On Thursday, 11th June 2015, I completed my circumnavigation of New Zealand’s South Island by bike. It was a less-than-simple day! Here’s how it happened…
Around 2pm and about 4km from the end of the Queen Charlotte Track, the front wheel struck a hard, but slippy patch of mud. I lost control and, trying to bail and stay clear of the bike, ended up sliding off the side of the left bank headfirst, a la Superman.
What happened next was one of my worst nightmares from this trip! I felt the loaded bike coming down on top of me as I slid. I stopped after about 8m, but the bike passed me and carried on another 2m, hitting the tree in the picture you saw yesterday.
I recall my first instinct being to check I still had all my teeth, which I did, before saying out loud to myself – because that’s what I do on this adventure, all the time – “You are so funkin lucky to still have all your teeth, Dunc! How have you still got all your teeth?!” I couldn’t believe this had happened, though! On that day, of all the days. I *had* to finish then. I couldn’t not finish. I wanted to finish then!
I spent the next 20 minutes in a mild state of shock, which I monitored, breathing calmly and assessing myself to ensure I didn’t slip in any further. My entire upper body was stinging with pain, but I could still use it.
We were a long way down from the track. I managed a climb up to dump my hydration pack on the track, hoping it would act as a marker if anyone passed and could then help out. I popped a couple of Ibuprofen as I knew there would be swelling and I had to get out of there, so knocking any pain on the head was bound to help.
I clambered back down to the bike, using trees as hand holds as I descended. The papers, maps, notepad and everything else from my front bag was strewn everywhere, like a true crash site. I tidied up, pulled the bike back round, unclipped everything and began, really cautiously and slowly, moving my gear back up to the track. My right shoulder through to my neck was stinging as I carried the stuff. First the bags, tent and sleeping bag, before finishing with the bike.
The bike hadn’t even broken a spoke, which is amazing really, since that is its trick du jour. The brakes were a bit strange, but still worked. I loaded the gear on and just rode. I rode right out of there! It was now an hour since the smash.
I made it to Anakiwa, where there was nothing open, before just gunning the 23km to Picton. I just rode and rode and rode. I was starving, I had missed lunch, but I tried to find a St John station in Picton first, which I couldn’t. The painkillers and a drop or two of adrenalin were keeping me going. I grabbed some dirty takeaway food (that was actually quite nice) and made for the Interislander check-in.
Once sailing, I had three crew members, all trained in either emergency response or first aid, check up on me in the medical room. I was brought an ice pack to hold on the most swollen part of my chest and was looked after very well.
We arrived in Wellington and I rode to my friend Harri’s flat, dumped my gear, before riding on to Wellington Hospital’s ED. X-rays, ECG, ultrasound, all the tests were all carried out and eventually it was let on to me, by the delightful Dr Chetna, that I hadn’t broken anything!
Some soft tissue injury to my right chest, a bashed sternum, a badly drawn trapezium boy and a double backflip on the high-horse was all it was! They kept me in overnight for some Truman Show-style observation, before ramming a needle in my arm and wiping my legs down with booze in the morning. Great place and great food!
I need to take some time off now to rest for a few days. Thanks to you all for the kind messages. Now I know that nothing is broken, I can get excited and say:
WE BLOODY DID IT! WE BLOODY FINISHED THE SOUTH ISLAND!