An unexpected tumble.

I wanted to jump off the bridge. The locals do it and sometimes tourists do. It’s 23 meters high. If you do it, you can become a member of the Mostar Diving Club, get a certificate and then be allowed to get a tattoo of the bridge. It’s a rite if passage and has been for a very long time.

I very rarely remember my dreams. So rare in fact, that I joke to myself that I sleep dreamless nights.

This morning I awoke and was immediately taken aback by the anxiety and fear I felt from my slumber. I kept having images flash through my mind of falling. I would shake my head sharply to dislodge the images . I knew right away that I wasn’t going to jump.

It was cloudy, cold and threatening rain.

I decided instead to ride about 40km to a picturesque waterfall, despite the rain and then maybe over to the Dervish House.

As I began pedaling my legs felt heavy, sluggish, weak. Maybe I just need to warm up I thought. I kept going.

On a particularly long uphill section I had rode about half way up. A car pulled up next to me, a man at the wheel with two children in the other seats. He said something and I responded in English. He was nice and smiling and reached across to the passenger window and began tapping the frame of the window. He pointed ahead to the hill we were on and tapped the window frame again. I understood that he was offering to tow me up the hill! Sure! Why not?! I smiled and laughed and grabbed the window, braced myself and away we went!

It was exhilarating! I laughed as did he and the kids! Some cars passed us and honked and raised their hands in support of our adventure. Up and up we went! Near the top I told him to slow down and he complied. I finally let go and coasted over the top of the hill, waved and hollered as he drove off doing the same.

It was drizzling now but I thought that I would press on regardless. It’s only 40km and from what I understood of the route, that was the biggest uphill section, now behind me. I still felt heavy and could not seem to find the energy to push myself.

An hour down the road I checked my gps. I had not gone far at all. I was cold, wet and still feeling sluggish. I had just competed another larger uphill section and I finally conceded that the anxious and nervous feeling that I had when I awoke had not left my mind. I don’t know exactly why but I decided that I was turning around. To carry on meant that once I reached my destination I would have to repeat the distance to get back to Mostar and I knew that I wasn’t prepared to do that.

As I coasted down the section that had just challenged me with incline, I was trying to maintain what felt like a safe speed as I curled around the serpentine roads.

In an instant the rear wheel locked under the pressure of the brakes and the slipperiness of the road. It fishtailed left to right dramatically and quickly. Letting off the brakes I felt momentum hurling me forward faster than I now knew I could stop. I pressed the brakes again, fishtailed and when I let off I was moving quickly towards the shoulder. The shoulder was narrow and dropped off sharply.

There were many cars approaching around the bend. I knew I couldn’t stop without hitting them. I knew I couldn’t straighten my path without falling into them either. I knew I couldn’t take the corner at this speed without hitting them. I knew that once I hit the dirt, there was very little my brakes would do to help me. I had to make a decision of how best to crash. In mere seconds I calculated chances of survival, risk of injury, at what point I would lose control completely, what objects could injure me the most if I hit them…. and over the edge I went.

I leaned hard and turned to avoid the large boulders in front of me. As expected my brakes were useless. I shifted my weight back and let the front tire hit dirt first. I tried to hang on to my balance. The front tire sank in fast and hit a rock.

The bike stopped.

I didn’t.

In the air I thought “well at least I missed those boulders.”

Thankfully my feet came unclipped from my pedals and I did not take the bike tumbling with me. I tucked and slammed and rolled. As I came to rest on my back I felt the pain in my shoulder and hip. The contact had been hard and I was hurting sharply. I stood up.

“Ok? Ok? Ok?” a man from a car asked.

I was only moaning and as I stood up, my body gave out and I fell immediately back down. “Oh good, my legs work” I thought.

The man came over. Others too. Several cars had stopped. People were all speaking in Bosnian and he was asking me if I wanted the ambulance. He told me to lay still and take a moment. Can I feel my legs? Can I feel my arms? Can I move them? He was asking all the preliminary questions. I tried to sit up and he said no and to be calm.

Some time passed. Finally, struggling, I made it to my feet.

Someone at the hostel I had told about my dream when I said I wasn’t jumping said that maybe this was the fall I dreamt about after all. I can’t figure it out yet. Something was heavy on my mind today. I knew it right from the start.

It was an unexpected fall that reminded me that I need to respect the rain and be careful. I also need to remember that I have people to call if I enter in trouble. The hostel owner came and picked me up after I limped to a gas station and used their phone.

Not the kind of day I was hoping for, and I may be a little worn.

But…. Andiamo!

2 comments

  1. Glad you’re okay, Ed! Crazy event but relieved to know it worked out better than it could’ve. Serpentine roads, huh? Great vocabulary, made me smile before the rest of the story made my eyes wide.

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