After three weeks of living in Lima and working on the motorcycles to get them running smoothly, we were happy to be making miles south. Our plan had us making a fairly easy ride down the sandy coast to Paracas, the Peruvian version of the Galapagos Islands, where we knew a nice hostel that had a pool and rentable kayaks.
For this reason, it was all the more disappointing when Aaron crashed just two hours into that first day. We entered a construction zone. Much of the road was clawed in preparation for repaving, so the bikes would wobble between grooves. Then, once in a while, the lane would shift and we’d have to switch between the shoulder and the grated road.
I was riding in front because I had just had the whole top end of my engine replaced and I was in the break in period. Aaron was annoyed that I wasn’t following as closely, because of the limits I was putting on the engine, so he chose to ride behind. So I saw the accident, but only in the mirror.
I very consciously angled myself on to the shoulder at one point in the construction zone. I think Aaron wasn’t being as conscientious about choosing the right place to make the transfer, because he gently moved himself towards the shoulder, wobbled hard, and then went down.
I can say with confidence that it was the most violent motorcycle crash I have ever personally witnessed. He managed to strike the ground, hard, with both sides of the motorcycle. It wasn’t quite a somersault, but it whipped from one side to the other.
I pulled over as fast as I could and kept my eyes on the aftermath of the crash, hoping to see some movement. I didn’t see any.
This area south of Lima is all sand. I tried to get the kickstand to work properly, but it just wouldn’t. Since I still didn’t see any movement from Aaron, I gently set the bike down in the sand and ran to check on him.
As mentioned early, this was a construction zone. Aaron managed to crash right next to some of the workers there. This meant that mere moments after he hit the ground, they were surrounding him and asking him if he was alright.
He had the air knocked out of him, but he was still gasping “Todos bien,” repeatedly.
By the time I made it the 30 feet over to him, he was already starting to stand up.
The construction workers must have called the police immediately upon seeing the crash, because a police car arrived within moments and suddenly we were being asked to provide our passports and documentation for our motorcycles. We felt this was something of an unnecessary added stress.
I had to get into the bags to get the binder with all the documents out, so I was partially unpacked on the side of the road. Aaron had broken off just about everything that can be broken off of both sides of the handlebars, so he also had to dig through his bags to get the tools needed to properly remove the bits still attached.
All during this, the police are still asking questions and all the construction workers are standing around us watching the show.
An ambulance arrived faster than I thought was even possible. Aaron kept telling the police that he was fine and didn’t need any help, even though he had admitted to me that he’d probably broken a few ribs. He had visible road rash on his side, though, and the police felt it was important to get him into the ambulance.
Aaron and I both realized that, if they took him to the hospital, I would be left with two motorcycles on the side of the road about 20 miles away from the nearest city. On top of that difficulty, one of the motorcycles was definitely in need of some help before it could be ridden.
The way Aaron fought going into the ambulance, I think the police thought he must have some kind of problem with his insurance or something, but they’d seen the insurance an assured him that it was all free.
I didn’t really know what was going on, so when I saw the ambulance start rolling away, I was feeling that I was going to be on my own for a while and would have to figure out how to take care of the bikes.”Maybe I should sent the tent up and wait this out here,” I thought. It was incredibly hot, though.
Inside the ambulance, Aaron was freaking out. As he tells it, he was trying to get out, almost violently, until they toldhim that all they wanted was to wipe the asphalt out of his open wound and that they were only turning the ambulance around so that it would be on the right side of the road.
After the short ride to the other sideof the road, during which one of the paramedics whispered to Aaron that the police were bad news and that he should try to get away from them, they let Aaron out and he went back to trying to fix his bike.
The police, who didn’t look like they were going to leave us alone any time soon, actually turned out to be really helpful.
At first, when Aaron got into their car, they asked him if he had a lot of money and then drove to an empty field. This did not inspire confidence, especially after what the guy had said about them earlier.
But then, they took Aaron to a parts shop nearby and got him back to where I was waiting with the motorcycles in a little over an hour.
When he got back, with apples for me that the police had kindly taken from a shop, we went to work removing the broken bits and replacing them with the new parts. At about this point, I may have tried to force something to come off, which resulted in breaking the housing for the front brake, which happened to be a part for which Aaron had not bought a replacement.
We didn’t need help stopping though, it was going that was the problem at this point, so, after we thought things were in a good enough state to get to the next city, we got on the bikes and rode.
Aaron had been in a really rough crash. Up to this point, he had not really had the opportunity to feel the results of the crash. He was constantly putting on the “I’m fine, really. Go away. Thanks for the help, now please, go away” routine. Once we rode about 200 feet and I realized that I’d forgotten a glove back at the crash site, he was starting to wholly feel the results of the crash. He stopped and I went back for the glove.
When I got back, he was pulled to an exit area nearby lying on the ground next to his riding jacket. When he went to start his bike, the clutch cable snapped. He’d bought one when he was with the police, but he’d hoped to not need it. So he got the bike down the ramp to the exit area, felt nauseous, probably because of a fairly serious concussion, laid his jacket on the ground so that he could lie on it, and then missed the jacket and was too hurt and tired to move himself on to the jacket. So he just lied there, sweating in the sun and gasping shallow breaths of air.
When I arrived and saw him there, I didn’t ask any questions. I recognized that he was probably going through some rough stuff at that time and needed to take a moment to himself. He asked me to help with the clutch and I did my best.
Eventually, we were ready to move again. We got to Chincha, the next city, and even though Aaron was feeling sick and broken, he was able to eat just a little of the fried chicken and sweet potato fries that we remembered being so good from the first time we rode through this part of Peru.
We then spent an extra day at Paracas in hopes that it would help Aaron recover. All down the coast of Peru, over to Arequipa, and then to Puno, Aaron could feel his ribs pop in and out of place and was in a fair amount of pain. He got a bad case of bronchitis and every time he coughed or sneezed he was put through some incredible pain. I saw him sneeze and fall to the ground like a fainting goat three or four times.
In Puno he finally went to a hospital. I spent the whole morning with the police trying to get his Peruvian insurance to pay for everything. It turns out, by not going to the hospital in that ambulance and not having a police write up of his accident, it was really hard to cash in on the insurance in Peru. Aaron was getting x-rayed and seeing doctors and I was explaining to the amount of detail that I could, what had happened and was providing paperwork that showed ownership of the motorcycles and all that.
Eventually, once the police brought me back to the hospital to see Aaron, we made the decision to just not use the insurance at all, because the total cost of Aaron’s morning at the hospital was about $12 and in order to get the insurance to work for him, he would have had to ride to another district to have his blood taken to make sure he wasn’t drunk. In the end, Aaron was happy to just give $12 to make it all stop.