January 28, 2006 GMT
Lying Down for a Rest

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.

Posted by Cynthia Milton at January 28, 2006 07:21 PM GMT

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