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
ambulance arrived it was all the usual stuff, upon which the carabineros
arrived from the border:
Spanish] What was the cause of the accident? [Me] El ripio. [Policeman] Si,
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.