the cobra encounter

In the spotlight

I haven’t decided to share this story until now. Thankfully enough time has passed for me to clearly re-collect this story without feeling overcome with fear.  In December last year, my family celebrated my mother turning  60 in a remote beachside village in Brazil.  A six day holiday shared with my brother Toby, his lovely girlfriend Kristy-Lee, my gorgeous sister Amanda and her boyfriend Ash and us. It was at the tail end of our guided globetrotting trip where we rode through remote Patagonian regions in Chile and Argentina with a group of guests. At this stage in the trip, after a two night reunion in Buenos Aires,  Buster and I were yearning for the salty air, to feel the sand squish between our toes and bathe in the briny ocean. We picked the coastal village of Taiba town for its surf breaks and lack of crowds. All of us are keen as mustard surfers and our little family were busting to exchange the riding boots for catching waves.

Our entourage arrived late Christmas eve to our adobe beach home perched on the dunes. We were greeted with hammocks floating in the wind, a pool with bathwater temperatures, the rhythmic pounding of the waves and a chorus of crickets. It had been an incredibly long day in transit with Finn and we were absolutely exhausted. We met our care taker, who was a lovely Brazilian lady who lived in a cottage near the main house. I speak below average Spanish, so throughout our stay we managed to communicate.

We were told from the start not to leave any valuables like cameras or laptops outside in plain view during the day. The reason being the main thoroughfare to the beach ran directly past our holiday home so every man and his dog could peer into our backyard. I’m sure within five minutes of us arriving into the village, the tight-knit community were aware foreigners were in town.

On Christmas night, Finn was in her own room under a mosquito net with the only fan in the house blowing on her, cajoling her to sleep in the thick, soupy atmosphere.  Buster and I were in the adjacent room with both bedroom doors open so we could hear her if she stirred. Lying in bed, we could look down the hallway to the front door. It was a sticky night with not a breath of air to lull us to sleep. Each bedroom had shuttered doors that opened out onto the garden. We locked the doors and kept the shutters open to entice the breeze in. Lying above the sheets, half naked we slept slippery with sweat.

I’m an incredibly light sleeper when Buster is not. I remember waking up in the middle of the night to the noise of bare feet slapping on concrete. I sat bolt upright in bed and saw a unrecognisable figure pelting out the front door. A gut-wrenching yell escaped from me “Steven!” – I yelped, slapping him on the chest. Much to my surprise, Steven woke instantly and started running down the hall. Side note: I’m getting a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I recall this. I ran into Finn’s room and thank you to all of my angels, she was in her room under the mosquito net crying from the shouts and yelling. I scooped my darling 7-month old up into my arms, and ran outside. On the front lawn I saw my butt-naked brother, Ash and Steven pinning the man I saw in the corridor moments before to the ground. The man was yelling, spitting, biting and kicking trying to get away as if his life depended on it.

My sister took Finn and I ran to wake up our Brazilian caretaker asking her to ring the police. She appeared straight away with mobile in hand and followed me to the front lawn with her teenage daughter in tow. She rang the police and started barking instructions in Portuguese.

Toby and Kristy-Lee’s bedroom was the closest to the front door. Toby told us later that he woke up and thought he saw a figure walk past their shuttered door. He sat up, half asleep, trying to compute. Kristy-Lee tells him to go back to sleep. He must of gone back to sleep until he hears a coin drop on the concrete floor. He gets out of bed and enters the hall only to disturb two intruders in the living room. They had only jimmied one of the shuttered doors open making a narrow escape route. Upon seeing Toby they ran into each other getting out the door which gave Toby enough time to crash tackle the last guy and nail him into the ground.

Thankfully I had woken up and yelled for Steven at this stage and like a tag-team Steven then Ash helped Toby pin down the  intruder – Ash on his legs, Steven on his arms and Toby across his torso. Toby told us later he was so thankful that he was joined by Ash and Steve as it was taking all his strength to hold this guy by himself. Don’t get me wrong, Toby stands at 6ft 2 and is bumping the 90kg mark, strong not fat, but the Brazilian’s will to get away was fierce, so much so, he bit Toby on the arm. His mate fled over the fence and out onto the beach. I checked the intruder’s board short pockets to find Kristy Lee’s wallet and Steven’s board shorts – than gave him a courtesy punch in the scrotum.

We had no idea how long the police were going to be. My sister Amanda raced to the clothes line and got some rope. The boys were tiring. Toby, Steven and Ash managed to turn him from his back to his stomach and tie his hands and legs. Moments later the police arrived, four officers who were heavily armed. Thankfully they were incredibly swift in arriving. At this stage, Mum was running around with a broom as her weapon, Kristy Lee was unaware that she was top-less until Amanda made mention of it her priority was getting a pair of shorts on Toby.

The police told us we had caught a local drug dealer known as the Cobra and is known amongst police. Both Amanda and Toby went with the police with the Cobra in the paddy wagon to the station. Those of us that were left at the house, shook with adrenalin and fear. I managed to settle Finn back to sleep. With the gravity of the situation I became overcome with emotion with a stream of horror thoughts running through my head, ‘what if they had taken Finn?’, ‘what if he had a knife?’, ‘what if other gang members come back?’ – the nightmare ‘what if’ scenarios plagued me until I took a valium to settle my thoughts and fell into a fitful sleep curled up beside Finn. After that night we had a full-time security guard throughout our stay.

I’m not sure why I’m compelled to share this story, only that it’s real and is part of the rich tapestry that is travelling.

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