A Sudden End to Travelling

It was a sunny afternoon and I was blissfully taking in the lush balinese scenery from the back of the moped that Finn was driving. We were riding from Amed, a small diving and fishing town on the east coast of Bali, to Denpasar, the southern capital. The road was windy and hilly and our rental bike had seen better days. The breaks seemed to be wearing down from all the hills.

The view from the road.

We slowed down to follow the road around a harmless looking curve and our wheels suddenly slipped out from under us, throwing us to the ground. Our fall happened about an hour into our three hour trip. We had all our stuff with us (two small backpacks) because we were going to stay in the south for a while. We were going to find a nice beach and hang out for a few days or a week before going to Lombok to hike the second biggest volcano in Indonesia. First we had an appointment at the Immigration office to take our pictures for our Indonesian visa extensions.

But then we were on the ground. I had some scrapes, but they were shallow. I expected Finn to be in similar shape and that we would get back on the bike and drive to somewhere to clean our wounds and keep going. I jumped up before I knew what I was doing and took a look at Finn. He was still on the ground. The scrape on his knee was shockingly bright white when I expected to see red. His bone was visible.

He asked me to help him up and I considered that in an accident you’re supposed to leave an injured person on the ground and wait for an ambulance to avoid making the injuries worse by jostling them. I doubted there would be an ambulance service where we were in the middle of nowhere Bali, so I grabbed Finn’s right hand and pulled him to his feet. He was unsteady. Some local people had rushed over and asked if we wanted to go to the hospital. I knew Finn was badly hurt when he said yes. I looked in his eyes and he seemed far away, his gaze unfocused. He was in shock.

The local people kindly helped us into the back of their car with all our things. We left the motorbike in their yard and a man drove us the 10 minutes to a tiny local hospital. He said he would wait with the car and our bags while we were treated. I took his name, phone number and address just in case we needed to find him to get our motorbike back. There were dozens of people waiting in rows of chairs outside the hospital, but Finn and I were rushed past them into a tiny treatment room right away. A team of three or four doctors and nurses superficially cleaned and wrapped our wounds, but quickly deemed Finn’s injuries too complicated for their facility. We asked for pain killers for Finn, but they ignored our requests. I retrieved our possessions and we were sent in an ambulance to a bigger hospital.

 The siren was loud and the ride was bumpy, shifting Finn’s injuries painfully. I hoped we weren’t going to far from where we had left our rental bike. After fifteen long minutes we arrived at the hospital. Finn was transferred from a stretcher onto a hospital bed in a big room with curtains separating patients. We appeared to be the only foreigners in the building and few of the staff spoke English. The ambulance driver came to collect $20 in local currency for the ride. I kept asking for painkillers for Finn, but my requests were deflected. The building was run down and noisy, with the familiar bright florescent lights of a hospital. The ceiling had water stains and was missing panels. Everything seemed ad hoc, makeshift. I was wearing small shorts and a crop top, making me feel exposed compared to the conservatively dressed people, so I put my sweater on even though it was hot.

Finn was finally injected with a painkiller and felt a little bit better. The doctor, a young-looking Indonesian man with wavy hair and a reassuring smile assessed Finn and sent him to another part of the building for x-rays on his shoulder and knee. I followed Finn’s stretcher, carrying all our things, my knee bleeding down my shins. People loitering in the halls stared at us as we passed and asked what happened. Seeing foreigners in the hospital was exciting for them.

Despite the low budget hospital, we received relatively quick service. Finn was x-rayed and brought back to the big room and the doctor came over to discuss the results with us. Finn had a broken collar bone, but his knee was only scraped. Finn and I realized we would probably go back to Canada since Finn couldn’t have any fun traveling with all his injuries. He wouldn’t be able to swim, hike or surf, so what would be the point of staying in Indonesia? All our plans changed the moment we fell off the bike.

We pointed out Finn’s elbow to the doctor, which had become freakishly swollen, so Finn was sent up for another x-ray.

 In the meantime I was offered treatment for my abrasions. I laid down and rocks were removed from my knee and the scrapes on my arm, belly and hands were treated with disinfectant. It was extremely painful, but I didn’t feel worthy of complaining because of what Finn was going through.

Finn came back down and we learned that his elbow was badly broken and needed surgery. The x-ray showed that a small piece of his elbow was floating off on it’s own like a rebellious teenager. A screw was needed to attach the pieces again, but it would have to be done in the hospital in Denpasar, the capital of Bali, or in Canada.

We weighed the benefits and drawbacks of having Finn’s surgery in Bali or Canada. It would have been better to have the surgery sooner, rather than wait until we could get back to Canada, but Canada might have better medical treatments. Finn would go home to recover anyway, so we doing the surgery there would be more comfortable. Finn wanted to ask his mom for advice, so our doctor graciously offered his iPhone which had a data plan and that worked just well enough for Finn to be comforted by the sight of his mom on Skype, who encouraged him to go home for the surgery.

 On our way out of the hospital.

With a lot of difficulty we walked a block to a restaurant to eat and figure out our steps towards getting home as soon as possible for Finn’s surgery. Before leaving the country we had to finish our Indonesian visa extensions. We had handed in our passports to start the process to stay in Indonesia for another month and missed our appointment at the immigration office when we crashed. We were in the middle of nowhere, a few hours drive from the airport and immigration office in Denpasar. Our bike was left at someone’s house on a country road and needed to be collected and returned to Ubud, a town an hour away from Denpasar. We wanted to be on a flight the next night.

The staff at the hospital said there were no taxis in town. Some of the ambulance drivers who were loitering around the outside of the hospital asked how much we would pay to do the trip in an ambulance. We made a few offers, but then they said they wouldn’t do it for any price. I went to the store across the street and asked if they knew where we could get a taxi and ended up negotiating a $60 ride to pick up our motorbike and then to Denpasar with a local guy in his mom’s car.

We collected the bike where we left it and I drove it behind the car all the way to a hotel in Denpasar. It was a relief to have managed the first step towards getting home. By this time it was after 9pm and we were tired. We ordered a mediocre pizza from Pizza Hut to our hotel room and went to sleep.

Early the next morning I drove the motorbike to Ubud to return it and took a taxi back to Denpasar. The taxi driver spent the entire hour trip telling me how amazing I am and what a great husband he would be for me. I was so not in the mood. I rescheduled our visa appointment at the immigration office, so when I got back to Denpasar I helped Finn out of bed, which was covered in his blood, and into a taxi. Finn’s bandages had bled through and he looked in bad shape. Because of the scrapes on his knee and foot he had trouble walking and any nudge on his left arm caused him serious pain.

We met up with the representative of the travel agency assigned to help us with our visa extensions, Dionne, and had our pictures and finger prints taken. First Dionne said we could have our passports returned to us in two days, but we needed to leave the country right away, so he said he could have our passports delivered to our hotel that evening at 5pm. We went online and booked flights for 9:40pm, but I was worried that our passports wouldn’t be returned to us in time. In Southeast Asia things are often delayed.

Finn rested while I packed our things and cleaned up the hotel room. We had to leave in about an hour and a half and we hadn’t received our passports. I was getting anxious and tried calling the travel agency and our contact from the immigration office, but they weren’t answering. I drank the contents of the extra water bottles that were lying around the room, but when I finished the last one it tasted a little off.

Weeks earlier, some hippies on Gili Air had given us a bit of water with acid in it, but we hadn’t tried any of it. I totally forgot about it until I accidentally drank it all in one gulp. I looked at Finn and said, “oh no!” in my most concerned voice, “I drank the acid!” He responded, “puke!” I induced vomiting in the toilet and emptied my stomach as best I could. I didn’t want to be high, I had to carry all our stuff and help Finn. There wasn’t anything else I could do but stay relaxed, try my best to follow directions and not attract attention to myself. Thankfully, our passports were delivered directly to our hotel room and Finn and I took a cab to the airport. Our trip would take over 30 hours and three planes before we would land in Vancouver.

I handled tripping on acid in the airport and on the plane pretty well. Everyone was looking at us because of Finn’s serious injuries. His knee was wrapped in a bandage that had soaked through, leaving huge red blood stains with yellow around the edges. Everything looked wacky to me, but Finn said I seemed relatively normal except that I found his jokes more funny than usual. The drab airport looked technicolour to me. The posters and signs looked like video screens blinking and shifting. The words “Gate B” were probably drawn with plain black or blue letters, but to me they looked like a metallic rainbow.

I managed to go into an office and get a wheelchair for Finn. The wheelchair came with it’s own attendant to push Finn to our gate. I filled out a form for the wheelchair, but I misspelled Fnn’s name, and struggled with Cananada as well.

Finn didn’t have adequate painkillers for the flights. I could tell he was in an extreme amount of pain, especially during take off and landing. He was traveling with an untreated broken bone and massive abrasions all over his body. He looked like a bloody mess and could barely walk. Thankfully there were wheelchairs for him in the airports.

When we got off our plane for our second layover in Manila, Philippines, Finn’s wheelchair attendant took him through a door and told me to follow everyone else and that I would end up in the same place as Finn eventually. I was concerned because Finn wasn’t able to do anything by himself. He couldn’t push his wheelchair because of his broken elbow, so he was quite helpless. I was brought to a waiting room and told to sit there for a while. I asked several times where I could find Finn and was told not to worry and just to wait. I sat in the waiting room for over an hour and asked again about Finn, so one of the staff brought me down the hall, into a big, empty room where and asked if it was my boyfriend sitting in his wheelchair alone, pathetically facing a wall. A staff had wheeled him there and left without saying a word.

It gave me a taste of what it must be like for people who live in wheelchairs. The staff would ask me things about Finn, even though Finn was right there. They didn’t treat him like a normal person even though his mind was fine, only his body was injured.

 The row of people in wheelchairs waiting to board the plane.

We made it Vancouver safely and Finn’s mom picked us up at the airport. Finn was taken straight to the hospital where he spent twelve hours waiting, having his abrasions treated, getting x-rays and making appointment for his surgery. It was good for him to be home for treatment and recovery.

 Finn before surgery.

It’s taken me a couple weeks to find time to write this post because I’ve been occupied with apartment hunting and the surprise of suddenly being back in Vancouver. Finn has already had his cast removed and is doing physiotherapy. He will regain full range of motion in his arm and shoulder within four weeks.

IMG_0016Finn’s arm right after the splint was taken off.

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Losing my Surfing Virginity in Seminyak

IMG_0756Seminyak is a busy beach town with lots of hotels, restaurants and surf shops. It reminded me of Sihanoukville, the seedy beach town in Cambodia. It was slightly dirty and lots of people were aggressively selling things. The prices were high, but I negotiated some deep discounts at the local shops. We found a hotel with a pool called Seminyak Point not too far from the beach. This was where Finn and I would try surfing for the first time.

When we talked about trying surfing, people warned that it’s difficult and frustrating. I was prepared to hate it at first. I remember struggling to learn to snowboard. My teenage self fell in the snow and cried in my boots while my dad patiently waited for me to pull myself together and keep going. After putting the hours in I learned to love snowboarding, so I hoped surfing would be the same.

Finn and I walked around the beach and checked out some different options for surfing lessons. Many glossy companies offered lessons, but we had a good feeling about a group of young local guys relaxing under umbrellas with a handmade sign. They joked with us and seemed good natured. We negotiated a cheap price for two guys to help us for an hour.

First we were shown on land how to lay on the board. Not too far forward or too far back. He demonstrated how to jump up to catch a wave; counterintuitively, back leg up first, and then the front leg. We practiced jumping on the board on land. Our feet had to be parallel to each other, perpendicular to the board with our knees bent. Then we were ready to try it on the sea.

We waded out to deeper water with the boards and the guys showed us how to keep our boards from being tossed out of our hands when the waves came. I was a bit jealous that the more funny and charismatic guy was helping Finn and his boring brother was helping me. We got to the right position and laid on the board, facing towards the shore and waited for a wave. I focused on what I had just learned on land, how I would jump up and place my feet. After a moment the guys chose a wave and pushed us into it. I felt the rush of adrenaline as I was propelled forward and heard my teacher yell, ‘Now!’ I placed my back foot on the board and then my front foot. I was almost up, but unsteady because my feet were angled slightly towards the front of my board. I wobbled and fell into the water.

We tried again and again and I managed to get to balance on the board sometimes, other times I fell right away. Some of the waves were pretty strong and hit me in the face while I was trying to get into the right position. We were all pushed over by the salty, foamy walls of water. The afternoon sun was beating down from the sky and reflecting up from the water. A few times I rode all the way to the shore. Those times when I didn’t fall were extremely satisfying. When I focused on getting my feet in the right position and keeping my knees bent I could catch the wave. If I lost concentration I toppled into the water. This sport was challenging, but satisfying. I had made progress already and had an idea of how it works.

By the time the lesson was over I was ready to stop. Finn and I were waterlogged and exhausted. Surfing was as hard as it seemed, but I enjoyed it. I had fun and didn’t feel too frustrated. We ordered a couple coconuts and relaxed under the umbrella with our surf teachers and their friends for a while to recuperate.

The next day we drove to nearby Canggu Beach with a hula hooper friend. There were lots of surfers there, so after relaxing on the sand for a little while I rented a board to try surfing on my own. I spent a long time paddling out, trying to get into the right position and figuring out which waves to take. While trying to position myself sometimes a big wave came and I tried, with varying success, to brace myself against it to keep from being pushed over and churned like a dirty sock in a washing machine. I paddled to where most surfers were and observed which waves they were taking. I wasn’t sure of the etiquette and didn’t want to step on anyone’s wave.

It was much more difficult on my own, without someone getting me into position, telling me which wave to take and pushing me into it. I tried to learn from the other surfers to see how long they paddle into the wave before popping up. After a half an hour I had made a few pathetic attempts at standing up, but fell instantly. I was too focused on choosing the wave and getting into position to remember my footing. I almost gave up after 40 minutes because I was tired, but I was just starting to get a feel for the waves, so I gave it a few more tries.

I paddled into position, watched the waves and concentrated on my task. I planned to paddle hard, really hard, and then quickly and precisely place my feet perfectly perpendicular to the board. I would keep my knees bent and balance my body on this wild ocean carefully and gracefully. A wave came and I was ready. I almost jumped up, but the wave turned out to be too small, so I didn’t take it. Another wave came and it looked nice. It was big enough, nice and frothy. I started paddling as fast as I could. The wave was quickly upon me and I felt it push my board forward. I was placed my front foot and then my back foot. I was balancing! For a second, maybe three, and then I fell and twisted in the ocean current, happy to have lasted that long. I was surfing!