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Wednesday 1 Aug 2007
Vancouver Island, Canada

ooooooooooooookaaaaaaaay

CRUNCH! BANG! WHALLOP! ... I lay flat out in the middle of the road after tumbling head-over-heels off the mountain bike, the distant sound of a car approaching being the only thing that forces me from my shock-slumber.

I stagger up realising I've taken some pretty nasty hits to my chest, legs, hands and especially left elbow. Kick the bike off the road in moment of anger and embarrassment, "I should have realised that would happen" I thought to myself ... then I crash down on the side of the road, nursing my wounds, while I wait for some passer-by to whisk me away and get me to the ferry back to Victoria (the last ferry, in fact, leaving in one hour!)

Eventually, I get picked up by a passing couple on their first date! They take me back to the bike rental place while I try to prevent my spurting arm from getting blood on their car seat.

OK, back track, what the hell am I talkin about ye might ask...

Last Sunday I decided to go check out one of the south gulf islands.. a mini archipelago that sits between Vancouver Isle and the mainland. Saltspring Island was to be my destination du jour.

So off I go on the ferry.. only 20 dollars from Vic, including bus..nice. Arrive at the beautiful island around 1pm and decide to rent a mountain bike from a local establishment at the ferry terminal.

OK first things first. DO NOT tackle SaltSpring island on anything other than a bike that you own and is extremely light. Not because you will fall off, but because it's unbelievably hilly. Also there's no bike lane so cars speed by you with nary a foot separating you. Within 5 minutes of renting the mountain bike I was already out of breath and was seriously considering bringing it back (probably would have been a good thing).

Over the next hour I somehow managed to sweat my way all the way over east to a nice little old family farm which has since been converted to a national park. By the time I'd gotten there, though, I reckoned I was pooped and made my way back to the ferry to try to give the bike back after two hours (2 hours rental was only 15$ ... any more was 30).

Very pleasant island indeed, and the people were really friendly, cool and laid-back.. lots of hippy atmos... almost felt like I was on a south-Thailand island. An amazing number of very striking-looking females about the place too which was unusual considering the tiny population on the island!

Now back to the bike...

I arrived back to the ferry a little after 4pm, and apparently the bike-shop owner had just closed-up shop. So I was gonna have to rent the bike for the whole day after all!... "Ah well" I thought, I went and had lunch and then ventured back on the bike.

Now, according to the guy who rented me the bike ...Peter was his name also... the bike was brand new. Nevertheless I did hear some strange rattling sounds coming from it the moment I moved off ... thought nothing of it since it's not unusual to hear rattling from cheap bikes (which admittedly this was!).

It was only on the return leg of my trip from the national park that I noticed the screw that was holding on the front light reflector was loose since there was no nut on the other end to hold it in place, or to stop it falling off completely. Not did I realise that this screw was also holding the STEEL FRONT MUD GUARD off the front wheel!

So I casually got into a routine of pushing the screw back into place every minute or so while whizzing down some of the extremely steep hills (I must have easily reached 50kph going down some od those hills!). Thought nothing of it.

Then after lunch, I decided to head off west along a relatively flat patch of road (I was sick of hills at that stage!). I got about 4km, got bored so decided to turn back and just chill (also the last ferry was going to be heading off soon from the island).

At one point on the return trip, I neglected to remember to push in the loose screw so, of course, it popped off. Naturally, not only did the light reflector fall off, but the front mudguard dropped onto the front wheel.

Front wheel stopped dead in it's tracks.

Pete goes flying over... all 90kgs lands first on the left elbow, smashing it into 5 pieces, rest of his body gets pretty badly bruised as well.

Nice.

ok now bear in mind I was going at only around 5-8 kmh when this happened. Imagine what would have happened if I had neglected the screw while going down one of the hills at 50kmh? I shudder to think how many hours it would take to find all the pieces of my body in the surrounding rainforest.

Right well that all brings me up to today... basically my left arm had full-blown surgery, general anaesthetic was applied (whereby they also apparently rammed a large tube down my throat because APPARENTLY YOU DON'T BREATHE WHILE UNDER!?! noone told me that before!), I've got 50 staples in my arm, plus a 30cm scar, got 6 months of physical therapy ahead of me while my arm will be in a sling for at least 6 weeks... thankfully it's all covered by my travel insurance! FINALLY I get to actually use my insurance .. I'm never leaving without it from now on.

Sounds like fun yeah? Yeah well basically the rest of my summer is now screwed.

But, on a lighter note, I got to experience one of the best health services I've ever seen. Great doctors (caring AND not patronising), I was attended to by beautiful nurses, non-stop smiles and support from all around, great bed I was placed in, very well organised, food was delicious and sufficient in quantity, I was morphine-d up on a regular basis and ice packs applied, all while I was blissfully asleep. I was even given ear plugs when I asked for them!

Top notch. If I was ever going to have an accident I'm glad I had it here. And to think all Canadians get this for free!

Definitely another tick on the "reasons why you should move to Canada" list.

It also gave me a different perspective on Victorians.. maybe I was wrong to base my assumptions about them based on the ones I've met downtown, because all the ones I met in the hospital were some of the soundest people I've ever met on the planet. Really cool.

A lot of the doctors/nurses I met were probably either schooled out-of-town, or FROM out-of-town, which would have given them a more normal, less airy-fairy demeanour.

Oh yeah Saturday I went to local Craigdaroch 'Castle', which is a nice house built in early 1900s by a scotsman who's habits as a ruthless employer seem to bear a striking resemblance to Mr Burns in the Simpsons.

Nice museum about earlier Victorian life, although it's funny to think that they consider a building barely built 100 years ago as being 'antique'.

Tonight, I treated myself to a giant slap-up sushi meal with the works to celebrate my survival. 33 dollars. Now that IS a huge meal here! Laugh


P.S.
Regarding getting a general anaesthetic .. it's a weird experience for the uninitiated:

For one I didn't like the fact that I would be at the whim of several people while I was forcibly made unconscious (I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to personal space).

Secondly, unlike going to sleep, I actually distinctly remember the very second I was knocked out with the gas! I was told to "think of the most beautiful place in the world"... I then started thinking about _my_ personal 'most beautiful place' which would be the white sandy beaches of the Coral Coast in Australia. I breathed in once .. remember mumbling something like "Oh yeah.. I remember this one pla-..." .. a second breath.. I'm gone. It was surprisingly easy ... and not at all terrifying like I imagined.

Of course, had I known previously that YOU STOP BREATHING (!) while under general anaesthetic and required a machine to do it for you via a large tube then I'm sure I would have pissed myself

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