Crashing to Cusco: One very bad day, and all that comes with it.
Hindsight hurts. But sometimes it would really be nice to have some hindsight beforehand.
A couple days ago (November 18th, 2013), I crashed my bike with Kelly riding on the back on our way to Cusco. We both walked away, but everyone is feeling the lingering effects.
So this is the story all about how, my bike got flip-turned upside-down.
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there
I’ll tell you how they fixed my shoulder, but didn’t touch my hair.
(credit Derek Bains/ Will Smith)
The days leading up had been fun, including flying in a little plane to see the Nazca lines. But the fun was not without irritations, holes in my air mattress, spilling hydrogen peroxide in one of my boxes, and a lingering tummy ache to top it off. We pushed through, knowing that once we made it to Cusco we had about a week to relax without needing to ride any further. I spiked a fever in our hotel in Chalhuanca, and didn’t sleep great. We debated staying an extra night, but in the morning after some tylenol and a sleep in, I felt good enough to go.Â I really didn’t want to hold up the group, especially knowing that I’d have days to relax in Cusco. Oh Hindsight…
Our departure was delayed when a coolant leak was discovered on Cricket, but that easily fixed, we hit the road. 15 minutes out of town, Kelly and I took that literally.
It was sunny and hot out. The road had some nice curves and was a fun ride. I took the gradual right bend at about 90km/h. At the exit of the corner there was a “vado”, a shallow concrete spillway crossing the road, with water flowing across. As we rode through, my rear tire lost traction and slid out, we wobbled violently at speed for a few seconds down the highway, then crashed. I thought I had hit it pretty straight on, but should have slowed more. I was riding too quickly for the conditions. Hindsight hurts.
Our friend Tom was riding ahead and didn’t see the crash. Jayne and other friend Jeremy were maybe 30 seconds behind the carnage. They arrived and helped pick up the pieces. I had landed quite hard on my left shoulder. Winded, slow to get up, I told Jayne “I think I might have broken my collar bone”. Kelly got up quickly, nothing broken, but shaken up. Unfortunately, we had thought the mountains would be chilly riding, so she layered on a sweatshirt. This had quickly proven too warm, so she had opened her riding Jacket to cool off. The resulting abrasions to her stomach and side might have otherwise been minimized. We could have stopped to take off a layer. Hindsight hurts.
Some amazing passerby’s in a pickup stopped to take us to the nearby clinic to have our wounds cleaned. They dropped us there then returned to the crash site to load ‘Jugs’ into the box of their truck and drove the bike to Cusco for me. Incredible people. I don’t have enough kind words for them.
Jayne really went to bat for us in the hospital and made sure we got what we needed. Patched up, Kelly and I took a bus to Cusco. However the Carnage wasn’t over.
Tom had returned when we didn’t catch up, initially thinking a problem with Crickets leaking coolant. He met Jeremy waiting at the crash site, the rest of us at the hospital. After Jeremy came in to pick up Jayne and returned to load my remaining gear, Tom rode off ahead to meet our couch surf and to help with my bike in Cusco. A few hours down the road a truck had spilled some large rocks all over the asphalt, making a minefield. Tom hit a mine, and took a spill himself. Fortunately he was uninjured, though his bike took some dings and scrapes. Not bad enough, the rock he hit flew across the road and struck an oncoming bus. The bus driver stopped and was trying to get money out of Tom for the damages. “Who’s going to pay for my bus?!” the driver said. “Who’s going to pay for my bike?!” Tom replied. He didn’t give in to the extortion, and finished the ride to Cusco, now in the dark. Jayne and Jeremy heard of the crash and had had enough, stopping at a hotel and avoiding anymore carnage on the day.
The small hospital we were first taken to was without an xray machine. The doctor there felt I hadn’t broken anything, but should double check once in Cusco. Total cost for our hospital visit there was around 10$. After a long bus ride, Kelly and I arrived in Cusco to our couchsurf with Wilman, who I must thank greatly for his patience.
The next day Jayne and Jeremy arrived, we looked over the bikes, and sorted our things. My shoulder and chest were sore, but not bad after some pain medication I had taken. All gear sorted and Jugs pushed uphill to a parking lot, Kelly and I finally set off to the clinic after noon, just to be sure nothing was broken.
I had xrays at 3pm. My surgery was set for 7pm. Talk about service!
The hours that followed were spent on the phone to Jayne and the insurance company, including brief discussion of flying home to Canada. Since I have no provincial coverage there anymore, the decision was made to have the surgery here in Peru. Jayne and the boys came by for a pre-surgery party, thenÂ surgery was had.
Things were less jovial after surgery. The pain I felt when I first woke up is something I wish on no one else anywhere ever.
The realities of the changes to our trip also began to set in. Our travel buddies will carry on without us, of course, but Jayne is caught between a rock and a hard place. The window to hit Ushuaia is Dec-March, but Jayne had been hoping for January. And visiting friends in Chile for Christmas.
Kelly had been wanting to go to Machu Picchu this whole trip, but now with dressings to change a multi-day Jungle trek doesn’t sound enjoyable.Â There is a palpable feeling of apathy about the very expensive ruins.
So many small moments could have been the difference. I should have stayed in bed. I should have stayed an extra day. I should have just caught up with everyone later. I should have stopped to have Kelly take off her sweater. We shouldn’t have had any of us riding at night (Tom).
Above all, I should have slowed down for that water.
But we were also very lucky. We were wearing our gear. The bike didn’t land on either of us. None of the other bikes were close enough to get taken out. Strangers stopped to help immediately. A broken clavicle and rib aren’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. I have a great group of friends who jumped in to help. The local and extended motorcycle community have all offered whatever support they can. I have a great sister who hassles the staff to get what I need, changes our dressings and otherwise nurses the nurseman.
Looks like we’ll be in a holding pattern for 2-4 weeks. We’ll see what comes next.
This blog post is well out of order, but figured it was better to be timely. The bright side is we’ll have a lot of time on our hands while the clavicle heals to write and share all the fun stories we have built up before this less-fun one.