Mountain Biking the Camino de Mozarabe Day Five - Monterrubio to Medellin
A bright and beautiful morning beckoned....it wouldnt last.
Early to bed, early to rise...well, not always. Fatigue was starting to take its toll and evening meals were subdued, especially so when in small towns with bugger all to see or do.
The banter was lively as always, and plans for working around the dodgy seat post were weighed and merited. "Drips" was less knackered and obviously wanted his ride back, the post seemed solid enough, and if not, we were cycling to the larger town of Castuera anyway, so maybe we could bodge a better solution until we reached Don Benito, some 75k away.
Another bright and beautiful morning beckoned, the route was downhill, with little of technical merit, and no climbs at all. We´d completed most of the ride now, just two easy days left, an 80k jaunt to Medellin, and then a triumphal final etape of 40k into Merida. The mood was good and it was difficult to comprehend the distance we had travelled and the range and difficulty of the terrain we had crossed. Monterrubio de la Serena is a mixed landscape of gentle hills and mixed olive groves and we cycled along the quite tarmac roads chatting and enjoying the morning sun before hitting the camino again.
The pace was lively but enjoyable, and the camino was broad and forgiving. After some 15k a small depression was ahead, with a right hand bend that had a wide concrete ford at its apex. The ford was for a small stream that drained from the low hills to our right. The concrete base was wide and smooth, but the stream spilled out of the blocked conduit that ran underneath the slab and spread an aqueous sheen across its surface. Sunlight and warmth and nutrient rich water are ideal conditions for algae; these simple multi-celled organisms bloomed in a green, viscous, lubricant that was smeared over the concrete ford....
"Burgers" crossed the ford first, ahead of me was "Dripping", the speed was modest on the small descent to the ford and Burgers was already climbing the other side of this small bowl. A metre to the left, or right: a kilometre an hour slower, or faster: who can tell... Drips hit the slime and the nerve jarring crunch of metal grinding against stone was drowned out by the agonising scream.
Its strange how the primeval centres of our brains instinctively know when something is bad, and that sound was very bad. I slowed and pulled over, Burgs had already dismounted and was walking to Drips aid, and Caler coasted in behind me. Drips was gripping his ankle, his agonised contorted visage, and the the adrenalin fuelled stream of anglo-saxon was plenty enough to signal this really was bad.; we needed a Hospital. The ankle was at an impossible angle, it was clearly broken, as if it had somehow shifted two centimetres to the right...it had.
The Land Rover rolled up, and while triage was administered (pain killers and a thermal blanket!) Conor contacted Emergency services. You just assume locals know everything about what's "local"; they don't. Even though we were only 5km out of Castuera, the operators didn't have a clue where we were. Despite a good and clear explanation, they didn't know the camino we were on, only through patience and clear instructions on how to get where we were did they get some idea of our whereabouts. A good job by our "fixer".
Eventually, some wheezing porter turned up in a van, Fortuna in hand, on his own. Clearly no "first responder", more like "last janitor" The bloke had no medical knowledge, at least he displayed non, and we had to help him with the gurney. It was like watching Norman Wisdom put up a deck chair.
The medical centre at Castuera, while helpful, did nothing more than confirm what we knew, and told us that we needed a "proper" Hospital, Don Benito, some 70km away. We couldn't all go, and we´d be of little use if we did. Conor bundled in the van and set off to Don Benito with Drip, while we, rather down heartedly, set off on the Camino
The day was getting hotter, and todays stage had little in the way of shade, no trees offering dappled patches of coolness, no olive groves to wind our way through, and no mountain breezes, just the hot, dry, dusty camino. The wheat fields had short golden stalks sprouting from the cracked and desiccated soils. It felt a little like riding across Ivan Dragos´scalp.
The trail spewed us rather unceremoniously onto the ring road around Don Benito. Covered in trail dust, hot, and pouring with sweat, we decided that we probably weren't the most hygienic to be visiting Hospital. We rode straight for our overnight at Medelliin, 8k further down a long straight road, clearly Roman in antiquity. Our dour demeanour wasn't helped when we discovered we had to get the inn keeper out of his slumber to come and open the hostel.
Downing some sugar and caffeine (coke!) we quickly dumped our kit, showered and changed, and headed for the MASH unit that passed as the main Hospital for the area. OK, it wasnt that bad, but it was clear that this was not a wealthy province, and not much had been invested here for a long time. It was like walking through a time vortex back to 1962. We learned from Conor the news. Drips was out cold, he´d just had surgery. A Plate and SEVEN Screws!!! He´d shattered and dislocated the base of the Tibia, needing surgery and a cast, and several days in bed.
We drove from the car park wondering how the hell such an innocuous patch of concrete could cause so much damage, especially considering the distance and terrain we´d covered. A strange, sulphurus odour started to seep into the cab, a smell of burning rubber. Pulling over we discovered that Drips and the support vehicle had developed some kind of symbiotic relationship. The Landy had a busted Tibia too, the rear shock absorber had shattered, and the coil had then dislocated from its housing and was scorching the inside rear tyre with the friction. Clearly the Landy also needed several plates and screws and a couple of days in bed.
We managed to get hold of a tow service who came to our aid, and he seemed far more capable than the janitor that serviced Drips. The bloke was a big Land Rover fan, he reseated the coil with the hydraulic ramp on his pick-up trailer, and then asked us to follow him to his unit. He was then kind enough to take us all back to our digs for the night and told us that he would have the car ready by the next morning!
It had been a long, painful day, Drips was badly busted up, much more complicated than a simple break, we had no idea how we were going to get him home, our transport had also died, and we were lodged in a little town some 10k away. We were all tired and drained, and hungry. Sleep came easy.
More Photos on Flickr