CRAWLING on his belly through the mud, deep underground, a torch in one hand and a candle in the other, Adam McIntosh tried to ignore the suffocating heat. The next second he lost his grip on the slippery clay and found himself hurtling downhill headfirst at breakneck speed. It seemed like an eternity before he landed in a crumpled heap at the bottom of a mine shaft in the pitch black, battered and bruised, but counting himself lucky to have escaped serious injury.
The 24-year-old Edinburgh adventurer was the only white face among the Caribbean miners. But he would only join them once more on their quest for rare blue amber before deciding, all in all, it was too risky an enterprise to continue. "It is 100 times more expensive than normal amber," explains Adam, who has just returned home after seven years of globe-trotting that took him to Peru, India, the homelands of native Indian tribes in Canada, as well as the amber mines of the Dominican Republic. "The mines are a bit like the caves in the film The Goonies. You could be crawling quite happily in the wet clay and then suddenly the gradient would change and you'd find yourself on a death-slide with no end in sight. It was pretty terrifying. "
"The natives couldn't understand why a white man would want to go down there, so I only went mining myself a couple of times. The rest of the time I'd pay the native miners double the going rate set by the Dominican gangsters that are trying to corner the market in blue amber around the world." It was those gangsters who cut short his mining ambitions. One night as Adam was sleeping in a tent close to the mine his translator burst in, shouting at him to leave. "He was shouting 'Rapido! Rapido! Faster! Faster! They're coming'," recalls Adam. "We managed to lie low for a couple of days, but when we returned to the hotel room we found that it had been ransacked. "They were looking for the amber, but for some reason they didn't check the bathroom. It was in the bath cleaning off. We were able to retrieve the amber and get out of there."
It wasn't his only experience of gangsters after being forced to take an armed guard with him in Peru, when he hired guides to take him to a local mine in search of gems. "I even had to set aside my pacifist ideals and ride with gunmen to the mines," said Adam. "The people who chartered the vehicles that took me up the mountain wouldn't dare go near the mines without a truckload of weapons. "On the way up to the mountain they would discharge their guns. The message was, 'we're only here to do business, but we're armed so don't mess with us'."