
I hardly pay any attention to the sounds around me. Neither do I think about why the rescuers aren’t looking for me. I know that now I can only rely on myself – and on His help. I pray. I thank God for being with me and address my requests to him. According to my assessment, I won’t manage to clear the wall to such an extent that I can try to climb my way out of this hole today. But I will certainly try it tomorrow morning when I am also a bit more rested. What’s the day today? Sunday? Obviously, we won’t only skip Orlando, but also miss the reserved final flight from Miami back home … Well, these things aren’t important any longer … Will I have more luck with the sun today? Will I manage to light a fire with the help of the lens that I got out of the camera with such difficulties, and attract the rescuers’ attention with the smoke? Alas, I’m disappointed again: there is no trace of the sun between 12.00 and 1.00 pm. Nevis Peak is surrounded by clouds. Pity! The day passes more quickly than the night. It is already afternoon and I am back on the wall. I can already climb the first four metres routinely and my freedom is now only about a metre and a half away. Yet, I can’t find enough crevices and bulges that could give me enough support so that I could pull myself up. I remove more moss, and then beat the rock to my left with the stone. Will I be able to lift my right leg up to there? I can try. Yes, I think I can manage that. But what can I do then? I will have to lean on the left edge of the rock. And where will I put my left leg? I can’t just let it dangle, as that would be dangerous and go against the rule of three points. I will have to carve another “step” here. Or, maybe I can, for a moment, grab hold of the root over there. Is it strong enough? Let’s try. It seems to me it will hold out. That’s good because then I can lift my right leg even higher. And if my right leg gives me enough support I can pull myself up enough so as to be able to hold on to that rocky edge with my right hand. So I pull myself up and over the dangerous brink at the top of the hollow … Is this possible? I am saved! I have climbed OUT! I look back into the hole and see how untidy it is. My rucksack and the other things that I was using are scattered all around. I am certainly not going back there to fetch that rucksack! I have the memory cards containing all those interesting photos in my pocket. And it was clever of me to hurl my sports shoes out of the hole beforehand. I quickly find them and put them on. I thank God by praying. Now I have to get away from here as soon as possible. Where to? There is no other option but to go up the mountain again taking the same route that brought me here. The best way is to go up along the canyon, in other words, along the riverbed towards the saddle and there try to find a different way down into the valley. It would be too dangerous to do the opposite and descend the mountain along the canyon. But will I manage such a high climb? Certainly not today, but tomorrow I will have to put all my efforts into it. It is close to 6.00 pm, the critical time when night falls. Though I have become impatient and excited after my escape from that tomb, I now have to calm down and accept the fact that I will only be able to reach my loved ones tomorrow. First I have to find a place to sleep and enough plants to cover myself with so that I won’t be too cold during the night. I walk along the riverbed and look for a pleasant spot. Time is of the essence. I know that if I don’t choose a place quickly I will be overtaken by the darkness. In this rush I don’t manage to find anything flat, let alone soft. Well, I will just have to be patient for one more night – I encourage myself. I make my bed on bare rock (which is still much better than sharp stones) by using the ferns that I find nearby.
While gathering the ferns I become pleasantly surprised when I spot a few attractive “Domzale plants”. It is almost dark when I pluck them and place them next to my bed. After that lie down and for a whole hour I slowly enjoy chewing them one by one. Now I am already quite experienced in sucking most of the liquid out of their fibres. I am also glad that during the night I don’t have to stare at that sinister skeleton any longer. Here the sidewalls of the canyon are so overgrown that the trees from both sides intertwine and hide the sky from my eyes. As a result, the night is very dark. Not even once do I manage to see the hands on my watch. This darkness doesn’t make the night any shorter or longer than the preceding nights; for me it is just horribly long. The place here is less sheltered; the wind that blows along the riverbed is much stronger than the wind in my previous dwelling. I am shivering and my teeth are chattering. Where are my loved ones now? Did Miriam give up hope? Has she already taken the children back to Slovenia? Did they already hold the funeral mass? I will be so disappointed tomorrow if I can’t hold them in my arms. And what about my poor mother back home? Did her heart fail when they told her she would never see me again? And the friends in my company? Do they still believe I will be rescued? Was the public informed about my disappearance? I will certainly give them a shock if I suddenly appear in Nisbet tomorrow. I can’t sleep, so, out of sheer pleasure, I am visualising a scenario for the following day. First I should get out of the jungle – but just now I don’t wish to concern myself with that too much. And then … Then the following will probably happen: I will get to a small house at the edge of the forest and knock on the door. The people living there will be a bit frightened because I am so dirty and bloodstained, but I will explain the situation to them: “Excuse me, please, this is an emergency. I have spent five days in the jungle. Can I have some water?” They will give me water and I will drink and drink and drink … Then I will ask them to let me phone Nisbet. The hotel receptionist will probably already know that I have gone missing and will quickly put me through to Miriam. Alternatively, I may prefer to call a taxi and go straight to Nisbet. Yes, this is better: I will simply walk into the reception and then head towards our bungalow. How we will hug each other! And then I will drink again, only this time I will have a big glass of beer. And then I will bathe in the sea. Or should I go to the swimming pool? No, that would cause my skin to sting too much as the water contains some chlorine. I might have to see a doctor. I might even have to go to hospital. Maybe I should first see a doctor or go to hospital to get myself sorted out before I meet my family. I couldn’t make up my mind about what I should do first: go straight to the hotel complex or see a doctor. It never crossed my mind that after a medical examination the doctor wouldn’t let me go back to my family and have a good sleep in the bungalow. I only hoped that on the following day I would find my way out of the jungle early enough and be back at the hotel before the evening so that I could already attend dinner together with my family. I knew, of course, that I wouldn’t be able to eat a lot, but I would have a little bit of the evening meal … I also decided that we should postpone our flight back home for a few more days as I knew that I would need a good rest. And how I will enjoy that time! – I thought. I will just sit at the swimming pool and look after the children while my wife provides me with various delicious drinks: first only water and juice, but later it will also be beer and cocktails … Is there anything more relaxing than that? Is it already midnight? Here and now the expression midnight can be taken literarily: six tormenting hours of the night are behind me and another six similar hours are still in front of me.
The night sounds in this part of the jungle are slightly different from the sounds surrounding my previous hole. One of the most significant sounds here is some sort of continuous hooting – as if a hidden jungle creature is announcing my imminent death (according to Slovenian superstition, a hooting owl announces death). I am fully aware of that possibility and am grateful to God for having given me so much time to think and revise my life before the final act of my mortal life. Have I used my half-a-century-long life well? I think so. It is true I haven’t had any extreme experiences, but I don’t particularly regret that fact. I have never tried any drugs, which undoubtedly stimulate extremely strong sensations, but then I was also spared the negative consequences of the drugs. I haven’t had many different women, but then I can feel good about being faithful to both my first wife and my current wife. I have travelled quite a lot and though I have never visited far-off Asia, South America or Australia, I have, nevertheless, seen so many films and documentaries about those beautiful places that I can well imagine what it’s like to be there. I have never occupied myself with music, but I was a keen painter for a while. I haven’t yet written a book, but I did plant a tree and beget a son (the ancient Chinese saw these three acts as the measures of success). My teenage wish to become a film director hasn’t come true, but I did manage to write a script for a full-length film that the late director of a Slovenian film company called Viba, Mr Boyan Shtih, had accepted. He already found the director for the film and commissioned a well-known Slovenian writer, Marian Rozans, to write the dialogues, but then the company ran into financial problems and the film hasn’t (yet) been made. Have I followed the right rules in my life? I think so, and I hope that my children will do their best to adopt these rules as I adopted them from my ancestors. One could say that the general fundamentals of life are everlasting; they do not change with our increased knowledge of nature or our ability to control the laws of nature. The current level of our technical culture cannot be compared with the one known to the people that lived thousands of years ago; however, the fundamental rules about what is good or bad and about how people should behave towards each other are still the same. Those who don’t agree with me on this point should read a few of the Ancient Greek dramas. There they will find the same dilemmas concerning human relations and the same antagonisms between good and evil, between man and nature, between the transient nature of human lives and eternity, between our everyday reality and existence beyond the material world, between life and death. I am still deeply convinced that the Slovenian National Democrats chose a very good slogan – “Old values, new ideas!” – for our election campaign (even though the voters didn’t appreciate it and bluntly wiped us from the Slovenian political scene). The wish to preserve the good, old values isn’t in any way in contradiction with the modern (technologically innovative) concept of life or with the latest information trends. Moreover, the old values should be the basis for the responsible decisionmaking of every individual, decision-making that isn’t just beneficial to the individual, but will also benefit the whole society. If we lose our moral grounding then rapid technological development can lead to entirely inappropriate and even sinister outcomes: environmental problems, bioengineering, genetically modified food and related new illnesses. What horrible inventions will appear in the next decades if scientists chose to disregard ethical values! As for myself, I fell in love with computing 25 years ago, and in Slovenia I was among the first to recognise the supreme intelligence and applicability of the World Wide Web and the Internet. I knew the Web was a new medium that would provide us with an entirely new way of communicating and, while studying it, I never found the slightest contradiction between this new technology and the wellestablished values that had been passed on to us by numerous generations of our ancestors.
For Christians, the basic rules governing mankind’s behaviour were enshrined in the Ten Commandments, these commandments have gone on to influence all the other views and behaviour within Christian communities. Some of the main commandments like “Thou shall not kill!” and “Thou shall not steal!” are very clear and normal people (in this context I do not hesitate to use this term) will find them self-evident, while other commandments – those that are less precise – need an interpretation. At home as well as in church I have always been told: ”Be a good man!” Have I tried hard enough to be one? Have I tried to be good in the right way? Have I used the right measures when distinguishing the good from the bad? I have mainly relied on the following guidance: “ Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you!” Usually, I have also tried to keep to another rule: “When you speak about an absent person in front of other people, you should imagine that this person will one day hear a recording of your words.” Especially when we criticise somebody it is very important that we do it in the right way. We can choose to say: “Mike made a big mistake by driving under the influence of alcohol and causing a car accident.” However, we can also say: “Mike is a notorious drunkard and as such he is dangerous to other people.” In the first case we have only talked about the facts, giving Mike an opportunity to improve his behaviour, while, with the second statement, we have generalised one unfortunate event and also implied Mike’s bad intentions. Could the commandment “Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbour!” be, in our modern times, rephrased simply as “Do not tell lies!”? If the act of testifying in front of authorities (father, mother, an official or a priest) is emphasised in this commandment then the first version is more suitable and lying in such situations is a serious offence. But let’s also consider more common, everyday situations: At the end of a working day, which you have spent tending your sheep, your brother might ask you what you have been doing all day. If you say to him that you have been tending donkeys instead of sheep, would this be an unacceptable lie? Take another situation: you come home from the pub and your wife asks you where you have been. If you don’t mention the pub, but instead say to her you’ve been at the cinema, is that a sin? Have you really told a lie or just spared her from feeling bad unnecessarily. It is clear that we prefer those interpretations of the commandments that don’t burden us with too many feelings of guilt. In addition, our understanding of such rules also depends a lot on how strict we are with ourselves. Whenever I try to examine my conscience and find out how serious my sins are I’m not always as strict with myself as someone else might be. Take for example the commandment about adultery. The easiest thing we can do here is to set very vague criteria for ourselves and define adultery as something that suits our lifestyles. If I decide that adultery includes only sexual intercourse with children, persons of the same sex and animals I can quickly, and with considerable pleasure, assure myself that I have never committed adultery. So far so good, but … But, because I am a Christian my conscience will contradict the above reasoning. It won’t let me apply simplified explanations to serious moral dilemmas. It will make me examine the situation from a different angle, asking questions like: Did God in his infinite wisdom have something else in mind when he handed down the commandments? Did he think of the same form of adultery that our priests warned us against at church lessons? If that is so then I have committed adultery as well.
A common question that laymen often ask when adultery is discussed is as follows: Do the priests and their church have the right and ability to decide what is decent and acceptable, especially with regard to those human relations that the clergy of the Catholic Church never enter into (by practising celibacy)? A Catholic will answer such a question like this: It is the duty of the priests to give us directions for a good and honest life as the believers expect them to do so. And for the purpose of the upbringing of small children the priests need to simplify complex moral issues into practical rules. When meeting adult believers at confession or elsewhere, wise priests don’t ask unnecessary questions but, instead, only try to help them find the right way of examining their conscience and set the right criteria for such self-scrutiny. Yes, the conscience is the tool that helps us all, not only believers, to distinguish the good from the bad. We are born with it and later we shape and develop its potentials. Our attitude towards our conscience can, of course, be quite ambivalent: sometimes we emphasise and appreciate it; on other occasions we neglect and even deny it. I find it difficult to imagine a man, even the most unrepentant criminal, who would be completely without any conscience. Even when people persistently tell you that their conscience doesn’t trouble them at all, somewhere deep in their minds sooner or later a shadow of doubt will appear. One day they will surely say to themselves: “Perhaps what I’m doing isn’t really right.” And that will be the voice of their conscience. In our modern times the classical moral values are being constantly threatened. It is so trendy now to hold a view according to which moral scruples are old-fashioned, the ways of our lives need to be changed and made more relaxed and we are supposed to tolerate a lot more than we used to. Several political parties and business lobbies support such thinking in order to gain popularity in this way and/or simply because they want to avoid troublesome conflicts with their rivals. Those political circles, and in some countries also church organisations, which want to resist the rash and reckless changes of basic moral values, are taking over a very unpleasant role and can quickly become the targets of the mocking media and a large proportion of the public. Let’s examine, for example, our attitudes towards homosexuality. In the world of modern democracy and the increased importance of human rights, adults should certainly have the right to live their lives in the way that suits them best. They should be able to socialise with, have fun with and love the people that meet their needs and can share their interests. However, this doesn’t mean that homosexual couples should, in all respects, be given the same status as heterosexual couples, and that society (the state) should be obliged to provide them with the same support and encouragement as it would give to a classical family. As individuals, homosexuals should be granted their human rights in full, but there is no need to support their promotional activities, especially when these are aimed at or easily accessed by children. Children should be brought up in an environment that encourages heterosexual relations. My views on abortion are equally conservative (my political opponents in Slovenia would call them reactionary). Irrespective of how we explain or justify an abortion, it is always a bad solution and it is absurd to try to promote it as a good thing. I am certainly not in favour of an absolute ban on abortion, as I know that there are certain situations in life when due to social or, even more justifiably, medical reasons, abortion should be allowed. However, such cases should be rare, and the society should try its very best to reduce the number of cases in which the lives of foetuses are terminated. These poor, helpless creatures should be well protected against various dangers, including their mothers’ rash and immature decision, which they will themselves regret one day. When deciding on whether she would give birth to a child or have it aborted, a pregnant woman
should never be absolutely free. Apart from her own feelings and circumstances, she should also take into account the child’s will and instinct to live. The state shouldn’t encourage women to terminate the lives of their unborn babies by promoting abortion as a good thing. The issue should be regulated by a well-considered set of rules prepared by experts and passed at the governmental level. And, above all, the state should provide appropriate medical and social institutions, and services that will try to reduce the number of abortions. They can achieve this by promoting contraception, improving education and organising talks on this delicate matter. At the same time, the abortions that are absolutely necessary grounded should be carried out in the safest and most appropriate way. I was very disappointed when the following article became part of the Slovenian constitution: “Parents are free to decide on the number of children they wish to have.” I think that this delicate issue should never be promoted as a simple and positive option; as such it is mainly used for political manipulations, grandstanding, party compromises and for flattering the voters. As an MP at the time I even avoided voting for the new constitution. I didn’t want to press the “Aye” button even though the passing of the constitutional document of our newly founded country was at stake. At the same time, I didn’t want to vote against it either as I didn’t wish to create an impression that I was opposing some other parts of the constitution as well. (My voting anyway wouldn’t have made any difference, as it was clear that after long years of negotiating the parliamentary majority needed for passing the constitution was finally in place.) I shiver when I think about all the tiny creatures all over the world, that are at this very moment cowering in front of mechanical devices and trying to wriggle free from the grip of death.
The Sixth Day – Miriam A new week began, but Miriam still believed that Tony wasn’t lost; she knew that they just had to keep looking for him and that they would find him in the end. She decided not to leave the island until they found him. If somebody had asked her then what she would do with the children over a long period of time – as they couldn’t stay on a foreign island forever – she wouldn’t have known the exact answer, but she was determined not to leave Nevis without her husband. That morning Zlata told her that on the previous evening the Slovenian media had already broadcast the news of Tony’s disappearance, and that Tony’s mother had therefore learned about the accident. Miriam felt bad about the way in which Tony’s mother had received the news, but at the same time she was also relieved because the situation had changed: the truth didn’t have to be concealed any longer, the only thing to do was to continue the intense search to find her husband. She also began to realise that some of her contacts no longer believed that the missing person could still be alive, and that now they were only looking for his remains. Therefore, she was even happier when Zlata told her that on that or the following day Niko and Deyan would come to see her. Even though kind, obliging and understanding people surrounded Miriam, she missed the company of her close friends and relatives, and was very much looking forward to the arrival of the visitors from Slovenia. Zlata told her that in the morning Deyan and she had seen the state secretary, Andrej Ster, at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She said that at first it had seemed a bit difficult to find the right person to talk to at the Ministry, but as soon as they had got in touch with Mr Ster the procedure had become much easier. Andrej had known Tony since the time when they had both been active politicians within the Demos coalition and had later also both become elected to the first Slovenian Parliament. Andrej and Tony were politically and personally very close as they had both been for a period of time the vice-chairmen of the National Democrats. Andrej comforted Zlata by saying: ”Tony is a very capable man. I am sure he will find a way out of this situation!” Later he repeated this assessment publicly a few more times, and also in an interview that he gave for the main news programme on national television. In difficult situations such an optimistic attitude is more than welcome as its encouraging tone helps us find the best solutions. Andrej and Zlata agreed to exchange all new pieces of information, and also coordinate their relations with the media reporters who were becoming increasingly interested in the matter. Even during his meeting with Zlata and Deyan, Mr Ster had to answer the calls of reporters several times and either confirm or deny their assumptions. The main point of their agreement was the intention to use the Slovenian diplomatic channels in the USA in order to obtain a plane equipped for searching with infrared rays. After Mr Ster’s very positive reaction to the suggestion put forward by three women – Maria, Miriam and herself – Zlata wondered how it was possible that nobody had thought of it right at the beginning of the rescue operation. From then on the Ministry was in constant contact with the embassies in London and Washington. The contacts with London were useful because Britain has its consular mission on the island that used to be its colony, while the contacts with Washington were necessary because the embassy there was geographically the closest to the Caribbean islands. As the official spokesman of the Ministry,
Andrej Ster often gave very optimistic statements to the media, like the following one: ”We will keep informing the public about the latest developments concerning the missing person; however, I do hope that in our next public statement we will be able to tell you that Anton Tomazic has been found.” The Slovenian Embassy in Washington made direct contacts with the authorities on Nevis. The PR officer, Jurij Rifelj, explained that the embassy didn’t have any suitably trained staff that could join the search on the island, but were prepared to help the family in every other possible way. He also said he was satisfied with the actions that the Nevisian authorities had taken so far and expressed his hopes that the rescue operation would soon reach a successful conclusion. When answering the reporters’ questions and speculations, Rifelj said that the disappearance of Anton Tomazic was in no way associated with any political issues or other developments in Slovenia. He explained that even though ten years before Tomazic had been intensely involved in politics, and closely associated with the plans for an independent Slovenia, he had left politics seven years before and had since then been engaged only with his own entrepreneurial activities. Rifelj finished his statement on a personal note: “ Something must have happened to Tomazic. One never knows – people may look quite healthy, and yet they suddenly get a heart attack.” The next telephone call was much more difficult for Miriam: it was time to call Tony’s mother. Her mother-in-law was sometimes quite stubborn and her moods (good or bad) were often unpredictable, so Miriam knew she should be prepared for anything. But surprisingly, Tony’s mother had by then already calmed down so that they could have a normal conversation. She was, of course, longing for the optimistic and comforting words her daughter-in-law was saying over the telephone and wanted to believe everything she heard. Miriam didn’t find it difficult to say these things to Tony’s mother as she herself believed them: “ Tony must be somewhere close. I feel he is still alive. This island isn’t so cold that he could have frozen to death, neither are there any wild animals or poisonous snakes …we will surely find him. Everybody on this island is looking for him. Everything will turn out well, mother, you will see …” Miriam also talked to Yelena who assured her that several people were taking care of Tony’s mother and that the worst of the shock was already over. Niko discovered the same when he visited Tony’s mother that day. Though still crying, she was already herself, and Niko could have a sensible conversation with her. She had already thought of her own explanation of what had happened: Tony must have been walking around that island with his camera, which perhaps attracted the attention of a villain. That person then mugged Tony and robbed him. Such an interpretation of events suggested that Tony wasn’t alive any longer, and his mother seemed to have accepted that fact, though she was also still passionately praying for his rescue for most of her days and nights. That day Kathie introduced a new visitor to Miriam. It was an American friend of Kathie’s, Caroline Fowler, who lived, together with her husband, in a house on Nevis. This pleasant woman came to see Miriam that morning; they talked about different things – family, America, life on Nevis. Caroline had two grandchildren of about the same age as Toni and Mariansa and she, naturally, adored them. At their lunch together, Caroline mentioned that she had another good friend on Nevis who would also like to meet Miriam and her children. This friend, Nikka von Liemandt, was an attractive, cosmopolitan, middle-aged lady with fair hair and lively eyes. She lived with her 81-year-old mother of noble English birth, who was still young at heart, and her enterprising Russian husband, Sasha, who was much younger than her. The inherited Scottish wealth and successful business in the new Russia had enabled them to build a wonderful
house on Nevis, situated on a high slope on the beach, and with a unique view of the neighbouring island. This is where they tend to spend the winter seasons, while in summers they stay in Scotland. Nikka clearly understood Miriam’s situation: her feeling of insecurity, which increased at the end of each unsuccessful search and got closer to the terrifying possibility that Tony wouldn’t be found alive. Nikka knew how it felt to lose a loved one because her first husband had died of cancer at the age of 35. She could still remember well how she had hoped that he hadn’t really been suffering from that illness, and that he would get well again; however, she had hoped in vain. So she said to Miriam: “I know how difficult it is to talk about your future now, but we have to remain realistic – so, let me ask you what you will do if your husband isn’t found soon.” Miriam answered: “ I can only say that there is no way I am leaving this island without Tony!” “That’s exactly what I was thinking about,” said practical Nikka, ”you can’t stay in this expensive hotel for much longer, so I am prepared to help you find another, cheaper place to stay.” “Thank you Nikka, for your help!” All such conversations, though based on cruel reality, helped Miriam to overcome the moments of hopelessness, giving her enough strength to go on. She needed her inner strength more than anything else in order to look after the children well and give them enough attention so that they didn’t suffer too much because of the misfortune that had come upon the family. At the same time Miriam also realised that the children themselves were her source of energy and strength that enabled her to keep hoping and believing that Tony would be rescued. Kathie talked to Ginette, the dowser, for the third time, and told her that on the first day of Tony’s disappearance he had been seen in Westbury. Kathie expressed her opinion that this fact wasn’t in accordance with Ginette’s belief that Tony was in a cave, high up on the mountain. Ginette was sure that the people who claimed they had seen Tony weren’t telling the truth, though they probably did it without any bad intentions and were simply mistaken. She thought that they had perhaps only seen a photo of the missing tourist and later began to believe that they had seen him in person. She insisted that the missing person was in the area of Barnes Ghaut, in some sort of a hole. Ginette had just seen the darkness covering the hole, which meant that the victim was already in a very bad state, maybe even in a coma. Ginette told Kathie that she had also seen a white dog, and was able to predict two possible outcomes of the rescue operation: if Tony was going to be found, three men would play an important part in his rescue; in the opposite case, Tony’s remains would be found in mid-August. Kathie used to convey such information to Miriam, though she sometimes altered the news a bit – in this case she didn’t mention the other option that was supposed to be concluded as late as August. As on every previous evening, Kathie told Miriam, who by now had become her true friend, a story that she had learned from Sally Meguid, who was from the hotel of Mount Nevis: A long time ago an old man had gone missing on the mountain, and he had survived eight days in the wilderness. However, Kathie’s anxiety and embarrassment were growing as the eighth day of Tony’s disappearance was getting closer.
The Seventh Day - Tony How differently it feels to “wake up” free. Now I can carry on walking and with every step I will be closer to my rescue. But first I will have to go up the mountain again as the walls of the riverbed are so steep and overgrown that it would be absurd to try and climb them. Though the mountain saddle is very high, I will climb towards it and start to descend from there, perhaps taking the same route that I used to climb the mountain all those days ago. It’s good that I still have my sports shoes with me. Without any nostalgia I say goodbye to my temporary dwelling and start my climb up the riverbed. Immediately after my first steps I realise how exhausted I am and how slow my progress will be. I’m glad that the whole day, 12 hours, is still in front of me. After the first five minutes of climbing I already have to take a rest. My legs are shaking. I can see a “Domzale plant” in front of me. Shall I have it? Of course, I need some more fluid. I pluck it, sit down as comfortably as possible and begin to chew. This takes me at least 15 minutes. I get up with difficulty and go on … The path is getting steeper and my legs are getting heavier. I fancy another “Domzale plant”. I can’t tell whether I am really so thirsty again or whether I’m just looking for an excuse to have another rest. Like this I won’t get far, I tell myself. So I start to extend the periods of walking from 5 to 10 minutes and shorten my frequent rests. The riverbed’s ground is very uneven and wild. The torrent of water has washed down large rocks and uprooted tree trunks. I find that it helps me if I use my arms to scramble up; in this way I take the strain off my legs, at least a bit. This will be torture, I say to myself. Every single step demands a huge effort and I am constantly out of breath so that I have to stop again and again … I try to find out whether my frequent rests improve the “effectiveness” of my walk. Is it worth lying down each time I take a rest? Wouldn’t it be better to get my breath back while standing up? Where can I get the strength for this steep climbing? I think of my two children and the possibility that I will see them today. Yes, that helps! I have to get to my family! What a heaven is waiting for me in the Nisbet hotel complex! A pleasant bungalow with a full fridge … A lounger placed under a luxurious palm tree … A wonderful sandy beach to which the hotel staff bring refreshing drinks for the guests … A beautiful swimming pool with crystal-clear, cool water … The invisible clock, which ticks away in my mind, never stops. In parallel with my consciousness is another layer of my mind: a world of hallucinations. At this subconscious level my every step represents one point of my journey and to reach each point I need two seconds … I feel I have to work, work … I am constantly under the impression that I am working, doing something very important and that my efforts are constantly checked against some sort of a timer installed in my mind … Again I decide to have a longish rest; at the same time I’m horrified to find out that it is already 11.00 am … The sun is boiling hot; once again it is no longer my ally … In the past five days I felt its warmth on my face very rarely, but here it is burning me … When I’m lying down with my arms and legs stretched out I feel I could easily doze off … In the past week I never slept well for more than about half an hour … But this isn’t the time to sleep. I force myself to get up and stagger forward. The last part of the climb is the steepest and is increasingly overgrown as here the riverbed changes into an ordinary small valley. I’m getting new scratches; some are on the same places where I got
scratched on the first day, which have mostly healed by now. During one of my rests I try to assess how many wounds and scratches I have and I find out that there are well over five hundred on my arms, legs and stomach (naturally, there are more on my limbs than on my belly). Thank God, I obviously have good blood so that the wounds heel quickly and, more importantly, they do not fester. When I finally drag myself to the saddle I get a better view of the island. However, I am still surrounded by big trees and can only see the distant beach, the settlements and the neighbouring island through the gaps between their trunks. But I am anyway more interested in the things that are close up. I would like to find a suitable route leading down the mountain. Suddenly, I come across a trodden track that some people must have used recently. Maybe the rescuers walked here, as they must have been looking for me on foot as well, I say to myself. According to my assessment, at least two people must have been here because the grass has recently been trodden down and the various bushes have been well torn. I believe that those people must have come from the area below the mountain and must have also have gone back to it; hence, I just have to follow their track. I am thrilled that after six days I have finally found a sign of civilisation, that my walk will now become easier and will take me to my desired destination. I spotted this track just in time because a cloud is approaching this part of the mountain and blocking my view over the area below, and without the track I wouldn’t be able to find my way down the slope. However, I don’t know whether I should take the left or the right turn of the track. They both go down the mountain. According to what I saw a little while ago, when I was still in view of the island, I should go left, though I don’t really fancy this way as the track ascends on that side. Can it be that it ascends only temporarily and then starts to descend? I choose the left turn. As the jungle is again very thick I find it easy to follow the track because the people who walked here before me must have put a lot of effort into beating the path. By doing that, they have saved me a lot of energy. My morale has increased significantly. Oh, I forgot to thank God for this help. So I solemnly say my three prayers and then determinedly head on along the foggy slope taking every care not to lose the track. Occasionally I also cry out for help – though this takes up a lot of my energy I believe that by now I already stand a good chance of being heard. When the slope becomes steeper I begin to doubt whether it was a sensible decision to walk up the mountain taking the left turn. Why am I torturing myself on this slope when, perhaps, I could be descending it all the way down? Why didn’t I take the right turn? Could I get lost on that part of the track? Probably not, as the person who made the track must have descended to the flat area below – or come from there. I still have the time to change my mind. Yes, I will turn back, start to descend, and just stick to the track irrespective of where it takes me. Walking down the slope is of course easier and I quickly reach the place where I first spotted the track. This time I don’t stop any more; I keep heading down, down. I’m fairly out of breath, but I can still gather enough strength to shout out for help periodically. My voice is now much weaker than at the beginning of this walk and apart from my own echo there is no other response to my shouting … Though I can occasionally hear the distant sounds of a plane and even a ship, the place here remains very peaceful and quiet. Still, I need a rest. I have to find another “Domzale plant”. Oh, look at that: there are some chewed up remains of this plant lying by the path. Apparently I chose the right plant as I can see that others use it as well. God bless them, they must have been as thirsty as I am while beating their way
through this jungle. I feel giddy, so I close my eyes and fall asleep for a while. Maybe I can now afford the luxury of sleep even if that means that my return to the hotel will be postponed until the evening. I am convinced that I did the right thing when I returned from track I chose first. I can see that this path is already heading away from the saddle and is now definitely leading down towards one of the gullies in the mighty mountain. The people who walked here before me must have also chosen this riverbed for their descent. I find a firm stick to lean on while walking along its uneven ground. My foot slips dangerously a few times and I shiver with fear at the thought that I could now sprain my ankle or even break my leg. Though it is with reluctance, I decide to take a few more longish rests. I am out of breath, very sweaty and I can feel my pulse beating in my neck. It is amazing how much the human body can endure! Like the previous riverbed, this one is becoming increasingly narrow and beginning to look more like a canyon. However, I believe I am not in any real danger here as I am still following the trail that was probably used by the rescuers – if they managed to descend along this path then I can do it too … It is already late afternoon. I can’t afford to look around much as I have to watch my every step. Now that I’ve come this far, I really don’t want to fall and break my legs. What is this? Again I have to use my arms to descend over the rocks that give rise to the waterfalls in the rainy season. I encourage myself by thinking: Well, if I have already managed to climb over so many rocks I can go on a bit further. Still, this descent begins to worry me a lot … I could easily fall on these rocks … I will have to be as careful as the people who were on this slope before me … And then – this can’t be true! I find myself on the edge of a narrow hollow in which I can see my rucksack, my scattered clothes and my nest … I realise that I have been following my own trail all day and have come back to where I started … And how much energy I used up when I climbed up to that high saddle! I move away from the hollow to prevent myself from falling into it again … then I collapse from the physical and mental exhaustion … Oh, my dear God, why do I suffer so much? Am I really not meant to be rescued? I pray and praying calms me down. I have to call it a day. Tomorrow I can assess the situation again … I doubt I could again climb towards the saddle like I did today. I have to find a shelter for the night. I wouldn’t like to stay close to my previous trap … I will use my freedom of movement and find something more pleasant.
I decide that tomorrow I won’t attempt the same route back, instead, I will try to find a way of bypassing this dangerous part of the canyon and come back to the riverbed again when its ground becomes more gentle. This afternoon I will only go back up the riverbed far enough to find a place where either of the two sidewalls opens up so much that I could climb out of the canyon. Tomorrow I will descend a few hundred metres down the slope, parallel to the riverbed, trying to avoid its most dangerous places and later approach the riverbed again. I know that I will attempt something very dangerous, but I have to take this risk as there is nothing else I can do. I don’t want to lose any more time before nightfall so I walk back and on my right-hand side I really find a gap that will allow me to climb the wall. As I know that after this climb I will be able to rest for the whole night I try my very best: I almost throw myself into the thicket and on it I start to climb the steep slope. My only company is the moon that is giving me enough light so that I can afford quite a high climb. The plants here are so thick that my feet never touch the ground, instead, I somehow swim in the grass, ferns, bushes, roots and creepers. In the end, something beautiful comes into view. I see a wonderful scene in the distance: the coast, the bay, lit-up Charlestown (the capital of Nevis), a large cruiser lying at anchor, a small boat used by disembarking passengers, a few other lit-up boats, the port’s belfries … How close to me this beautiful civilisation is and yet how difficult it is for me to reach it! Right this moment on that luxurious boat well-dressed people are attending their supper, toasting each other with cold cocktails … In the meantime I am getting ready for the unpleasant business of “replacing my liquid” … As I left the plastic bottle, together with my rucksack, in the hollow, this has become a much more difficult task. I can only bring urine to my mouth in my hand and I would lose a lot of it if I kept secreting my urine while, at the same time, drinking it from my hand. Therefore I have to use my other hand to turn “the tap” off periodically, which I find very painful. The liquid is now completely brown and it causes the open wounds on my hand and lips to smart a lot. While, with the secreted urine, my body tries to get rid of the useless or even poisonous substances (bacteria) I have, for six days, kept putting them back into my stomach. Though I do absorb some fresh fluid that I get from the stalks of the “Domzale plants” I must also lose a lot of it with heavy perspiration. I’m surprised that I don’t feel any pains in my kidneys or liver. Well, I will probably have to be examined at the hospital if (when) I save myself from here tomorrow … This time I find a softer place to sleep on, though I shouldn’t move much as I could easily roll down the steep slope. For a few more times during the night I watch the beautiful scene of the distant port and the rich reflection of the full moon in the sea. I also notice that my eyesight has deteriorated: even with my glasses I cannot discern the details of the scene in front of me. This is such a beautiful night! The view of the moon, which is reflected in the sea down there, is wonderfully romantic! I tell myself that in the next few long hours I shouldn’t again think of death and other sad issues, but, instead, about something beautiful. If tomorrow I do finally manage to save myself from here I can already now start my rejoicing. If, on the other hand, my last hour is close, there is still no reason why I should leave this beautiful world gloomy and bitter.
I remember the love story between a British national hero, Lord Nelson, and a beautiful (white) Nevisian, Fanny Nisbet; after whom “my” hotel must have been named. Their wedding took place down there near Charlestown, in the open air and under the trees of the settlement called Montpelier – only a few kilometres from here; and in the evening the newly weds must have had a similar view of the beach and the neighbouring island that I have now. If I’m not mistaken their wedding also took place in early spring … In 1780 the young British naval captain, Horatio Nelson, was still at the beginning of his career. In the time between two military missions, he disembarked on Nevis where he met a young and pretty Fanny whose much-older husband had recently died so that she lived alone with her small son (her parents had already died years before and since that time her uncle had been her only guardian). For a daughter of a plantation owner Fanny was surprisingly well educated; she was musical and a talented linguist. It was love at first sight between Fanny and Nelson. And because of the captain’s frequent voyages their love was richly documented in beautiful letters that even today still attract the attention of (a mainly British) audience. These letters have been reprinted several times. This well-educated young British couple, with a literary gift, indulged themselves in passionate writing. Their letters are packed with sentences like: “I can’t live without you as you mean everything to me,” or: “There has never been a man in the world more disappointed than I was yesterday when I didn’t received your letter.” It seems, though, that their relationship was more platonic than sexual. Nelson also warned Fanny about the disadvantages of a marriage with a sailor who would be away from his wife much longer than he would be with her. Many people believed that this luxurious wedding, which was an important social event for Britain and for Nevis, would quickly put an end to the young officer’s naval career. However, his career was only just beginning, and soon Nelson reached the highest rank in the most powerful naval force of the time. The marriage apparently started off well, as we know that soon after the wedding Nelson wrote to one of his friends that until then he hadn’t even known what happiness was and expressed his belief that Fanny would be making him happy to the end of his life. But it seems that they could only be happy on Nevis. Once the young couple moved to England, Nelson had so much work in London that he spent most of his time on the ship. In addition, Fanny developed health problems that were caused by the cold and foggy London air. When the war with France broke out Nelson’s fame increased. He was making rapid progress up the ladder of the military hierarchy and was also becoming increasingly popular with the general public. He always treated Fanny’s son as if he had been his own child and took him to his ship when the boy was only thirteen years old. Nelson and Fanny had no children and that was perhaps one of the reasons why they gradually drifted apart. It even seemed that Nelson grew weary of Fanny. When he lost his right arm in the Battle of Tenerife his wife still nursed him with a lot of care. But later when he recovered from the injury and began to move a lot in high society he became infatuated with Lady Hamilton, a much more passionate and vivacious woman who was married to an older man. Nelson and Lady Hamilton had two daughters and Nelson also moved in with her. It is easy to imagine why Nelson’s love life quickly became a popular topic of discussions among his countrymen, thirsty for sensations and scandals.
This well-known love story came to an end when, at the end of the Battle of Trafalgar, the victorious Nelson was shot by a French sniper. In spite of his death, the Battle of Trafalgar reinforced Britain’s position as the world’s leading naval force and put an end to any threats of invasion, which meant the island remained safe until the Second World War. Nelson’s story can be a good starting point for a reflection about love. We first experience love and learn how to express this emotion within our family. This is the reason why family is so important and why each society should appreciate and protect it as much as possible. Love is the most important gift that we, as parents, can give to our children; it is even more important than providing them with a university education. Of course we do a lot for our children if we help them acquire knowledge and the skills needed for the merciless competition that they will later have to face; but education alone won’t bring happiness to children. It is more important that we help our children develop their whole personalities, with a balanced emotional life and a good social adaptability, than encouraging their development in only one area. If we do the latter we might deprive them of experiencing, in their later life, the true, everyday family happiness, which is always the best basis for the development of a stable and fulfilling love between a man and a woman. Such loving relations cannot be created and maintained in a simple way. A man and a woman should, above all, trust and be devoted to each other, which isn’t always easy. They have to try hard to give sincerely and accept with pleasure. They should try to help each other to grow up and to complement each other, while at the same time accepting each other for what they are, including their physical and emotional shortcomings. Each of them needs to accept their own, individual role that is the result of their different sexes. If these efforts are sincere then their relationship can develop into something wonderful and unique, something that will remain with them for the rest of their lives. If they have normal, healthy bodies and if at least the minimum living conditions (a flat and other basic necessities) are granted to them, then such a couple can also have a very fulfilling sexual life. Their sexual happiness is some sort of reward for all their mutual dedication, faithfulness and sacrifice. Our God had given the ability to enjoy sex to everybody including the poorest people that are otherwise deprived of many other pleasures. Falling in love is, of course, a very beautiful thing; especially for young people it can be a good beginning to a long-lasting relationship. However, it can also be just a temporary illusion that will lead them to an unhappy marriage. Older people know that initial infatuation can be “blind” and transient, while youngsters never believe that until they experience it themselves. I remember a television programme, which I found very enlightening, showing relations between men and women in different cultural environments. One part of the programme described the life of married couples from an eastern country – I think it was India. There, young people do not choose their partners themselves, as that is the responsibility of their parents who do it with the help of special (sometimes professional) matchmakers. They try to get to know as many young people as possible and then, on the basis of the young people’s characters and temperaments, they bring the couples together. Once they persuade the parents that their choice is good, the first introductory meeting of the future couple takes place in the presence of the family and the wedding soon follows. For obvious reasons the young people are very curious and impatient before such meetings as they are going to meet the person with whom they will spend the rest of their (intimate) lives. At first glance such an arrangement may seem quite horrific, especially to people from the West. We certainly wouldn’t want others to choose our partners and in this way also deprive us of the initial state of infatuation.
However, I was very surprised to learn that among these couples there aren’t fewer happy marriages than among those who were free to choose their partners. The television programme supported this revelation with the sincere statements of various couples. I could see big happy families and many smiling faces telling us about their first, sometimes very negative, impressions of their future wives and husbands, and about how they later got to know each other, got close and also began to love each other. In western countries quite the opposite may happen: when young people are passionately in love they don’t always show their true nature to their future partners. Instead they try to make an impression that is better than their true characters. At the same time their passion also prevents them from noticing obvious flaws or crucial differences between their own and their partners’ characters and mentality. When their big love later cools down it is usually already too late to remedy the situation. Some accept their frustration and learn to live with it, others quickly get divorced. The couples in India also experience a lot of disappointments at the beginning of their marriages, but if skilful and wise matchmakers brought them together it is very likely that they made better decisions than the young people would have themselves, blinded by passionate love. Such blinding infatuation must have also been the basis of the relationship between Nelson and Fanny, otherwise their love story wouldn’t have ended so sadly. Of course I don’t think that we should introduce Indian customs into our environment. However, I believe that there is no reason for us to be shocked and arrogant when we learn about different traditions without taking into account a specific cultural and historic background. As for myself, I learned something else from this Indian story: many of my countrymen would disagree with me on this issue, but I came to believe that the premarital abstinence from sexuality (which is customary in India) doesn’t hinder the development of a good marriage and fulfilling sexuality. Healthy individuals will surely develop sexual sensations in themselves and in their partners if only they first manage accept and love each other on a spiritual level. Nowadays, western culture is totally overwhelmed with a distorted image and role of sexuality, which is especially confusing for young people. It is a big shame that the unscrupulous media often transform beautiful and healthy sexuality into dirty pornography, which they even offer to children. Being a normal man I, too, like to see a beautiful naked woman and I am not against pornography as long as it is strictly limited to those adult individuals that are themselves interested in such forms of relaxation. However, I have, for a long time, been allergic to the ways in which inappropriate pictures, films and words are used to corrupt innocent children. Already in 1989, still in the socialist Yugoslavia, I wrote a public letter entitled “Against Street Pornography” that was published in the major Slovenian daily newspaper Delo. I criticised the then widespread way of promoting pornographic films in public places – in the streets and in the glass, advertising cabinets of the cinemas. Because, until then, nobody else had protested against this indecency (nobody wanted to risk being mocked by the so-called “progressive” audience) the film distributors were shamelessly putting up completely uncensored hard-core pornographic pictures showing naked organs and sexual intercourse. As one such public place was near Ljubljana railway station, I would often see groups of primaryschool pupils, who came to visit the city, gathered in front of these glass cabinets; some of them seemed very embarrassed as they were probably seeing such pictures for the first time. Why would any adult want to plant into the minds of those innocent children the idea that sexuality between a man and a woman demanded unusual positions, that it usually involved a group of people, and that
love-making was represented by wild, distorted grimaces and a whip or a stick in the hands of one of the lovers. Why should young couples be deprived of the right to discover their sexuality in their own way, with all the slow, gradual steps, small secrets, gentle strokes and awkward moves? Why would adults want the girls to believe that their boyfriends will expect complicated acrobatic positions from them on their first date? And why should anybody frighten the boys by suggesting that they will disappoint the girls simply because they wont measure up to what they can see in the pornographic films? Already then I expressed my belief, and I still stick to it irrespective of how oldfashioned it may sound, that attempts to corrupt children existed in our society. I added that nobody had the right to do such a thing, especially in an environment where a lot of parents chose a rather strict form of upbringing for their children. Today, a similar form of indecent intrusion would be a television channel showing pornographic films during the daytime. Should I deny my children the opportunity to use the TV remote control just because I want to protect them against such harmful images? Certainly not, those people who deal in pornography are obliged to make sure that their films aren’t accessible to children in public places (channels). Being a lawyer I ended my letter with another public question: Where are the public prosecutors and other legal authorities that should prosecute pornographers in accordance with the law? Dealing in pornography was an offence in the penal code at that time. Surprisingly, my initiative received very positive reactions; I didn’t receive a single negative response. More people wrote letters of support to the same newspaper, one of them included as many as 116 signatures of citizens who felt the same way about the issue. It seems that even at that time a campaign by citizens was capable of making a change in society. The public prosecutors that I had prompted into action must have found some informal way of warning the cinema managers because the vulgar pictures soon disappeared from their glass cabinets and such advertising has never reappeared in our capital. I am sure that we cannot simply give in to moral pollution and that the pornography industry will not be capable of sufficient self-censorship to protect children from its harmful influences. This is one of the areas that will, for a long time, have to be regulated by the society – the state – that will have to set firm rules and define the penalties for breaking them. Nothing less than this will do! I think of Miriam! If only I could now lie in bed with her! Not that my exhausted body would these days and nights in any way long for sexuality (for that I would need more appropriate, friendlier circumstances), but I would so much need her warmth now. Will she ever again warm me up?
The Seventh Day – Miriam Deyan and Niko must be already on their way, was Miriam’s first thought when she woke up that day. Maybe their arrival will spur some new ideas and actions like the search for a rescue aeroplane with the infrared sensors. At mid-day Nikka arrived as she had promised the day before, only this time she was accompanied by her mother. The ladies had lunch together and Nikka suggested taking Miriam around the island that she already knew very well. “Yes, do go with Nikka!” advised Nikka’s mother. “In the meanwhile our Sasha will look after the children.” “I would like that, let’s go then,” Miriam agreed. The car with which Nikka and her mother picked up Miriam and the children wasn’t at all in the style of their beautiful residence or their noble birth. It was creaking and moaning so much on the steep slope that Toni was quite amused by it. However, they reached the von Liemandt summer residence without a problem. There they were received by lively Sasha, who for the next two days was an ideal baby-sitter to the two children, who were already getting a bit spoiled. For the children it was the huge television that was the most attractive object in the house, especially because the bungalows in Nisbet didn’t have any. Now they could enjoy the global Cartoon Network channel that offers entertainment to children anywhere in the world and at any time of the day. In order to make Toni and Mariansa feel as comfortable as possible they were allowed to watch the television in a beautiful, colonial-style bedroom where they could lie or jump barefoot on the bed. They had plenty of food and Sasha also provided them with delicious ice cream. In the meanwhile, Miriam and Nikka joined the group of people – by now much reduced in number – who were still looking for Tony. The ladies started their search in Fountain Village and finished it in Barnes Ghaut. Whenever they came to a quiet, out-of-the-way area, Miriam was loudly calling out to her husband Tony, while Nikka was crying out a different version of his name: “Anton, Anton!” And in the populated areas they were asking the people to try to remember any details that could help them find the missing person. By now everybody already knew about Tony’s disappearance; people commented on the accident in different ways, but weren’t able to do much more than that. Nikka personally knew many of the people they were talking to, one of them was also a young man with long plaited hair – Junior Jack from Barnes Ghaut. She explained to everybody that her friend was the wife of the missing tourist. Miriam and Nikka were also handing out the remaining leaflets that included Tony’s picture. Just like everybody else involved in the search operation, Miriam and Nikka also believed that Tony had been seen for the last time on Wednesday afternoon in Westbury, so they headed towards that settlement as well. Policeman Wigley wasn’t at home, but his father, who must have been about 60, confirmed that Wigley had seen Tony coming back from the mountain at 4.00 pm. The only new detail, which Miriam learned from that conversation, was that the stranger was supposedly carrying a dark parcel that could have been a bag containing the camera. The policeman’s father also knew that Wigley hadn’t talked to the stranger himself, but saw him talking to their neighbour, Winnefred Herbert. For this reason Miriam and Nikka also knocked at the neighbour’s door and a rotund, middle-aged lady opened it. In the same way as everybody else that Miriam had met until then, Winnie greeted her by saying: “Oh, what a misfortune! May God help you to find your husband alive!” Once again Winnie gave a detailed recollection of how she met and talked to the person that everybody believed
could only have been the tourist called Tomazic. Miriam asked a few questions, the last one about the direction that Tony had supposedly taken after their conversation. Winnie assured her that ”he had followed the road down towards the beach”. In the meanwhile it grew dark. For Miriam the day was over very quickly. She then remembered that she had an appointment that evening with Suzanne Gordon, a reporter from The Daily Herald and a correspondent with Reuters. Hence, Miriam and Nikka hurried back to collect the children. At Nikka’s residence they first had a refreshing drink after which both of them set off for Nisbet. Their dinner at the Great House restaurant was really late this time, especially for the children. At their arrival in Nisbet, Miriam immediately noticed Suzanne waiting for her, but the reporter was so understanding that she was prepared to postpone the interview until the following day. That evening Miriam wished to wait for her brother and a friend who were going to arrive from the neighbouring island of St. Kitts in a rather unusual way – not by plane, but by boat. That day Deyan and Niko made a very long and exhausting journey. They started it at 8.00 am at the main Slovenian airport called Brnik from where they first flew to Frankfurt. On the plane they read the Slovenian newspapers, which published reports and pictures of Tony’s disappearance, and discussed the accident as well as the their own involvement with other passengers. Their change of plane in Frankfurt was quite smooth and after a nine-hour flight to Miami they had to wait at the airport for two more hours. There they found out that their mobile phones wouldn’t work without additional equipment, and Deyan was so pedantic and slow at purchasing telephone cards that the two men almost missed the flight to Porto Rico. In the end they had to run past the queues and ask permission to take the corridors reserved for other purposes. They got on the plane literarily in the last minute before the flight. On St. Kitts, where they landed at 11.00 pm, Deyan was in for an unpleasant surprise: all his luggage had been left behind at one of the previous airports, so that he had to continue the journey with only his hand luggage. At the airport exit somebody was waiting for Deyan and Niko, this person was holding up a board with their names and took them straight to the port as the airport on Nevis was already closed at this late hour. For the two men, keen on technical devices and sport, the boat was a real attraction. It was a motorboat with two Johnson engines, each of them with power output of 150 KM. At a speed of 35 knots and under a beautiful night sky the boat quickly took them to Nevis. At exactly midnight the boat reached the Oualie Beach where, despite the late hour, apart from Miriam, the children were also waiting for them. The children were full of joy while throwing themselves on their beloved uncle and on Deyan, Sabina’s father. This time Toni and Mariansa were too excited to fall asleep in the jeep on their way back to the hotel, instead they were almost competing with each other as to who could tell more news to the visitors. Toni was telling them all he had learned about the coconuts while Mariansa was showing her new yellow tracksuit to Niko. At the same time the adults discussed serious matters that couldn’t wait either, as time was mercilessly running out. They were determined to do their very best to reunite the children with their father. At Nisbet, everything was prepared for the arrival of the two new guests. The staff offered them two sets of keys, but Deyan and Niko thought it would be too extravagant to have two separate bungalows; instead they chose to share one apartment called the White Hall. On entering it a pleasant
sight confronted them: the table was set for a delicious dinner, consisting mainly of various sandwiches, fruits and a lot of ice-cold drinks. Back in Slovenia, where the day had finished a few hours earlier, there were a lot of media reports; unfortunately, many of them presented grossly distorted stories about the accident. Kathie called the dowser again that day. In the late afternoon Ginette told her that Tony had hurt the left side of his back and was lying on the mountain unable to move. She still insisted that the accident had happened in the area of Barnes Ghaut.
The Eighth Day - Tony At night the sounds of the distant port faded away, but now, as morning breaks, I can even recognise the sounds of the noisier road vehicles. Though I am already at the threshold of civilisation it is still
well out of my reach. Will I succeed today? – I ask myself. I feel quite nervous about my plans for the day. What if the slopes down there won’t be gentle? What if I get stuck among the rocks or even fall into the canyon? Should I be on the path that I left yesterday? Certainly not! I am completely exhausted and only with extreme efforts can I manage the walk down the slope, while I could never attempt another climb almost to the top of the mountain. I should start walking as soon as the day becomes bright enough. Later the sun will find me and when it starts to shine on me the heat will be almost unbearable. So, I set off – there is anyway nothing more that I should do here. In my pocket I still keep the small packet containing the memory cards (pictures and sound) and a bit of money that I can later use for the taxi to Nisbet. Or should I be more realistic and go to hospital first? I had to walk sideways down a very steep slope in order to bypass the dangerous part of the canyon with “my hollow” and at least one other, even deeper, abyss. Apart from the usual vegetation I also noticed a new type of very unpleasant grass – not only did it catch hold of everything (including my arms and legs), it was also very sharp and tough. It didn’t only scratch me (I wouldn’t have been bothered if a few more scratches had been added to the previous five hundred similar wounds), but it cut deep into my skin so that I was bleeding again. I had to be very careful to rid myself of the grip of that dangerous grass in the easiest possible way and walk slowly enough to avoid any severe cuts. In comparison with this grass, a type of dry cactus that grows in the same area seemed much less dangerous in spite of its sharp needles. As I expected, my progress was very slow and the sun was boiling hot. I found it difficult to drink my urine while standing on such a steep slope and, as I had no bottle with me, I wasn’t able to use all of it, thus, I began to worry that I would end up being completely without any body-liquid. I felt that the signs of dehydration might reappear soon. Routinely, I consumed the fluid out of a few more Domzale plants, but I also began to worry that I would damage my teeth by chewing on those tough plants. More and more my fears that the wall would be too steep for me to descend were coming true. According to my assessment it now already had an 80-percent incline, which is, in Slovenian mountains, impassable without additional safety equipment. The only good thing about the slope was the fact that it was thickly overgrown so that I was at least able to grab hold of the plants, which protected me from falling over. The grass and various roots were giving support to my feet while with my hands I could hold on to the trunks of smallish trees or to the stems of ferns. For a few times I even had to use my teeth to stay upright. Whenever the plant I was holding on to got torn, I slipped, but I was soon able to get support from a cactus or some creepers on the ground. Just keep going – I encouraged myself. I should at least cover a few hundred metres more so that I pass the place of my accident. However, to my disappointment, not to mention fear, the slope was getting even steeper. I began to realise that I could come across such very steep walls anywhere in this area, even in the vicinity closer to the foot of the mountain. What shall I do? – I wondered. Shall I climb up and risk encountering even steeper slopes? Shall I continue walking parallel to the riverbed? Should I rather look for another gap in the riverbed wall that would allow me to descend quickly and, in this way, avoid another, this time, fatal fall? Or, should I go back and find myself in the same spot where I sadly ended up yesterday? I didn’t have the time for long prayers so I just quickly asked God to save me (again).
The slope is now frighteningly steep, it must have a 90-percent incline, so that I can’t afford to speculate or make new plans any longer. The only thing I can do now is to avoid falling over the edge. How high above the canyon am I? I try to avoid finding the answer to this question, but I am afraid that I am still very high up the mountain. Shall I go back towards its top? No, it’s far too late for that. Down there on my left-hand side I can only see the sky … I really can’t afford to change my mind about the direction of my climb again. What I need to do is to find a suitable handhold. Will this root give me enough support? No, it is too decayed. What about that small stalk? It gets uprooted immediately. Do I still stand firmly on my feet? I’m afraid that the grassy turf beneath my feet is starting to give way. I have to find a better place to stand on… OK, this cactus will support me for a short time… Is my death now really close? I thank you again, my God, and blessed be the holy cross! Toni, Mariansa, Miriam, mother! My face leans against the damp grass. The slope is so steep that I have to move my head backwards if I want to turn it to the other side. Sharp blades of grass prick my nose. A butterfly passes by – this is just an ordinary day: the sun shines, the colourful flowers grow, the birds sing beautifully, only I have to hang on for my life … The cactus is still holding me, but my legs begin to shake …There isn’t much I can do with my hands to maintain this position, let alone to pull myself away from here. It looks like a fall is inevitable! I might be lucky to survive it, but I certainly won’t be able to avoid it! With one foot I feel for the ground further down there, but reach nothing … I do the same with the other foot – again there is nothing … Only the abyss is below me… The grass, to which I hold, is giving way, torn and pulled up from the gap in the rock. I can feel that my fall has begun as I am losing touch at all four supporting points. Once the cactus gives way under one of my feet the pressure on the other foot increases, which leads to a slip. In that moment my body seeks support from my arms. I can see how the last tufts of grass are being pulled out and with a loud noise I am falling into the depth of the canyon … Of course I don’t remember the details of my fall, but I think it must have lasted for a few seconds. Fortunately, I didn’t dive straight into the abyss, instead, I was, for a while, bouncing down the rocky wall, which meant I received several new blows and scratches, but I did manage to keep my body in an upright position. Just as I had been taught to fall during my climbing lessons so many years ago, I stretched out my arms in order to slow down the fall and prevent my body from turning upside down. Together with me, some other pieces were falling down as well – mainly the stones and lumps of dry soil. I crashed into a hollow similar to the previous one, but fortunately I touched the ground with my feet first. The force of the crash threw me backwards so that my back hit against a big, round rock. I felt a severe pain in my spine. This will be fatal, I thought. But already in the same moment I jumped up as if I had wanted to defy my fear of an injured spine. Once again I was in complete shock; however, I was on my feet, even more, I was able to take a few steps. Actually, I should say that I was able to stagger a bit, after which I collapsed once again. I am still alive! My spine is hurting me a lot but the injury obviously isn’t fatal. And I no longer count the bumps and small wounds. I look up and see that I have fallen down about eight metres. Was it luck again? No, I am sure it was the will of God. Thank you, my dear God! You are guiding me through difficult trials and I will always be grateful to You for being kind to me.
I don’t know how long I rested or when I decided to continue my way down the riverbed as I have no memory of the first few minutes after this fall. Neither can I recall whether I lost my sports shoes during the fall or whether I took them off later. Whatever the reason, I had to continue my way barefoot, which was very difficult as I was walking along the rough, rocky ground of the riverbed. When I realised that I had no shoes on it was already too late to go back and look for them. I was still very dizzy. The only thing I was still clearly aware of was that clock in my mind that continued to tick away: one step – two seconds, another step – two seconds … I also found out that the packet of memory cards, together with the money, must have fallen out of my pocket during the fall. However, I wasn’t prepared to go back for them, not even if they had been only five metres away from me … During my increasingly frequent rests I missed the Domžale plants that I couldn’t find in this part of the riverbed. I was also worried that I would come across another steep hollow. Indeed – I soon reached a place that was completely uncrossable. I knew nothing good could come of it … In both previous cases the bouncing of my body down the wall reduced the impact of my fall, but this time that wouldn’t be possible. Below me I saw a completely vertical wall (a dry waterfall) and a few round, about one-metre-wide rocks scattered at its base. I felt that I had no strength left for another climb that would take me back up the mountain and away from this danger. I knew I had to continue my way down the slope. Thus, even though I had no shoes on, I decided to jump over the hollow. I knew that, even the best outcome would involve me breaking my legs, but hoped at least to survive the jump. I got as far as standing right at the edge of the abyss and waving my arms (just as we do before jumping into a swimming pool). I tried to assess how far I had to jump in order to avoid the most dangerous rocks and land as softly as possible. But then I realised that the jump would probably be suicidal. Never in my life had I thought of committing suicide. I believe I have no right to do such a thing. God has given me life and He alone can take it from me. So, I changed my mind about jumping and tried to find another solution. What has so far been saving my life? – I asked myself. It was climbing, which I learned in my youth, and I should continue to use my abilities to climb! – I told myself. I noticed a large, round rock wedged in between the two walls of the canyon (the diameter of the rock was about a metre and a half). As the rock was completely smooth I decided to attempt something that I had never done before and had only seen on television while watching a documentary about free climbing on the well-known Slovenian wall called Osp. I clenched my right hand, wedged my fist in between the wall and the rock, and let my whole body hang from the rock while getting support only from one arm. Isn’t it amazing that a man can do such incredible things when in a desperate situation? I swung on one arm so that I could first touch the opposite wall with my left foot and after that found support for my right foot on the wall that was close to me. In this way I was able to take the pressure off my arm. After I had freed my arm I slowly began to descend by simultaneously pressing both my feet against the two opposite walls. On reaching the ground I said a short prayer thanking God for giving me the wisdom to decide against the jump in that critical moment.
By then I had completely lost any sense of time. I was only aware of my internal clock, which was ticking away the seconds, and of the changes caused by the daybreak and nightfall. Just then it was quickly getting dark again. However, the riverbed finally changed: it became gentler and without any narrow and dangerous gorges. Apparently I won’t escape from here today, I thought. But that didn’t upset me anymore. I wasn’t any longer preoccupied with WHEN I would be saved; I only knew that I SHOULD save myself from here in some way. If not tomorrow, then on the day after … For this reason I didn’t try to keep walking until nightfall. I decided to have a proper rest in order to restore my strength and be able to continue on the following day. During the time when I was walking along the riverbed I saw a lot of small places were I could have slept; however, when I needed one, I couldn’t find anything. So, in my search for a place to sleep I walked much more than I initially wanted to. As the forest by the riverbed was very thick and its trees very tall, the place soon became dark and I decided to make myself a provisional bed, which was on rather hard and uncomfortable ground. Fortunately, I found a lot of ferns, with which I could cover myself. Again, I couldn’t get any sleep and my mind was more inclined towards hallucinating than rational thinking. Another very long night was in front of me, but I was determined to continue on my way the following day. That night I simply couldn’t avoid thinking of death. I couldn’t trick my mind by thinking of the quotation from Epicure, which says: we don’t need to worry about death – for as long as we live, it is not with us; when it comes to us, we will already be gone. Today I am still a man. If tomorrow an even more severe fall destroys me, only my body – my bones, flesh, intestines, skin and hair – will lie here. Very soon the ants, the vermin and the other scavengers of Nature will come. In just a few days or weeks they will consume almost everything, leaving only the bones behind. If I die in the riverbed then in autumn, wild water will flush in and scatter my last remains to hundreds of different places where they will rot in the open air or where soil will cover them for many years. I tend to agree with Descartes who said that there is a sharp line between the body and the soul. This division is manifests itself most clearly at the moment of death, which doesn’t take a long time, but happens in an instant. In that moment the immortal soul (the Slovene word for soul – “dusa” – is more than appropriate as it evokes notions of the spirit and breath) gets torn away from the body and continues its existence in a different dimension. As I understand it, the soul doesn’t fly away, at least not in the physical sense of the word, but it probably gets liberated from the material framework of time and space and from the physical laws and transcends into the immortal world. There its true being begins to shine, more or less in the mercy of the Lord who designed and created both worlds. I have drawn these conclusions on the basis of my understanding of the Holy Bible. Death is one of the rare things that nobody can escape. It is the final and just common denominator for all people, be they slaves or mighty rulers. We carry it within ourselves; it is really quite close to us. In this I don’t differ much from my Slovenian friends, though I am now sitting in the middle of this jungle and they are healthy and safe in their homes in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
When we walk the city streets a truck, whose steering wheel has broken, can run us over at any moment. A tile can fall on us. We can find ourselves in the middle of an earthquake and get buried under a collapsed building in a just few seconds. We can suddenly have a stroke. All these things can happen anywhere and anytime! Death makes no exceptions. The rich and powerful may protect themselves with the thickest armoured walls and the most well-trained guards – but one of these might be a traitor, so that in the end death could come to them even more quickly than to ordinary people. I am fooling myself, aren’t I? In this particular situation death is much more likely to strike me than any of my friends who sleep safely in their own beds. Still, the difference between them and me is only statistical. For them the possibility that they die tomorrow is less than one chance in a thousand, whereas for me the chances are 50-50. For this reason I am also more aware of death and I think more about it. Similarly, the likelihood of an imminent death increases when people become very ill; the patients suffering from incurable illnesses have to face the fact that their chances of getting cured are minimal or even non-existent and that the prospect of dying is their only reality. This is why many patients who have to spend their days in hospitals have thoughts similar to the ones I am thinking now: they try to assess their lives and think with sadness about all those beautiful possibilities that are for ever lost to them. I wonder whether it is better to die quickly, even instantly, and be spared from a lot of fear and pain, or be dying slowly having enough time to come to terms with the approaching death as well as having to go through a lot of distress and horror. Well, this dilemma is probably irrelevant as, in most cases, people (and animals) follow their survival instincts and fight for every second of their life, even in the cases of great suffering. Of course, certain individuals can sometimes develop suicidal tendencies, though these may not be the result of severe physical pains; on the contrary: suicidal people can be physically healthy, but overwhelmed by feelings of apathy and helplessness. Personally, I find the possibility of suicide completely unacceptable. This attitude is partly based on my principles (in church I was always taught that suicide is a sin), but it is also simply a result of my desire to live and experience more of the beauty and goodness that life offers to us. People who think of committing suicide should remember the beautiful moments of their lives and believe that other pleasant things might happen to them again if only they choose life over death. Even if now I were in possession of a pill containing some lethal poison that wouldn’t cause me any additional pain, I wouldn’t even think of taking it as I have never before thought of suicide as an acceptable solution to any problem. People who want to end their lives are making a great mistake! They don’t realise that their circumstances can change dramatically and that their lives can improve. It is especially tragic when young people take their lives. They don’t realise that their hardships or emotional crisis are of a transient nature while, ahead of them, there might be decades of good life, hundreds of sunny days, warm human faces, pleasant melodies, sweet scents, relaxed days, tasty ice creams, fresh newspapers and various pleasant surprises. Every dying patient or any other person that find themselves at the threshold of death, would be more than happy to live through that part of the life that a temporarily confused and frustrated young person wants to throw away.
As for me, I think I have come to terms with the prospect of dying in this jungle. Of course I will do anything to save myself or at least to postpone my death for as long as possible, however, I don’t feel an unbearable horror. I am sad that I will perhaps have to miss so many beautiful and interesting things that are waiting for us somewhere out there, but I have no fear of the world beyond. On the contrary, I expect to find a lot of beauty in it. I am convinced that it is much easier to come to terms with our own death than with the death of other people, especially when these are our loved ones. I can’t even think of the possibility that my children and my wife would be here with me, exposed to the same danger as I am exposed to now. That I would have to watch them die! That would certainly be the most horrific experience! I thank God for keeping them safe! Of course I would like to live a long time, but I also hope to die before my children. It is one of the most natural things that children survive their parents. It would be absurd if the young ones should die before their parents. Losing a child is probably the most difficult thing that can happen to an adult. My poor mother! Tears come into my eyes when I think these thoughts. Isn’t it a pity to lose valuable drops of my remaining fluids? Crying accompanies both the most difficult and most beautiful moments of our lives. However, sometimes we can cry without tears. Some people tend to cry often, others don’t. Such differences perhaps become most obvious at funerals. I have seen mothers, who, deep in themselves, were crying inconsolably, though there wasn’t a single tear on their faces. On the other hand, I also remember other mourning women, who were shedding hot tears, but only for as long as it seemed appropriate, and only a few minutes later they were already calm and ready to deal with other formalities. Even though death is common to all the people on this planet, there are big differences between various customs, values and notions associated with funerals, graves and mourning. Even in a small country like Slovenia there are regional differences. In my hometown, people maintain a custom that doesn’t appeal to me though, out of courtesy, I have to take part in it every now and then. According to this custom, after a funeral all the close and distant relatives of the deceased (as well as some other funeral goers) attend a big feast. I can understand that, in the past, after a funeral the villagers gathered in the home of the deceased person, said a prayer together with the family and perhaps had a chat about other village matters as well, as there wasn’t really much time to discuss such issues on other occasions. However, I dislike the modern version of this event, according to which the funeral goers gather in a public house where a big meal, together with strong drinks, is served to them, so that they soon relax and even become quite noisy. It would be better if we gradually gave up this custom, as it is now merely a bad habit. The truly important ceremonies take part at the cemetery and in the church. All these thoughts lead me to the following question: Will there be no funeral for me? I have never paid much attention to the formal side of this ceremony. I once even said to my wife that I didn’t think it important what form my funeral would take. I don’t mind whether they burry me (which is our usual custom) or cremate me. I would have liked to believe that, after my death, a part of my body could serve somebody else – for a transplantation or some other similar operation.
If my life ends up here such ideas and wishes are quite irrelevant; however, my relatives, friends and colleagues will surely organise some symbolic ceremony, probably a funeral mass. It’s even possible that they have already done that? Oh, well, there is nothing I can do about that. I have no idea as to what the situation is out there or how much people know about my disappearance. I only hope that my family hasn’t yet gone back to Slovenia, so that I can see them soon, maybe by tomorrow (if I manage to save myself from here). However, if they have left the island I understand that as well, as Miriam must have done that for the benefit of the children who must now be her main concern. I would so much like to see my children now when they are getting ready for dinner in the bungalow, or perhaps back in Vir. Maybe they dream about their missing father. Maybe they believe that he is still alive … I push these thoughts away … I don’t want to cry. I can’t afford to lose drops of fluid from my body … At 8.00 pm the moon gives me a pleasant surprise. It is so bright that I can clearly see big and small stones. By now I have already got some rest and a new idea crosses my mind: instead of shaking all night and waiting for the morning, shouldn’t I rather “work”? I will probably be making very slow progress during the night, but every metre that I cover now will shorten my way back to Nevis tomorrow. In addition, walking will keep me warm … I am very pleased with my plan and for me the ninth day – the day of my deliverance – begins already.
The Eights Day – Miriam When Deyan and Niko woke up in the morning and the children took them to the breakfast bar on the beach they realised how beautifully designed Nisbet was. “It’s a real heaven!” said Deyan. “It’s only a pity that we are discovering it in such unfortunate circumstances …” Though the Slovenian visitors were pretty tired after their journey they wanted to join the rescue team as soon as possible. Miriam introduced them to Nolan, who told them all about the previous activities and showed them on the map where the rescuers had so far been searching for Tony. Deyan got an impression that the rescuers had put a lot of efforts into the operation, but didn’t plan and carry it out in the way a more professional organisation would have done. Deyan would have expected, for example, a more systematic search of the terrain, with very precise marks indicating which parts had already been checked and, above all, he would have expected them to search more in the parts high up in the mountain. He was very surprised to notice that none of the rescuers had a rope or any other equipment needed for rescuing climbers off a mountain wall or from the depths of a precipice. Deyan thought that with regard to the expertise and the level of equipment the Nevis rescue team couldn’t be compared with Slovenian mountain-rescue teams. Deyan was noting down all the relevant information and also started marking his own map of Nevis. The good news of the day was that the crew of a Canadian warship joined the rescue operation. The warship happened to be visiting Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts, but agreed to help with the search after a request from the Slovenian Embassy in Washington. As a result, it arrived at Nevis and anchored near Charlestown. As one of the Slovenian visitors’ tasks was to organise financial help for Miriam and for the rescue operation Deyan discussed the matter with Don Johnson, the hotel manager. The expenses of the Tomazic family had until then been simply added to the hotel bill while the hotel managers had paid for the other necessary costs trusting that the money would eventually be paid back to them. Deyan had brought with him enough traveller’s cheques, the money for which had come from IUS SOFTWARE; all these funds were later paid back to the company. The biggest expenses, either the ones that had already occurred or were about to occur, were the costs of hiring a helicopter from Antigua and the amount offered as a reward, which everybody wished to be paid out soon. Deyan and the hotel manager also agreed that the most dedicated rescuers should be rewarded for their efforts, and discussed the way in which this should be done. Deyan, for example, decided to reward the Austin’s group of volunteers, involved in the prevention of drug dealing, by buying them a video camera that they could use for their future activities. After having discussed the necessary administrative issues, Niko and Deyan joined the search operation. Together with a few police officers, volunteers and members of the Nisbet staff, they drove, in two groups, in jeeps to the starting point of the search, which was in the vicinity of Fountain Village. There, Don Johnson showed them the remains of some old trail-markers, which were well overgrown, pointing to the left – towards the mountain of Nevis Peak. The trail-markers were made of strings that had, years before, been tied to various branches and creepers, and were now already decaying. However, the men didn’t follow these trail-markers, but, instead, turned right and went down towards Westbury as they still assumed that after his afternoon return from the mountain and his chat with Winnie, Tony hadn’t gone back up the mountain again …In the afternoon they were looking for possible shortcuts leading from Westbury down towards the beach, mainly in the area of Round Hill
and in the Nisbet direction. The searchers felt as if they were trying to find a needle lost in a stack of hay. They soon discovered that the Canadian soldiers who had just joined the operation were already combing one part of the area. Deyan appreciated their help, but he also found out that, as sailors, they weren’t trained or equipped for mainland operations, especially when these operations were taking place on mountainous terrain. The groups from Nisbet then drove down towards the beach and started to comb the thick strip of land, parallel to the seashore. Scattered around the area, they were shouting out: “Mr Tomazic!” or simply: “Anton!”. Niko shivered at the thought that Tony had disappeared a week ago and that it wasn’t very likely that he had survived in that heat. Were they only looking for his body, he wondered. On the way back up the hill, they had to go through ravines that were difficult to cross and therefore very tiring for the searchers. In the evening they held another meeting, which mainly included the Nisbet staff, Deyan and Niko. Desperate Austin and Leon suggested that, on the following day, they should search the whole route that the missing tourist had probably taken, which would also include turning left at Fountain Village and climbing the slope as well as searching the area of Barnes Ghaut. Even though the search operation on Nevis became smaller and less intense, or maybe just because of it, Miriam spent more and more time looking for her husband and calling out for him. In this her new friend Nikka helped her a lot. Before she took the children to reliable Sasha and, together with Nikka, she set off for another search that day, Miriam first had to attend a meeting, which, this time, attracted more people than usual, and which Miriam joined with the same fear that she always felt at such occasions – the fear that she would learn some bad news or that the organisers of the search would decide to call it off. Kathie told Miriam about this meeting that was to be held in the Great House at 2.00 pm and asked her to attend it while Violet, the friendly waitress, looked after the children. Miriam joined it with some trepidation as she felt that important decisions would be taken this time. When she arrived at the car park in front of the restaurant she got the impression that the search operation was still fully in progress. The Canadian soldiers were just then receiving orders relating to their next search activity. In the background she could see a group of soldiers in camouflage uniforms, who were resting in the shade. A few jeeps were approaching the parking place bringing back the searchers who had been involved in the morning operation. Deyan jumped out of one of the jeeps at the head of the convoy, whereas Niko was in the last vehicle. Everybody was very exhausted from searching in the hot and humid conditions. After their arrival the searchers began to gather in the meeting room of the Great House. In addition to all the familiar faces there were two new, uniformed police officers; one of them was general director of the police force of St. Kitts and Nevis. Coordinator Newton chaired the meeting. The group gathered at the meeting discussed their past search activities and possibilities for a future search. Kathie suggested that they should renew the search with the sniffer dogs, but the highranking police officer didn’t accept her idea. Kathie was visibly disappointed, but didn’t want to give in. She later told Miriam that she would try to get the dogs on her own, bringing them directly from the large holiday resort of Four Seasons. At the meeting, Steve and Leon also gave new suggestions for the future search. After the group had discussed various suggestions the director of the police force turned to Miriam by saying: “Mrs. Tomazic, let me ask you a very personal question. Your answer will be very
important for the future development of the search operation.” Miriam agreed to participate in this conversation without hesitation and everybody in the room was interested to hear the director’s question: “Could you say whether it is possible that your husband has been involved in relations with other women? We are also taking into account the possibility that your husband faked his disappearance just so that he could leave you for another woman. …” Miriam thought the question to be absurd, but she answered it seriously by saying that there was certainly no such possibility. After the meeting, Father George, who had been patiently waiting for them, took Miriam, Nikka and the children to the von Liemandt residence. In the rush after the meeting Miriam even forgot to offer him a refreshing drink. Fortunately, Nikka later remembered to do that. That afternoon Miriam and Nikka started their search on the beach of Cades Bay. There they learned from a local man that the sea had been extremely rough on the previous Wednesday; this information again made them think of the possibility that Tony might have had an accident on the beach. It seemed probable that Tony, being tired and hot on his return from the mountain, immediately jumped into the water where the shock resulting from the cold water caused him to have a heart attack. However, the local man also said that the sea would have washed the body ashore and the locals would have surely found it in the past week. In spite of these encouraging words, Miriam and Nikka were for a long time wandering about the beach, poking around in the bushes. It was very hot, well over 30 degrees. When they came to a semi-official rubbish dump Miriam couldn’t resist opening the rusty containers even though the area smelled very bad. Actually, the smellier the containers were the more she wanted to see their contents. If somebody did rob and kill Tony he might have got rid of the body here, she thought – and in that moment she realised that she, too, was looking for her husband’s corpse. On their way back Miriam and Nikka felt compelled to speak to Winnie again as they believed that Winnie was the last person to see Tony. They found the lady in front of her house where she was sitting together with her daughter, who, Miriam thought, was behaving rather oddly, muttering something about Tony not being on the island any longer, because he had left Nevis … That evening Miriam, Nikka and the children again came back to Nisbet so late that the reporter Suzanne had to postpone the interview with Miriam once more. The atmosphere at the dinner was really depressing. Kathie told Miriam about her latest telephone conversation with Ginette and that the dowser from New York had said that Tony was alive, but walking in circles on a gravel ground. Everybody was very tired; Deyan and Niko were also sleepy due to the time difference. Niko was the first to leave the table. He staggered to his apartment and, without even getting undressed, lay down on his bed and fell asleep instantly. When Deyan followed him a while later he found it very difficult to wake him up – but he needed Niko to unlock the door of their bungalow as it wasn’t possible to enter it without a key. In Slovenia the news about Tomazic’s disappearance was, by now, widespread. As they had no details of the accident, some reporters wrote about it briefly, mainly conveying the contents of the official statements, while others added their own, more or less groundless, comments and guesses. Some reporters were annoyed simply by the fact that the person responsible for handling the matter at the Foreign Ministry was Andrej Ster, who was a good friend and a previous party colleague of Tomazic.
The reporters of POP TV, a Slovenian commercial television channel, even went so far as to try to “ambush” Ster. A reporter visited him and asked him to take part in a live programme, in which the participants would discuss the ways of helping Slovenian citizens that, while abroad, encounter serious troubles. The reporter added that the programme’s writers already had an agreement with the Austrian Consul posted in Slovenia to participate in the discussion. However, careful Ster phoned the Austrian diplomat and found out that there was no such agreement between her and the television reporters and, furthermore, that the reporters tried to persuade her to participate in their discussion by telling her that they already had an agreement with Ster. When Ster told her that he wouldn’t take part in the discussion as he thought there was no need for it in that particular situation, the Austrian Consul made the same decision and, as a result, the programme was never recorded. Ster knew that the discussion would inevitably touch on the case he was dealing with and that, as such, it would be too subjective to lead to any constructive conclusions. In order to clarify the situation Ster informed his boss, Dimitrij Rupel, the Foreign Minister, about the speculations of some media people, who suggested that, as a former political colleague of Tomazic, Ster might not be the appropriate person to participate in the rescue operation. Rupel decisively rejected such doubts saying that in the past all three of them were political colleagues (active members of the former Slovenian Democratic Association) and that, in the current urgent situation, such facts were completely irrelevant. It is understandable that one week after Tomazic’s disappearance, his friends and colleagues were prepared for the worst. This is why the ministry officials also began to enquire, “who will be responsible for organising the transport of the deceased back to Slovenia and making sure that all necessary paperwork is order.” And some people even went as far as to purchase black suits.
The Nineth Day - Tony back to Slovenia Not for a moment did I regret having decided in the evening to walk all night instead of resting and waiting, even though I was making progress very slowly and with a lot of effort. In this way I could keep my belief that I was getting very close to my rescue and remain warm as well. The riverbed was now much more gentle, though still very wild and variable. Among the ordinary stones there were also piled-up rocks of a few metres in diameter and huge tree trunks. In the moonlight I could see only the main contours of these objects, but not their details, and I certainly wasn’t able to see the lay of the land. Thus, I had to feel for a safe place each time I made a step as I could otherwise fall and injure myself. The easiest way to do it was to step on a biggish smooth rock and make a few steps over it. But first I had to grab hold of it and climb on it, which also enabled me to transfer some of my body’s weight on to my arms. By then I was already completely exhausted. I had been without any food for more than a week and had only a minimum quantity of the reprocessed liquid left in my body. I thought I could feel all my muscles and bones, as they were so sore. Each time I pulled myself up on a rock I had to make every effort and take a rest after just a few new steps. In this way I could cover only a few hundred metres per hour. However, I was lucky not to receive any deep cuts to my bare feet. Whenever I was unable to lift myself up again, I began to speak the name of my daughter: “Mariansa!” The thought of my little girl helped me to gather my remaining strength, get on my feet again and stagger on for a few more steps. I found it interesting that the moonlight followed me all the time even though a very thick forest surrounded the riverbed. I was delighted when I suddenly noticed a manmade construction in front of me – a small, dried-up dam together with plastic and metal water pipes, which obviously served their purpose only during the rain seasons, when the water containers on Nevis have to be filled up, but now they were empty. I hoped that they led to a water-collection station where, even at this time, there would be some people. Hence, I picked up a stone and began to knock it against the pipes, though, of course, not so much as to damage them. I tried to tap out the SOS signal – three short and three long sounds. I hoped that in the quietness of the night some officer in charge at a water station would hear my tapping and send somebody out to help me, as I wasn’t sure any more whether I could walk for much longer. However, nobody could hear my tapping, as I later learned that those pipes had been abandoned and new ones put in their place … Even though I wasn’t cold, that night seemed as long as all the previous nights … It only dragged on in a different way … A few times I treated myself to a longer rest, though I, unfortunately, had no “Domzale plant” to chew on this time … But after those rests I was overwhelmed with the feeling that experienced mountaineers know well: the longer you rest the more difficult it is to get up again and continue the walk. However, while praying this time, I didn’t only ask for help, but also expressed my thanks to God, as I was, in spite of all my difficulties, becoming very optimistic …
I believe that I now stand a good chance of saving myself from this situation. The past nine days and, in particular, the nights felt to me like nine months, and if this period, which I think of as my “pregnancy”, ends up with the birth of a new life then I might already TODAY experience true happiness. Maybe this awful situation will, in a moment, change into a beautiful new beginning that only a few people have the opportunity to experience. Will I know how to make use of my new good fortune and spread it out over the remaining days of my life? Don’t we often treat good fortune quite carelessly? When we don’t have it we want it more than anything else in the world, but when we do have it we tend to forget it and even discard it. Can people have an influence on their good fortune? Can we create it by ourselves? Can we increase our good fortune and make our periods of happiness longer? We can set up the circumstances, which are likely to bring us happiness, but we cannot secure it for ourselves. In the same circumstances some people will be able to create happy lives for themselves while others will fail. However, this doesn’t mean that we cannot in any way have an influence on how happy we are. Even if we cannot make sure that good fortune will stay with us, we can easily prevent ourselves from being happy. There are cases when people live in conditions that should allow them happiness, when they have everything that they want, but they still fail to make the most of their lives. External circumstances can, of course, be very different; in my life, I have so far experienced many of them. My happiest memory proves to me that material prosperity isn’t at all necessary for the achievement of happiness, as the happiest event of my life took place in the far-off year of 1957, when I made my first Holy Communion. In my infant’s innocence I was so happy, knowing that Jesus entered my heart I felt as if I had been floating on clouds. The second truly happy event of my life was the birth of my son Toni, at which I was present …Will today bring me a new happy experience? For an industrious pupil or a student the last exam of the school year can be an obstacle to his happiness; if he passes it he will be able to enjoy a relaxed and eventful holiday. A young couple can achieve happiness when they can afford to own an apartment, in which they will set up a happy home. For the happiness of an unemployed person it is enough to find a job. And an aged man in an old peoples’ home only wishes that his family would take him home where he could spend his last days. When people pass exams, buy apartments, become employed and get reunited with their families, they can, at least for a while, be happy again. However, they can easily allow problems (even the smallest ones) to get in their way and their good fortune will go down the drain. The student may become disappointed in love, the couple begins to fight over the role of the mother-in-law, the newly employed person becomes frustrated because of his bossy manager and the old man gets terribly upset because of the noisy music of his neighbours. People who don’t appreciate their happiness and don’t try hard to maintain it will perhaps never be truly happy. And those people who only long for big achievements will perhaps never experience small joys in their lives.
Even in this difficult situation I try to experience at least some happiness – during my short rests or while I’m leaning against a large rock trying to catch my breath. The main thing that makes me happy is the fact that I am still alive. The ability to move around, which became possible after I had rescued myself from that hollow, fills me with great satisfaction. The possibility that I will again see my loved ones gives me hope. And there are even more things that make me happy: the fact that I have no serious illness, that my conscience is clear, that God is merciful to me, that the ground is becoming increasingly gentle, that my wounds are healing well, that the birds are singing, that the moon shines on me and I am not cold. (I even take off my tee shirt and throw it away, as the vest gives me enough warmth.) I’m happy to know that out there a lot of people are fond of me; they even pray for me. It feels good to know that Slovenia is independent, that the Nevisian people are free. I have recovered my breath; now breathing is easy again … The situation could definitely be much worse! I’m feeling for new places to put my feet on, I’m looking for new handholds What will I tell to people who will ask me about this experience? I will tell them to take a better look at their lives and find happiness, at least for a short time, in whatever there is around them. I will tell them to distinguish the crucial problems from those that are quite irrelevant. I will tell them not to allow trivial problems to block their way to happiness; and to open up their hearts to Him if they are in need of love. The student who has passed an exam should take the time and rejoice in his success without immediately starting to fear his next school year at the university. The young couple who have just bought their new apartment should lock themselves in and for the next three days enjoy their privacy. Those who are ill should think about how they will soon recover. Those who are lonely should think of the prisoners that, against their will, have to spend years only in the company of their inmates, and try to imagine how they would appreciate the freedom of movement. Those who are apathetic and unhappy should think of the hungry and thirsty homeless people and compare their fortune with theirs. Those who are healthy should think of the sick. And all of these people should realise that life could be much, much worse. Will this new awareness help me remain happy for the rest of my life? Of course not! Just like everybody else, I, too, will have to face the uncertainty of my future, the good and bad sides of life, maybe even another serious accident, which might involve me or my loved ones, frequent illnesses, toothaches, financial worries, difficulties of parenthood and thousands of other problems. Yet, whenever I get into troubles again I will always try to comfort myself by looking at those positive circumstances that can prove to me that life could be much worse and that, apart from difficulties, thousands of small joys and moments of happiness are still in front of me. Is it possible that my coming to this jungle and experiencing this ordeal have been necessary for me in order to learn that even the absence of bad fortune is happiness? At daybreak the sounds from the nearby settlements reached me; some were coming from the port, others from the roads … I was especially pleased to hear the cockcrow, which, I thought, was definitely announcing my rescue.
If not earlier, then it must have been at that moment that I decided I should give a special reward to the person who will first give me water to drink … As I had lost, together with the memory cards, all my money, I thought I would give to my saviour the only thing I still had – my wristwatch. It was already bright, so I took the watch off my wrist and checked once again my wife’s dedication that was engraved into it: ”For Tony on his 50th birthday.” Miriam gave the watch to me when I reached my half-century, but I knew that she wouldn’t mind me giving it to the person who helped me first. Now I was walking in broad daylight – it was already Thursday, more than a week after I had started my trip. Around every corner I expected to see a view of a settlement. First I noticed a few trees that people had probably planted. I even saw a lemon tree in front of me. Though its fruits were still green I thought I would enjoy them, but soon found that they were very tough and sour. I also realised that my mouth and tongue were cracked in various places. I must have looked like a walking ghost: thin, dirty, and covered with scratches … I tried to shout out something, but didn’t have enough strength for it … I thought I should use all my remaining strength to get to a house. I counted on the psychological power of my mind: I believed that I could drag myself to the nearest populated area, and also knew that, on achieving that aim, my body and mind would finally give in and I wouldn’t be able to make a single step more. Even if the closest settlement had been kilometres away I would have found the strength to just walk on and on and on … If I hadn’t been rescued that day I could have stayed one or two more nights in the wilderness, and would have probably survived for a few more days in the blazing heat … However, I knew that the minute I was saved everything in me would give way, my legs would become leaden, unable to move … Indeed, when I finally noticed some sort of farm track and realised that I was back to the civilised world I only managed to stagger over towards the grass verge beside the road (making sure that I wouldn’t be run over) and collapsed to the ground … They will find me here, I thought. I’d better stay here instead of pushing myself on to find a house … It isn’t worth it, I’m too exhausted … I become dizzy, my sight is all blurred, maybe I will have a sleep … I decide I should periodically shout out for help … Then I realise that I am not able to shout, but merely capable of a feeble croak: “Help!” I can hear the cocks and other domestic sounds … Suddenly I hear a sound that is very close to me …Are these somebody’s steps? I open my eyes and next to my face I see worn boots, then a machete hanging by the boots … I turn a bit and say with a weak voice: “Good man, water …” I turn more and an elderly, local man who is apparently getting ready to go to work comes into view. He is looking at me with surprise, but he soon realises what’s going on: “ Are you the one everybody has been looking for this last week?” Out of his bundle he takes a plastic bottle, full of WATER … He must have taken it to keep him going for the whole day. The man is 71-year-old George Smithen, single and without children, who has, every morning for the past 30 years, set off for work in the Tower Hill Estate, where he looks after cattle. I lift my body so much that I can drink … I drink. Cold water is so good! I drink about two decilitres, and then I take a break to recover my breath. Immediately, I take off my wristwatch and offer it to the man. He hesitates a bit and then he takes it as he realises that he would otherwise disappoint me. May God bless it for him!
I ask him to help me get to hospital. I realise that in my present condition I can’t just go to the Nisbet hotel complex; first I have to be examined and treated by medical staff. The man says he will fetch his friend, Junior Jack. The most important thing for me is that he leaves the bottle by my side. I don’t mind waiting for hours and hours – as long as I have the precious bottle. After he has gone I enjoy a few more drinks and then I carefully bring the bottle to my face pressing it lovingly against my neck and holding (hugging) it with both my hands. Thank you, my dear God – it seems you have granted me salvation! I say my three prayers (Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be) in thanks for my rescue. I realise that my faith has never before been as strong as it is at this moment. The most difficult moments (days) of my life are now behind me and my most beautiful moments (days) have just begun … I feel as if I was still in the womb, just before the birth … This is my second birth … Nevis is my second place of birth! With the bottle, which is getting empty, waiting for my transport is easy … Then I hear a car. A Jeep stops in front of me and a young man with long plaited hair jumps out of it … This is lively Junior Jack. Apparently he fully understands what’s going on and his eagerness to take me to hospital is almost too much. “Here you are, my friend. I will save you from here immediately.” He is so strong that he can grab my body around my chest, lift me up and take me towards the car, while all the time running … Ouch, slowly! My body is all sore. You will squash me! I manage to stop him so much that he at least lets me lie down on the back seats of the car without his help and then we are already on the way to hospital. There are only a few kilometres from Barnes Ghaut to the hospital, but the roads are typically Nevisian (full of holes), so that I have to ask Junior Jack all the time to drive more slowly: “We are in no hurry! It’s not like I’m bleeding. I have spent more than a week back there and for me the minutes we are saving now are quite irrelevant.” But his eagerness is such that I can hardly restrain him. When he stops at the crossroads he starts to point at me so that his friends can see me. I realise that everybody already knows about my accident as Junior Jack doesn’t have to explain much to them and says only: “We found him.” Curious people look through the window to see me lying on my back, and a moment later we race on … On the way to hospital Junior Jack tells me that a reward was announced for the person who would find me or provide the information about my whereabouts, to which I say that the reward should now be divided between Smithen and Junior. I realise that the two men have already discussed the matter and agreed to share the money, as that really seemed the most logical thing to do. When we turn to the courtyard of the Alexandra Hospital the staff are already waiting for us, as they must have got the information about our arrival over the telephone. After I slowly get out of the car, with the help of Junior, and the hospital staff support me on both sides, I find myself surrounded by many people – some are in uniforms, others in plain clothes. In a very professional way they first ask me few official questions: “What is your name? Where are you staying? What is your nationality?” It seems they want to check my details and avoid any sort of misunderstanding … They don’t want to make anybody happy too soon … When they are sure I’m the missing person they help me into a wheelchair, with which they take me to the emergency room where the bed is already prepared (especially for me, as they tell me later).
I’m glad that I can get rid of the two dirty rags that I am wearing, which the staff carefully save in a plastic bag and later give to my wife (so that I still keep them – unwashed – as souvenirs). Then I allow the medical staff to begin, carefully and professionally, to examine me. I’m delighted that they give me enough water to drink. Later I learn that there is another medical theory (which would be much more unpleasant for me), according to which, at the beginning, a patient gets only small quantities of liquid that are later gradually increased. I am pleased to see that the first, more pleasant, way of treating a dehydrated patient is also quite appropriate. The well-trained nurses put me on a drip (that I won’t get rid of for the next five days), and then the various and most necessary examinations begin. Soon, Dr Singh comes to see me. As he is quickly able to distinguish the serious problems from the less serious ones, he doesn’t concern himself with the wounds on my skin, but primarily with the condition of my kidneys and other internal organs. He also pays attention to my spine when I tell him that it is painful. When I recover a bit and drink enough water the staff take me on my wheelchair to the X-ray department where, thank God, they don’t find any injured bones. My leg, which is still hurting me, and my spine, are intact. Once I am back in the emergency room and calmed down a bit, a new phase begins: the time of visits and publicity. It seems like a dream when, among the first visitors, I notice the face of my friend and colleague, Deyan Stancic. I can’t believe that he is really here on Nevis, so far from his home. He tells me that he came to the island together with my wife’s brother, Niko Kranjc, who is also on his way to the hospital. And, above all, he assures me that my wife, together with the children, is coming to see me. I can’t wait to see them! In the meantime a few reporters come as well. I feel their presence more than I can actually see them standing in the background. At this stage the official authorities have precedence over the reporters, so the prominent Mr Newton, the search coordinator, introduces himself, and after that I talk to two plain-clothes police officers, giving them some of the basic details concerning my accident. I give them a true account of the recent events and realise from their questions that, during the past week, extensive rescue activities were carried out even though I saw the rescuers for only a few moments when a helicopter flew over me on the third day. All the numerous people around me, the hospital staff as well as the others, are very considerate; they stop all their current activities and give way to my family as soon as they appear. I can see that Miriam and Toni have come to see me. I am so happy when I embrace them! I also notice that Miriam is glowing with happiness. Toni is, of course, happy as well, though he is also quite confused at the sight of the crowd in the room, and of his father being quite different than he was before. I probably still smell of dirt and urine, my lips are all cracked, and my teeth are yellow … The poor boy does press against me, but then discretely steps away … The reporters ask if they can take a photo of us. Yes, why not? Then they ask if I could give a statement. Yes, I can do that. While I’m briefly describing what has happened to me at least ten cameras and microphones are around me. In the evening they show these snap-shots on the television on Nevis and the neighbouring islands.
Time passes quite quickly. Every fifteen minutes the staff have to bring me a new glass of water. It is time I got some rest. My wife promises me that she will come back in the afternoon and bring Mariansa as well. I am taken to the best hospital room where I can wash myself at least a bit. It is too early to have a shower as I have needles in my artery and I am still too weak for any such activities. The room is truly beautiful and comfortable, situated at the corner on the first floor. As is the habit on this island, there is no glass in the window frames; instead, there are the nets, which stop the mosquitoes from getting into the room, and pleasant curtains. There is also a television and a specially equipped bathroom. Kind nurses ask me if I am hungry. I tell them that I am in no hurry to eat, maybe later, in the evening. They wish to know what I would like to have. I ask for soup and they promise me that they will get it. When the doctor comes to see me again he explains that the most important thing is to ensure that my kidneys will start functioning normally again. He says that they have been exposed to a lot of strain over the past eight days as, by constantly drinking urine, I have been putting back into my body all the substances, mainly bacteria, which should have been secreted. As a result, I am now in danger that my kidneys won’t function normally any longer. He suggests that over the following days I should drink large quantities of liquid (I will gladly do that!) and urinate a lot, so that the accumulated poisonous substances can gradually be removed from my body. I understand now that I will have to stay away from the so-much-desired Nisbet for quite a few more days. However, it is comforting to know that my family will be visiting me here bringing me juices, fruits and other goodies. I certainly won’t be bored here. As soon as I assure the hospital staff that I already feel much better I am asked to give two extensive statements for the public, one is quite formal, the other is informal. First, the two police officers visit me again asking me to elaborate on my previous short account of the recent events; later I tell my story to the reporter, Suzanne Gordon, who is also a Reuters correspondent. This means that her story will also reach Slovenia. I enjoy talking to her as I immediately get an impression that she truly is a good reporter, which she later confirms with the quality of her articles. When the staff bring me soup in the afternoon I am delighted by its aroma. This isn’t just a soup, but a strong stew with tasty small pieces of lamb and a lot of vegetables. I eat it slowly and with a lot of pleasure – first I have the liquid, later I begin to chew the solid bits. My stomach is no longer used to food, so that I have to apologise for not finishing my meal … It is almost evening when I can greet the visitor that I have longed for so much: finally I can embrace my five-year-old Mariansa. You have been giving me so much strength! We are all in a very good mood. We exchange accounts of our recent days: I tell them about my hardships, they tell me about the rescue operation and about our relatives, as well as other concerned people back in Slovenia. They can see that my eyelids are getting very heavy … Tomorrow we will see each other in the morning …
After they have left I feel grateful to the kind nurse who helps me get to the bathroom where I, for the first time, wash my whole body … It is so pleasant to lie safely in a soft bed … I fall asleep, but not for more than about half an hour, and my sleep will remain troubled like this for a few more months … However, I don’t complain at all … Life is good …
The Nineth Day – Miriam After the Slovenian visitors were given information about the previous search activities and had the opportunity to assess and experience the terrain, Deyan thought of a few new ideas concerning the search activities for that day. He was going to suggest that, on the map, the rescuers should precisely mark the areas that had already been scanned and then immediately start the search of the remaining, unchecked parts. As Deyan had already had to pay for a number of expenses he first went to the capital, Charlestown, that morning with the aim of cashing a large number of traveller’s cheques in the bank. When he learned that Don Johnson was just then going to the same city Deyan decided he would even skip his breakfast and took the opportunity of travelling with him. Hence, only uncle Niko joined Miriam and the children for their morning meal. When, during their breakfast, a waiter suddenly asked Miriam to come to the telephone, she got as frightened as on other such occasions, while the eyes of the guests at the neighbouring tables tactfully, though with curiosity, followed the woman who might then have already been a widow. Kathie was at the other end of the line saying the words that Miriam would never forget: “Miriam! Your husband has been found!” There was a split second of terrifying silence and then Kathie added: “And he is alive!” It was as if a new world had opened and shone on Miriam! The guests and hotel staff didn’t need an explanation of what Miriam had just learned on the phone. They could read it on her face – Tony was alive. All of them applauded and then started to hug each other, cheer, cry from happiness. “Great news!” The guests and the staff were rejoicing in it. The children kept jumping and crying out: “Daddy! They found daddy, they found him!” In her mind, Miriam could still hear Kathie’s last words telling her she was coming to collect her with the jeep, so she indicated to her brother that he should look after the children and headed towards the parking place by the beach. Toni, who had just brought a plate full of fresh strawberries to the table, first hesitated a bit, when he saw his mother leaving. He was looking alternately at his plate and his mother, but then quickly made up his mind and rushed after her without even asking anybody whether he could leave the room. Kathie was already arriving in her Jeep down the grassy slope and, as Miriam didn’t want to waste any time, she quickly got into the car together with (still hungry) Toni and off they rushed. Kathie had learned the good news while taking her morning shower and had got ready so quickly that there were still remains of shampoo in her hair. In the car Kathie and Miriam made a few more telephone calls. They soon realised that the news was travelling faster than their car and that Deyan would reach the hospital before them. He was in the car with Don Johnson, and when they learned the news they immediately headed towards the hospital.
For the time being, Mariansa stayed with Niko who was going to look after her until her mother came back. Mariansa wisely said to her uncle that “the hospital staff should sort out her daddy” before he could come back to them in Nisbet. The child knew that if she had to wait for her father for one whole week she could wait for one day more … Coordinator Newton, who had already in the past few days had a lot of contacts with the reporters, now found that even his three mobile phones weren’t sufficient to deal with the increased number of calls. However, before he could dedicate his time to the reporters he had to deal with another urgent matter. Early that morning he was informed that a plane equipped with heat detectors had taken off from an airport in New York. Now he had to send a fax message to the relevant authorities telling them that the rescue operation was over; after receiving the information the plane turned around in the air and headed back to New York. On this occasion Newton didn’t only thank the American authorities for the use of their special plane, but also the Slovenian diplomats, headed by the general consul in New York, Andrej Podvrsic, for managing to obtain so much American cooperation (with help from the FBI) in less than two days.
The Day After minutes the Was it only a dream or am I truly rescued? When I open my eyes will I see the green jungle arching above me or the smiling face of a hospital nurse? Thank God, it’s the latter… The staff look after me so well! They are all so kind. The head physician, Dr Singh, explains to me that I will have to stay in hospital for a few more days, until the level of poisonous substances in my urine reduces sufficiently, and my kidneys begin to function normally again. I am a bit disappointed as I so much wish to go back to the beautiful surroundings of the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club and to my family, but I quickly accept this new situation. It must be a characteristic of a newly born person – and this is exactly how I feel now – that he or she can easily distinguish the big problems from the trivial ones. And why should trivial matters trouble anyone? It is unfortunate if you get lost, if you are in danger of death, if you suffer from an incurable disease, if you lose a close relative, if you are unemployed and without any means of support … However, it is not unfortunate if you have to wait for some time in the doctor’s waiting room, if the queue of cars is moving very slowly, if you miss a bus, if you lose an item of luggage at the airport or if the service at a restaurant is bad … The nurses come to my room, greet me kindly, have a chat with me and carry out their duties: changing the plastic bag containing the infusion liquid, giving me a pill, measuring my temperature, taking my blood, giving me an injection, bringing in my breakfast, pouring juice for me, measuring the quantity of my urine, making my bed, putting cream on my wounds, changing the bandages, switching on the television for me and opening the window. I am allowed (especially on the first two days) to receive visitors – those who I know, and therefore expect, and many others who I see for the first time. Some of my visitors are afraid that they are too many and too tiring for me, but the truth is quite the opposite: every single visitor cheers me up and I am happy to exchange a few words with everybody that comes to see me. They all make more or less the same comments: “God has saved you!” “We all prayed for you and now we are thanking our dear God.” “Praise God and remember for the rest of your life that He has saved you!” I can see that my accident has attracted a lot of attention from the Nevisian people and that the majority of them are deeply religious. In Slovenia, or elsewhere in Europe, people don’t refer to God so often. It seems to me that on a distant island where several dangers threaten its population, people remember their Creator more often, either by asking for His help or by thanking Him. I have become very close to the island and its people – this has happened in a rather unusual way, but our relations are very sincere. Whenever I travel abroad I try to do it without the help of tourist agencies, which certainly can provide travellers with a lot of comfort, but also prevent them from forming genuine contacts with foreign countries and their peoples. I also did this a year ago, during my previous visit to Nevis, when I was walking around the island on my own, talking a lot to the local people, and reading (mainly history) books about the Caribbean Islands. Every tourist who wants to get to know a country well should also read about its history. Already then I thought a lot about the past times of this interesting island, as well as about its current situation, and for this reason I became very attached to Nevis. I learned how much the poor slaves
had to suffer, having been deprived of the most basic human rights while their masters were allowed to beat them, take their children or wives from them and even take their lives. After the abolition of slavery, for the majority life became better, but the white people, though still in the minority, continued to dominate and considered themselves to be superior to the rest of the population. As a result, a lot of suppressed hatred built up among the black people and got confused with the feelings of respect that they had learned to pay to their masters. When the Caribbean Islands began to fight for their independence and form their own states the political power was transferred to the majority black population while most of the white people left the islands. After the initial euphoria that accompanied the newly established independence, the passions calmed down and ordinary life went on. Some things were now better while others became even worse. Some islands got used to democracy more quickly than the others. Some were lucky with their new rulers and made rapid progress, others were unlucky and got stuck with a new, corrupted elite. People realised that not everything associated with the colonial past was bad and not everything that their independence brought about was good. In recent decades some white people came back to the islands and numerous business people from Asia settled here as well. The local people realised that they should try to accept and appreciate everything that encourages their economic development. As a result, they welcome everybody who brings in capital and new economic initiatives. Hence, even when the local people are still burdened by racial prejudices they prefer not to show them, as they know that by doing this they could damage their principal industry – tourism. I believe that on Nevis, as anywhere else, there are many domestic political problems, but they will not affect a visitor from abroad in any way. Being a white man, I have never noticed any racial intolerance, neither have I felt any kind of dissatisfaction associated with the fact that the visitors to the island are better off that their hosts. As if the Nevisian people had long ago recovered from social injustice and accepted the fact that, irrespective of their origin and the colour of their skin, people can be very different: good and bad, capable and incompetent, rich and poor, kind and rude, devout and unbelieving. In the same way, they have accepted me and my accident. I know that they would look after and pray for any other person, be it Nevisian, English or American, who got lost in the jungle for such a long time. As I know that there are several places around the world that lack such a positive attitude, I appreciate even more the openness and spontaneity of the people on this wonderful island. Because, for the time being, Nevis still gets fewer tourists than it could accept and the local people would like to have, I will from now on recommend a visit to “the Queen of the Caribbean” to other keen travellers. However, at this point I have to stop thinking about the attractive features of this island as my temporary “residence” will soon become very crowded and I won’t have the time for further reflections. Among the first visitors, the whole Slovenian “delegation” comes in: Miriam, Toni, Mariansa, Deyan and Niko. Oh, Mariansa, finally I can embrace you! Thank you for helping me to have gathered my remaining strength and got back on my feet in the moments when I already thought I was unable to continue on my way.
They also bring me the morning newspapers, which all have the news about my rescue and pictures of me, taken in the neighbouring room, on the front page. I scan them quickly and find that the reports are professionally written and are better than I would find in most of the Slovenian media. There are no inaccuracies, insinuations or unnecessary reproaches. It gives me great pleasure to have a telephone conversation with Zlata Tavcar, my business partner and the manager of IUS SOFTWARE, who, at the end of our talk, can’t resist mentioning the impudent and entirely made-up speculations that some Slovenian media put forward when reporting on my disappearance. The newspaper Slovenske novice (Slovenian News) insinuated that I had gone to the Caribbean Islands to deal with some criminal activities there; and POP TV showed scenes of money being printed while broadcasting the news about my disappearance suggesting, in this way, that money-laundering had been the purpose of my visit to Nevis. Zlata and I agree that, apart from giving an official public statement, we shouldn’t pay any special attention to such “reports”, as we believe that time will reveal the truth – and in this we weren’t mistaken. When my relatives tell me a bit more about what was going on during my absence they also point out which individuals did the most for the search, gave the most help to my children and wife or provided help in some other, equally important, form. Knowing such details, I, later that day and on the following day, make sure to greet and thank all the individuals that were so generous to my family. After the departure of my family numerous other visitors, young and old, wish to see me. The youngest visitors must have asked their parents to take them to the man who was alone in the jungle for such a long time. Those children who attend school promise me that they will write a story or make a drawing of me during their lessons. Another group of visitors consists of the Nisbet hotel staff. I quickly recognise those who I already met in the hotel; others are new to me, as they became close to my family, especially to the children, while I was away. Toni and Mariansa are telling me so much about Roslyn as if she had been their baby-sitter for a whole year. Some members of the Nisbet staff call on me in a semi-official way while on their way to the shops where they have to buy the food for the hotel kitchen. Others visit me in their spare time, just wishing to greet me and give me a few encouraging words. Apart from Father George, two other priests visit me, a Methodist and an Anglican, and all three of them are equally kind and understanding. Obviously they are on very good terms, and have become even closer during a time like this when distressed people need religious leaders and their guidance. I also receive a few official visitors, the most prominent being the prime minister of Nevis, Hon. Vance W. Amory. After one of my short naps I notice him by my bed. The nurse nudges me slightly as if she wants to say: See, it’s an honour! Of course I thank the prime minister for everything that the authorities and the people of Nevis have done for me. With particular interest I am awaiting the visit of the lady who, according to the rescuers, crucially influenced the (failed) attempts of the rescue operation. She still claims that on the first day of my disappearance, on that fatal Wednesday, at 4.30 pm, she met a man that perfectly matched my description. Today we will confront each other and I expect her to admit that she didn’t see ME (maybe she saw somebody that looks like me). Though I am now rather thin and exhausted I can’t have changed so much that she wouldn’t be able to recognise me if she had truly talked to me …
Traaaar! The staff bring in a smiling, black, middle-aged lady and introduce her as Winnefred Herbert. She comes closer and greets me as if I was an old friend of hers!? After the first, now already customary words with which the visitors here thank God for saving me, she asks me in a pleasant and friendly manner whether I remember what a nice chat we had that afternoon. Dear God, she still thinks I was chatting to her at the time when I was already stuck in that awful hole! I kindly deny her story and she, in return, kindly confirms it again and even brings up the “details” of our encounter. Our faces are very close and we are looking into each other’s eyes while the other people in the room are watching us with increased curiosity. I can see that Winnie isn’t faking it. She truly THINKS that we have met before. We are holding each other’s hands while kindly insisting on the two different versions of the story. I occasionally look at the other people in the room and she, too, every now and then turns to them with a significant expression on her face as if she wants to say: See, he is not quite himself yet … He is still sick, you know … I soon realise that a rational discussion won’t take us anywhere. Fortunately, she also gives up talking to a man whose mind is so disturbed that he cannot even remember what happened to him just a week ago. We politely say good-bye to each other and the same people that brought her in now see her out of the hospital room while I am trying to make sense of it all … I am not a psychologist, let alone a psychiatrist, however, as a layman in this area I think it possible that the lady made herself believe that we had met and whenever there were any doubts concerning her belief she simply got rid of them by insisting even more stubbornly on her version of the event. In addition, once she told her story to the other people she probably felt compelled to stick to it and not change her mind about its details. When, later, different people went to visit her, be it the official authorities or desperate Miriam, Winnie probably just repeated her initial statements refusing to rethink her recollections of the unfortunate event. And how is it possible that she gave such an accurate description of my appearance? There must have been several ways in which she could have got to know about my appearance. It is possible that she had seen me earlier, when, for example, I had been walking in the neighbouring town. The island is small and I noticed that during the few days that I dedicated to sightseeing, I met some people a few times. It is also possible that Winnie learned about my appearance from somebody who knew me, for example, a member of the hotel staff or from her neighbour, the policeman, or his father, as we know that by the first evening Mr Nolan raised the alarm and that on the following day all policemen, as well as many other people, were well acquainted with my description. However, I am convinced that the false information that probably stopped the rescuers from looking for me in the area less than four kilometres away from the hotel and less than two kilometres away from the closest settlement wasn’t conveyed with bad intentions. Neither can Winnie have been motivated by the prospect of getting a reward as that was announced after Winnie had come forward with her statement. I bear no grudge against Winnie and don’t blame her for having had to go through all that unnecessary suffering. I am only happy to know that I am now in a safe place, alive and mostly healthy. God bless you too, Winnie, and may He give you many more years in your life! In between the numerous social contacts, which I enjoy immensely, I am becoming increasingly interested in food. Alexandra Hospital provides me with so many delicious things. Of course, I don’t over do it – the quantities of food are much smaller than the quantities of liquids that I consume. I mainly drink water, but occasionally I can also have some juice and milk. At first the nurses are keeping records of my consumed liquids, but later I volunteer to do this by myself, especially as it is easier for me than it is for them to measure precisely the quantities of liquid that come out at the other end. Such documentation is necessary, as my doctor needs to have the correct data, which allows him to compare the quantity of consumed liquid with the quantity that is removed from my
body. I don’t mind that for this purpose I have to get up at least once per hour during the night, as I anyway cannot sleep without interruption for more than that long. It’s a pity that the staff didn’t weigh me immediately on admitting me to hospital so that I could know exactly how much weight I had lost. I know that when I set off to climb the mountain I was 78 kg, and that on the first evening of my stay in hospital I was a bit less than 70 kg. However, prior to having my weight checked I had already consumed a few litres of water. Later I began to put on weight again and gradually restored my previous physique. I also noticed that my eyesight had deteriorated quite a lot; however, it began to improve immediately. At the beginning of my hospital stay I couldn’t read any subtitles on the television, but after a few days I was again able to read them. Not that I had a lot of time for watching television, but I was always interested to hear the CNN news as I had missed a whole week of the latest information, something that rarely happens to me. At a later press conference, held in Slovenia, Dr Primoz Rode, director of the Clinical Centre in Ljubljana, explained that my eyesight deteriorated due to general dehydration, which, among other things, also caused my eyeballs to shrink and change their shape. Dr Rode also spoke highly of the medical care that I received at the Alexandra Hospital, and especially of Dr Singh. In the evening I experienced another pleasant surprise. After the visitors had gone, the nurses had finished their daily tasks and I had gone to bed, I began to hear subdued, though very beautiful, singing. After I had listened to a few songs I asked the nurse, who had just then entered my room, where the singing was coming from. She told me that some old women were outside the hospital singing for me. I was astonished and I asked the nurse to bring the women into my room. Indeed, the nurse soon brought them in though the singers were rather hesitant to enter the hospital. We shook each other’s hands and I heard the familiar comment: “God saved you. God has big plans for you. Listen to Him!” Of course, my dear ladies, of course I will listen to Him. I will tell others about His goodness. I will tell everybody that I was saved only due to His mercy. My eyes brimmed with tears when they sat down beside my bed and sang to me late into the night …We were holding each other’s hands while they were singing the melancholic Negro spirituals, so suitable for that particular occasion … We were having such a great time … Though we were together for the first time we felt closer to each other than people sometimes do after spending decades of their lives together. It was like this because He had brought us together. The first day of my new life was over … My second place of birth: Nevis.
I finally did it! Together with my daughter Marjanca!
Thanksgiving: I thank to the numerous employees and volunteers who were looking for me, specially to the Disaster Preparedness co-ordinator Mr. Llewellyn F. A. Newton, soldiers from St.Kitts, policemen from Nevis, Canadian ship crew, pilot Steve Gray and his crew of the Caribbean Helicopters, Antigua, all of the Nisbet Plantation Beach Club staff with Cathie & Don Johnson for the true involvement, care and help to my family, specially to the chief of security Mr. Nolan, assistant director Mr. Leon and Mr. Steve, head of the anti-drugs service Mr. Austin with his team, the Catholic, Methodist and Anglican priests for their prayers, services and consolation, to dr. Singh and the wonderful staff of the Alexandra Hospital in Charlestown, to Judy Sonnenberg and Nikka von Liemandt (with her family) for helping my wife and the kids.
Book in Slovenian language