Two Months in Paradise – Part 3: When a Sea Urchin means it’s not Paradise

Caribbean Kayaking

We were staying right on the harbour in Road Town and with a boat dock literally at the back door, what were we to do but hire a double kayak for a week?

We got up early every morning and headed out and up along the coast for a paddle. At first the mornings were really calm and we powered along past the ‘dolphin prison’, explored rocky areas along the coast and peered down at coral formations before paddling back to our dock.

As the week got on the swells got a little higher so the paddling was harder work but not technically difficult. And after a week we felt like pros. It was a great way to start the day and we felt like tropical islanders.

On the last morning before returning the kayak, we got clever. We caught a wave coming back into the harbour and glided in with some wave assisted power. Until we weren’t gliding anymore. Somehow, we capsized. In shallow water. Barry tipped out first, I followed soon after and landed with the kayak on my head. So I stood up and pushed it off. Unfortunately, we’d been pushed to a small coral reef. I righted the kayak and jumped in, collected Barry and paddled back to our dock. Phew.

What lurks beneath the ocean waves…

Ooops. I stood on a sea urchin

Except that it wasn’t. I didn’t feel it at first but when I looked at my foot, there were loads of little black things stuck in the instep. They looked like rocks but when Barry managed to pull one out with the tweezers, it was a long thorn. I’d stepped on a black sea urchin. It was too painful to let Barry dig away any further.

I headed off to the local vet (who’d become a friend) and she swabbed my foot with Lidocaine and dug a few more out. But some were deep and, as I wasn’t a dog or cat, the vet didn’t want to inject the painkiller. Time for the professionals so off to the Emergency Room at Peebles Hospital in Road Town I went.

I eventually saw a nurse who, after some chatting with a doctor behind a closed door, cleaned my foot with iodine, bandaged it and sent me on my way, telling me if they didn’t come out by themselves, to soak my foot in vinegar. Then charged me $400 (USD).

They didn’t come out by themselves (turns out vinegar is not magic).

So I soaked my foot in vinegar. For weeks. The only thing that happened was that my shoes smelled like vinegar and my foot was the softest it’s ever been. I’m done with foot scrubs now. The next time I want beautiful feet, I’m soaking them in vinegar.

By the time we arrived in San Juan for our Easter break, a minor infection set in. Thanks to her Spanish language skills, Claudia helped me at the medical clinic. After wandering up and down the building we eventually found the emergency department. They were going to charge me $300 before I even saw a doctor so we hobbled to the pharmacy. The pharmacist was helpful. She was skeptical about the ‘soak it in vinegar and they’ll come like magic’ advice and told me the thorns could not stay in. She advised against the emergency room unless I wanted to wait all day (smart lady, that pharmacist). A helpful guy in the queue sent us upstairs to Dermatology where his friend Conseula would help us out.

And help she did. I saw a doctor. She shot me up with Lidocaine, cut away at the cuts and dug the thorns out. Just like I’d hoped a week earlier. Turns out I must have cut my foot on coral first as a particularly nasty spine was deep inside a wee tunnel. Antibiotics fixed up the infection. It cost way less than $300 ($110 USD to be exact).

At least I learnt a few things:

  • I’m not as cool a paddler as I thought I was
  • Don’t stand up if you capsize, even if the water is shallow (especially?)
  • Don’t leave sea urchin spines in your foot

One thought on “Two Months in Paradise – Part 3: When a Sea Urchin means it’s not Paradise

  1. Pingback: Two Months in Paradise - Part 4: San Juan, Peurto Rico - The Track & Off ItThe Track & Off It

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