January 14, 2002 GMT
Peru - over the mountainside

A truck approached us. The driver jumped out and we quickly up-righted the bike and got it over to the side, so the truck could squeeze by. Frank sat down in the rain and said ‘Dale, move your bike over a little so the truck can get by’. I really didn’t have any room to move, so thought I would take it off the kickstand and just lean it a little to the right to give a couple more inches. As my foot touched the edge, it gave away. I was tumbling and sliding with my bike down the mountain...

Frank & Peruvian kids .... mucho mutual admiration

1/14 leaving Lima, Peru We headed out on what we thought would be a continuing great paved highway. About 50 or 60 miles out, it went away - we struggled all day on this awful rock road @ 10 & 15 mph, and really beating up our MC’s. Towards eve, it started raining - things were miserable. We plodded even slower through the mountains and through a couple of villages, but no hotel. No choice but to go on into the night.

Traffic was sparse with glaring lights. I had been leading; we stopped a moment in the rain and said ‘Things could be worse’. Frank took the lead and said, ‘Let’s be safe, and not have you falling again’. Two or three minutes later, I could hardly make out what I was seeing. Frank’s bike was down on the road, his headlight facing left into the side of the mountain. I pulled up beside Frank’s bike and parked on the right side of the one-lane road. I tried to talk to Frank, no response. He was laying in water & mud (it was pitch black). He started moaning. I kept saying, ‘Frank, are you okay?’ No answer; he got to his feet, but couldn’t stand, kept staggering sideways. ‘Frank, are you hurt or just dazed?’ He finally said (about 4 or 5 minutes by now), ‘I’m just dazed, I think’.

A truck approached us. The driver jumped out and we quickly up-righted the bike and got it over to the side, so the truck could squeeze by. Frank sat down in the rain and said ‘Dale, move your bike over a little so the truck can get by’. I really didn’t have any room to move, so thought I would take it off the kickstand and just lean it a little to the right to give a couple more inches. As my foot touched the edge, it gave away. I was tumbling and sliding with my bike down the mountain. My bike and I stopped suddenly against a thorn bush. I was dazed now... couldn’t see anything at first, but soon saw that my bike and I had a potential greater fall if I wasn’t careful. I couldn’t stand up, too steep and slippery; I didn’t want to hang onto my bike, for fear it & I would go into the abyss.

Frank was now yelling frantically for me. I said, ‘I’m okay’.

He said, ‘Where’s your bike?’ I said, ‘It’s right here with me, but I can’t move’.
(I had fallen about 30 feet).

Frank said, ‘What are we going to do?’ ‘I don’t know’.

‘I think I broke my collarbone and I can’t help’, he said, ‘The trucker went to get help’.

I said, ‘Frank, it will take a winch to get us out.’ As I was waiting, I tried to calm myself, but I kept panicking at seeing the occasional vehicle far below me with its sweeping headlight beams, as it would maneuver up the mountain on those hairpin one-lane roads. When a beam would sweep under me, I could see plainly how vulnerable I was as I perched there. It was a vertical drop.

Don’t know how long I waited. Frank said later it was about two hours...my legs and arms kept cramping, as I was trying to stay on the mountain, holding onto a pencil-thin sprout of some kind. Finally, I heard voices, and then a rope. I tied it to my handlebars and I could then relax a little, I now had something to hold on to. But, even then, I slipped and grabbed for my bike to catch myself, and panicked when I couldn’t instantly grab something. I clawed for my back wheel spokes and connected.

The people up there tugged to no avail. After a while, another rope came and I tied it to my handlebars also. No movement. Then another - I tied it to my front forks. A Peruvian villager came rappelling towards me, talking to me madly (no comprende). The ropes couldn’t budge it. So, while hanging on to the ropes, we started unloading the baggage from the bike and tying each to a 4th rope (this was maddening in the rain and mud). I soon realized I couldn’t see very well because my glasses were muddy. Now, with the bike unloaded, it started moving. I was no help; as a matter of fact, I kept grabbing the bike to keep from going down. The great many villagers up there somewhere were chanting a rhythm of tug & rest, and the bike started moving inches at a time (WOW). I couldn’t help; I gave up, had to rest. A new rope came down for me. I wrapped it around my right hand several times and said ‘ok’. Out I came, but it was still scary, walking up the mountain horizontally, all my weight back and relying on someone wonderful up there to pull me to safety.

When I reached topside, Frank said ‘Dale, I’m so glad you’re okay’, ‘They need your help now to get the bike up.’ The masses of helpers were straining to pull the bike up the last bit, but the front wheel was caught on the edge of the road. So I kneeled down and strained to lift it up over, ...just an inch, the bike popped up over the edge. It took all my strength and air; I was passing out. My God, I thought, I’m falling back in! At that moment, a pair of vice-grip hands grabbed me so hard from behind that it pinched. When I turned to see who this he-man was, I was looking into the eyes of a very old woman. Next, I was back against the bank, safe, wet, gasping, and people giving me agua (water). We now had a traffic jam on the mountain. Frank said, ‘Dale, get your packs back on your bike and see if we can get of the road and let these wonderful people go home.

First, I tried to start my KLR, and my God, it started. I took my slippery, sloppy bags & stuff and tried to bungee them on the bike - somehow, I did it. Frank said, ‘My bike won’t start now because I’ve been using the headlight for the rescue and the battery is dead’.

After 20 or so minutes, Frank got his bike jumped & started and with a broken collarbone, he unbelievably drove up the mountain again.

When we arrived at Chincheros, (took about a half hour), Frank didn’t want to go to the hospital, but to a hotel and clean up and rest, we’d see about a hospital manana. We got our bikes secured and the hotel owners, Felix and Rosa, showed us to a primitive room. It had 2 beds and was dry.

Felix brought us some black coffee and the ambulance guy came and looked Frank over. Frank could rest for the night and go to the hospital tomorrow.

Frank took 1000 cc’s of ibuprophen and bedded himself painfully.

After a while, laying in bed, thinking about this unbelievable night, Frank said, ‘Dale, I’m glad they had a room with 2 beds in it. I don’t think I want to be alone tonight’. This was in the village of Chincheros, Peru.

Posted by Dale Thornton at January 14, 2002 12:00 AM GMT

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