With my mind already looking forward to and planning on all the fun in the Himalayas, I was sent on a different path by an idiot truck driver in Assam, India. The day started off with a pleasant cruise out of Goalpara along the Brahmaputra River. I stopped a few times to fiddle with my gear and each time ended up with friendly families coming out of nowhere to check me out.
It was a beautiful day filled with anticipation because I was only a couple of days away from Sikkim, a small Indian state in the Himalayas between Bhutan and Nepal. I rode over the long bridge spanning the Brahmaputra and headed north on the 31B.There’s two main roads heading west and I was around one of them listening to 2pac. It was already hot out so I was riding in a t-shirt with my motorcycle jacket strapped to the back. At this point I have no idea where exactly I was and couldn’t tell you where on the map it happened, but I was on a highway outside Bongaigaon. There were two lanes in each direction with a large median separating them (each side one-way). I merged into the right lane and started to pass a guy and in a split second there was giant truck coming straight at me. I’d heard people say this who were in head on accidents, but now I know what they mean. It literally felt like he showed up out of thin air. I was going close to sixty miles per hour and I’m sure the truck was going at least this fast or faster. He was driving the wrong way down the road like an asshole, which isn’t that unusual in India where the roads are lawless. In those split seconds I was pretty sure I was about to be killed, but wasn’t just going to sit back and take it. I leaned as hard as I could at that speed and willed every inch of my body and motorcycle to the left before the impact came. My last thought was, “fuck this is really going to screw up my trip”. It felt like being in an explosion and the sound was deafening. I could feel the screaming blast of metal and then the last memory/sensation I have is the sound and feeling of tires going by my head. I’m not sure if this was real or something in my head when I was knocked out. The next thing I really remember is sitting in the middle of the road waiting for someone to run me over. I braced for the impact, but when it didn’t come I slowly opened my eyes to see that traffic was stopped. At the time, I didn’t realize I had been knocked out. I thought I knew what had happened in the crash, but had no idea. I found out later that night when a local guy came to my hospital room and filled me in. He came in and was shaking like he was seeing a ghost, and told me I was the luckiest man he had ever seen. The guy had been driving behind me when the crash happened. He said the same thing about the truck coming out of nowhere. Apparently I managed to get over just enough so the truck missed the front of the motorcycle and my leg, but hit my ammo can on the rear. Then I went out of control and if I had gone down to the right I would’ve been crushed by the truck. Luckily I crashed away from the truck. When I went down, my head slammed into the ground and my helmet flew off, which knocked me out. I crashed into a car driving in the other lane, which might have slowed me down and saved me from a lot more injuries. I don’t really know how long I was out for, but I’m guessing over ten seconds because I came to sitting there with a few people already gathered around. One guy snapped some pics on his phone and I ended up getting them later on in the hospital.
It’s funny, the reactions and first thoughts that you have in situations like this. My first thoughts once I knew the crash was over was of pure disappointment. I knew my trip had a major road bump and didn’t know if I would be able to continue it, if ever. I was sad because I was in the middle of some of the best travel in my life. I looked down and saw blood spurting into the air from my ankle area. There was already blood everywhere, which showed me I must have been knocked out for a good chunk of time. I lifted my pants up the leg and saw my ankle gashed wide open and a chunk of bone. More people started gathering around me, but half of them ran. I‘ll never forget the look on three guys faces once they saw my leg and turned around running from me. It felt like my foot was just barely still attached and dangling by threads. Luckily it wasn’t, but it had that sensation. With the adrenaline going I wasn’t too worried about it, but in the back of my mind thought about the possibility of losing my foot. They must be close to making awesome robot legs, and if not I’d just get a pirate peg leg and buy a sail boat.
A lot of things rush through the brain in moments like that. The blood was squirting out fast and I knew I had to get it slowed. I glanced around for something, and almost like it was placed there for me, the gamosa scarf that the family in Jorhat had given me was laying a foot away. It had been in my top case and somehow ended up out right next to me. It might have saved my life. Thanks to that wonderful family for the nice gift.
I wrapped it as tight as i could around and over the big gash, and then laid on my back with the foot in the air. I’ve had some bad injuries, but never pain like that. It felt like every bone in my ankle was shattered. I was yelling at all the bystanders to get an ambulance and most of them just stood over me with blank looks on their faces. It was probably pretty intense for them since for many of them I was the first foreigner they’d ever seen. A guy was telling me to hold on and that one was coming. I knew I had to take care of my stuff or it would be stolen quickly. I yelled at the man, who turned out to be the guy that was driving the small car I crashed into, to gather my important stuff. I saw my ammo can that had been ripped off the motorcycle and directed him to it to gather my laptop and important documents (the Thule laptop case for MacBooks is awesome and my laptop made it unscathed). My small backpack with all my money, passport, and electronics had also somehow ended up out of the case and lying next to me. My GoPro had broken off the top of my helmet, but was also lying right next to me. Unfortunately I wasn’t recording when the crash happened. He then gathered my camera and tablet from the tank bag and held onto it all for me. It felt like a lifetime lying on the road begging for an ambulance, but was probably less than five minutes. The man told me it was going to be 20-30 minutes before an ambulance could make it. He took the reigns and found a rickshaw, which him and another guy loaded me into the back of and drove me to the closest hospital. This man turned out to be Biswajit Ray, and he became like family to me during my entire recovery in the hospital until the moment we hugged goodbye at the airport.
Most Indians don’t want to get involved in things, and helping people in trouble isn’t their strong suit for whatever reason. There were probably 30 people at the scene who wanted nothing to do with me. Biswajit took charge and might have saved my life. I might have slowed the bleeding down enough so that I could’ve waited the twenty minutes for an ambulance, or maybe not. I’ll always be grateful to him for getting me to the hospital. It felt like we would never reach the hospital and if you’ve ever ridden in a motor rickshaw in India you know that they aren’t the smoothest ride. Every bump sent excruciating pain through my body. The driver pulled into the hospital, I was carried onto a gurney, and then wheeled into the ER. At this point all I wanted was pain killers. Preferably morphine, but I really didn’t care. I begged them for it as they started working on my ankle. They gave me some injections, which sent me into loopy land. Then they started giving injections all around the wounds on my ankle and knee to numb them. At this point I was calmed down and loving everybody. I wanted to hug, kiss, and thank everyone. The doctors laughed about how jacked up I was when I came in and how I was yelling at them for pain medicine.
On the bright side my jeans were starting to get pretty tattered and since they had cut off the right leg already, I turned them into some short shorts. Luckily when they took my shoe off I was high as hell and didn’t mind the pain of getting it slid off, and was stoked they didn’t have to cut it off. Once they had me fairly numbed up physically and emotionally I watched them poke around. I couldn’t understand most of what they were saying, but when the doctor was examining the ankle I heard him talk about a compound fracture, which wasn’t a surprise since I’d already seen the bone. It’s a strange feeling to see your own bone. Lying on that bed in the ER I had a lot of different feeling going through me. My dream of riding around the world had hit a major road block, and even though I told myself I would obviously continue, I knew I had a long road ahead of me before that would be possible. I laid there in a strange trance zoned out staring through a dirty window. Once the adrenaline wore off and I started to come down back down to earth and see my reality it all kind of hit me. I looked over my body, and to my astonishment, my ankle/lower leg and cut on the knee were pretty much my only injuries. I had two very small road rash spots on my back, but nothing serious. I’d been in motorcycle accidents going half the speed and ended up with terrible road rash on half my body. It made no sense. How could I possibly crash at sixty miles per hour with only a t-shirt protecting me and walk away with virtually zero road rash. It still makes no sense to me. My only guess is that hitting the other car slowed a lot of my momentum and all the power of the crash went into my leg. I had pulled over about five minutes before the accident and buckled the chin strap of my helmet, thank god. I sort of felt hollow and empty. I don’t know why, but I had a feeling that I should be dead and something miraculous had happened to change that outcome. I wondered why. That same afternoon two young people had the same thing happen to them on their motorcycle in the same area my crash happened and were killed instantly. Their bodies were brought into the same hospital and I felt confused. It felt like I should be with them. I didn’t understand why I keep living through these things. It’s not the first, second, or even third near miss for me. I guess my journey isn’t meant to end yet. I’m not afraid to die. My life’s been amazing. At 31, I’ve gotten to experience things and see places that most people never will in a lifetime. I feel like the luckiest man on earth for the life I’ve led. If there’s reincarnation , then I must have been a very wonderful something in my previous life to deserve this life. The only thing I don’t like about the end is that there are so many places I still want to see. It was like my consciousness was hovering over my body and soul and examining everything. Maybe the pain killers had something to do with it. I thought about how I got to that point in the hospital bed. Every decision I make along road leads to the experiences and adventures I get myself into. I have forks in the road every day, literally and figuratively. The people I end up meeting, the places I end up sleeping, the foods I taste, the scenery I see, and the situations I get myself into all come about through forks in the road. Deciding to head north instead of west, taking a local up on his offer to show me around, or walking down that creepy alleyway. If I hadn’t taken a sunset ride down the beach in Thailand, I wouldn’t have gotten drunk with a group of fishermen and net fished all night.
If I hadn’t taken the dusty side road down to a small village in Laos along the Mekong, I couldn’t have camped next to a beautiful temple and swam in the river at sunset with all the kids.
If I hadn’t stopped at the small restaurant for some whiskey while wandering at night in Myanmar, I would’ve missed out being the guest of honor at a Chinlone festival and getting to play the drums. Usually the decisions I make lead to incredible experiences and unforgettable moments, but sometimes they lead to unforgettably bad moments. Deciding to try getting into Long Cheng for a second time by another route led to being detained, interrogated, and robbed by the Laos Police. At the time I was pretty pissed off, but now I look back and laugh about it. I can’t help in those circumstances to think about how I got myself into them, but I never have regret. Some of the shittiest moments are some of my most memorable and have given me times I’ll never forget. You’ll never know what would have been down the other road. Maybe it would’ve been great and possibly it would’ve been terrible, but it doesn’t matter. If I hadn’t gotten into the crash in India, I was going to be heading up towards Nepal and the Himalayas to do some trekking and exploring. I would most likely be somewhere around Kathmandu or in the mountains at this point instead of healing up. I saw this morning as I was writing this that there was a large 7.8 magnitude earthquake in the Kathmandu Valley with strong aftershocks throughout the area. Buildings and homes have become ruble, many historic monument crumbled, and avalanches were caused in the Himalayas killing climbers. Already the death toll is being put at over two thousand with thousands of others injured. Even if I had been there, I would probably be ok, but who knows because that road wasn’t taken. There was a fork in the road before I managed to get there. Part of me is upset that I’m not there because I should’ve been. Embrace your current situation and enjoy it for what it is because plans will be flipped upside down, circumstances will change, and new roads will be taken in the blink of an eye.