Day 7 Kiu Ka Cham to Kasi (95km)
by Tony Melton
Got up before dawn, in the relative cool of the mountain village of KKC. Started the day with an upset stomach, so all I could eat of my breakfast of 'fur' (noodle suop) was the noodles. It got light by 6:30am, and we were on the road by 7. The first rays of the dawn sun across mist-shrouded valleys were beautiful. All was going well until I rounded a curve to find Ken lying in the middle of the road and Jason signaling us to stop. It was immediately clear that it was serious and Dr and patient Ken had already diagnosed himself – compound fracture of the tibia. He had a gruesome gash on his leg and his ankle was all floppy. After lifting him off the road, I was on heel pulling duty, aka traction. My job was to pull on Ken's heel to make sure the bones stayed in alignment. While I did this Hans bandaged the gash as best he could, with large amounts of bandages and tape. All the while Dr Ken was giving us instructions on how to fix him and what to do next, all very calmly and matter of factly – quite amazing really given the circumstances. Next we splinted his leg with 2 stout sticks and a wine box. So bandaged, Ken was gingerly lifted into the minivan and driven back to Luang Prabang by Jason. From there he was flown to Bangkok hospital.
After we said goodbye to Ken, we continued over rolling mountain ridges, riding in a group but near silently, each rider caught up in their own thoughts of what just happened. There was a nice 8km long downhill to the day's first rest stop. Some riders were ahead of Ken when he crashed, so they waited at the rest stop for a very long time. Mike went ahead on a bike to catch up with Bruce. The other riders gradually gathered at the rest stop and decided to ride the next 6km hill and let the truck take the stragglers to the top of the hill.
I rode the 6km hill with Beau and Nathan to start with, then alone for most of the rest of the hill, stopping for a break at turned out to be 50m from the top of the hill. From there the road rolls along more ridges and into a small town. I meet Thomas at the town's major intersection. Since we are the first riders and know that the truck will take a long time to get to our lunch stop 1.2km away we buy fizzy drinks, nori-flavoured chips, and weird sugar coated bread things for 10,000kip or less (USD1). After lunch of fried rice (again!) of which I barely could manage a third of my portion, I changed to shorter 125mm cranks in anticipation of the loooong 20km downhill to come.
About halfway down the long downhill my archilles heels started to hurt. I got off to stretch them a few times, but contined to ride. There was a short 1km hill at the bottom which was too steep (for me with my heels) to ride. The rest stop was not far away. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself with painful heels, and another 20km to go. I consoled myself with a green Mirinda, a Pepsi some choco-banana wafer cookies and another OJ – its amazing how much you can eat on long rides! I put my seat down before setting off, as too high a seat can make your ankles sore. I left at the back of the group, and soon felt much better. I caught and passed everyone in the largely downhill next 15km. I had too take an urgent potty break on the way – lucky I brought toilet paper. in my camelbak! I catch and pass Mike, Beau and Nathan again on the flat. I am forced to take a break from heel pain at 93km. I ride with Nathan, Beau and Mike to the guesthouse in Kasi. On the way we go past a loud Chinese New Year party, which I dance to on my unicycle, much to the amusement of the partygoers. We roll in to Kasi minutes before dark and finish with a 'Mr Triple' icecream and very sore legs and heels. I was so stiff after stopping riding going up the three stairs to my room was a challenge. A very hard day!
I was riding casually down the road during Day 7 of The LUT, when my gear slipped***, causing me to fall off my unicycle. I think my left leg hit the ground first. Next thing I knew I was lying on the ground with my foot at a funny angle and my tibia sticking out of my leg. I yanked on my foot and straightened it and stuck my bone back in the skin, at which point Jason and Tony arrived. I had Tony put traction on my foot to keep it flopping all over the place (even though I was bleeding blood and bone marrow all over him- sorry dude!), and then we splinted it with some sticks and a wine box and some bandages.
To cut a long story short, I was driven to Luang Prabang where I had my wound cleaned, my leg Xrayed and the leg put in a backslab. Jason got me on the first flight to Bangkok, and I was transferred to Bumrungrad Hospital to have my operation. It was debrided and screwed back together within 12hrs of the accident, which is as good as I could have hoped for given that I was in the middle of nowhere.
The Xray shows an oblique fracture of my distal tibia and fibula. It's been plated and screwed back together so now there's a fair bit of metalwork in my leg. If you're wondering about the Xray below- I had some metalware already from a previous Webber C ankle fracture)
I spent the next 2 days feeling pretty sick and nauseus but now I've been up and hobbling about on crutches. If I can ride on one wheel, I'm sure get about on one leg! The main concern is for an infection given the fact that it was an open fracture. If all goes well, I'll be on IV antibiotics for two weeks, non-weightbearing for 6wks from surgery, and hopefully walking again in 3 months.
Anyway, it kinda sucks but I wouldn't have given this up for anything. I enjoyed every part of organising and participating in the Laos Unitour. I feel very priviledged to have staged such a unique event- getting together 19 Unicyclists from 7 countries to ride across Laos and raise money for OXFAM. It's not everyday that something like that happpens.
Where to from here? It looks like I'll be off work for about 6wks. Anyway, I'm really looking forward to this opportunity to catch up on all my projects and to plan new ones.....my next Unitour, starting an online business, doing up my house, writing a book.....now I have some time to tackle those without working like crazy.
That's all for now. Enjoy the rest of the tour!
***Note on the gear slippage:
The 1st generation Schlumpf hub came out in early 2005, with 6 pins. It was found on testing to disengage suddenly, and has thus been subject to a recent product recall. The reason I am still using it was that it was not going to arrive in time to change it over before I left New Zealand, and Florian Schlumpf was concerned that I continued to use it. The new generation Schlumpf hub with 12 pins and new pin design has been extensively used by riders during the LUT with no problems. It has been redesigned specifically to address this problem.