Friday, March 20, 2009

Chapter 14

Gadiantons in Moroni

The bus was half full of some aging hippies, a number of college kids returning from the beach, and a few locals. One young man had a pet monkey on his shoulder. It was an old converted school bus with stiff seats and little leg-room. The driver raced down the narrow roads, trying to beat the competing buses to the waiting fares at the next stop.

After an hour’s ride, they arrived at Limon, just as the sun was setting. Limon was a raucous port town, a little on the wild side. It had been built by the Banana Barons in the last century, and was still a thriving port dealing mainly in fruit exports. They found a nearby hotel and then went looking for an evening meal. There were a lot of seafood restaurants, but Chris didn’t care for fish, so they settled on a small Chinese restaurant near the wharves. Before returning to the hotel, John wanted to get some pain medicine for the headache he had developed. They asked directions to the nearest pharmacy, but got turned around and ended up on a dark back street in an industrial area.

Two young men approached them from the opposite direction. They appeared friendly and greeted them, but then suddenly pulled a gun and demanded their valuables. The one with the gun began shouting at the top of his voice “Te vas a morir, te vas a morir (You’re going to die, you’re going to die) while the other one frisked their pockets and retrieved their wallets and money. It was rather unnerving looking down the barrel of a 45 magnum whose owner was angrily shouting and nervously fingering the trigger. After getting what they wanted, the men hurriedly left after making sure they weren’t being followed.

It had happened so suddenly, and was over so quickly, that John wasn’t sure what had happened.

“Let’s go get the police!” was the first thing he could think of.

“No, it won’t do any good”, responded Chris. “They’ll just put us through endless interrogations, and we might end up being delayed for days. No one will be caught, and in the end, they’ll probably want to charge us for their ‘services’.”

“You act like you’ve been robbed before” John observed.

“Yes, several times, but I’ve never been hurt. If you give them what they want, they normally leave you unharmed. Let’s follow them for a ways” Chris said as he started to walk after them.

“Why? What if they’re waiting for us?”

“They won’t be. Sometimes they discard the wallets after they’ve gotten what they want. They don’t like to keep any incriminating evidence.”

Sure enough, after following them for two blocks, they found the wallets lying in the gutter. By now John had forgotten about his headache, and they returned to the hotel. Fortunately they had left most of their cash, and their passports at the hotel. Chris had kept his credit card in his backpack, so they had one card left. John called in and put a hold on the cards he had lost. By now he was feeling lucky he hadn’t lost more than he had.

In the morning they went out and looked around the town. It was built on a low ridge that came down from the Talamanca Mountains and formed a promontory out into the sea. A mile out into the Caribbean there was a small island. Off the pier were several freighters loading huge containers of bananas three deep on their decks. They were so high that it looked like the ships would capsize.

John got down to business.

“The Book of Mormon says that the City of Moroni was sunk into the sea at the time of the crucifixion. I think the city was originally located here on this peninsula, but farther out to sea. Maybe it’s now located on the seafloor between here and the island. It would be nice to explore it sometime, but not now, of course. For now, let’s see if we can rent a car, and do a flying exploration of Nephihah, Zarahemla and Manti before we go home.”

After renting a car they traveled 10 miles west to the mountains. There at the mouth of the Rio Chirripo was a level plain, now covered with farms. This was John’s proposed site for the town of Nephihah. Next they traveled an hour westward until they reached the Reventazon River. This was the river they had identified as the Sidon, of Book of Mormon fame. The highway crossed over the river gorge and looking down they could see that it was a good-sized river. It traveled northeastward through a deep canyon in the mountains until it emerged on the coastal plain a hundred miles away.

They then drove a short distance to the city of Turrialba that they had identified as the site for the City of Zarahemla. It is on the west side of the Reventazon River (or Sidon), as the Book of Mormon has stipulated. A short distance east of the modern city are the combined sites called La Zoila, La Mora and La Isabel. This extensive site is actually one, but is located on three separate but adjacent farms. It has not been excavated thoroughly because it is located on private land. But the setting fulfills the criteria listed for the city of Zarahemla. Across the Reventazon Valley lies an opposite facing valley that John suggested could be the Valley of Gideon.

Next they drove to the modern city of Orosi at the head of the Reventazon River. This was the location they had determined for the City of Manti. It was situated at the base of the Talamanca Mountain front, on the upper Reventazon River, in a beautiful valley surrounded by foothills. Driving upriver from Orosi, and deeper into the mountains, they found another smaller valley, similar to the one described in the Book of Mormon. If they were correct, this would have been where Moroni and his soldiers ambushed and defeated the army of Zemnarihah. The Reventazon River continued southward into the mountains, but to the east of the small valley an ancient trail led over a low pass and on to the east until it reached the coastal plains near Limon. Everything seemed to be fitting together.

But the day was passing and if they wanted to make the afternoon flight, it was time to get to the airport. It took them two hours to reach the terminal going through the capitol, San Jose.

After turning in the rental car they got their tickets and went through security. John had forgotten about the snakeskin. When the agent opened the plastic bag, which was starting to smell quite badly, he wanted to know where it had come from. John explained what had happened and how he had retrieved the skin. He now realized that he might be in trouble like the last time they were in Costa Rica, and was a little worried. Fortunately the snake had been killed in Panama, so he hadn’t broken any Costa Rican laws against killing protected animals. But the officer still wouldn’t let him keep the skin and confiscating it, threw it into the garbage. John was heartsick, but didn’t have any alternative.

At last they were able to board the plane and begin their flight home, weary, but filled with confidence that they were on the right trail.

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