A day in The Desert I shall never forget

Tom and Vito

On Friday the 3rd of August, Tom, Alfie and I headed out in my trusty Vito towards ‘The Desert’. This is one of Doug’s jewels which is normally saved for when the Basque coast is a little ‘moist’ – it never rains in The Desert. It’s about an hour’s drive from BasqueMTB’s base and is nestled in the hills near Pamplona. I’m not allowed to tell you any more…

Tom, Alfie and I had been riding together all week, just for fun, we’d been showing Alfie the most-fun trails, with some van-assisted uplift to make life easy.

The trails in The Desert are dry (obviously), steep, rocky, shaley, steep, narrow, steppy, rocky and steep. You get the picture. We decided to ride to the top of the first trail on the road as a warm up – I was feeling really fit and full of energy (for a change) and we made good time, reaching the summit pretty quickly.

The trails begins just above where the photo was taken and starts off as part of the pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela, pretty soon though it heads off the beaten track and starts heading down the mountain. It’s a great fun trail, it’s fast enough and busy enough to keep you fully focused all the way down – it must be a good 20 minute descent.

At the summit – minutes from disaster – all Spanish mountains’ names have four letters, beginning E and ending O.

We stopped off to take some heroic photos of us taking a massive 2 foot rocky drop, before resuming our descent. It was getting faster now, but the trail felt familiar after sessioning the it at last week’s Skills Course. I was leading, Tom close behind.

I just clipped the very tip of my handlebar, at the exact point I had seen guest Gary do the same last week (he has THE widest bars). I whooped and wa-hayyed as I regained control, calling to Tom, and laughing. Then BANG. No idea what happened but I hit the ground very hard, chest first, way ahead of the bike. Initially I was relieved as my chest somehow felt fine despite the heavy landing, no blood anywhere, legs working. But then I became aware that all was not well within my left glove. I removed the glove to be presented with a very wonky looking thumb. It had a very distinct step in the tip, so naturally I tried to pull it straight. Didn’t work. Feeling sick, feeling faint. “Tom, I think I’ll just lie down and have a sleep”.

I should mention here that Tom is a medical student. His training (well, 1st year) kicked in. He contacted Doug, he contacted the emergency services (this was a 25 minute phone call, involving latitude and longitude in Spanish) and the bastard did his very best to stop me having the siesta I so wanted…

After about 30 to 40 minutes I had regained my composure enough to walk myself and bike down to the bottom of the trail, where with perfect timing we were met by an ambulance and the Spanish mountain rescue team. They were presented with someone with a sore thumb. Tom emphasised the ‘loss of consciousness’ sufficiently that they took interest.

There then followed the logistical nightmare of: my van, some bikes, Tom not on my insurance and hadn’t driven in Spain, being far from base, Tom and Alfie flying out first thing in the morning, and the ambulance wanting to whisk me off to points unknown. Eventually the ambulance agreed to wait while Tom and Alfie loaded up my van, and then to drive slowly to hospital with Tom following. It was to be a loooong day.

Hospital 2

The first hospital dressed my right arm and gave me a tetanus shot. Tom then bravely drove us all to a second hospital in central Pamplona where I was x-rayed. Then we were ushered off to a 3rd hospital in Pamplona where a hand specialist could look at the thumb.

Hospital 3
A very wonky thumb

After more x-rays and much waiting in an NHS-styley A&E department we (me for treatment, Tom for professional interest) were ushered into the doctor. He pretty quickly decided it needed surgery, and that it also needed to be stabilised (yanked straight). The doctor gave me some local anaesthetic in the hand and then proceeded to manipulate the bone back into place. I should point out here that the experience was THE MOST PAIN I HAVE EVER FELT IN MY LIFE. Just what was in the anaesthetic, I don’t know.

There was much humming and harring as to whether the surgery could be done in Pamplona that night, but to everyone’s relief, the theatres were full and we were allowed to get on our way with my arm in a very impressive cast.

After an impromptu sarnie in the car park, Tom to his great credit got us back to Guethary about 11pm and we regaled the story to Doug over a beer… What a day…

High as a kite and hungry enough to eat a scabby horse…

There followed a couple of weeks of to-ing and fro-ing with French specialists, before the operation to pin my thumb back together happened last Thursday… Not the most fun day I have had, but I hope to be riding before the end of the month…


8 thoughts on “A day in The Desert I shall never forget

  1. ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, great blog, i always like a guy who tells it exactly how it is. that thumb is baaaad juju dude, an operation to boot. all the best robbo

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