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Friday 29 May
Tentena, Indonesia

Era – Tomata

Although we protested, our host got up at 5 to see us off. We ate a solid breakfast of leftovers from the night before. Our road went past lots of oil palms and through some bleak farmland for 30km to Tomata. There I had a sneaky second breakfast of fried fish steak, tomato sambal, green vegetables and good soup: the best meal I had in Sulawesi.

Food improves my mental state, and the more and tastier it is, the better. But that meal did not make me wise and skilful enough, or it did not make up for my accumulating weakness over the long preceding days. 5-6 km further down the road, I crashed. I was going down a slope on the gravel road strewn with rocks. My front wheel lost traction and went a bit sideways, then there was the moment of knowing I was going to fall, and then I was rolling in the ditch with dust and scrapes everywhere. My bike was somewhere, getting its own scrapes. I had primarily hit my left knee and my left thumb. Coming off a bike, it’s usually the hands that hit the ground hardest. Fortunately I was wearing gloves so my hand wasn’t mangled, just swollen.

We were in the middle of nowhere, but by chance we had just passed some guys at the side of the road who were resting in a small clearing or maybe cutting rocks. They were extremely cool. They immediately cut down a banana plant and told me to put the sap on my scrapes, which I did. They took me down to a little stream where I had a good mandi and washed some of the dirt off. When they saw we had Betadine they said that was better than the banana sap. After sitting around for long enough, we gave them a postcard which we wrote on. It was the best thing we had to give.

We kept riding, though I couldn’t really use my left hand. This was not smart as the rear brakes are operated on the left side. We were still going down a small incline so I had to use the front brakes. The other problem, probably the avoidable cause of the whole thing, was that I had not deflated my tyres since they were pumped to an unknown level somewhere on the sealed road. Less pressure means more contact area with the road and more grip. While you can never predict when something will go wrong, you can make a series of good decisions about things you do know about, and imperceptibly manage risks. But didn’t, and I fell off again, basically repeating the process and smacking my left hand on the ground again. The base of my thumb was like a tomato.

We walked back (I can’t remember how) to where our two friends were working. Nothing much was said, and one of them got me on a motorbike and went to Tomata where there was some kind of clinic. The thing to do when you get to the clinic, I now know, is walk around the grounds yelling until someone appears. People did appear, then I sat around for a long time feeling dusty, then a doctor came and had a look at me but didn’t do anything. We had to go to tentena, a six hour drive, for an x-ray to find out if my wrist was broken.

There was some arrangement to hire a pickup which drove out to collect Felix, who was with the bikes, snoozing on some banana leaves and watching the other guy cutting rocks. It was a gruelling drive to Tentena on windy roads. Felix was in the tray with the bikes. We got to Tentena and waited; there seemed to be no-one else in the hospital and nothing going on. Eventually a radiographer arrived and did some x-rays. He was from Semapura, young and optimistic, and he wanted to go to a Liverpool football match. Then the doctor said nothing was broken, and gave me an assortment of medication (which I didn’t use).

Felix said “whatever happens, we will end up drinking beers in Makassar”.

40.0 km, avergage 12.6 km/h

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