"A first rate surfing book thriller that grabs you page after page."
Bobby Cruz’s past has
caught up with him in the form of beautiful Costa Rican teenager Consuela,
who turns up on his doorstep claiming to be his daughter. She carries the
startling message from her mother Blanca that the former ‘Contra’ war
criminal Chato Torres is alive and killing again.
Bobby decides he must
travel south to find Blanca and confront his past as a soldier in Central
America. His journey moves from surf-clad beaches through dense rainforest,
until on the sulphurous slopes of a volcano he hunts a phantom that was long
Witches' Rock, Tamarindo
and Costa Rica surf maps included
Point is a soulful, gritty, surf travel adventure
set in the rugged backdrop of Costa Rica.”
was happy to be going home. The two-week holiday with his students at
Roca Bruja, the Witches’ Rock, Costa Rica was a great success. He and
his kids were on their way to the airport in an old yellow school bus with
‘Witches’ Rock Surf Camp’ painted on the side. The old bus took the curves
on the coastal hills well.
The waves at
Playa Naranjo and in front of Roca Bruja were a pounding beach break. One of
the girls in Tommy’s group had even broken her board in a particularly heavy
had ridden a classic day at Witches’ Rock. The waves were two meters with
offshore winds. He surfed until he was too exhausted to paddle, something he
hadn’t done since he was the age of his students.
The boys and
girls in his group behaved as well as you could expect 13–14-year-olds to
behave. The only real crisis, a storm in a teacup really, was when he caught
Amelia and Ethan buying marijuana from a local fisherman.
Tommy felt a
little guilty about confiscating their stash, because he tasted it and it
wasn’t bad. He rolled a spliff before ritually tossing the weed into the
nightly campfire in front of the kids. They took it okay; he suspected they
managed to roll a couple of joints themselves before it went up in smoke. If
those were the extent of the school discipline problems at Richard Nixon
Junior High School of Dana Point, California, it would be one of the safest
schools in the state.
Just last year they caught a kid with a Mac-10 in his backpack. They were
lucky another student spotted him stashing the machine gun in his locker.
After the Columbine killings students kept a sharp eye out for the dweebs,
geeks and other social misfits ready to work out their rage and frustration
with hollow-point bullets. Education in America had become a hazardous
These days it’s the God-fearing WASP boys with names like Dylan, Eric or
Justin that have their fingers on the triggers. It’s kids that used mom’s
credit card to buy mail-order AK-47s or steal the .44 Magnum from dad’s gun
case. It’s quiet kids living in good neighborhoods and from good Christian
families who murder other kids. This is what passes for adolescent problem
solving in America’s schools.
Tommy Lopez was a full-time Geology teacher at Richard Nixon Junior High
School and during his free time coached the school’s surf team. A couple of
his kids were talented enough to turn pro if they could exercise enough
self-discipline and kept up their studies.
During these school-sponsored trips Tommy liked to mix in some of his
lessons, and the geology of Costa Rica served as an excellent teaching tool.
comprises a strip of land connecting the landmasses of North and South
America. It’s a region where the earth’s tectonic plates collided to form
the Cordilleras ranges, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific and
forming part of a chain of volcanoes that stretches from Tierra del Fuego at
the tip of South America to Alaska in the north. Costa Rica has some of the
most active volcanoes in the world.
nightly campfire Tommy held the kids spellbound as he described the
geological events that formed the Pacific coast region where they camped and
the role played by the nearby Rincon de la Vieja volcano, the ‘old
explained how the Witches’ Rock, a massive basalt rock planted in the sea in
front of the surf camp, was formed by volcanic action. The process began
with the buildup of pressure in the magma chamber, the heart of the volcano.
If there were humans in the region they would have heard the rumbling and
felt the earth tremors building up for weeks.
Tommy told the kids that the volcano first started belching out clouds of
ash into the upper atmosphere. Then came the fireworks as the volcano
vented, shooting lava missiles hundreds of meters into the air. Fissures
then appeared on the volcano’s flanks oozing lava.
If the wind
patterns were anything like now, said Tommy, the volcano would begin to
shower the beach with pumice pebbles, gas-impregnated lava so light it
floated on water.
accounts of eruptions it could rain lava for hours and hours. Some of these
pumice showers would be heavy enough to kill animals or men.
Then the sky
above the volcano would grow dark; the thick clouds of volcanic ash would
block out the sun and within the clouds there would be fierce bolts of
still alive in the area it would have seemed like the end of the world, but
there was still more terror to come. There would be the choking poisonous
gas followed by a pyroclastic blast that would roll down the flanks of the
mountain like an avalanche. This superheated rock, ash and gas would cook
every living thing in its path.
Then in an awesome show of power the volcano would hurl molten chunks of
lava the size of apartment blocks. Roca Bruja, or the Witches’ Rock, was one
of those. A massive chunk of basalt rock that was thrown some thirty
kilometers by a volcano into the ocean.
trained geologist’s eye Tommy pointed out evidence of the even bigger chunks
of basalt ejected by the volcano, oil-tanker size, though now they were worn
down by rain and overgrown with vegetation. Yes, he told them, it would have
seemed like the Apocalypse with the sky raining down chunks of lava the size
of buildings and oil tankers. It would certainly have been the end of the
world for anybody here.
around the campfire the kids sat wide-eyed as Tommy taught them volcanology.
That’s the way subjects should be taught, he thought, just find the right
circumstances and a lasting impression can be made on young minds.
the wheel of the old school bus was tico driver Jorge Flores and he
was glad it was his last day. It was a time he could have a little fun with
the kids he’d supervised for the last weeks. He was happy the holidays were
over, because these rich, spoiled gringo kids were getting on his nerves the
way they constantly made fun of his accent.
Before they left the surf camp Jorge announced that they were going to get a
real treat. It was going to be something like out of the movie Crocodile
Dundee, he said in his heavy accent. To play the part Jorge put on his
version of Dundee’s bush hat and held up a dead chicken still shedding
was raining as Jorge drove the bus full of kids through the green
countryside of the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica. It had been raining
since their first day at the camp and the kids had been complaining, as if
Jorge could do anything about it. Now they had reached what was described in
the guidebooks as the dry coast plains and it was still raining.
Jorge started to slow down as the bus approached a long concrete bridge that
straddled the swollen brown river El Paraiso, the Paradise. In the distance
he could see the blue of the Pacific Ocean and the muddy brown water where
the river’s flow stained the sea.
crossed the bridge and pulled to a stop on the side of the road. Jorge told
the kids to wait until he called for them, then he and Tommy exited the bus.
along the bridge; he cut a slightly ridiculous figure wearing his Croc
Dundee hat with the chicken dangling at his side.
open his umbrella and waited for the group of kids to get off the bus and
line up. They had arrived early and Jorge told them that was good, because
there usually were cars parked all along the bridge to see the show.
Tommy followed Jorge leading a group of about ten kids along the bridge’s
guard-rail. They walked towards the middle of the bridge where it straddled
the river some two hundred meters from where the bus was parked.
Jorge excitedly pointed to what at first seemed like a floating log in the
brown water. It was a salt-water crocodile about three meters long. It swam
slowly across the river and was joined by an even bigger croc moving in the
same direction. The croc’s eyes were raised above the water and its powerful
tail propelled it towards the bridge supports.
Tommy and the kids caught up with Jorge, he explained the crocodiles had
good eyesight and were gathering on the mud flats under the bridge’s
pilings; they knew it was feeding time.
Jorge had been to the bridge at El Paraiso a number of times and was always
gratified the way his crocodile show affected the kids. He knew that if his
Crocodile Dundee act played well it was worth some big tips. He also made
sure he brought a sack of chicken innards, legs and heads to sell to the
kids so they could feed the crocs too.
Amelia and Ethan left the group and ran ahead of Jorge, ignoring his shouts
to wait. They finally stopped on the bridge where the river flowed directly
underneath. But after glancing over the guard-rail they ran back, frightened
and near to tears.
wrong?” asked Tommy.
someone down there,” cried Amelia.
Tommy asked the group to wait on the bridge until he and Jorge could find
out what had frightened the kids. Some of the group waited, but a few
curious kids followed.
two men ran across the bridge and looked over the side. The scene was
horrific. Two huge crocodiles were ripping apart the torso of a man on the
mud flats below. Some smaller crocodiles not big enough to compete for the
prize were waiting nearby to scavenge leftovers.
Ethan pointed to a rope tied to the guard-rail. Jorge bent over the rail
where the rope dangled.
said Jorge and turned to Tommy and called for help, “Ayuda mi!”
over the side of the bridge and saw a second man dangling from the rope. The
line was looped under his arms and he was swinging above a huge crocodile.
One of the man’s legs was ripped off below the knee and big croc was up on
its hind legs trying to get more.
Tommy shouted for all the kids to go back to the bus, then handed Jorge his
mobile phone and told him to call the police.
alive,” said Ethan pointing to the man.
Both Tommy and Jorge glanced over the guard-rail.
The man at
the end of the rope rolled his eyes open.
help, said the man.
and Ethan quickly began to pull him up.
Once over the rail they laid the man on the ground. Amelia ran back from the
bus carrying a blanket. They covered the man and comforted him as best they
fashioned a tourniquet for the man’s severed leg, but he had already lost a
great deal of blood and was going into shock.
talking in rapid Spanish on the mobile to the police.
man was drifting in and out of consciousness. He motioned for Tommy to come
closer. He leaned over the man.
Torres,” said the man. “Murcielago.”
The man died
on the side of the road before the ambulance or the police arrived.
601 Amsterdam to LAX was just to Bobby Cruz’s liking. The seats in business
were classy, real luxury loungers. With a push of a button the leg rest
kicked forward and the back support tilted to prone position. He could get
used to this; it was much better than the cattle car experience in economy
class, but those were surf trips and this was opera.
Next to him lay Samantha Kane, the love of his life, snuggled up in the
airline’s blue logo blanket snoring gently.
couldn’t sleep and watched five movies during the flight, his usual quota of
cinema for a month, and none were memorable in the least. That meant for the
next month he’d have to find other things to do than visit the multiplex. He
decided that he would spend more time practicing pecak silat, the
Indonesian fighting art, and maybe even try a meditation class that Sam had
Bobby glanced over at Samantha as she turned and got comfortable. They made
a good team, he thought. Together they had taken a party of nine opera
aficionados to Venice for a Monteverdi festival at the La Fenice opera
house, just rebuilt after burning down in suspicious circumstances in 1996.
From Venice they had traveled with the train to the ancient city of Verona
to see a performance of Verdi’s Nabucco in a Roman coliseum.
While shepherding their clients between shows they had managed to see the
sights of both remarkable cities. They swam at the Venice Lido, and then
made a tour to the Emperor’s hot springs at Lake Garda, where they drank
Proseco, a bubbly Italian wine, and made love under the stars. All this
between the two performances at La Fenice and two outdoor shows in Verona.
Life may be sweet, but opera was divine thought Bobby.
It was at
Lake Garda that Bobby asked Samantha to marry him. She told him that it was
a serious step and she needed time to consider it. He was disappointed, but
said he would wait for her decision.
Bobby put on
a brave face for the rest of the trip, but soon began to wonder if he’d made
a mistake. They had been lovers for nearly three years and marriage seemed
an obvious progression, but her hesitation made him question this
to let the whole thing play itself out naturally and try to live with the
uncertainty. What is certain in this life except change, he reasoned, but
this newly acquired philosophy didn’t bring him peace of mind.
Samantha had arranged the trip through her travel agency Soprano, which
specialized in opera tours. Each customer paid three thousand dollars for
six days and as far as they were concerned it was money well spent.
With Samantha’s eye for detail the tour went off with military precision,
hotel, travel and opera tickets, which was no mean feat considering they
were dealing with Italians.
Bobby had been to Venice once before so he was familiar with the city. This
allowed him the argument that his local knowledge was essential for the
trip. In reality the only time he actually came in handy was when moving the
luggage around the town.
Venice is a walking city. There are no cars, scooters or bicycles;
everything must be floated or carried by hand. Even if one traveled by
gondola or vaporetto, the waterbus, you still needed muscle power to get
your belongings from the dock to your hotel.
Bobby manhandled two hundred kilos of luggage from the train station to the
hotel in the middle of summer. By the time he got the group’s luggage to the
hotel where the staff could take over he had sweated clean through his linen
When the time came to leave Venice he had picked up some tips from the local
produce hauliers and rented a wheeled dolly from a fruit seller. He was able
to bring all the luggage back to the train station in one trip.
this excursion the clients were docile. The only incident was a complaint
about one gentleman’s seat at La Fenice, but when Bobby pressed a few Euros
into the palm of the opera house usher the man’s seat was exchanged for one
with a better view.
the rest of the tour the clients were left to entertain themselves between
shows. Samantha made it clear in her sales pitch that her responsibility was
for travel, accommodation and opera tickets; the participants had to fill
the rest of the trip for themselves.
performance the group still gravitated to each other’s company. There would
be a local café where the traveling party would meet and dissect the night’s
performance over a late dinner and drinks.
surprised Samantha with his strong opinions about the shows. After a few
glasses of wine he told those gathered around that he found the Italian
productions too traditional; it was a shame they didn’t take more liberties
with the staging. A more knowledgeable client agreed with him. He expanded
on Bobby’s theory, speculating that there were certain expectations the
Italian public had about opera which the local directors tried to fulfill.
attention drifted back to the movie playing on his monitor in KLM business
class. It was the third of the Matrix series. He thought of what
Nyoman, his Balinese buddy, had said about the previous one: “All fight, no
story,” and it was the same here.
KLM purser interrupted the entertainment, freezing the movie scene mid-fight
with the announcement that they were now descending to LAX and would land in
out of the window. He could see the yellowish brown smog shrouding the Santa
Monica Mountains. Welcome home, he thought.
Bobby and Samantha accompanied the tour group as they picked up their bags
from the luggage carousel and helped them through customs. At this stage of
the trip their supervision was not needed, but it had become a habit and was
accepted as natural by all.
terminal exit there were lots of hugs and kisses as the clients waited for
transportation home. They had shared something in common, they had come
together through the love of opera and now they were going their separate
There was a
lot of talk about staying in contact. And Samantha, ever the businesswoman,
let them all know that there were still places open for her next tour to
Cairo to see Aida under the Pyramids of Giza. She told them she would
hold a place for any of them since there were all now the best of friends,
almost family, and she meant it.
last client rode off from the terminal Samantha put her arms around Bobby
and hugged him. She kissed him deeply.
“What did I
do to deserve that?” asked Bobby.
you,” she replied.
easy. Are we opera comrades now?”
ever,” she said and kissed him again.
instant Bobby thought she was going to give an answer to his marriage
proposal, but the moment passed and nothing was said.
A big red 4×4
Chevy truck with a white camper top pulled up to the curb and tooted its
horn. Juanito Cruz, Bobby’s cousin, stepped out of the cab of the truck
brushing sawdust from his overalls and gave them a brilliant smile.
Juanito was a blonde-haired Latino over six feet tall and built like pro
footballer. He gave Bobby a bear hug and Samantha a kiss.
guys are looking ever so European,” said Juanito.
to have to make it to Europe sometime Juanito,” said Samantha.
“There were some gorgeous Italian ladies looking for a big strong handsome
man just like you.”
disappoint the ladies, I’m just waiting for my chance to fly the coop, Sam.”
things at home Juanito?” asked Bobby.
cleanup work is all boss.”
Juanito had a
construction job in Santa Monica and rather than fight traffic commuting
from the valley every day, Bobby let him sleep on his sofa in his mobile
home. The deal was—Juanito would install a new bathtub for Bobby in exchange
for his room and board.
“I can’t wait
for a bath,” said Bobby.
“That may be
a little premature boss,” said Juanito.
couple of hours, detail work, no big deal.”
airport-parking cop approached and gave them a ‘Homeland Security’ look.
Juanito took Samantha’s luggage and walked to the rear of the truck. Bobby
followed him with his suitcase. Juanito brushed aside the tools and set both
Under the gaze of the airport cop Juanito took out a cloth and wiped the
sawdust from the seat before Samantha sat down.
the mess, cuz,” said Juanito.
problemo,” said Bobby and slid in next to Samantha.
the truck into the flow of traffic and gave a friendly wave to the scowling
cop. He turned down Century Boulevard and headed towards the 405 freeway;
from there he’d pick up the Santa Monica freeway west and home.
“Hey cuz, you
didn’t say nothing about visitors,” said Juanito.
because I wasn’t expecting any,” said Bobby.
I thought, but I figured you’d know about your daughter.”
not supposed to be here for few weeks.”
ain’t Amanda,” said Juanito.
“Then who is it?” asked Bobby.
don’t know any Consuela.”
I was hoping you’d say, because she’s a fine looker, cuz. If you know what I
daughter?” said Samantha enjoying his confusion. “I thought I knew all your
“It’s got to
be some kind of a mistake,” said Bobby.
“Man, I sure
hope so because if she’s not blood I’m going to jump on her, otherwise I
might catch me an incest beef.”
incest,” said Samantha. “That would be with first cousins like you and Bobby
marrying, but even that’s permissible under the law.”
permissible but not advisable,” said Bobby. “Genetically speaking.”
“Sure sets my
mind at rest cuz, I was imagining kids with three eyes calling me daddy and
shit like that.”
this Consuela get off passing herself off as blood?” asked Bobby.
“Got me cuz, she doesn’t speak much English, just Spanish. She comes from
speak Spanish?” said Bobby. “What kind of Mexican are you?”
that class in school. I was disadvantaged. Listen I know how to swear, but
that’s not going to get me far with that sweet young thing.”
“I’m going to
take a Spanish course,” said Samantha. “Why don’t you come along Juanito?”
might do that. What do the chicas in the class look like? Gorgeous
to have to show up at class to see,” said Samantha.
She ran her
hand through Bobby’s hair, “And you Mr. Cruz, you’re holding back on me.”
don’t know any Consuela.”
out soon enough, she’s waiting at your place,” said Juanito.
daughter,” said Samantha with a smile.
For Bobby the
jet lag was coming on strong and the excitement of travel was fading fast.
He was looking forward to a long sleep in his own bed.