Cynthia Milton's Paradise Lost

I support the BM Riders Club

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Crashed again - Porvenir

28th January 2006

Another slight 'Off' on the Ripio in Chile with Cynth fairly well bruised but OK and some bike damage. Photos below.

Here's Cynthia story

Had a lovely ride north from Ushuaia with Rupert on Saturday morning, up to the border at San Sebastian. On the Argentinian side was a gaggle of trailies ridden by Finns and Americans, being led by none other than Roberto, the Chilean chap who was so helpful getting me and the wreck to Coyhaique after the Crash. So it was nice to be able to thank him properly and give him a hug and a kiss.

This is where the tarmac ends. So, on to the Chilean side, do the paperwork and have a cuppa before the 100-mile hack to Porvenir to get the ferry across the Magellan Strait to Punta Arenas. Chilean dirt is pretty decent - hard-packed and not too much gravel except on the bends. We were able to do 50-60mph much of the time, which also helps iron out the corrugations.

About 45 miles in we slowed down a bit as there was more gravel; and then suddenly there was what can only be described as a 30-yard-long 6-inch-deep gravel pit. Rupert got across OK, so I reckoned I'd be all right. Er, wrong. Nearly made it, but got totally crossed-up at the last minute and binned it. Erewegoagain.

Rupert had seen what happened in his mirror and had been frantically waving to try to slow me down a bit, but I'd been concentrating on the gravel and hadn't seen him.

Anyway, there I lay, thinking ribs and collarbone, both of which had borne the brunt yet again. As we all know, if you damage a body part it for ever after wears a sign saying "Hit Me". After about ten minutes a pickup stopped, and Rupert explained so the chap hurtled off to Porvenir, 50 miles away, to send an ambulance. Only two other vehicles passed in the two hours we waited, during which time Rupert sorted the bike a bit and picked up bits which had gone flying.

When the ambulance arrived it was all the usual stuff, upon which the carabineros arrived from the border:

[Policeman, in Spanish] What was the cause of the accident? [Me] El ripio. [Policeman] Si, claro.

The doctor at the hospital positively boggled at the X-ray of my shoulder, although I'd explained that I broke it last April. It is, it has to be said, rather a mess and it's not surprising it's been giving me grief. Anyway, nothing's broken, only rather bruised, so after night in the hospital we decamped to the hotel, me clutching my painkillers.

Rupert (who speaks pretty good Spanish) had had a fruitful discussion with the border police about the bike, and although they insisted on taking it back to the border they agreed to get it to Porvenir on Monday. So on Monday morning we went first to the police station where I was welcomed by name and my health asked after, after which they explained we just had to go round to the Fiscal who were was sorting everything out. They said the bike would be arriving around 1pm and that they'd ring us. So at 2pm we ambled back; there was the bike, thank heavens, and I only had to sign a release and it was mine. At no time would anyone take any money - I tried to pay the hospital and failed, and the Fiscal and police didn't seem to want anything for transporting the bike all over the countryside, even though it had clearly damaged their pickup as there's more than a little carabineros green paint adhering to various sticky-out bits.

We removed the luggage and Rupert pushed and coasted the bike to the hotel while one of the Fiscal chaps brought the boxes in a pickup, pausing only to give me a hug and a kiss.

It appears I'm a bit of a celebrity; on Sunday night there was a bunch of birdwatchers in the hotel led by a chap from Suffolk, and the Chilean with got all excited and started talking about some newspaper article. I denied any knowledge, but he produced the paper and sure enough there was an article about the accident giving all the gory details (clearly there are no rules here about extracting information from police or doctors) and a photo of me emerging from the X-ray room in a wheelchair. So much for keeping it quiet.

Porvenir has a population of 4,000, and even here in the internet caff in a back street they knew who I was. Blimey.

So Phil Hawksley is yet again sorting some parts for me - it's mostly plastic bits as there's no major damage - and I'll just bum around till they arrive. I'll have to nip across to Punta Arenas for couple of days to get money (can't get any here) and see a dentist, but that's easy and will while away the time a bit. I've some more pix, too, especially as Rupert was kind enough to use my camera to take pix of me lying down for a rest in the middle of the road.

The story in Rupert's words

On Saturday we headed north with the intention of crossing back out of Tierra del Fuego from Porvenir to Punta Arenas and then heading up to Calafate where I intend to do some trekking while Cynthia wants to split off and head up the east coast.

The ride up to the ferry is about 250 miles, the last 100 being on gravel roads or 'ripio'. Many motorcyclists have come to grief on ripio. Generally there are grooves left by the cars which are fine, but the gravel tends to get heaped up on either side and sometimes there are no grooves, which can be lethal for bikes.

Early on I nearly dropped the bike several times. I found the trick is to stand on the pegs relax my grip and go for it. Anyway, we got to the frontier crossing at San Sebastian, where I fueled up.

We met a group of American & Finnish riders who were on group tour. Remarkably, Cynthia knew the group leader as he was the man who organised her rescue last year when she came off on the dreaded ripio. She was pleased to able at last to thank him properly. The border guards couldn't understand that we were travelling separately & that we weren't married. The women keep their names so our passports didn't convince them. You always have to show your registration documents, which also seemed to confuse them as we were on different bikes!

Well, we set off on the ripio with me in front this time. The first 50 miles weren't too bad and we made good progress, but it gradually got worse. Cynthia was starting to fall back so I slowed down. All of a sudden I saw a section of deep gravel ahead of me. Nothing for it-stand on the pegs and blast through it. My bike shot through, no probem. The moment I was through I slowed down and waved to Cynthia to slow down, but she couldn't see me through the dust. I was worried because I'm riding a modern bike which for all it's size is pretty nimble, whereas Cynthia was on an old style BMW which does not have the same up to date characteristics as the newer ones. As I watched in my mirrors she almost got through then her bike suddenly spun out of control and she was thown off. As i rode back I didn't know what I would find. We were in the middle of nowhere. I had not seen a single house or vehicle. Cynthia was lying on her back, she was having trouble breathing and the shoulder she broke last year was hurting her a lot. Both the saddle and petrol tank on her bike had detached themselves. The headlamp consol was smashed up with wires sticking out everywhere and bits and pieces were stewn all about. For a moment I felt at a loss, but then I got a grip and went through the proceedures I had been through so many times in the past. The difference here was that we had no back up. I had no idea when someone might come along. Lucliily after about 10 minutes a car showed up which I flagged down. Luckily the driver was a switched on guy. We decided it was too dangerous to move Cynthia as her back was also hurting along with her neck. The driver high tailed it off for Porvenir to get help, all of 50 miles of ripio away.

We had to wait 2 & half hours for the ambulance. Luckily Cynthia stabilised during this period and her breathing got easier. She was completely conscious and able to speak. We chatted a lot .I picked her bike up and collected all the bits and pieces together. She wasn't sure if she would be able to continue her trip as she thought she had broken her shoulder again. I kept

quiet as I felt this wasn't the time to be making long term plans. Once the ambulance arrived they put a neck brace on her and strapped her down in the back of the vehicle. Meanwhile I headed off to find an estancia which i had seen sign posted earlier (the only sign of habitation on that route). The intention was to get a vehicle out to collect the bike to keep it safely until we could recover it. I set off down about a mile long lane, that was very muddy and filled with enormous puddles which were very deep.

This was at variance with rest of the landscape which was very akin to English moorland. Before long I dropped my bike in a ditch. With all the luggage it weighs a ton but with no one around; no excuses. Luckily the big knobbly tyres I have dragged me back onto firmer ground. This was no place to make mistakes as I was totally alone. I gave myself a talking to-calm down, think about your off road skills and ride the bike like you mean it.

When I arrived at the estancia I found a couple of gauchos. They wanted to help, but there weren't any vehicles about. They only had horses. I set off back to the accident site. The ambulance was still there, but now the police had arrived in a pick up. Eventually the ambulance set off having hung around for all of an hour. The police were from the frontier post we had crossed so they would have to take the bike back there, but said it would be delivered to Porvenir on Monday. We manhandled the bike onto the back of the pickup. No mean feat considering we couldn't take the aluminium cases off as Cynthia had the keys. We all shook hands and the police warned me to be careful on the ripio!

I had the most fantastic ride to Porvenir. The road dipped up and down right alongside the coast. The views were stunning what with the sea on one side and the wild rolling moors on the other. I soon got the swing of it and the big BM just chewed up the miles and everything the ripio threw at it. In retrospect I was maybe a little rash but it was probably a reaction to recent events.

Once in Porvenir I bought some medicine for Cynthia in the shape of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Upon arrival at the hospital Cynthia was being wheeled to a ward room. The local press were there taking photos. Cynthia had her own room and was rapidly becoming a celebrity. Porvenir is a small place & I don't suppose an awful lot happens here.

We soon tucked into the JD hiding it every time the staff entered. Once again they assumed we were married and said I could stay over in her room. There was a comfortable chair which could stretch out and tilt. One of the nurses ordered a take away for us, which was delicious. Various meats and chips. Cynthia wanted to sleep on the chair as it was more comfortable for her. The nurses must have thought I was a right male chauvinistic bastard when they found me in the bed the next morning! They gave both of us breakfast and lunch before Cynthia was discharged-no breaks thank God.

Neither the police or the hospital charged for their services. They were all really kind and helpful throughout the ordeal. I followed Cynthia's taxi to a good hotel. I was prepared to sleep in my tent but she insisted I stay in the hotel at her expense. The bike rolled up at the police compound on Monday, as promised. They signed it off and I pushed it back to the hotel, the police delivered the panniers later. Meanwhile an article had appeared in the local paper giving all the details about the accident and Cynthia's injuries (highly irregular!), not to mention her husband in tow!

We established that the damage to the bike wasn't as bad as it looked. Cynthia made a list and contacted friends and suppliers back in the UK to ship out spares.


Argentinian border post at San Sebastian with US/Finnish riders

Argentinian border post at San Sebastian with USFinnish riders

Here I am, still upright

Here I am, still upright

Lovely Roberto who helped me after the first crash

Lovely Roberto who helped me after the first crash.

Rupert kindly recorded the aftermath for me

Rupert kindly recorded the aftermath for me

Rupert kindly recorded the aftermath for me

Rupert kindly recorded the aftermath for me

Rupert kindly recorded the aftermath for me

Rupert kindly recorded the aftermath for me

No new break but the old one's not very nice

No new break but the old one's not very nice.






Newspaper Cutting