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October 26, 2011
A dog and his broken bones
You all know how much it hurts when you walk blindly into a glass door; now imagine having your feet kicked out from under you and slamming into the unforgiving pavement. Add 250 kilograms to your back and multiply it by 20 kilometres per hour and you have yourself a show stopper.
I haven’t yet described the rest of our journey trough Peru but since this is a significant route adjustment I will talk about it now. After leaving our good friends in Asia we headed North bound for Huaraz. I never felt right about it and only rationalized the mountain journey because it was assured to be beautiful and the traffic would be much better than the standard retards on the Panamerican. The night previous to the incident Deya had an ominous dream; it was one of difficulty and changing of plans. The dream didn’t describe the events that would soon take place but it did describe, fairly well, the results. Here is the event….
The road from Huaraz to the coast is all paved; it’s beautiful and is all curves. The only shame are the drivers, they don’t understand what lanes are. So the technique we have come accustom to is to keep a slow pace and lay the horn on solid to warn anyone of our approach. This means where the speed limit is posted 30 kilometres per hour we are probably doing only 20-25 kilometres per hour. Lame I know but better safe than sorry.
As I round a corner there was a short level stretch before entering the next hairpin turn. I checked my six to make sure Deya was still behind me and then looked forward again. I saw a pack of dogs on the shoulder at my right. I applied the breaks slightly as the leader of the dog pack looked like he was going to run at me. By now I’m likely doing 25-30 kilometres per hour when the dog charged right in front of me with two cronies starting to flank the right side.
Now, what normally happens is that the dog charges out then chases the tyre until he’s tired. I slow to get him beside me then give him a run for his money but this time was different. The dog paced to my left with my swerve, as I adjusted right he turned to get in front again. The dog was determined to block me but I was confidant I could dodge him.
As I went right I suddenly felt a significant impact on the front wheel as it was lifted and jarred hard, like having your feet kicked from under you. The wheel hammered to the left and I thought in my mind that the throttle came right out of my hand. For a moment I figured I somehow hit the attacking dog but Deya later confirmed that it was the third dog in the line that bolted straight under my front wheel which forced the wheel fast and hard to the left. I was going slow enough that dog number three overtook me and dog number two, then cut left at full speed into the wheel, his miscalculation, I never saw him.
Before I would hear the painful cries of the dog I would feel the thunderous crack of my right wrist hitting the ground. The impact was so fast and hard I felt my bone chatter as shockwave was sent straight up my arm to my spine. Immediately I thought my arm was likely broken.
The next sensation was the screaming of the dog I just hit as my left shoulder rolled into the road with crippling impact. The road heaved with such strength but without speed, until I felt my shoulder tearing away from those bones and ligaments that hold it in place. The weight was unbearable and I felt like I was ten times my normal body weight as I was forced into the roadway. The pain was numbingly intense and it was then that I wondered if this roller coaster of a train wreck would end, and wanted nothing more at that moment than to have my body come to a rest, but it didn’t.
Next I felt the crush of weight and the cruelty of torture in my right foot. Something was tearing at and crippling my foot as the foot and right leg became hyper extended. It seemed like an eternity as my leg was stretched and twisted and I was convinced it would come apart at any moment. It went on for an age until I was released from its grip and rolled to a stop.
I ended on my left side, the dog still screaming, my engine still running close to me and searing pain running in courses through my body. I was lying on my newly separated shoulder and felt like puking as I struggled to identify if my leg was still attached. I tried to move and was met with a howl from my core, the cry was half suffering and half rage. I managed to put my legs together to feel that my foot and knee were still pointing in the same direction as my good left leg. The right foot and knee were still in one piece though I was surprised by this and so tried to roll off my left shoulder and onto my back. I was met again by another agonizing howl as I fought to find a position without so much pain, I could not.
Just then Deya arrived, I told her to turn off the bike and to come back immediately. I felt the bike nearby me and the thought that gasoline might ignite meant Deya needed to make the scene safe. If there was a fire I knew that I would not be able to rescue myself. Deya left, I heard the engine stop and Deya screaming about the dogs, really she was laying a rather vicious curse on the family of the property where the dogs emerged from. The curse had enough impact to send the women screaming off in fear. I heard Deya say she was going to pick up the bike then come back.
Moments past and I studied my situation; I was still on my side and accepted that this would be a painful journey since I was apparently helpless and unable to force myself to move. Deya returned and another person was with her, the guy tried to lift me and I shouted to stop. Despite my ridiculously painful position I hadn’t yet determined if there was any neck or spinal damages and so I told Deya to make sure no one moves me. I began to describe different areas that I was sure were damaged. Eventually I had Deya roll me off my shoulder and onto my back without any twisting; it was infinitely more comfortable.
As a rather large crowd gathered I assessed my wounds. I could feel my right wrist, powerless and swollen from the anterior side of the caporals down to the whole wrist. It looked bad but felt worst, a good sign in general. The left shoulder was screaming at me and my arm was useless as I wondered how an 8-10 year old native kid and his parents thought it was okay to repeatedly kick me in the right leg. I asked Deya to tell him to stop and his mom slapped him away but not before at least two more short kicks.
I spelled out my injuries and had Deya search for more, removing my right boot, helmet and riding jacket; half of my fears were that the medics might cut them off. Sitting up to take the jacket off was a horrible and epic effort, especially at 3200 metres of altitude. The right knee, to my surprise and pleasure, was functional and likely only had some tearing of muscle or ligament. My right foot was bleeding at the heel from the crush it suffered earlier, despite that wound there was no damage to my boots; I can’t imagine what would have happened had I not had a heavy riding boot on.
The crowd of locals that circled around were now leaving but three ladies from town had stayed to call the police and protect me from the sun. It would be a while before the police showed up. They would then load me into the truck for the long, winding and painful road back to town and the clinic where I would spend the next few days in. I’ll explain how the medical services work here in Peru later. The police were very helpful and the tallest officer with the most experience riding took my bike back to town, followed by Deya. It only took a couple of turns to realize that the fellow has no idea how to ride.
Don’t get me wrong I’m happy for the help but one common theme here in Latin America is that everyone thinks they know how to ride because they can get on and make it move. And while people drive around as well as a trained monkey, the claim of driving knowledge is fiercely overstated. I appreciated the effort none the less.
I’m now sitting in a hospital bed typing with a disconnected left shoulder, a right arm in a cast from a break, IV drip running, a right leg that doesn’t like my weight and a bloody right foot. All is good but for the logistics of how we are going to proceed. It may be a month before I can hold a coffee cup.
The one thing I know for sure is that Deya is no princess and is the real musketeer of this story; she is also getting good at picking up the broken pieces of Brian when disaster hits. We now just need a duffle bag. Thank you Deya, you handled this like a champ!