One Crash and One New Partner
Cycling the length of South America is not without incident…
Column by Laura Bingham
I can certainly say that on this trip I have encountered quite a few events. Cycling across a continent with no money is pretty eventful in itself, but this month I experienced a second crash and this time, it was much worse. You’ll remember my old cycling partner, Cho, who was knocked off his bike earlier this year but luckily walked away with no injuries, well, this time it was my fiancé Ed, and he didn’t just get up and walk away.
We were cycling through La Paz and Ed was slightly in front of me on my left hand side. He was at my 10/11’oclock peripherally but my eyes were completely focused on the tarmac as it raced beneath my tyre. I began to look up to focus on the road in front of me but as I did a lorry flew past us, millimeters away from Ed! I went to shout to him but before I could get my sentence out, a second lorry came by too close and took Ed with it. His body rebounded off the side of the vehicle and propelled through the air and he landed in front of my bike. I screamed and panicked! No! This couldn’t be happening! This can’t happen to him! I was in complete denial as he lay in front of me writing in pain – but he was moving. Screaming, yes, but he was conscious. I sat next to him praying for him to catch his breath, but he was struggling to breath and started to go pale.
I ran out in to the road and tried to wave down a car as I needed to get him to a hospital. A car pulled over followed by another one to help and they lifted Ed in to the back and drove us to the nearest health centre. He was becoming very pale and the journey to the health centre was across an extremely bumpy route which only intensified his pain. I was incredibly worried and kept insisting we took Ed to a hospital not a health centre, he needed urgent medical attention! When we finally arrived at the health centre, there were lots of people outside talking and looking confused. There was no one there to help them. Everyone was waiting for the doctor to arrive. I was becoming frustrated, how could there be no one here to help all of these people? I grabbed Ed’s phone and dialed the number on the door. The doctor answered and brushed off my urgency by saying ‘yes I’ll be there soon’ and hung up the phone. I was in shock. How could this be happening? Not only was there no one around who could help anyone, but the one person who could advise me hung up on me!
The doctor finally arrived along with a nurse who immediately attended to Ed. They gave him something to numb the pain and a few men helped lift him on to a stretcher and in to the back of an ambulance (which was basically just a 4×4 with the seat down) and we were driven to the hospital. Several hours and many X-rays later, Ed was thankfully given the all clear. He had a very good selection of cuts and scratches as well as some severe internal bruising, but he was OK and extremely lucky.
The accident happened 75km away from Ed’s finishing point which was where he was due to fly home in two days time and a new partner was to join me. Ed couldn’t cycle on, so he decided to stay in a cheap hotel near to the airport and wait out those two days. Saying goodbye felt easier than the first time, maybe because I am stronger now, but I felt excited about my new cycle partner joining me and this kept me positive. Her name was Ness, and we hit it off from the word go. It was so nice to have a woman join me, we had lots to talk about and I loved having her from the first pedal. When I said goodbye to Ed, I met Ness and we hitchhiked back to the point where Ed got hit and went on to cycle 595km in the next six days.
We worked as a great team, Ness and I. Having her with me was great; she was extremely motivating and encouraging and after everything that had just happened, it was just what I needed to help push through. For the six days she was with me we had pretty much flat road the whole way which we flew through. The temperature was perfect, not too hot or too cold, but because of the altitude the UV rays were strong and Ness got badly sun burnt. Her legs and arms were purple and looked very painful, but she didn’t let this knock her positivity and remained upbeat despite her pain. We chatted about a lot of things, but it wasn’t long before we started planning our own adventure together – so watch this space for a ‘double trouble’ adventure!
When we arrived in Uyuni, I said goodbye to Ness as her time with me came to an end. She took the bus back to La Paz where we had begun together and flew home. I was sad to see her go as she had really helped me the last few days keeping my mind busy and from worrying too much about Ed. I now had three days to wait until my next partner was to join me, my sister! I was so excited to see her after all this time, but until then I had no idea where I was going to stay. Fortunately I had made a friend whilst I was in La Paz, Hugo Aseff, who managed to arrange with his friend a place for me to stay and oh boy was I in luck! I stayed in a hotel called El Palacio de Sal and it was beautiful! It was made purely of salt and happened to serve the most amazing breakfast and dinner buffet I had experienced in months. I was in heaven! From living on the streets to sleeping and eating in a fancy hotel, just goes to show, you never know what’s around the corner…