Before I start this blog post I'm showing you this photo. It is evidence that it is always necessary to wear gloves and a helmet when biking. The story of this glove is related below.
This past weekend I joined a group of crew members in heading up to Kpalime, a three-hour drive north and a little west of the ship, close to the Ghanaian border. The drive there was uneventful - I wish I could say the same for my time in Kpalime. Third Officer Eric and I were going to be biking (and staying at Hotel le Geyser) in Kpalime, while the others were staying at a campsite in the hills above the town.
Eric and I went out biking into town on Saturday afternoon and came across the start of "Le Tour du Togo" cycle race, with cyclists from Togo, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso and other African nations taking part. After a hour or so we headed back towards the hotel but I decided that I hadn't had enough cycling and carried on into the hills above Kpalime. My intention was to meet up with the group camping in the hills near the waterfalls. However, I took a number of wrong turns and by the time I was on the right track it was time for me to head back to the hotel. There was quite a long uphill that I had cycled up and thus had to cycle down again and it was on this descent where trouble struck.
Three cars were coming towards me as I was speeding down the hill at around 40 km/h. There was a stationary car parked on the right (on my side of the road). Between the oncoming cars and this parked car was a narrow strip of road, full of potholes. There was no way to avoid them and no time to slow down. I hit the potholes hard (the impact caused my chain to jump off the back cog and wedge itself between the frame and the cog) and I lost control and hit the tarmac. I skidded along for several metres, cutting and scraping along the left side of my body, including my knee, hip, elbow and chest. My left hand would have been shredded badly had I not been wearing my cycling gloves. They quite literally saved my skin (as the photo here shows).
I lay dazed on the tarmac for a few seconds and the first thought to go through my mind was "Oh no, I've crashed my poor bike!" Then my mind turned to my scrapes and grazes and how I would get back the 10 or so kilometres to the hotel. As I was slowly getting up and checking my bike, a motorbike stopped a few metres ahead and gave me (and my bike - awkwardly balanced on my lap) a lift back to the hotel.
When we arrived at the hotel my legs had gone into shock and I couldn't bend my knees - a natural shock reaction, I am told. Eric and the hotel staff helped clean the wounds with water and then alcohol (which stung like crazy). Eric then left me to re-clean the wounds while he went in search of medical supplies in town. So I was able to get clean and bandaged up (with the help of some insulation tape to hold the bandages in place), and have now been checked out and patched up fully by the Wound Care nurse here on the ship. I am thankful to say that although I came out of my accident beaten and bruised, my bike was completely unscathed - which is a minor miracle considering the speed I was going!
Anyway, let’s return to the weekend… I then spent the vast majority of my time away from ship relaxing at the hotel. At lunchtime on Sunday the other group arrived and we bundled into two vehicles and headed back to the ship - only to get caught for an hour or so behind the leading peloton in "Le Tour du Togo" - which was quite exciting for me, being somewhat of a cycling enthusiast myself!
And so ended my rather eventful weekend off-ship… Would I change it for anything else? Nah, it all adds to the adventure of serving with Mercy Ships!