Chapter 27: Bikepacking the Altravesur-Hospital to the UK
17th June to 3rd July 2019
In the arid plains of the Sierra de Cazorla, I had fallen heavily from my bike, and was somewhat dazed. The first thing I knew that I'd fallen was that I could hear myself screaming and grunting, I'd winded myself, something I'd done a few times when having fallen over the handlebars, but never this heavily. I'd fallen face first onto the rocky camino. My left arm was in great pain.
Assessing the situation, my Gorilla cage, that holds luggage onto the bike fork had fell off into the wheel and stopped the bike dead. I think the bike somersaulted with me still on it for the first part of the fall.
I took my fleece out of my rucksack and made a sling for my left arm. Every movement, of my other arm, when I breathed, got up, coughed or walked, created great pain in my left arm and my chest, and where the ribs joins my armpit.
I couldn’t believe it; I knew this would be curtains for my Altravesur ride. I was trying not to panic; I knew other areas hurt but only my arm and chest were bad. I could walk and use my right arm, being right-handed, that was a bonus.
The Gorilla cage was tangled between the forks and the wheel, I managed to get it out, by emptying the contents. I had food, water and shelter, everything I needed to be stranded for a day or two if needs be.
I thought there was little hope of a vehicle passing by so decided to make my way to the village, thinking it was only around five kilometres away. I tried pushing my bike, but with one hand and unable to get my rucksack back on, I only got ten metres or so, then I dropped it.
By then I realised that I had gone into shock, I was in a cold sweat and dizzy. I returned back to the shade of the bush and laid down for a while. I wasn’t thinking straight but knew not to panic. The lens of my GoPro was smashed, but it still turned on, so I recorded my ramblings. I could have sworn it was on when I crashed, but there’s no footage. It helped, talking to my GoPro, it kept me thinking and calm.
I decided I’d strip the luggage from my bike and put it in the holdall that I carry with me, exactly for an incident like this. It took some time with one hand. I hid Bay in a bush and tried to walk, with the heavy holdall and my heavy rucksack, it didn’t work, I could only manage a few steps before I had to put them down. Thinking back, I should have emptied my bags of everything but food, water and shelter, it would have been easier to walk with less weight.
I continued to walk slowly, I’m not really sure what happened, perhaps I fell asleep, eventually a truck came along, from the direction I was going. I stopped it by walking in the middle of the camino, two men, Domingo the driver and Antonio the passenger, were in it. Their face when they saw the state of me was a picture, I’d cut my face and was covered in dust. They put my bags and me on the back seat, and they drove further back into the plateau. They explained that it was their sheep I’d seen earlier, and they wanted to go to their navé to do some jobs, that would only take a few minutes. After they’d done their work we set off for the village, it was probably around 5pm by now.
On our way back down the camino, we were trying to find my bike, but couldn’t see it anywhere, luckily I’d thought whilst walking that I may not be able to find the bush again, so took a photo of the general area, after showing that to Antonio, he figured out which bush my bike was behind, and put it in the back of the pickup. Jeez, what a vulnerable situation I was in, I’m not a very trusting person, but had to fully trust that Domingo and Antonio were good guys, and that’s what they turned out to be. It was painful, Domingo drove slower and slower to try and make it comfortable for me but I could feel every stone and slight undulation. They kept saying ‘not much longer on the camino’ and the surfaced road was soon, but it seemed to take forever! I don’t know which village we went to or how long it took, they took me to a clinic and waited around until I was in good hands. I was put in a wheelchair, my arm still in my fashioned-up sling, and taken inside.
In Spain, medics won’t tend to you