Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Health & Safety Revisited

I was chatting to Bruno in the Bistro last night. Apparently, the lifeless form I'd seen being carted off to the hospital via tricycle was, indeed, lifeless. Poor fella had no chance, and was only in his twenties. A waste. Bruno said the week before I arrived, three people in a week had been killed on the main road in Coron. And this town is tiny, a series of smaller roads criss-crossing a single lane main road and one junction the size of which you'd expect in a small Cotswolds village. Just seems to be a lack of safety awareness. Or just a lack of people giving a shit; maybe life is cheap.

But it's not just locals.

I'd met a Slovakian fella in the Bistro. He'd actually become my first paid client as a a Divemaster when I took him to the Olympia Maru and Barracuda Lake. A good lad, with impeccable English and a bit of a thinker to boot. He had that Eastern European Style (an oxymoron if ever there was one), so I guessed at his roots before he told me. The Hawaiian shirt, pinstripe shorts, white socks with running shoes and felt hat gave the game away (I later talked him out of buying a pair of shorts which looked like my Nana's least favourite tablecloth). We got on very well and, besides arranging some diving, decided we'd hire a scooter each and head to Concepcion Falls one morning.

Setting off one sunny morning, we found the concrete road ended 8km outside Coron, to be replaced by dirt road. We took it easy, as the back ends of the bikes were slipping from under us on some bends. We'd ridden 15k from Coron when my bike conked out. I suspected spark plug trouble. Having no cell signal, we had to ride Mario's bike to the nearest village. A local shop owner showed me the spot in his tree where I could make a call. Unreal. Help contacted, we rode back and waited in the sweltering heat for the cavalry, who duly arrived half an hour later. The mechanic looked in the fuel tank, rocked the bike and then put his mouth over the filler hole. Sucking away until he cleared the fuel line, he spat out the petrol he'd almost ingested with a grin "Is fix..." I thanked him, and he showed me how to do it if it happened again. Obviously, I hoped it wouldn't.

Off we went, and arrived half an hour later in Concepcion. We ate at the Pierhouse, as it's the only place to eat. If another place opened up, they'd put this place out of business. I ordered fresh pineapple juice, and was presented with a plate of sliced pineapple after about 40 minutes. I resisted the urge to ask where the straw was. One waitress told Mario the shake machine wasn't working, so he couldn't have an iced tea. This was while the sound of crunching ice came from the bar where the other girl was, in fact, currently making his iced tea. We wasted a good 90 minutes here.

Back on the road, we asked directions to the falls. Taking the bikes over a rocky footpath, I was beginning to wonder how we'd get back up without damaging ourselves or, more importantly, the bikes. It began to rain as a series of bemused locals gave us a variety of directions. To call the falls an anticlimax after these trials would be a gross understatement.

Heading back was painful. I'd ripped a flip-flop getting back to the road, and binned the left one, too. Should have kept it as the bike gears were stiff, and it was killing my feet to change up and down. As was steadying myself when the back wheel slipped on the stony road...the soles were getting ripped apart. So stopping by Coron Market was wise before we headed to the hot springs, 5km outside Coron.

I'd recommend visiting these. Hot salt water from underground thermals supplies 5 pools of varying intensity. Great for relaxing after a hard bike ride. An hour later, we headed up the coast to kill some time before the bikes were due back. Heading down the hills in the dark, I was struggling to keep control of my bike on a heavily rutted section. Mario suddenly overtook me at speed. As he'd been showing off on his bike all day, I thought it was just another stunt; he had, in fact, lost control completely. He rolled off in a whirl of light and dust, skidding across the stones on his knee, the bike on top of him. I stopped. he quickly stood, counted fingers and feet...then saw his knee dripping blood. The bike seemed intact, and we headed back to the lighter road to take a better look. We did, and I just said "Hospital" as we examined a 10p-sized hole in his knee below the cap. Nasty.

He looked horrified at the state of the hospital, and even more horrified when I was asked to go buy the medical supplies needed from the chemist's across the road. His 30 quid bill looked pretty painful, too. I asked him about what happened, and mentioned I thought he was showing off again. Turns out he'd jammed his front brake on, not realising there was a rear brake pedal by his right foot. No wonder he'd come off. We were just lucky he'd not crashed into me, too...could have meant a lot more damage.

The funniest part of the tale was the fact that, back at the Pierhouse, he'd mentioned he'd not had Travel Insurance in 3 1/2 years but was unworried as nothing ever happened to him. Unthinking, I'd given him the hospital bill and told him "Never mind, you can always claim it back from your..." and we'd both stated laughing. Could have been a lot worse.


Anonymous said...

Oi oi, it's Zoe (Pam's old flatmate) how come I've only just discovered your blog?
Looks like you're having an amazing time.
Looking forward to reading more about your adventures!

old8oy said...

Hey. Maybe no-one's reading it? Ha ha! x