LIMA, Peru – A young South African adventurer seeking to follow the Amazon River from its origin to its mouth was in stable condition in a Lima hospital Monday after being shot and robbed by a pair of youths while on a Peruvian tributary, authorities said.
David du Plessis, 24, was shot three times by two young men Saturday while kayaking down the Ucayali River near the provincial capital of Pucallpa, said his father, Louis du Plessis.
"They set up an ambush and they shot him from the woods," he said. The first shot knocked the young man from the kayak, the second hit him as he headed for shore and the third when he reached shore, his father said.
"He realized the only way he could get away was to run" so he ran about three miles (5 kilometers) despite internal bleeding and a neck wound that would interfere with his speech when he arrived in a village wearing only swimming shorts and a T-shirt, said his father, who flew from the United States to be with him.
The young adventurer, who began his journey in late June, was taken downriver in a motorized canoe and arrived in Pucallpa after dusk, said Margot Sanchez, whose brother speaks some English and alerted du Plessis' mother by phone.
"He was losing a lot of blood," said Sanchez.
"Our son is lucky to survive. It was 10 hours before he got to hospital," said the young man's mother, Robyn Wolff, from Durban, South Africa.
David du Plessis was flown to Lima on Sunday, thanks in part to employees of the local subsidiary of the beverage company SABMiller, his parents said.
He was in intensive care at the Anglo-American Hospital. The hospital's medical director, Dr. Edgar Tejada, said he was in stable condition.
David du Plessis has temporarily lost some hearing, had to have fluid drained from one lung and apparently has a pellet lodged in or near his heart, said his father, a U.S.-based yacht captain retired from the South African navy.
"If he had gotten shot with anything other than a shotgun he would not be here with us. He is very, very lucky," said Louis du Plessis.
The regional police commander in Pucallpa, Col. Cesar Augusto Larrea, told The Associated Press that investigators had gone upriver to try to locate the assailants but had so far made no arrests.
He said he did not know exactly where it happened: "There are a lot of small villages up there."
Larrea said it was not the first such attack on a foreigner in the area.
In May 2011, a Polish couple was slain while kayaking in the same region, their bodies found in the Ucayali. Police said their belongings had been divided among the three farmers arrested on suspicion of killing them.
Wolff said her son had obtained a permit from the Peruvian military before entering the zone where he was attacked and that the military had warned him that it was a dangerous area. After she learned from Sanchez's brother that her son had been shot, Wolff turned to his Facebook page, "World Wonderer — The Amazon," to seek help in organizing his evacuation to Lima.
Louis de Plessis said his son had traveled last year by bicycle from Cairo, Egypt, to South Africa.
Before heading down the river, David du Plessis climbed Peru's 18,363-foot (5,597-meter) Mount Mismi, which some explorers say is the most distant source of the Amazon River, according to his blog. It said he reached the summit in late July.
His father said he had planned to join his son, known as "Davey," on the Amazon from Iquitos, Peru, to Manaus, Brazil.
Du Plessis' blog: http://worldwonderer.co.za/
Frank Bajak on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fbajak